Chico to SMU

Late Monday night Andy came down w a 24 hour flu, so drove out to Chico in the morning solo. Chico is a rural small town, with a lot of semi trucks and no motels. Brad Bound is the upbeat optimistic FFA instructor there who hosted us for two class periods, with about 40 students all told, with a break in between. 

We talked about drone tractors and how many rural communities are losing population. We talked about how an increase in niche production on a farm can often create jobs for the next generation of farmers. Students most enjoyed the segments that showed Polyface's Do-it-yourself slaughter facility.
Drove through the LBJ grasslands and picked up Andy, who was feeling a bit better and we headed South East to the campus of Southern Methodist University where we camped out for lunch at a high-falutin place called Le Madeleine. The campus and surrounding neighborhood is full of large estates, an area awash in economic wealth.
Nate of Chipotle and store manager Joselio hosted a dinner for the panelists. It was a great idea because it allowed us all to get a better sense of who we all are. We got a chance to meet Jenny Smith, an SMU student who is part Students for a Better Society, and she did a lot of the work to make the evening a success. At the meet and greet, talked with John and Wendy Taggart who said that although there were burdens to USDA regulations, they did sometimes help alert them to useful problems at the facility.
We had about 100 people overflow from the 96 capacity, and a crowd of mostly community members, with a sprinkling of students in between. The inverse is more common. Almost everyone stayed for the post conversation, which was a good one. Kim did one of the best moderating jobs we've ever seen, moving the conversation effortlessly from topic to panelist. John talked about how in 1999 he and Wendy transitioned from conventional cattle raising to grass based, simply because the cost of the inputs was too high. The animals do all the work he said.
Taylor is an SMU junior who is planning to start raising chickens after graduating next year. He said that a lot of students are beginning to think about more than money when choosing a career. Even if we do not go into farming full time, it's a good experience to work on a farm at some point, just to have a more broad understanding of how ecology and agriculture happen.
Judith spoke about how subsidies, although being paid to farmers, don't benefit farmers, but truly benefit the large integrators that get discounted feed costs. She said, as a hypothetical that if it takes 15 dollars a bushel to raise corn, and then it is sold at 10 dollars a bushel, that the government money will then make up the difference. She then pointed out that the new farm bill looks to reform subsidies, but that the new very complicated system of crop insurance will pretty much have the same result as before, a new handout for large integrator wrapped in new packaging.
Jean stood up on behalf of animal rights, mentioning that she believed chickens do feel pain when being slaughtered. She then talked about how the environmental ramifications of raising meat are directly contributing to the changing climate. 
John and Judith both stood up for animal agriculture, John talking about how he loaded cattle peacefully onto a truck this morning, after the animals lived out their lives on his farm. Judith said she believes in a holistic view of life, one that involves her body being turned as compost on her family farm when she passes.
Kim closed up the conversation early, considering it was 10 on a weeknight.
We said goodbyes and thankyous and began the search for the most economical motel near the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport.
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