I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen or heard a farmer call a consumer stupid. At first, it makes me cringe because it’s just kind of mean. I mean, name-calling? Really? What is this, the third grade? But mostly I cringe because of the doors it slams shut. People don’t like to feel stupid. Do you know what happens when they do? The opposite of what we want to happen: they stop asking questions. They’re afraid to ask the wrong question, or the stupid question, so they just don’t ask any questions.
So, riddle me this — if they don’t feel comfortable asking farmers questions, how will they ever understand what we do and why we do it? Even one silly comment on a farm Facebook page talking about how stupid people are nowadays is enough to effectively shut down the ever-rickety rope bridge of communication between farmers and consumers.
Consumers aren’t stupid; they are likely just ignorant. That isn’t a bad thing. Ignorance is literally just the lack of knowledge. The list of things I’m ignorant about could go on for miles. For example, astrology. I don’t like it or get it. I’m completely ignorant about mechanical things, as my brother will confirm (though, to be fair, I think if I applied myself I could be better at it, but that’s why he got a degree in diesel mechanics). I also don’t get how the 2-year-old heifers keep getting the gate latch open to the point that we have to latch the gate and chain it shut. Everyone is ignorant about something. Considering less than 1% of the population actively farms, it stands to reason that most people are ignorant about farming.
So, when you see someone make a comment about brown cows making chocolate milk, don’t laugh. Don’t call them stupid. When the mom with her three young kids walking through the dairy barn at the fair says, “Look sweetie, the black and white one is the daddy and the brown one is the mommy,” don’t make fun of her behind her back. Grow a backbone, find a little charm, and gently correct them. You grew up with heifers and manure spreaders; they didn’t. Don’t slam the door on a conversation that could potentially change four lives.
I consider the phrase “Ignorance is not stupidity” a lot. It’s the reason I make it a point to ask the stupid questions. More times than not, I’m not the only person in the room with the same question. From one farmer to another, stop being so stupid and let’s fight the ignorance together.
The author dairies in partnership with her parents and brother at Spruce Row Farm in Pennsylvania. Jessica is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, and since 2015, she has been active in promoting dairy in her local community. You can find her and her 250 Jersey cows on Facebook at Spruce Row Dairy or on Instagram at @seejessfarm.