By: Jen Livsey
Quickly, name two unrelated American icons that could in two minutes do more to rally the spirit of America’s agricultural community than the efforts of any agricultural group in the last decade. If you watched last night’s Super Bowl, I bet Paul Harvey and Dodge just came to mind.
Though I grew up watching my brothers play six-man football and am married to somewhat of a college football fanatic, my interest in the Super Bowl lies in side conversations with fellow viewers and the hope of being amused by a clever commercial. However, my interest was immediately piqued at the first sound of Paul Harvey’s voice, a voice that filled my family’s truck on countless drives throughout my childhood, as I know it did for many other ag kids. Against the backdrop of poignant images that vividly painted the story of modern American agriculture, the late Harvey’s words reminded every farmer and rancher in
America that we are appreciated. What a small thing, but, wow, what an impact.
My Twitter feed filled with comments from almost every ag and food-related user I follow. You see, those of us in agriculture, myself included, are becoming more and more used to responding to a public that views our work somewhat suspiciously, if they think about it at all. The way we use our land, the way we raise and treat our animals, the technologies we use, all are targets. For example, I have conversed with many well-meaning strangers who inform me that the only safe and healthy beef is natural, organic, grass-fed beef,
because conventional beef comes from cattle that are mistreated and ‘pumped full’ of hormones andantibiotics in feedlots. These people usually have no idea that I, along with 17 members of my extended family, are cattle ranchers who care deeply about our land and cattle.
They also have no idea that we have and will continue to produce conventional, natural, and grass-fed cattle, all depending on market conditions, range conditions, and opportunities. I love that we sell some grass-fed cattle, but I am just as proud of our grain-fed cattle. I know both produce healthy and safe beef and I know both grew up on our ranch, where we monitor cattle and range health with equal care. I know many, many ranch families who do the same. Our grain-fed cattle end up in feedlots, and though there was no feedlot among the pictures in Dodge’s commercial, those who work in feedlots are just as involved in (safely and affordably) feeding America and are deserving of the same thanks. That is a controversial statement, but I make it because I know many good, honest, hardworking people who work in feedlots and treat animals in their care humanely and feed their families the beef they produce. They, along with ranchers and farmers, are, as Harvey says, the somebodies who serve on the school boards (and hospital boards and rotaries and volunteer fire departments) in the rural communities of this country. And they
all want their children and grandchildren to be proud of the work they do.
This is not to say that we in agriculture can’t constantly improve; we can and we want to. In fact, I and about five thousand other beef producers are going to spend this week at the National Cattlemen’s Convention working to strengthen and improve our industry and the work we do. But sometimes a note of appreciation from those who benefit from our work does more to encourage and inspire than any words from within. So thank you, Dodge, for two minutes that made a difference.