In his March 12 commentary regarding Indiana Senate Bill 373, Damian Mason noted that because 85 percent of Americans are at least two generations removed from farming much of what happens on the farm is shocking to suburbia. Although almost none of it is illegal.
There is an increasing recognition in our country that as eaters, we need to improve our agricultural literacy – our understanding of the realities of where our food comes from and how it is produced. Mason’s piece points out that farms are private property – and as such what goes on there is none of our business.
Mason tries to paint everyone who questions the current agricultural bills before the Indiana legislature as a radical, anti-ag or an animal rights vigilante. I am none of these. I am a just a suburban homemaker who likes to cook, support local businesses, and who cares about where I live. I understand that to supply the large quantity of meat demanded by American eaters, we need to raise a lot of animals and we need to do so cost effectively. When I can, I try to buy my meat from local farms such as Hawkins Family Farm and Seven Sons, who raise their animals on pasture and encourage visits to their farms. Their products cost a little more than grocery-store meat, but I know that the animals were raised humanely and that the profits from my purchase stay in my community.
I still purchase some meat from grocery stores and eat meat at restaurants, but that does not mean that I do not care how the animals raised for this purpose are treated and what happens to all of their manure. Confined animal feeding operations are the present reality of how this meat is produced. However, the serious issues surrounding CAFOs demand an informed electorate and require transparency on the part of the farmers who operate them. If Americans, like me, are going to eat meat, then we owe it to ourselves, the animals and our natural surroundings to assure that the farms that raise these animals to supply our demand for meat are operated to the highest standards.
In his conclusion, Mason, who may be an Indiana farm owner but who primarily makes his living as a professional speaker and corporate event entertainer, states that American agriculture is sustainable because it abundantly supplies consumers’ demand for food. I think highly enough of my local farmers that I set higher expectations for the sustainability of their operations. I want all of them to make a good living, keep a higher percentage of my food dollar for their hard and conscientious labor, and I want them to feel proud enough of their farm practices and their stewardship of their land that they would welcome visitors to their farm.