Friday, August 22, 2014

Fitting In

I've had this in my head the whole time I've been writing.  Now it's in yours.  Your welcome. - - Why Am I Such A Misfit?

All my life I've felt like I didn't quite fit in.  I don't want to use the word 'misfit' because I think that gives it a negative connotation.  Though not fitting in hasn't always been easy, I don't necessarily consider it a bad thing.  I like the word eccentric.  I think it comes from my Herring family (we're all a little different).  Nothing has changed now that I'm 30 (yes, my name is Emily and I'm 30.  I turned 30 in February and I know age is a number and all that, but all year it's been hitting me that I'm grown up now.  I'm 30, I have 2 kids, and I own a business.  Wow!).  I look around and don't really see myself fitting into any category neatly.  Then again who does really?  That's what makes us as humans great right?  We're all different and unique, but the same enough to understand other's circumstances.

I guess it should come to me as no surprise that my farm doesn't quite fit in anywhere either.  I'm a woman farmer.  I'm a farmer with a history major. We're liberal farmers (shhh!  Don't tell anyone.  Everyone automatically assumes we're ultra conservative or something.  Nope.  Not even a little bit.).  We're small farmers that come from larger conventional farming backgrounds.  I never wear overalls or chew on hay, though, sometimes I do wear pigtails.  We're also young farmers who didn't inherit our farm.  It is a family farm, but we had to buy it and we're doing it on our own (sometimes by our fingernails it seems).  We're a small farm that's not a hobby farm.  We don't do it for fun though it is fun at times and we don't do it to lose money though we've done that too.  We don't do it because I'm bored and need something to do (when I grew up, the word bored was a bad word.  It was the equivalent of cursing to my grandma.  If I'm bored, I get up and find something to do and with 2 kids there's plenty of that!)  We do it because we love this life and we want to build something great to share with our community, and we want to make money doing something we love.

Another way we don't quite fit in.  We're a small farm that's not not organic.  I'm not against organic.  I see us going that route in the future (or at least all-natural, same result without spending thousands to be able to use the word organic).  Personally I don't get the organic deal (not that there's anything wrong with it.  Every family has to do what they think is best for their family).  I think it's just a gimmick to get people to pay more for their food.  Organic produce has not been shown to be any more nutritious than conventional (from the research I've done, some of which is here []), it's just not sprayed with the same things (because if you didn't already know, organic produce CAN be sprayed) or had anything added to it at the end.  Organic produce gets recalled just like regular produce does (Trader Joe's Peaches anyone?)  I'm all for not adding anything I will say that.  Why mess with something perfect as is?  Then again I'm not shipping my produce hundreds of miles either.  I think the best route to take is local whether it's organic or not.  At least then you know it wasn't picked early and shipped across the country to ripen in a box.  It was probably picked the day before, probably from a farmer you know, and there was absolutely nothing added to it to make it look better or stay fresher.  And I don't know this to be true but I suspect it's part of the reason why someone buys organic - really all people want to know it's what they're eating - and the organic label does at least tell the consumer what's been done to the product.  Knowing your farmer takes some of the mystery out of it because you can just ask them.

What else makes our farm a misfit?  We're not completely against GMO's (genetically modified organisms) where most small farmers are.  We DO NOT, and WILL NOT, use GMO seeds in our produce production don't get me wrong, but I do see a place for them in the row crop industry.  I know, I know, they're 'bad' for you, but by the year 2050 there will be 9 billion (yes, that's billion with a b) people on this planet who need to be fed and we're losing farmland at an astounding rate every day.  This new 70 bypass that's being built so folks from Raleigh can get to the beach quicker?  It took somewhere around 1000 acres of land out of production.  I know what you're thinking, 1000 is not that much.  Well, our farm has 46 acres of cleared land, that's what you see when you come.  Think about that multiplied by 21.  It's a lot of land.  So we have to raise more crops on less land, and don't even get me started on the water issues (water, not oil, is our most precious resource.  Wars will be fought over this in the future. You cannot convince me otherwise).  How do you think that's going to happen? Only by being more efficient and increasing yields.  One way to do that?  Genetically modify plants to produce more.

Lastly, and this one makes me proud to be a misfit, I'm not into what I call 'farm shaming'.  Like people who raise free range chickens versus people who raise them in a chicken house.  Or people who do farm organically verses people who don't.  It's like fat girls verses skinny ones or stay at home moms versus working moms.  We're all in this together.  Why fight against each other and bring everyone down?  Agriculture takes such a beating as it is.  Let's work together to educate the public.  I think working together and learning from each other is a better way to have this conversation.  Like I said, I think everyone has to do what's best for their family.  If having that kind of food is more important than getting the best deal go for it.  If you think it's better for your family be my guest.  If you can't afford it or don't see the need that's okay too.  It's a personal choice and I don't think anyone should shame anyone else for doing it.  The problem with food is there are so many choices and a lot of people really don't know what they all mean.  I don't.  I'll be the first to tell you.  I wish the government would come up with a simpler labeling system.  I wish companies had to prove what they were calling one thing was actually that thing (like the 'creme' inside of an Oreo, which has no dairy content at all. [] Don't get me wrong, I know it can't be good for you, but they shouldn't be able to call it creme if I have to be strict on what I say about my produce).  What I recommend is do your research before you decide (just beware everything you read on the Internet).

So that's how we're different in a nutshell.  Sometimes I feel like we're straddling both sides of the fence.  Not quite this but not that either.  I guess I just feel like farmers get a bad wrap in general and a lot of organizations we're involved in because we are a small farm like to bash larger farmers for this or that and it's hard for us because we do understand both sides, but we don't quite fit into either.  That's okay.  I think our farm is relatable to you guys (least, I really hope it is), and as long as it stays that way I'm happy.  Now all this is MY opinion.  I'm not interested in getting involved in some big debate about it.  Like I said, everyone has to do what they think is best for them.  This is my blog about our farm and I just wanted to put my thoughts out there.  I guess when it comes to having opinions I'm not such a misfit after all!

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