Factory Farmer? No, I'm A Family Farmer
This post was originally published on Forbes on July 22, 2016.
Post written by Lawson Mozley. Lawson Mozley is a sixth-generation Florida farmer and rancher who has farmed the same land in Florida’s panhandle for more than 160 years.
Today I was called a “factory farmer” because I use vaccines and antibiotics in my cattle herd and genetically engineered crop varieties in our fields.
While I didn’t take it as the insult it was meant to be, it betrayed an inherent flaw in the way the public sees farmers and food in our country. Somehow, large = bad, technology = dangerous, science = scary, and efficient = evil.
Reflecting back on many years of farming, dedication
First, let me tell you about myself and my family’s farm, which has occupied the same land for more than 160 years. I am the sixth generation to farm this land, but honestly, farming is secondary.
You see, this is where I grew up. I played under a pecan tree that my great, great grandfather planted, which still stands across the road from the house where I was raised. Every time I drive a tractor into a field, five generations of blood, sweat, tears, and prayers echo in my head. Every time I pull into my driveway, I realize again that this is where I want to raise my children and spoil my grandchildren. Every time I check cattle, I look at the oak tree where my Granddaddy shot his first squirrel that fed his siblings and parents.
Every afternoon that I have the chance, I stop by my Granddaddy’s house to check on him and to hear the stories he has accumulated over his 90 years on this land. Not only this, but I pick his brain about farming and cattle, economics and family, faith and love. I seek validation for my plans and choices of what to do with my cattle, career, and every other aspect of my life. I smile every time as I politely accept a glass of ice water (offered in the deep southern accent that has comforted generations of children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great grand and now great great grandchildren) or turn down a glass of coke (diet and caffeine free, ugh).
We have these conversations on the back porch of the home where he raised my father and aunts. This porch overlooks the grain bins that were built in 1964 to store corn, oats, wheat, or soybeans. It also looks out at the cement slab where he and my daddy built a farrowing barn so that sows could have their babies in a safe, clean area…the slab that my father (12 at the time) carved his name and the date into with a stick before the cement set. From there you can see the pasture where my cattle graze, and the bottom that seasonally fills with water that he laughingly reminisces about stocking with fish with my Granny in the 1960’s.
Every time I drive down the dirt road that our farm was built along, I also hear the hooves of horses being ridden by my ancestors and their friends, the jingling of the mule’s harness that my granddaddy walked countless miles, and the laughter of his eight siblings playing in the road where the old cowpens stood for over a century before finally being taken down and replaced. I drive past the farmhouse where my Granddaddy was born and raised, where 80-100 members of our family still gather every year for Thanksgiving, 42 years after my great grandmother bequeathed the continuing of that tradition as the first request of her will.
You see, every time I spend a 10+ hour day farming this land I’m weighed down, but more so lifted up, by five generations of my family before me, and the countless generations that I hope will follow.
GM technology, efficiency overshadowed by fear
Apparently all of this history, meaning, and hope is overshadowed by the fact that my father and I use genetically engineered crops to decrease and even eliminate the needs for environmentally impactful pesticides. It’s nullified by our judicious use of herbicides and other pesticides when necessary to produce a safe, wholesome, high quality food product at a reasonable price. It’s undone by my use of vaccines to prevent diseases in my cattle and antibiotics when injuries or acute illnesses do occur.
It grieves me to realize that propaganda, ignorance, and fear can turn something that is so meaningful to me into something that an uninformed person thinks is the epitome of evil that they manage to warp into an attempted insult.
American farms are smaller than you think
Ninety-seven percent of U.S. farms are family farms.
I am an American Family Farmer. I am the 97%. I am the one that your petitions, lobbying, marching, Internet lambasting, and technology shaming truly affects. I am the one who skips meals and loses sleep so that I can care for the corn, peanuts, oats, cattle and dozens other crops that will make their way to your table. I am someone who cares more than the bounds of language can express about my family, friends, and environment that I impact with my choices.