Last week my daughter brought one of her text books home, not to study, but to show me something she found troubling. It was a picture of a lady standing next to a booth marked organic vegetables and the caption said “Protect our planet and support responsible farmers”. I have to admit, I found it more than troubling, I found it down right offensive.
We discussed the picture and the caption. She asked me what they meant. My answer was that it seemed to me to imply that because we were not organic, we were not responsible farmers. “But Dad” she said, “We are responsible and we do take care of our farm.” Wow, maybe she had listened to me for all those years. Needless to say, I was extremely proud of her for recognizing that a) the picture and caption had no place in a science text book and b) the word organic does not automatically mean responsible.
Please don’t misunderstand me; I do believe many of my organic fellow farmers produce their crops in a responsible manner. I have nothing against those who chose to produce crops and livestock organically. There is a market and a demand. Consumers who want organic food have the right to make that choice. Organic producers also have a right to produce their crops organically. Organic producers are feeding the world also and for that I salute them, we are on the same team.
However, I do have a problem with the idea that those of us who produce crops and livestock in a conventional manner are not responsible. I find it even more of a problem with that idea being conveyed to youth through a school text book. Text books are supposed to be unbiased and contain facts. The notion that utilizing the best in the advances in technology to produce more food on fewer acres for a growing population is not responsible is absurd.
We take the advances in technology to grow more food with a much smaller impact on the soil and water we depend on. We utilize the best innovations agriculture has ever seen to produce the food we all need with fewer inputs. Farmers and ranchers take advantage in the advances in modern veterinary science to produce meat that is both safer and healthier for consumers. If that is not responsible then maybe I should go back to school.
Aside from that issue, I am not happy about the subtle propaganda that our students are being exposed to. The picture and caption in this text book probably went unnoticed by most. It was a simple bit of information that went into the minds of most of the students. This isn’t the first time that I have heard of something like this being embedded in a text book, I wonder how many times a student comes across these subtle messages and how big an impression they make.
It only underscores the need to become involved in our schools, to look at the information the text books contain and to offer a fair and balanced message. Programs like Ag in the Classroom are so important because we are providing classroom teachers with good and truthful information about agriculture. We are equipping them with sound science based facts to pass on to their students.
My daughter made me proud for recognizing the slanted nature and idea of the picture. She brought the topic up to her teacher, who agreed with her. She also wanted to let me know what was being said and wanted to know what to tell her friends. “Tell them about what we do and why we do it,” was my response to her. I went on to tell her,” you have a couple of cows and a few ewes and you are a producer of food, tell your story.”
Every one of us involved in agriculture need to be open to telling our story. That story is; whether organic or conventionally produced the food in your grocery store is produced responsibly. It is produced by farmers and ranchers, many who have operated those farms and ranches for generations. All of whom are proud (and responsible) producers of the food we all need. That you can put in any text book.