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Farm Babe: When farming ends a friendship


In life, there are times when no matter what we say or do, some folks will never see eye to eye with you on a certain topic. (Hello 2016 election?) But it’s important to stay kind to one another. It’s OK to agree to disagree. Our differences in life; our viewpoints — whether it has to do with religion, politics or any other topic — are what make us unique. If everyone agreed with everyone on every topic, the world sure would be a boring place!

But then there are rare instances when it gets personal, and someone takes it too far. Today I’m going to share a personal story that is near and dear to me and still makes me sad to this day. But I hope to connect with other folks who may be going through a difficult time with a similar scenario to know that you aren’t alone.

Back in high school I made friends with a girl I worked with who we will just call “Amber.” Amber and I became the best of friends. We had the same major in college; we even became sorority sisters. Over the years we managed to stay very close despite being in different states. In 2010 I even stood up in her wedding.

But, in recent years, things changed. With the help of misinformation on social media, her posts were shared from pages riddled with misinformation about agriculture. Whether being anti-GMO or pro-PETA, I felt like my career was continually being put down.

“Amber, I know plenty of pig farmers, and I guarantee pig farming is nothing like these anti-animal agriculture groups portray. Our industry is nothing like that. I would be happy to take you to some farms so you can see for yourself!”

But my words were ignored. She chose to believe raising pigs was cruel — yet she refused to step foot on a pig farm. How could someone be so closed off to the other side of the coin? I just never understood the psychology behind people like this. Why not listen to people who do this for a living? Those catchy scary videos have an agenda: They want to make it look like animal farming is the worst thing ever because they want to pull at your heartstrings to have people donate. They don’t want you to eat dairy, meat, eggs, etc. That’s the whole point. You unnecessarily worry about the animals, they make money.

“Amber, I grow GMOs. When you share these anti-GMO posts they hurt me personally. Do you honestly think I would grow something that was bad for you? Do you honestly think we are trying to poison you? Do you really think I would purposefully harm the environment or my own family? … Degrade the soil to which we make our living? Our family and our livelihood? It is just the opposite. GMOs allow us as farmers to use fewer chemicals. We are better environmental stewards thanks to GMOs. This is why over 90 percent of farmers grow GMOs. They do good things for us.”

But when I would leave friendly comments that would politely explain what farmers do and why, my comments were deleted. I was not allowed to have a voice that would bring boots-on-the-ground experience.

This type of behavior reminds me of the specific groups themselves. These groups create intertwining webs of lies and delete and ban commenters who call them out for lying to people. I myself have been banned from at least a dozen Facebook pages for clearing the air on anti-GMO myths. They want to create an echo chamber, facts be damned. Or maybe they just don’t know any better and don’t want to be outsmarted. I’m not sure. As I have explained in a previous article here, the primary groups of people that share anti-GMO messages are selling non-GMO food. The organic industry spends nearly $3 billion a year over 330 different organizations trying to convince people that GMOs are bad, yet any farmer who farms these crops will tell you just the opposite.

And don’t even get me started on Monsanto. On our farm, we do buy seeds from Monsanto, although we don’t have to. We have plenty of seed and chemical companies to choose from — they certainly don’t have control over us as farmers. Monsanto doesn’t pay us to defend them, we pay them. That’s how this whole “farming” thing works, ha. From our perspective, they aren’t evil.

But do you think Amber would listen to me? Not a chance. Her anti-Monsanto posts were so angry, but when I asked, “Why do you feel that way?,” she said she didn’t want to talk to me about it. Why? Deleted. It seems odd to me. She doesn’t have to deal with them; why be so angry about something that has nothing to do with her career? She is a teacher, and out of respect for her, I wouldn’t put down her career. There are bad teachers in the world. How do you think she would like it if I shared videos of cruel teachers and companies she deals with and tried to paint her industry with a broad brush, despite the fact that bad teachers make up a very small percentage? It isn’t fair to the teachers who do their jobs well, which is the majority. Just like the majority of farmers are very good people. Why not just let us do our jobs and trust us? Talk to us. Come visit us.

Trust. This is what really irked me the most. You don’t have to like corporations; you don’t have to like the government. But can you please respect me? Your own friend? This went on for over a year and a half before I just had to cut ties. Despite our differences and strong friendship from the past, I can’t be friends with someone who so often strongly puts down what I do. That’s not a friend at all. Friends support one another and bring each other up.

And that’s the whole reason why I do what I do. If people took the time to listen to real farmers, this consumer confusion could be substantially reduced. These marketing gimmicks wouldn’t be so powerful. People would be outsmarting these food companies and their marketing programs. And I believe slowly but surely, they are. People are catching on. Unfortunately for Amber she didn’t want to listen or learn from a different perspective. And that hurt. Have you ever been in this situation, feel like you’re talking to a brick wall? Just know you’re not alone.


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is an Iowa-based row crop and livestock farmer who works to bridge the gap between farmers and consumers. She is a writer and public speaker for agriculture and can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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