Thursday, March 29, 2012

Do something that scares you!

The view from my Chicago hotel room.

I've always heard that it's important to do something that scares you every once in awhile. About a month ago I had a phone call to see if I wanted to go to a get together for the US Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.  I said I would be interested.  I never heard anything back until this past weekend and I had a voice mail that said I would need to be in Chicago on Wednesday.  I thought I can do this.  Jake said he would watch the girls Wednesday and Thursday and I said "yes".

Then it set in with the directions in my in box that I would fly out of Pittsburgh into Midway and ride the train downtown and find a building.  I was scared.  I've never taken a train.  I don't travel alone. Then I thought  I am going to do this, just to see if I can.

As I left the airport I thought to myself I want to look like I know exactly what I am doing and I want to look confident.  I don't want to look like someone who should be taken advantage of.  As I was leaving Midway to find the train. I find myself in a long hallway with one man, who immediately asked if I needed help.  I guess I wasn't looking confident enough.  I get to the place to buy the train ticket and there are about ten machines.  I had to ask a business man where to get my ticket.  0-2  I get my ticket and have to go through the turn style counter where you only get one turn per ticket.  As I was trying to get through with my one ticket my luggage got caught behind me.  I had to lift it over.  I am now thinking forget it I am not a confident traveler that looks like I know where I am going.  I guess I will just laugh. So I did.  Then I caught the train and got out my map and looked like a true traveler and found the building.  I entered the building, showed my ID and had to use the elevators that only served the odd numbered floors to get to the 40th floor.  *That was the hardest part of the whole trip.*

The best part of the trip was after I found the 40th floor.  There were several tremendous  farmers and ranchers and they  all shared their unique story about trials, successes, hard work, food production and environmental stewardship.  There were large and small farmers.  They were from Texas, to North Carolina and Colorado to Virginia. We had dairy farmers, egg producers, cotton farmers, cattle ranchers, confinement hog operations and Christmas tree farmers.  We had conversations about our industry that surpassed most of the Agriculture courses I took at The Ohio State University.

This morning we had breakfast at a restaurant with food editors and food bloggers.  The breakfast was supposed to help us understand the people that eat our food more clearly.  The editors of food magazines and blogs in Chicago joined us for a discussion.  This was a first time experience for me to answer some tough questions that I didn't know Americans were talking about.  Some of their questions and comments included . . .

How big is too big  for a farm/ranch?
How will you know when you are too big?
Your farms sound like factory farms.
I don't believe technology should be used in Agriculture.
I believe you should get out more to understand what people want from the people who are raising their food.
What are you doing with all the waste you are creating with Agriculture Production?
People should not have choices when purchasing food. i.e. carrots should not come in bags, a cheaper chicken breast should not be offered (only cage free on "family" farms)
When do you believe Agriculture crosses the line into industrialization?
You are a bad mom for raising your children in those circumstances.

I am interested to hear how you would've answered. These are the rules for answering share your personal farm story, take the high road, do not personally attack anyone, no cussing, silence is an option.  I can't wait to hear from you.

Tomorrow I will share some of my answers and some of the comments from my new farmer and rancher friends from across the United States.


  1. Thanks for sharing. I saw Ellens tweets as this unfolded. Thanks for sharing your experience and asking us all to consider these questions.

    I have been trying to decide how I would have responded to these questions, asked in the manner they were, since I heard about the breakfast. Truth be told I dont know, most likely I would have sat their with a dazed look on my face.

    I do believe your experiences had helped me think about the possibility that these questions will be asked of me some day. It has helped me prepare, and perhaps when presented tough questions under tough pressure to answer I will be able to do so with respect to the individual that presents their concerns to me.

    1. Thanks for reading! I am sure you would have done fine. This was the perspective from the other side of the room. You may enjoy it, as well