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The Soul of Farming: Busy Woman’s Guide to Eating Better

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Ever wonder where you milk comes from? I got a chance to find out last week when I visited a dairy farm in Western Wisconsin and met 100 hard working dairy farming women.

Having only the media view of “factory” farming, I was firmly on the organic/free range/family farm side of the argument. I have to say my view has changed - still need more info, but it isn’t as black and white as I thought. I visited a dairy farm with more than 800 cows — which is huge. It is run by a family (2 brothers and their wives) and some hired help (total of 12 people I think). They’d like to have more help, but can’t afford them with the low milk prices.

I had assumed “confined” cows would be unhappy cows, dirty cows, sad — but I was wrong. Over the hour-long tour, our host constantly talked about “cow comfort” from the different types of bedding to how the feed was presented. They invest in various types of fans and misters to keep them cool - they even had motion sensitive back scratching machines for the cows. It was a bit uncomfortable to watch one cow use it — she seemed to be REALLY enjoying it.

As anyone who has breast fed knows, if the mom is stressed or uncomfortable, the milk doesn’t flow. I hadn’t considered this concept in regard to dairy cows, but it makes sense. From that perspective, it seems ridiculous that a business person would set up a situation where conditions would limit production. No, indeed this farm was all about making the cows happy.

Our host talked about his routine and it was obvious how hard they work - long hours - and they are struggling to make a profit.

With their cute little kids running around it is hard to believe this was what Time Magazine calls a “soulless” operation.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve learned:

* The farmers I met are VERY busy, care deeply, and deserve our respect.
* There’s more to this issue than I ever imagined.
* I don’t know enough yet — it is time to get more information and start really understanding where our food comes from.

I suspect there is more than one right answer and the people who are most qualified to help me understand are the people working hard to produce our food.

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EmpowHER Guest

Good for you for beginning to look at where your food comes from! What can you do next? Buy from local farmers - visit their farms - understand their economics. Yes, their prices may be higher than grocery stores; that's because family-scale farming doesn't have the economies of scale that factory farming does.

Visit LocalHarvest.org to find farmers near you! See the movie: Food, Inc and read Kingsolver's book "Animal Vegetable Mineral."

September 1, 2009 - 9:20am
EmpowHER Guest

First of all, I want to commend you on just seeking the truth. Seems like the general public just takes what the media has to say as the word of God. I would like to help you out in your search for the truth. First of all only about 1% of all farming is "factory farming". 99% is family owned, much like the dairy you visited. Here in Colorado it costs about $15 a day per cow to take care of it and they receive approximately $12 a day per cow. Yes, the math doesn't add up, they are losing money.
If you have a specific question, I would love to help you out. As for what you should be reading, read the agriculture websites, like American Farm Bureau Federation and AgWired. And just use your common sense with whatever you read.
Farmers do what they do not because they are raking in the bucks, but because they simply love what they do. On average, the American farmer feeds 145 people and for every $1 that is spent on food, only .17 cents go back to the farmer. And that's a 'gross profit'. All that then goes to equipment costs, fuel, property payments, etc.
Finally, there seems to be an agenda that is sweeping the land to end animal agriculture. HSUS is fighting hard to make this happen. However, it should be known that 95% of the cargo transported in trucks today is a product or by-product of animal agriculture. If animal agriculture ceased, that would devastate the U.S. economy in just 100 days and destroy the global economy in a mere 300 days. Agriculture is imbedded in every part of your life, from the car you drive, to your computer, makeup, clothes, the list goes on and on. Agriculture not only sustains your life, but enriches it as well.
Erie, Colo.

August 31, 2009 - 10:50am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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