Tuesday, June 19, 2012

talking with a farmer

I went outside after reading some blog comments, and found a farmer in the driveway waiting to talk to me. He wanted to discuss meat rabbits. He was lanky, but certain looking. No way a frail man at all. He had on camo pants, rubber boots, and a serious farmers tan peaking through his t-shirt sleeves.

He had noticed the little lamb up in the sheep paddock and we got to talking about raising meat animals and sheep. I knew this guy had serious experience with many critters, and his methods were much like mine: animals raised humanely and under grass farming principals. Both our homes knew Joel Salatin as a household name.

I told him how some readers were put off at the idea of naming a lamb and then eating him down the line. At this the farmer smiled, scoffed out a happy laugh and said. "What other way is there?!" and then added, "Just this last fall I sold beef from a steer I bought as a calf, bottle fed, named, and raised." I nodded. I knew that cow, had bought a hundred dollars of his beef and enjoyed every bite of it. He didn't see a problem or disconnection with caring lovingly for an animal he would himself slaughter or aid in the slaughter of. This was normal to him. It was how he had been raised, how he understood the world. He didn't seem too interested in the conversation beyond that point though. He was a busy man, with work to do. He was already fumbling with his pocket knife and ready to get going. We made plans to talk rabbits tomorrow afternoon at his farm.

The farmer was Ian Daughton. He is eleven.


Blogger Megan said...


June 19, 2012 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Brenda said...

love your blog Jenna. the future of our small farming lifestyle rests in the willingness of you young people to embrace it and share it. The future is looking good.

June 19, 2012 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger QuilterMary said...

Great post!

June 19, 2012 at 6:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Damn Straight!!! That is the most important thing we can grow on our farms, future farmers!! I dole the neighbor girls down here with cookies, then teach them to sew, can, bake, bring in veg from the garden...... Beth in Ky.

June 19, 2012 at 6:08 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, great ending. You know you're such a great story teller who lets readers imagine the scenes so vividly, yet on their own ways. So, with this one, it was a thrill to change all the physical features of the man, a famer, in a magical second just before "THE END" mark on my silver screen.
Thank you, Jenna,

June 19, 2012 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

Love it! My mind's eye was envisioning an older, white-haired farmer, bent from years of laboring his own land. I smiled and then laughed out loud at the very end! Hurrah for young farmers!

June 19, 2012 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger polly said...

i got chills! and a little choked up...

June 19, 2012 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

I think the reason people have trouble with the naming and then eating thing is that they are so far removed from their food. Food in general comes from mass production farms where the animals are nothing but product. They are not lovingly tended in any way and spend most of their lives cooped up in cages. When you give something a name, it becomes an individual and it's far more personal.

I think you should name the new guy Monday. I liked the post you made about his entrance early on a Monday morning.

June 19, 2012 at 6:30 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

That is the name Cathy Daughton suggested today! Monday! I think two votes, plus mine, makes it a name.

This Christmastide I can have a case of the Mondays! For Dinner!

June 19, 2012 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Mare said...

An amazing young gentleman...

June 19, 2012 at 7:36 PM  
Blogger Tracy Bruring said...

That is very cool.

June 19, 2012 at 7:46 PM  
Blogger Moose Hollow Farm said...

It's so important for kids to get back to the earth and learn about raising their own food. Kudos to Ian for wanting to be loving & caring to animals even if he raises them for food. I have 3 grandsons that are learning to garden & take care of chickens and they are loving it!! We need farmers to provide for the country's future needs and they will be the youth of today.

June 19, 2012 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Thank you Jenna. My Momma heart is bursting (and my Friendship heart is too.)

June 19, 2012 at 10:10 PM  
Blogger Firecracker Farm said...

Thank you Jenna. My Momma heart is bursting (and my Friendship heart is too.)

June 19, 2012 at 10:11 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

What a great post Jenna... Totally caught me there at the end! Love when young people are interested in animals and outdoors, it's so good to see/hear :)

June 19, 2012 at 11:23 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

I don't know why, but as I was reading this, I had pictured an old man too. Then had to read it all over again when I found out he was 11. Very good! He knows what he wants. I wish there were more young people like him. And that lamb is so cute. I like that name too.I name all my animals. All my lambs this year have A names and I named all the boys too. And talk to them every day and love on them all I can. They have just as much purpose, if not more, than the females here do. I named my steer Chuck.

June 19, 2012 at 11:47 PM  
Blogger Misty said...

sLet's be honest. As you said, the animal does get a name just because it's easier than always referring to it as "that lamb", "the pig with the floppy ears" or "No. 457". All my animals have names, but not necessarily because I purposely named it. How else would I get a steer named Hanky (the turd from South Park) unless it made his mean little pranks easier to deal with? Or the Polish rooster that punctured a hole in my knee that got infected--he had a name, too, but he was also quite tasty. (Mean roosters always taste better.) On the flip side, I have a friend with over 100 sheep and she doesn't have a single sheep with a name. There are number tags in their ears that indicate what year they were born and the order of birth. She has some ewes that are 12 years old, but it doesn't mean they have a name. Or my friend that had a dairy. Not a single cow had a name. The pigs he owned for meat didn't have names, neither did the steers for meat. This just goes to show, to each his own. And whether someone chooses to name an animal that they plan on eating, well, that doesn't necessarily mean that animal is treated better than any other animal across the board. Nor does it indicate that someone is far removed from their food. Everyone who dreams of having a farm will come to their own conclusions when the time comes. Name your steer, or don't.

June 19, 2012 at 11:50 PM  
Blogger Lynnanne said...

Powerful ending. Love.

June 20, 2012 at 12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like maybe he considered conversing with a fellow farmer to be pretty normal too. I admire the maturity in him that treated you with the respect of an equal! Maybe barn construction builds common ground as well?

June 20, 2012 at 1:29 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

That was great. If he is interested in a Silver Fox, I have a year old doe for sale and I'll be over there this weekend.

June 20, 2012 at 6:15 AM  
Blogger Triple K Farm said...

Living in the world we live in now, this is a very impressive story& boy.For the record we name all our "freezer animals".

June 20, 2012 at 6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. Such a great post!

June 20, 2012 at 7:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really struggle with the emotions I feel whenever I read about naming an animal whose future is for slaughter down the not-too-distant road. I know that farmers must raise animals other than for their eggs, wool, milk, etc. and I don't have a problem with that, but it just makes me uneasy to know that someone gets personal enough with an animal to call it by name and then one day takes its life. I love meat and will continue to eat beef, pork and chickens, but I doubt that I'll ever be able to raise any animal purely for slaughter. I don't think it's that I'm not close to the source of my food; I buy locally grown beef, chickens, and pork from a family I know personally and I've been to their farm often. I know that what they raise is destined for slaughter. I'm fortunate enough to be able to buy from folks who treat their animals humanely. I just can't be the one to raise an animal solely for slaughter. Thanks be to the farmers who can.

I hope no one looks down on me for being unable to raise my own animals to eat later. I'll just continue to eat my chickens' eggs, process the wool from my sheep, and if I had one, drink the milk from my cow. I won't let an animal suffer and if I have to, I'll put it down. Surely there's room for me to be called a farmer even though I can't raise any animal whose sole purpose is for slaughter.

Please don't take this as a rant; I'm just voicing my opinion.

Diane in North Carolina

June 20, 2012 at 9:35 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Diane, you are entirely allowed to feel that way here! It took me years to change my attitudes, and living in an agricultural community. And that doesn't mean you will feel the way me and Ian do, or should.

You are still a farmer to me.

And think about it. There are meat farmers, but do you think every meat farmer is cut out to raise wool, or run a dairy, or an herb farm? No. Everyone has a mind and strengths that suit them and the greater good and there is enough work to go around!

Good for you for speaking your mind.

June 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Heidi said...

If you eat Monday on Christmas eve, you will eat Monday on Monday :)

June 20, 2012 at 11:45 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

This makes me incredibly happy! And I know not everyone will agree, but to me, naming an animal destined for slaughter is another show of respect to the animal. To not name it feels like I'm degrading it and suggesting that it isn't worth much. The only livestock we don't name are large numbers of animals that all look identical (i.e. - 100 Cornish Crosses). I can't tell them apart and they're not going to come when I call them anyway. ;-)

June 21, 2012 at 3:16 PM  
Blogger admin said...

Love this post!

June 21, 2012 at 8:29 PM  
Blogger Dulcimer said...

Oh my . . . this is how I am trying to raise my tiny kiddos!

I know it sounds strange to many parents, but my 3-year-old daughter often shouts gleefully, "bacon is from PIGS!" or "milk is from COWS!" right before she eats, and I feel like it's part of her own appreciation for these animals.

June 21, 2012 at 9:16 PM  
Anonymous Kathryn said...

We just raised 13 chickens for dinner this spring. My daughters (3 and 4) named each of them. I jokingly named one Nuggets and they named the rest of them things like French Fry, Hamburger, and Spaghetti. :)

June 22, 2012 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Lelainia N. Lloyd said...

Yay! I named a lamb!

Diane, I am the same way-even though my grandparents had a farm and I grew up know exactly where the food on the table came from,I have far too soft a heart to raise something I'd end up eating. I fully support the farmers who do though and will happily buy my meat & poultry from them.

June 23, 2012 at 5:13 PM  

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