Good fences require maintenance (commentary)Good fences require maintenance (commentary)
November 3, 2016
*Megan Brown is a blogger and sixth-generation rancher who raises Black Angus cattle in northern California. From 4-H as a child to FFA as a teen to receiving her bachelor's degree in agricultural business from California State University-Chico, agriculture has been Brown's lifelong passion. Read more on her website at www.thebeefjar.com, or contact her at [email protected].
MOST livestock producers live and die by the saying "good fences make good neighbors," although even people in non-agricultural industries know that maintaining tight and firm boundaries help keep animals safe, sound and conflict free.
While this is a commonsense piece of advice, it is surprising how little we apply it to other aspects of our lives.
This election year has been the most contentious in my memory. Never before have I seen such distinct lines being drawn, with rhetoric and hate being perpetuated and spewed. Friends and family have been disowning each other over differing political beliefs.
This same mentality has bled over to many social issues as well. Respectful discourse has been replaced with personal opinions that are based on little to no understanding of the community or the issue in question. Issues seem to be black or white — no shades of gray or room for compromise.
Gone is any indivisibility or thought for the greater good. Polite boundaries have been retired in favor of all-out personal attacks if we do not all agree. Instead of building bridges by asking questions and learning, we are tearing down fences by being divisive.
Those in the agriculture industry are not immune. Often, we complain about consumers of our products, from their political leanings to how they feel they are experts about our way of life. We resent their "uninformed" opinions when they show outrage over the latest food recall or animal abuse video.
We are not quiet or secretive about our contempt for the very people who support us by buying our products. Instead, we post tirades in public social media groups that had been meant to bridge the gap between us. We share memes and "jokes" mocking those who make us uncomfortable. We dismiss constructive criticism from those who want to see us improve.
Yet, in turn, we demand that these same people blindly "thank a farmer" for not leaving them "cold, naked and hungry." We forget that all roles in society should be valued and appreciated. Our elitism only serves to further disconnect us from the people we claim we want to reach out to.
We want the public to believe the agriculture industry is trustworthy and noble and will do the right thing when push comes to shove.
Consumers want to think we are the good guys in the white cowboy hats, but if we continue down our current path of jumping on bandwagons while not bothering to learn the subtle nuances of important issues and basically lacking empathy for those outside our cliques, we will never connect in a meaningful or positive way.
We have become bad neighbors to some of our consumers. It is time for those involved in agriculture to do some hard work and mend some fences. It is time to reinstate some firm boundaries for ourselves and act the same way we demand consumers of our products act.
Good fences do make good neighbors — but only if we are willing to work to maintain them.
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