Life and death and farming

I can’t think of many other places where the drama of life and death unfold with such breathtaking regularity as they do on the farm .

Today, I had to help a cow give birth to a calf that was too big for her and got hung up on her hip bones as it was being born. We lost the calf but saved the cow; lost a new life but ensured new lives in the process.

No matter what kind of farming someone decides to pursue, some element of this cycle of life and death will be present. With animals, especially big ones, this cycle can be traumatic and dramatic, but even with plants the cycle is just as evident.

I think that constant exposure to life and death is why farmers, especially traditional ones, tend to be far more realistic and spiritual than most other people. In the life and death I experienced just a little while ago, I saw the tale of my own life and of the lives that depend on me. I saw the evidence of how fleeting life is and how important it is to make every second count.

From that view, I see how farming, like the rest of a life well lived, is not for the weak of heart or the weak of soul. Yet, even seeing life and death acted out before me, I am not discouraged or afraid but instead that much more dedicated to the idea of making every moment I have matter.

It is because of that sense of dedication that I think society has lost something as it has moved away from the farm. Because most people are not exposed to the ever-present reality of life and death that farmers see, they have lost sight of the fact that their own lives are part of the same cycle.

I think that restoring that sense of reality is as important as feeding ourselves in my encouragement of people to grow their own food. Farming is life, not just a job, and doing it reminds us how little time any of us really have and how we should make the most of what we do have.


Never again

I went to the stock auction today because Keba and I hauled our calves there over the past couple of days and I wanted to see for myself what their business was all about.

I will never take my animals there or buy animals from them again.

We took nine perfectly healthy, vibrant young calves to that place, where the people who run it proceeded to give them a battery of sixteen different shots, antibiotics, and tests then to sedate them so that they would behave in the auction ring. From there, those poor little ones are probably destined for a feed lot somewhere where as many as half of them will die from sickness, overcrowding, or malnutrition before they end up as meat in a grocery store or restaurant near you, full of a year’s worth of drugs and food they were not designed to eat.

I understand that I raise cattle for food, but my goal from the first moment I set myself to that task is to do so as morally and humanely as possible. What they do at the stock yard is wrong and I will have no more part in it. I would rather stop raising cows and go back into information technology than knowingly participate in a process that robs humans and animals alike of their essence.

Instead, I will humanely raise only the number animals I can sell directly to the people who will consume them as food. I will control my herd to ensure its numbers, and I will never give my cows drugs in order to increase their size or the density of the herd.

I understand that death is part of the harsh reality of food production, but it will be death under circumstances that I control, and my animals will not suffer years of torment before they die.

I also want all of you to think about what I am saying. Yes, we can feed ourselves cheaply and efficiently by going to big box groceries, but at what cost? When we make that kind of choice, we reduce ourselves to essentially the same fate as those nine calves: eating food that makes us sick and then pumped full of drugs to compensate for it.

I understand that what I am suggesting here is reactionary and revolutionary, but it is my understanding of history and human nature that it often takes both in order for change to happen. I pledge that I will no longer be part of the problem. How about you?