Are Conventional Farmers Evil?

Posted on Jul 13 2011 - 2:30am by Mike Lieberman

There was a great post on Cooking Up a Story titled The Unconventional Harvest: Conventional Dairy Farmer Art Thelen written by Nathan Winters.

The Conventional Side of the Story

Nathan stayed with a conventional dairy farmer, Art Thelen, in Wisconsin and had the chance to check out his farm and speak with art about his farming methods.

Stories like this are great because they give the other side of the story. It’s easy for people to get all preachy and demonize the farmers as if they are intentionally poisoning us and ruining the environment. That kind of attitude doesn’t help to bring about the change that we all want to see happen.

Most of these farmers have been pitched and sold on a way of farming that is supposed to yield more crops, be easier for them to maintain, all at lower costs. So I don’t think it’s the farmers that are to point the finger at. It’s government and the chemical companies to blame.

You Can Justify Anything You Want

With that being said there were three points in the article that stuck out to me. The first was the quote from Art, “Milk is milk! I don’t care if you are payin’ 3 dollars a gallon for regular milk or if you’re payin’ 6 dollars for organic milk. Milk is milk!”

I think there is a huge difference between the milk from a cow that’s been jacked up on hormones, milked for hours and days on end and is fed an unnatural diet compared to one that is grass fed, free roaming and treated more naturally.

The next statement that I had problems with is from Art’s wife. She said, “I am a good mother. Do you think that I would let my kids drink milk if it wasn’t healthy? Are you a spiritual person? I am firm believer that God has given us this technology. He has given us the tools to grow these crops so we are able to feed our animals and ultimately feed the world. When you are a farmer you are very close to God. He looks over the production of our food and he looks over us.”

C’mon religion? You are going to justify that with religion? That’s a faulty argument if I’ve ever heard one. You can twist it to fit anything you want. Pretty sure that terrorists justify what they are doing in the name of religion.

Her argument has zero validity to me. I wonder if she’d say the same thing about abortions, the death penalty and drugs? I mean God obviously gave us all of those too.

The final part of the article that rubbed me the wrong way was how Nathan concluded the article, “Art Thelen was simply doing what he loved and what was best for his family. Most of all, he was doing what he felt God had wanted him to do. Can anyone argue with that?”

Yes this might be true. I don’t necessarily believe that Art is an evil man that is plotting to destroy the environment and our health, but again does that justify what he is doing on his farm? There are plenty of people that love what they do and do it because it’s best for their family. That doesn’t necessarily make it right.

You can justify lots of actions in that way. The Nazi soldiers might not have necessarily agreed with what they were doing, but they carried out their orders because it was best for their families. That statement is likely gonna piss off a lot of people and I’m not comparing Art to a Nazi soldier, but I’m comparing the justifications of the actions.

It’s the Chemical Companies, Not the Farmers

With all of this being said, I don’t think that the farmers are the ones that we should necessarily be pointing our fingers at and demonizing. They have all bought into the system that has been pitched and sold to them. They are busting their asses to get by and doing a pretty good job of it.

It’s the system and those that are selling this to the farmers that are the ones we should be faulting. A farmer like Art can likely run circles around any of us when it comes to working hard. It would beneficial to get someone like him to change his ways than to argue with him.

Sound Off

The question is how do we reach out to farmers like Art to explain the benefits of sustainable and organic practices? What’s your thoughts on Nathan’s story of Art and conventional farmers?

Photo courtesy of Maraker on Flickr