J500 Media and the Environment

Will You Pull the Pin? by cherileb


Rick works construction all day, then works in his field at night.  He’d rather just be a farmer; it’s all he’s ever wanted to be.  But like the other family farmers I interviewed, these days you can’t feed the kids on just farming. 


Many family farms balance on the head of a financial pin.  The weather, grain prices and fuel costs can throw off their balance in one season.  It’s a hard life that can be as unforgiving and unpredictable as Mother Nature, because, financially, it’s at her mercy. 


So don’t tell a farmer he doesn’t care about the environment.  Don’t tell her the climate could have a big impact on her livelihood.  Don’t tell him that he needs to connect with the needs of nature. 


They know it all too well.  They say instead of pointing a finger, give them a little credit, a little information and a little more support.  Give them a reason to trust, especially in this heavily politicized world.  One farmer told me she doesn’t talk politics with friends.  And she doesn’t talk global warming, either.  It’s a good way to lose friends.  It’s impolite.


Changing to sustainable practices such as no-till, wind farming or methane management isn’t cheap.  So tell me: how do we sustain the family farm in our push for sustainability? How do we help them feed their kids and save the world on the head of a pin?







5 Comments so far
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I’m in the Labor group, and in my interview and research, I’m finding that issues in the blue-collar world are linked to all of the other audiences for this project, especially agriculture. Many of the blue-collar workers have a link to agriculture, either because they also live on farmland, grew up on it, or share common interests like hunting. But to your point, it’s not cheap to transition to a more sustainable lifestyle, and it’s a lot to ask for someone who’s done things one way all of their life to completely transition to a “green” way of doing things. I think part of the reason it’s impolite to talk politics or global warming for some of these folks is because the messages have a history of being guilt-driven. Reframing the sustainability message so that it deosn’t communicate how they’ll have to sacrifice, but rather how they’ll benefit, seems like the more logical approach. But if they’re not talking about it at church with their neighbrs, while playing bridge with their friends, or with the clerk at the local feed store, how do we deliver the benefit message of sustainability and clean energy? This is where I’m struggling.

Comment by matthewj77

Hey Cheri,

Great post. It seems like farming *can* be a terrible Catch-22; a passion and legacy to work the land, but it doesn’t always give back.

I love the podcast video on CSAs. Can you tell me a bit more about your experience with them? Is there a growing increase in the number of people who patronize them? I hope CSAs are helping to increasing the ability to just be a farmer…

Marisa B.

Comment by marisabreg


Thanks for your comments. Yes, I agree. Many of the same issues/feelings/challenges can be seen in every segment the class is covering. I’m looking forward to seeing if there’s a pattern that appears in the presentations next week.

Something another farmer told me was that in the farming community, familiarity is important. If they see it happening all around them or if someone or some organization they trusted offered a new idea, they’d be more open to change and adaptation.

I think the most effective message will be homespun. And I agree, they will come from the community itself (bridge game, clerk), not outsiders like us. So we need to find those individuals (extension agents, farm bureau and product reps) who can carry the message to the inside.


Comment by cherileb

Hey, Marisa:

Thanks for the questions! I’ve had a great experience with our CSAs. I’ve subscribed to a produce CSA for three years, and this is the first year I’ve belonged to a meat CSA. All farms use sustainable methods, and though they’re not certified organic, they try to farm organic. (I guess the certification process is expensive and extensive.)

Our meat CSA is run by a family in northwest Missouri, and they’re an great example of how a CSA can give a farmer an income and some stability. They grew up in farming and tried to make a living at it. But selling to the big meat companies wasn’t profitable enough. They had to work outside the home, which left little time to do to what they loved. So one day they sat down at the kitchen table, did the numbers and figured out how many subscribers they needed to survive.

This is their first year providing meat directly to the consumer, and as one of their innaugural subscribers, I’d say they’re doing a great job. It feels great to support a family and their dreams. And I’ll tell you, the quality is so much better than what you find in the grocery store. You won’t want to go back… Their membership is growing, and more and more people ask me for their information. I truly believe this growing area of our local economy is going to be transformative for many small family farms. Kansas City Food Circle has some great information and a directory of local CSAs. http://www.kcfoodcircle.org/ Check it out.


Comment by cherileb

Terrific, heartfelt post. I heart CSAs.
Cheri, this is such a key take-away for all of us:
“. . .familiarity is important. If they see it happening all around them or if someone or some organization they trusted offered a new idea, they’d be more open to change and adaptation.”
I believe that is applicable to all of us and our constituents.

Comment by j500

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