Monday, July 14, 2014

An Open Letter to Missouri Farmers

By Brenda Black

To all my friends on both sides of the farming fence: to the conventional and the all-natural; to the multi-generational and the first-time farmer, we are in this together. I love the passion for getting back to the basics as much as the commitment to banish world hunger. I applaud the ingenuity, the tenacity and integrity of all of Missouri's Ag community. It takes dedication and sacrifice to be capable and humane stewards of land and livestock. Every one of you has my utmost respect.

Right now, we are living in exciting times in agriculture, where the challenges compel innovators to find answers. Those resolutions come in a host of forms from high-rise, glassed-in, urban gardens to rotational grazing. Some employ timed breeding and new seed technologies. Ideas come from fifth generation farmers, university think tanks and long-established allied industries. Health enthusiasts, city folks and country caretakers alike contribute to the success of agriculture.

While we each constantly and tirelessly work to do our best, there is a growing shadow of intimidation that seeks to undermine each and every one of us. Animal rights and environmental extremists want to mandate your every move. We have an enemy that wishes to see Missouri families ruined. That enemy would love to whisper in your ear that the Missouri Farming Rights Amendment is big ag vs. small farmers; conventional vs. organic. But in reality, the battle is ALL of US vs. the bullying tactics that include intimidation, big bucks, and deceitful, sensational propaganda. Outside entities steamroll states on the fuel of millions of dollars and the wheels of outrageous lies. And they put good people right out of business and steal their rights using the ballot initiative process to impose their radical views!

If you eat; if you wear clothing; if you drive a car; if you take a vitamin or take insulin to stay alive; if you read a book or feed a pet; if you have a heart valve replacement or play football, your life is dependent on agriculture. How much greater the reason to guard that which is fundamental to our well-being.
The fact remains that small farms, and organic agriculturalists are not exempt from outside influence and are at just as much risk as the conventional farmers if we don't collectively work together to eliminate such underhanded strategies to sway regulations. The Missouri Farming Rights Amendment is not about insulating bad players. It is about protecting ALL of Missouri's farmers from anti-ag organizations.

My encouragement is that you do not let the lies and scare tactics of outside influencers undermine Missouri's number one economic contributor, nor one of the fastest growing hobbies -- agriculture. Neither should we allow their underhanded, over-funded, misguided bullying to take away any of our freedom to operate with best practices and with good conscience.

If we succumb to their rich scare tactics, every one of us loses. We lose the right to raise our families as we see fit. We lose the right to grow food the way science and experience prove is beneficial. We lose the right to try new things OR go back to old ways. We lose the right to plant hundreds of acres or dabble with dirt on a small plot in our back yard.

The outsiders who want to control the way you grow your food, feed your family and live your life, are bent on an old and deceptive strategy – divide and conquer. The Missouri Farming Rights Amendment is for everybody in this state that just wants the freedom to operate without undue and unfounded interference. It's about working together to protect our land, livestock and livelihood, as well as our families' healthy and happy futures.

If we don't stick together, we stand to lose the things we value most – our farms, our freedom and our rights as Missouri families. Think before you vote and say yes to Missouri Farming.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bob - The Backyard Bodyguard

Meet my brave, new friend Bob -- Bob White.  I met him this week as he parked and piddled his way through my backyard and called sweetly his country song right outside my window.  He was so close, I could see his chest puff and his head tilt back with each delightful bellow of the quail's familiar tune "bob white...bob white."

Though I hear them daily in spring and summer, the shy little birds are typically out of view.  I was thoroughly enjoying the serene and seldom seen picture of one of God's precious creatures, when all of a sudden he darted as though startled. 

A few feet to the right, he stopped suddenly and began to cock his little black and white striped head and walk in a circle.  I was certain he had spotted a wiggly morsel. In short order, my eyes spied what he had already seen -- a black snake considerably larger than any old earthworm.  As he pondered the size of his prey, he continued his circulating intimidation.                                                                                                                     And I winced and shuttered and worried, just knowing I was about to see that beautiful little bird become the dinner instead of the diner. They eyed one another in an exchange of power and fear, with the quail's head ever tilting and the snake's coiled body arching higher from the grass with his every pass. 

Then, the dangerous dance ended.

The snake hastily flattened and took his rapid leave, with Mr. Bob White in hot pursuit. First I cheered... then I jeered... for Bob was chasing the black snake right toward me!  Of course there was wood and concrete and glass and insulation and well, you know, a house to protect me! Still, I didn't like the idea of that snake finding refuge somewhere near my domicile.

Enter, hero #2 -- Mr. Black just happened to walk into the room about the time I began shooting photos through my window.  At my prompting, he went back outside and interrupted the snake's planned route.

Bob took flight, safe and sound, and I heard him continue to call, letting me know he's not far and has become my new watch dog.  As long as I hear him singing, I'll feel secure.  And when he grows silent, I know I'll be thinking he's cornered another varmint.