Monday morning it snowed, bringing a quiet calm to the already calm Thornton farm.

We left earlier than planned, knowing the slick roads would make travel times longer.

After a stop at the Ames post office, and a wholly satisfying brunch at the Wheatsfield Co-op, we headed East to Collins-Maxwell High School in Maxwell.

Jamie- the AgEd instructor there- had informed on the phone- that Dave Struthers- featured in the chapter Exit Strategy would be in attendance. We’ve screened American Meat for many of the farmers featured within the film. Every time someone featured sees themselves for the first time on the big screen, there are butterflies.  So far- every farmer has felt that they were fairly represented- a streak we very much wanted to keep going.

The screening was in the school gymnasium, and a lot of FFA students and local families were seated at fold-up tables sharing a meal of home-made pork-burgers & potato-salad that had been cooked up by the 50 or so students.

We solved the challenge of under-amplified sound by taping a handheld microphone to a fleece jacket and angling it right toward the speakers which worked well enough.

After each section local farmers teamed up with groups of students to discuss issues brought forth by the video. We documented as Dave Struthers- a commodity hog farmer- talked to his group, sharing wisdom of years operating the family farm. We got a pleasant surprise- when good friend Chris Ely, the co-founder of Applegate Farms- who is a lead sponsor of this screening series- arrived earlier than expected. We had Chris join Dave’s group, to get a sense of the new discussion model we’ve developed.

Chris and the young FFA members in Dave’s group spent a lot of time listening to Dave as he spoke. There’s a time for speaking, and there’s a time for listening. When a farmer who has spent his whole life farming and contributing to the community in which he lives- when he takes the time from hog chores in the midst of a snowy day- to speak, it’s time to listen. Ultimately, Chris and the students had the good instincts to realize this.

Ultimately, it’s going to be listening that helps us overcome the challenges our agriculture faces today. Every farmer has important knowledge, especially about the region where they live and farm. When you’re talking to a farmer, it’s best to listen.

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published this page in Ruminations 2012-07-18 11:24:12 -0400