The “felfie”. It’s a real thing. Or at least as real as the selfie, which became such a big deal last year. This year, the felfie, or “farmer-selfie” is a trend I hope you’ll see popping up around the interwebs. It’s a simple way for farmers and ranchers to document and share what they are up to in their day to day and maybe answer some common questions or misconceptions about how food is raised. I’ve never been great at stopping to smell the roses, so maybe I’ll be better at stopping to take a selfie.
Before the widespread use of digital photography and social media, we never took photos of ourselves working. I can’t even imagine what my late grandfather would have said if one of us paused to photograph an animal, ourselves, or the configuration of the corral to show people what it’s like to sort cattle. Surely it would have been funny, and sarcastic and a cue to get the heck back to work. We have (VHS) video footage of one of the last days of sorting cattle to ship from the feedyard before my grandparents retired. That seemed like an apropos moment to document for posterity, but otherwise I got nothing.
Our temps have been in the single digits at night and high teens to low twenties during the day this week. This is brrr. We got a few inches of snow last night. While we routinely see temperatures below freezing during the season, snow is fairly rare, especially this year when we’ve seen very little precipitation of any kind. We feed hay daily throughout the winter, but never is it more important to keep the cattle in easily accessible, body-warming, sickness-fighting nutrition than when the temperature is drops and the ground is completely covered in snow.
In the greater scheme of weather to ranch in, this is not so bad. While keeping cattle fed and their water troughs free from ice build up is a daily chore on every farm and ranch, Feedyard Foodie Ann describes the horizontal snow storms they work in there in Nebraska. She also notes how spunky cattle are in the temperatures that make us dream of being the star of a fireplace, blanky, and cocoa scene. Or out in Kansas, where blizzard conditions put temperatures well below zero. Then you have another end of the spectrum, where the conspicuous lack of moisture and winterness may make producers in places like Idaho and California consider some very tough choices.
Weather is one of those major factors that can have a profound impact on any farm or ranch. And it’s entirely out of our control. It can have a profound impact on the markets for the food products grown on said farms and ranches. This reminds me of a brief dialogue I had with a commenter on an editorial in which this blog was featured. I used the real impacts of weather as an example of just how real our food system is as part of a response to his assertion that everything in agriculture today is a controlled top-down market scheme devoid of real families, people, etc. I don’t think it really worked, and in a typical fashion, the commenter was appreciative of my response, but put me and our family ranch in the exception-not-the-rule box.
I find it so fascinating that this is a common response, when the vast majority, almost ALL of the other ranchers and feeders, and dairy farmers for that matter that I know are family run businesses, just like ours, faced with the same daily chores, challenges and rewards. Almost all of them. So who are these nameless, faceless people controlling and marginalizing me and my family business? Or could the mass media picture of agriculture be a bit askew of reality? Perhaps something as simple as the felfie will help bring the real picture into better focus for everyone.