This past week my family and I (and anyone who crossed our paths) had a unique experience. We were chosen for the TV show, America’s Heartland. We are going to be in one of their “Dawn to Dusk” episodes. It seems they pick out an unsuspecting farm or ranch family and follow them from dawn to dusk (actually like our usual day it started a little before dawn and ended a little after dusk).
It was a great experience and taught us many lessons. The best lesson being that we should always live our lives like we are wearing a microphone and everyone will hear what we say. I guarantee it will change what you say in your daily conversations. I found myself closely weighing everything I said. I did not want to say anything that would be negative or might hurt anyone in any way. If I acted like I had a microphone to the world on all the time, I would never have to pull my foot out of my mouth or ever feel bad about something I said.
The second revelation I had during this all day filming was how often I scratch my nose. This occurred to me as I drove my pick-up down the road. The film crew had installed a camera on the grill guard to film me driving. Half way through scratching my nose I realized what that might look like from the wrong angle. The rest of the day, no matter how bad my nose itched I was not going to give in to temptation.
Finally, if someone tells you to act like “I am not here” it makes it twice as hard to act like they are not there. Especially when that person is carrying a camera or a boom microphone. No matter how hard you try not to look at them, it is impossible. On a related note, you can also tell animals that, but they are even harder to convince of the fact that the afore mentioned person is not really there. Animals tend to stop and stare.
OK, all kidding aside, I have been asked, why would you allow a camera crew full access to your farm to film you all day? Was I worried about what they might find? In short, yes, it made me a little nervous but not because of what I thought they would film. I was nervous that I would look and sound funny on TV (or look like I was picking my nose) but I never for a moment worried about how our farm would come across.
Jennifer and I welcomed the chance to share what we do on a daily basis to produce the food everyone consumes. We know that we do things the right way and welcome the chance to show that to our customers. I don’t mean to sound too sure of myself, but I would guess that most of you feel the same way. The vast majority of the farmers and ranchers I know do things the right way, for the right reason and would be great ambassadors for agriculture. We just happened to be chosen, but I know many, many other producers who would have just as good or better.
Was it uncomfortable? Well, maybe a little, but in the end it will be well worth the trouble. Most consumers are so far removed from the food they eat; they need to see what we do. The public needs to see that we have the same hectic schedule they do and we manage a time consuming business with crops and livestock that need constant attention. We have ball games, meetings and church activities on our calendar; we just have to tend to our chores either before or after the activities.
This was made clear to Jennifer and I when we had the opportunity to read Ag books to grade school children in Nashville, Tennessee several years ago. They asked us if we had television, if our kids got to play sports and if we wore overalls all the time. The disconnection with urban consumers is what allows groups like PETA and HSUS to spread misinformation and that is why it is important for all of us in agriculture to open our farms.
It is an experience like no other to be followed by a camera crew. It was reassuring to know that people are interested in what we do. However, it was also a little nerve wracking and I think I need a break from the cameras (maybe a year or two), but given the same opportunity we will open our farm up to the public again. After all we are proud producers of the food we all need and we want to show the whole world.