How Do Farming and 5K’s Fit Together?
Over the weekend I had the opportunity to work with our county Farm Bureau in hosting a 5K run and 1 mile walk. Farmers and runners may seem strange bedfellows but I have felt since the start of the planning for this event that it was an ideal partnership. I believe that this combination works for several reasons: The first being that everyone eats; the second reason it works is because we all need to get actively involved in our communities; and the third reason this is an ideal marriage is that we need to be communicating starting on a local level about concerns for the future of our food, fiber and fuel supplies.
Agriculture is the number one industry in our state. It provides the most basic necessities that we all need to survive–food and clothing. As farmers, we know how important our responsiblity is to provide wholesome products to sustain the world around us. As consumers, I know that there are many educated people out there who are aware of where their food comes from and the hard work and care that goes into producing it. But I am also aware of many people in our community who think that chicken comes from the grocery store and the smell of chicken litter spread on a pasture is a noxious nuisance. It is those people that I want to start a conversation with. I have heard the phenomenon of the meet-up of subdivisions and farms as the “urban-rural interface.” Difficulties arise from this interface of neighborhoods and fence lines. Why is there a problem there? I believe it has all to do with miscommunication.
Perhaps non-farmers see cattle and pastures as taking up space that could be used for other, more productive things. But they don’t realize that this original “green space” is vital to the health of the environment and human beings. The world would not survive covered in concrete and housing developments. The ecosystem must be balanced and there are many environmental groups and farmers that know this. Can you believe I just put environmentalists and farmers in the same category?! There are people out there that believe farmers are only out to exploit the land. And there are probably some out there that do. But the large majority of farmers understand the delicate balance of systems better than most non-farmers. They live and work on the land everyday. They know that the decisions they make and the way they treat their land have consequences that must be weighed before any action is taken. Farmers want to be productive members of society. They take care of their land and crops because they value the effort and goodness that each embodies.
That brings us to the next part of the 5K and farming relationship. Farmers have become notorious for sticking to their own and staying on the farm instead of getting out in the community. We are guilty of it ourselves when we get so busy with the day-to-day operations that we forget to step outside ourselves and serve those around us. And even if we have a heart to serve, how do we know what people need if we don’t make the effort to meet them, get to know them, and then arrive at the point where we can identify what their needs are? This event was a first step to cultivating relationships in our community and I pray that we can continue forward in the friendships we have made to find out what our neighbors are truly in need of.
The 5K run and 1 mile walk also gave us the opportunity to meet so many new people and to start a conversation with them about our agricultural organization. I would hope that just one person from this event would seek a farmer out next time they have a question or concern about food or farming. Now that they know our faces, and we have cheered them through a gruelling run, we are friends. Maybe when they go to the grocery store they will pause to think about where the chicken really came from and be thankful for what American farmers provide. And perhaps next time they drive by a farm they will breathe deeply the cool, fresh air and admire the greenness of the grass and the sight of fat, happy cows. (Only be sure to give it a little whiff test before you breathe too deeply in case we just spread chicken litter!)