All At the Table

Screenings, like the rainstorms, are often hard to predict. 

Given that it was a Monday night, we weren't sure that the 125 seats set out would be filled up. When every chair had been filled and another 50 would need to brought out, we knew this would be a special night. 

Before we brought in more chairs. (Photo A. Trimbach)

Part time farmer and full time teacher Michael Siepel did an incredible job at putting together a panel of different perspectives of agriculture. With 10 people, it was the most people we have ever had, but surprisingly, because of the communication skills of the moderator, Dr. Jay Self of TSU, the hour long conversation flowed seamlessly from topic to topic, and from perspective to perspective. 

Cale Plowman, a sixth generation cattleman, who raises cattle in a monoslope system, spoke eloquently about how every farm is a family farm. He said that alternative farmers have done a great job of telling the story of production, and brining social components like farmers markets back, which he said is doing good for agriculture as a whole.  

Gentrie, Jay, Garrett, Graham and Cale look on. (Photo A. Trimbach)

Garrett Noonan who just started a local butcher shop eloquently stated the case for having more small butcher shops as opposed to having fewer big ones. If you had to spell check one sentence, you'd probably do better than having to spell check a whole book. He posited that because of the smaller volume and higher accountability of small butcher shops, people were less likely to have recalls that have often plagued the industry. 

Tom Primmer talked about how the conventional system stopped working for him when he would go to sell his pigs and there would only be one buyer. This meant that he wasn't getting a good price. He decided instead to sell directly to customers at the farmers market, and this has been a profitable decision for their family farm. 

Restauranteur Brian Boultinhouse mentioned that he's tired of the same old food at chain restaurants, but conceded that sometimes people want to depend on getting the same thing when they eat no matter where they are. He talked about the challenges and creative possibilities when ordering the whole animal, and providing customers with a varied, seasonal fare. 

The dedicated people who joined us for the post-screening discussion. (Photo A. Trimbach)

Ashley, who raises cattle and sons, spoke passionately about the challenges of young people getting into agriculture. She has the good luck to have inherited land, and to know that she wanted to farm from a young age. Agriculture is capital intensive, she said, and it creates a barrier for young people getting into agriculture. 

The Colemans talked about how they enjoy the social aspect of selling at a farmers market, and how it has been a steep learning curve as they've transitioned to finishing cows on grass. 

I spoke about the efficiencies of conventional agriculture, and how they have indirectly led to less and less people being able to stay on the farm. I also mentioned that ethanol takes up land away from food production, and leads to an increase in feed costs. This wasn't universally agreed upon :)

 Gentry made an elegant closing statement about the importance of celebrating all types of agriculture, about how there is a disconnect between a lot of people and their food. First, you can learn where your food comes from, then you can see if you want to work your way into farming she said. 

The conversation lasted an hour, and then the conversation afterwards lasted another hour, so it was around 10 before the evening wrapped up. There was an incredible energy in the room, and it is clear that agriculture is a vital part of Kirksville and the surrounding area. We are thrilled to be a part the conversation and have a lot of gratitude for everyone who came out and joined the conversation. 

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published this page in Ruminations 2012-10-16 09:40:40 -0400