By Jesse Bussard
Earlier this month in my Feedstuffs column I discussed how challenges and the new ideas people present to solve them are what fuels progress:
In certain circumstances, this reasoning holds clout, but in the overall realm of progress, it can also hold us back.
It has been said that the most damaging phrase in the language is: “It’s always been done that way.” Sadly, I find this phrase an all-too-common utterance by many in agriculture.
As luck would have it, I was proven right on agriculture’s aversion to new ideas and change by several experiences had by my good friend and California rancher, Megan Brown. Megan is a passionate woman. She loves agriculture, cattle ranching, and helping people understand her love and passion for these things. However, even more impressive than her passion, is Megan’s audacity and persistence to make a difference in the realm of things she holds dear.
Megan’s experiences have all dealt with an industry organization, the California Beef Council (CBC), that is meant to support and assist cattle ranchers like Megan and to educate the public about the various facets of beef from gate to plate. I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty about Megan’s experiences with CBC. You can read about CBC’s apparent aversion to being transparent about beef slaughter and Megan’s attempt to extend an olive branch offering her time and effort to help this organization become better at communicating with the public on her blog, The Beef Jar.
Megan’s September 14th posting sharing her disappointment in CBC and offers to help make the organization better went on to cause some concern in her local community. The leaders of her county cattlemen’s group even went as far as to put Megan’s blog on the agenda for discussion. Like any good agvocate, Megan viewed this as an opportunity to share her vision and passion for the cattle industry and how she goes about sharing her passion with the group.
Ideally one in this situation would hope to be met with open minds and earnest conversation about ways to improve their local cattlemen’s association’s outreach efforts and those of the CBC’s. Instead, Megan was given the cold shoulder and the “that’s the way we’ve always done it” mentality won over.
Now I realize I wasn’t there and I may not know the whole story. But, I too am as passionate about the agriculture and cattle ranching as Megan and what she is going through with these industry groups, well, to put it plainly…IT PISSES ME OFF!
You see, myself and others in my generation are supposed to be the future leaders in agriculture. We are told this time and again by those currently leading these industry groups. They praise us for our efforts the majority of the time. However, in the instant that we challenge the common ‘norms and beliefs’ accepted, as in Megan’s case, we are asked to be silent, to not share this or that, to take down blog posts, to act as though certain parts of our industry do not exist.
How does this sort of action do anything to truly provide transparency about our industry to our customers? And, ultimately, how does it help to encourage my generation to continue to be involved in such industry organizations, if in the end we are just going to be shut out and unheard?
I’ve been an active member of several cattle industry groups. I helped to form the first chapter of Collegiate Cattlewomen at Penn State University during my undergrad years there. I was a member of our state cattlemen’s and cattlewomen’s groups. When I moved to Kentucky for graduate school I became an active member of NCBA’s Young Producer’s Council and even served as Public Relations chair for a time. I also joined the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association and upon my suggestion, steps were taken to create the first ever Young Producers Council in the state.
If you can’t tell, I’m passionate about the beef community and the cattle business. I want to make a difference and I don’t plan to ever stop trying.
But the thing is, I can’t do it alone, and neither can Megan. We need the support of our current leaders. We need them to earnestly listen to us and consider with an open mind the ideas that we suggest. Just because “it’s always been done this way” doesn’t mean it always should or always will. A better way, a new idea, will come along and though it may scare the pants off of you at first, but you need to take a step back, quit hyperventilating, and LISTEN! Doing otherwise, doesn’t help any of us and only creates divides and distrust among our community.
So I’ll end this rant with a suggestion to the California Beef Council, the Butte County Cattlemen, and to any other beef industry organization out there reading this…give us, the young producers, a chance. Listen to our ideas, suggestions, and maybe sometimes even take us up on our offer. You might be surprised at what a difference we can make.
And I’ll leave you with this quote:
“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”
~ Adlai Stevenson
- The Beef Jar
- Culling sacred cows and other needed changes
- California Beef Council – Let’s Get Better Together
- Am I Really the Crazy One?