by Jesse Bussard
Cattle rancher and “agvocate” Ryan Goodman (Agricultureproud.com) posed this question: How would you farm differently if a total stranger (non-farmer/rancher) followed you around all day?
Well that’s a good question. Since I don’t actually farm at the moment I’m not sure how I’d answer that. I grew up on a farm and have worked on several other farms, but at this stage in my life school is my number one priority is graduate school, which doesn’t leave much time to enjoy farm life.
Ryan’s question got me thinking. How would we farm or ranch differently if someone with no agriculture experience followed us around for the day? I believe many of us would think twice about the way we do things and why we do things. There would be lots of questions to answer as everything would be a new experience for this individual. I know it would be a testing experience for me as I sometimes get frustrated with the game of “20 questions.” That’s when I’d have to step back and remind myself to be patient and too look at this experience as a way to teach my new companion about the way of life and things I am so passionate about.
One of the first things that came to mind for me that should be considered when bringing in off-farm visitors is farm safety. This person wouldn’t know about the danger of getting loose clothing caught in a running PTO shaft or to be careful when working cattle in close quarters. It would be my responsibility to let this person know about the dangers and risks I live with everyday on the farm and the safety measures I take to prevent myself and others from being harmed.
This experience would also call for a analysis of our everyday chores that we may normally take for granted. Something that seems simple to me, like giving the cattle a new round bale, may seem complex or foreign to my visitor. A step-by-step explanation may be needed to help this person understand why we do what we do. Many times I think most of us do our duty and don’t think twice about it. Ultimately we take our extensive knowledge of what we do for granted. An off-farm visitor would have no idea why we do what we do. So in a situation as simple as giving the cattle a new round bale I’d expect questions like: What kind of grass is that? Why is the bale round? Why do you give them a whole bale? What is the round bale feeder for? Why do you remove the strings on the bale? What happens if the bale gets rained on? and the list could go on and on….
Looking back, I can recall an instance or two when I actually had an experience like this. Through my time as an undergraduate in college I remember bringing friends home with me on the weekends. Sometimes these were friends that didn’t grow up on a farm. It was my responsibility being their first exposure to what they considered a real farm to answer their questions, no matter how trivial they might seem to me. They were my friends and I wanted to share my farm life with them. I hope that through those visits they gained a better perspective on what it was like.
In the end I don’t know if I’d actually do anything differently. I just think that an experience such as this would make me more self aware of my actions and normal day-to-day activities. It may lead to me to making better decisions or reevaluating some of the management practices that I do. In the end, I hope it would make me a better person.
Overall I feel that it would be beneficial for all farmers and ranchers to have an off-farm visitor, even if it’s just for one day. It is always a good practice to reevaluate ourselves. Taking a good, hard look at some of the things we do and understanding why we do them is important. If we are to be better farmers and ranchers, better agvocates, and ultimately better communicators we must continually self-evaluate, striving always to be the best that we can be. This effort will go a long ways in establishing relationships with our off-farm friends, family, and neighbors, who in the end are all consumers.
So I challenge you, invite an off-farm friend or family member out to your farm or ranch. Show them the ropes. Or if you’re feeling really daring, host a field day or open house at your farm or ranch.