Last week my grandfather celebrated his birthday—and though I wasn’t able to celebrate with him in person, I thought of him often that day, as I do most days.
I’ve been blessed with incredibly involved grandparents on both my mother’s and father’s side. They attended nearly every sporting event, school play, concert, birthday and all my graduations (high school, college and law school!).
As a young child, when my parents would travel for business, Grandma Riri and “Bumpa” aka Grandpa Richard would have me stay up at their house in Marinette, Wisconsin, just across the water from Menominee, Michigan. I’ll always remember peering over the window as a young girl, waiting for my grandpa to get home from the night shift he worked at the local factory.
See, my grandpa was a long-time employee at Scott Paper Company, working on the line to produce toilet paper, paper towel and other assorted products from the time he finished serving in the Korean War until the time he retired a few years ago.
Sometime after my Bumpa retired, “factory” became a dirty word in this country—or at least as it relates to agriculture.
Activists throw around the phrases “factory farming” and “industrial agriculture” as a means to scare consumers into thinking that their chicken breast or pork tenderloins are mass produced. These terms give the perception that animal protein is just another commodity coming off the assembly line with no thought given to safety or the health and wellbeing of workers and animals.
Detractors have managed to take the word “factory,” a word that connotes efficiency, innovation and good ol’ American ingenuity and make it a nasty, evil word. They’ve taken a profession for people like my grandpa and made a mockery of it.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying there is such a thing as “factory farming.” But, to be fair, I think we in agriculture need to start owning the fact that our industry is large.
There’s nothing wrong with that.
Agriculture is a strong, mighty industry supporting over 16 million jobs. Agriculture has been forced to become more and more efficient as there are fewer farmers to feed more mouths, with fewer resources too.
But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. As the folks that produce food to feed my family, I’m grateful for the job you do and whatever new technologies you can employ to get that job done more efficiently and effectively.
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