RJ Gray, President & CEO
The article “Colorado’s ‘rebel’ farmers – I’d like to see industrial farming go extinct” got my attention in Apple News recently. The article discusses Mr. Jake Takiff's "regenerative" farming practices and, on the surface, it seems that his views are pretty similar to every farmer I have met. He discusses the cultural values of living and raising a family on the farm, soil health, protein’s impact on the economic health of the farm, and the overall commitment and work ethic it takes to be a professional farmer.
In my almost 38 years of life growing up in and around agriculture – two decades of that, working directly with farmers and their farmer-owned businesses – I can honestly say that I have never met a farmer without those same concerns.
They also believe that soil health is of the utmost importance to their operation; they believe proper, humane care of livestock is of the utmost importance to the financial growth and sustainability of their operation; and they also believe that farming is a way of life and teaches life lessons that our culture does not such as a strong work ethic, commitment, and managing multiple things at one time.
I felt connected to Jake – right up until he alienated his peers.
In the last paragraph of the article, he is quoted as saying that he believes regenerative agriculture is the future of farming. "I'd like to see, in my lifetime, that commercial, industrial, herbicide-dependent type of agriculture go extinct. I don't know if that's going to happen. But if we don't start making the changes on a ground level, it'll definitely never happen."
I have never heard of a farmer ask or advocate for a specific type of agriculture to be abolished or done away with, but I have listened to them advocate to call it what it is. If it is organic, call it organic; if it isn't meat, don't call it meat; if it isn't milk, don't call it milk; but don't stop producing it.
As an agriculturalist, it is okay to have differences – from the way we do business, to the markets and demographics we serve, and even how we farm – but by all means, for the sake of the hungry and the less fortunate, let's not call to abolish a particular way of farming.
For years, farmers have used science and technology to advance their practices. They promote those practices to continually produce safe, affordable, and an abundant food supply. According to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, our state is the fifth hungriest state in the Country. Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization, reports over 42 million Americans will face food insecurity, including potentially 13 million children. That is up from the 35 and 10 million from last year.
While I can certainly appreciate the market demographics Jake is trying to serve, my concern is for the millions of Americans, and the millions globally, that will starve. To call for abolishing modern, science-backed, researched farming practices is irresponsible and shows a lack of compassion – for the less fortunate in America and around the world.
Why not advocate for more dollars to land grant universities for research to produce more food, fiber, and protein, using less resources? The American farmer has always answered that call. Just give them the science, and they will feed the world.