Listening to Win (in farming and beyond)

Do you ever feel under attack for what you do, your work, or your role in the world?

Not because what you do is bad, but maybe because people don’t understand it. Perhaps people just don’t worry or think about it until they hear something bad?

And of course you know what you do isn’t perfect. Nothing is, and yet you’re always trying to do more. You want to give your best and prove the naysayers wrong.

In spite of your best efforts you’re often left feeling discouraged — as though you’re coming up short of the goal.

I’ll bet you can guess I’m talking about myself.

Sometimes I feel this way about farming.

People worry about problems in our food system, but fail to praise the abundance and choice we are blessed with. They talk about the evils of large farms (however they may define them) and then lament rising food prices. They want the best of modern medicine in their own life, but get upset about farmers using antibiotics to make an animal well.

Can I win?

Is it still a “good” thing to be a farmer?

I’m not blaming people for their worry and criticism, on the contrary. I understand exactly why it happens.

I’ve only got to think of myself and of an issue or product that I don’t have a thorough knowledge of. Everything from nuclear power to the safety of household cleaners to anything and everything in politics.

Because I don’t live and work within the realities of these issues I know my perspective can never be as informed as those who do. And I can’t (and don’t want) to be an expert in everything.

I can be more easily swayed by a scary or sensational news headline on these issues if I don’t do background research. Even within food and agriculture I certainly don’t have all the answers. If a food recall issue comes up I probably avoid spinach as much as the next person, even though I know only a teeny tiny portion is contaminated.

Back to our farm…

I think of us as a medium-sized farm, though some may view us as huge, some as tiny, depending on vantage point. It’s all about perspective as they say.

And though we work everyday to care well for our animals and produce quality milk, sometimes I feel like it’s not enough.

I’ll hear some animal rights group attacking farms for confining animals and using them for human benefit, and I don’t even know where to begin.

How should I respond?

Getting defensive or angry just incites more anger and rhetoric from the other side. And facts can only go so far when you’re dealing with emotionally charged issues like animal care and health.

If it’s an attack on the news, I’m learning I may just have to take comfort in the good on our farm, and get over the attack. (Or respond with something like a blog post. ๐Ÿ™‚ )

But if it’s a face-to-face, real-person encounter, I’ve come across something “revolutionary” that can help both sides feel more at peace.

I can listen.

I can shut my mouth, put aside my defenses, and listen to the honest concerns of a person. Many times we find more common ground than I thought possible, and I’m even able to clear up a myth or two about farming.

I’ve posted before about being proud to be an omnivore, and I still maintain that. Being food and nourishing a body is a noble purpose for an animal, and I believe it’s the healthy and natural order of things in the animal kingdom and beyond.

But I also have to agree to disagree with those who feel differently. Respectful disagreement goes a long way in many things.

Whatever you’re facing in your own life, I hope you can find the answers you need and proudly take a stand. But before you move on, you might want to turn a receptive ear to the other side.

They may need your input, and you may need something too.

About Lisa

Hi, I'm Lisa. Dairy farmer's wife and Minnesotan to the core, I write about rural farm life, running down country roads, and the food, faith, and family that bind everything together. Follow along on my journey.
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8 Responses to Listening to Win (in farming and beyond)

  1. Very good thoughts. Listening to someone who disagrees with you, or is even judging you for what you do for a living, is definitely not easy but it’s mature and open-minded. I know I’ve learned a lot about “the other side” of farming from “listening” to your blog (as opposed to books and documentaries about the worst farms) – I agree that it’s so easy to be swayed one way when you’re only hearing one side of the story, or aren’t very educated about something. And people will be a lot more open to hearing your perspective when you’re willing to listen to them first. I’m glad that you’re willing to do that!

    • Lisa says:

      I know I’m still working on it, but listening is so important. Thank you for your nice comments too, Kathy. I always feel so pleased when people can learn new things or just consider a new perspective from my blog.

  2. Terzah says:

    Hey Lisa! I’ve learned this lesson at my job, too. You’d think people would be nice about the library, but we have a lot of entitled people in Boulder who will complain about what’s basically (tax dollars aside) a darn nice free service for them. I’ve learned to not take it personally and, like you said, just listen, which most of the time lets them get it out of their system, after which we can move on to rational conversation.

  3. MNGobbleGal says:

    Wise words, Lisa – and still hard for most of us to follow at times, myself included. But I think a lot of us are trying and that’s what counts! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I just wanted to say thank you for the job you and your husband do! Farmers definitely do NOT get enough appreciation.

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