Being an advocate for agriculture is much more than just living on a farm or going to school to major in Ag. related studies. It requires you to be knowledgeable and plugged in with what is happening day to day within the agriculture industry. In an era where our industry is constantly under watch and scrutiny from outsiders within the American economy, now has never been a more important time to educate not only ourselves but also others while informing them that what we do is for the greater good. It’s easy to ignore them or argue back when under criticism and false accusations but that’s not the answer to our problems. Whenever I was trying to decide on a topic for my first blog I was extremely nervous. Every thought that ran through my mind told me to just pick an easy topic to ramble on about and be done with it. However, I didn’t want this to be just another blog about showing livestock or growing up on a farm. I wanted to be able to really relate to what I was writing about and at the same time give my readers some insight into what happens within the agriculture industry and why it is crucial to our economies success.The livestock industry as a whole has played a very important part in shaping me into the man that I am today. Since the day I first started walking, I was always in the barn around our pigs at home or at a pig show watching my friends and family battle it out in the show ring. My whole life has been centered around livestock and I never realized until I got older that some of my friends had absolutely no clue why we invested so much time and money in it. To them all pigs were pink, cows were black and white, tractors were green, and all barns were red. That’s whenever I started to realize that society has given people not involved within the agriculture industry this general utopian image of our daily lives as if it was a segment from Charlotte’s Web or something. Not to diss Charlotte’s Web, because obviously that is one of the greatest movies of all time, but I was astonished and slightly angry with the fact that none of us had ever done more to educate people and our younger generations on the day to day life of a row crop farmer, or the ins and outs of a livestock production facility, whether it was the good or the bad. For us it has never been a problem because it’s all we have ever known, but for others looking from the outside it may seem confusing or odd and often times even cruel with how we house and treat our animals. It was never hard explaining why we walked them around our yard or why we constantly worked on skin and hair conditioning. The hard part was trying to explain why confinement was a good thing, or why we treated them with antibiotics whenever they were sick or why we castrated them as babies. These things can often be a hard pill for someone to swallow and it is why our industry is constantly under fire because we have struggled to educate on all aspects of raising livestock.
Now the show sector has always been the more people friendly and approachable side of the industry and rightfully so. People go to the fair and are able to pet the animals and watch them show so there’s a lot of interaction and all is good. However, over the years we have started to run into some problems with drug testing and it’s not uncommon to see one or even several different animals get kicked out because they failed the drug test. This may not seem like a big deal to those within the show sector, but outsiders see this and all it does is make them lose faith in livestock production and question the safety of the product they are consuming. In turn, U.S. beef consumption has dropped fifteen percent while pork consumption has fell about four percent over the past decade. With the growing health concerns about red meat intake and the convenient availability of chicken products, the beef and pork industries are starting to face some serious problems as prices are falling and markets are becoming over crowded.
We have backed ourselves into a corner due to a lack of advocating and have failed to teach the everyday consumer that anything we administer has withdrawal dates, and any animal that fails a test or has any drug residue left within the carcass will not enter the consumer food chain. Information like this may seem logical to those within the industry but how can you expect the average consumer to not be worried about what they are feeding their families whenever they are unaware of all the precautions we take to ensure their safety. This is why it’s so important for farmers and even larger production companies to continue to educate the general population. We need to earn back the consumers trust and the best way to do that is by showing them that we do care about their well-being. Reach out within your community, host farm visits for the youth so they can see what we do or simply just talk to people about the importance of agriculture and how it will always play a vital role in society. These topics of discussion are not hard to bring up, and whether you notice it or not, you deal with scenarios like this everyday. We need to continue to find ways to relate to those people because it’s one thing to just throw facts in society’s face and expect them to believe you, but the real message is sent by showing them that we too are feeding and providing for our families with the same product that they are consuming. Once you earn their trust and they start to see that you have put their safety right next to the safety of your own family, that’s when progress is made. Farmers and livestock producers have invested their whole life in providing for the world. From the early mornings to the late nights, through all the blood, sweat, and tears they have continued to put their nose to the ground and work to make a difference, so now it’s our turn to step up and inform consumers that what we do is for them and agriculture is here to stay.
Hello readers! My name is Wyatt Garriott and I am a senior at Western Illinois University. I will be graduating in December with a major in Agricultural Business and a minor in Animal Science. I grew up in Sullivan, IL. and before coming to WIU I went to Lakeland Community College where I also studied Ag. Business and was a member of the livestock judging team. I grew up on a family farm where we raised and showed livestock competitively. Agriculture has always been a very important aspect of my life and it has instilled qualities in me that I hope one day to be able to pass on to my children and the younger generations. It’s my passion in life, it’s what I love to do, and hopefully this blog represents that! Thanks!