It makes sense, doesn't it? If you need help with taxes, you go to an accountant. A broken leg requires a trip to the doctor. In a little legal snafu? A visit to a lawyer is probably in order. We pay professionals to use their expertise to help us out.
So it would seem to make sense to ask a farmer questions about farming. But in these days of quick internet solutions, it seems there are an awful lot of people who profess to be experts about farming and food production who have never planted a seed or prayed for rain to bring it up.
That's one reason our trip to the Kansas State Fair last week wasn't just about eating a Pronto Pup or ice cream under the grandstand, though we did that, too. As a Kansas Association of Wheat Growers board member, Randy spent four hours in the Kansas Wheat booth, hoping people would "Ask a Farmer."
celiac-safe wheat, a project at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan.
I refuse to give these so-called internet experts or TV doctors who profess to be farming and food production experts any additional traction by mentioning them by name. I will not mention the names of restaurants who tell us they are superior because they use only "organic, grass-fed beef, not raised with antibiotics."
But I was genuinely surprised yesterday when some people blamed a farmer for being a victim of a crime. It's a bizarre story to begin with, but on Tuesday night, a guy abandoned his vehicle and took a combine on a joy ride in Ellinwood, a little town 30 miles from here. After law enforcement officers shot 18 rounds of gunfire into the machine, the suspect finally surrendered. But that was after causing thousands of dollars of damage to private vehicles and police cars, power poles and other property, not to mention the totaling of a massive - and expensive - machine.
In her blog, Faith, Farming and Family yesterday, Caitlin wrote that people were actually blaming the farmer. Sure. Let's blame the farmer. We'll just add it to the regular diet of anti-farming rhetoric that's only a click away on the internet. If farming isn't happening with a horse and "heritage" seeds, it's big, bad "modern" agriculture, right?
That's one reason Randy spent four hours in a booth at the fair. When we went to a Master Farmer/Homemaker event later that day, some of our friends had worked in the Kansas Farm Bureau booth. We also have friends who spent time in Agri-Land in the Pride of Kansas building. There were corn, cotton, honey, soybean and beef producers scattered all through that building, waiting for consumers to ask them questions. Different people took their turns during the 10-day fair. I have other friends who regularly open their farms and dairies to school groups.
Randy has served on a number of different agricultural boards since graduating from K-State. He believes it's important for producers to be involved on a state level in groups that may influence regulations. If producers aren't willing to get involved, regulations would likely be set by individuals or groups who don't have a personal stake or investment in agriculture. As he says, "If I'm not willing to serve myself, why would I expect others to make that investment of time and energy to make the industry better?" Groups like KAWG also work to connect producers with consumers, giving a name and a face to agriculture - if people will actually "Ask a FARMER."
And while I haven't served on state or local agricultural organizations, I try to do my part, too. Offering information via Kim's County Line is an attempt to put a face on modern-day agriculture. Consumers are increasingly interested in how their food is produced and what happens to it before it appears on grocery store shelves, where it is purchased for family tables across the country and the world. And that's great.
Through the blog, I try to inform consumers, who may not understand why our beef isn't totally grass-fed or why we use growth implants and vaccinations in our feeder calves. Through blog posts, readers could learn why we make the business decision to use herbicides, pesticides and fungicides on our grain crops, but still stress the safety of the food supply.
Sometimes, it may seem efforts to staff a Kansas Wheat booth or write another blog post are like going around and around on a carnival ride: You keep getting on the "horse," but you never get anywhere.
But, farmers are - by nature - optimists. So they keep showing up to try and talk to consumers. We keep writing blog posts, even when the number of "clicks" on those posts pale in comparison to the thousands of followers of those self-professed experts on food and health.