Thursday, December 15, 2011

Agra-Diva 101, Perceptions and Choices

A New Day is Beginning (from harvest 2011)

Okay, I lied, this blog will not be about family like I said in last week's penning (although you can read about that on the At Home Page), as a recent event got my “tinsel all in a wad”  …… First let me start out saying that I consider myself as a goodwill ambassador for our farm; farming is our passion and way of life.  And my job is to explain what we do, why we do it and how we live it. Because we do our job, it allows other people to do something else.  Not so long ago, our ancestors had a daily mission - to go out and find food so they could eat that day.  My mom tells me of the times while growing up in rural Montana during the depression how her mom would go out in the early morning hours to fish so they would have some kind of protein to eat for that day. Today, we are fortunate as we do not have to focus on foraging the woods to put food on the table, we as Americans, enjoy the luxury of going to the well stocked grocery stores and purchasing high quality food and not using 50% of our income to sustain ourselves.

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So let me tell you what just happened, as it has been an interesting week for this farm-wife. If you read last week’s blog you will know about the low spot of me losing a loved one and so a bright spot was being asked to write for a food publication newsletter about food, farming and being a farm-wife. The purpose was to connect the consumer with the farmer. The editor and I had spoken a few times and I was to start contributing to her newsletter in January. Although it was not a large publication, she did mention that one of her writers had recently gotten a book deal, so I could see some possibilities here and was excited to start down this new path. When getting down to the nut and bolts of what she wanted from me, content, etc, she mentioned in a P.S. sort of way, about what did I think of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and did our farm use Monsanto® products? Because if we did, it was a deal breaker (her words) as she had a friend who told her all about the evils of this company. Well… I pondered my response, and as the editor has had cookbooks published, I used the following analogy to put this on a personal level for her. Here is what I told her, “imagine you created the most perfect recipe after years of trial & error, copyrighted it, marketed it by selling franchises, so that the franchisees were in a contract with you and enjoying the success from the recipe you created, then one of them decides they no longer want to pay you for the use of your recipe, but still wants to use it in their line of business to make money – well that would be a breach of contract and you would use legal actions to stop them. It is no different than with farmers using Monsanto products as they developed seed and products to help the farmer, and when we use their certified seed, we enter into a contract with them. Plain and simple, you honor the contract rules.” So I told the truth that yes we do use some Monsanto products on our farm, we do not use GMOs, but not because we don’t value the technology to help feed the world, but because it isn’t available in the crops we raise. I further tried to convey that this company spends an untold amount developing a better seed to help farmers feed the world and asked her to please try to see them in a different light. And what was the editor’s thoughts, was she open minded? I was promptly “uninvited” to write for her publication. This is unfortunate as I fear the editor was listening to the half-truths and opinions from the Food, Inc movie and that she was completely fixated on what her friend told her. In fact, if you go to Monsanto’s website, it summarizes what I was trying to say and they did it perfectly, “if there were one word to explain about Monsanto, it would be about farmers. We create the seeds, traits, and crop protection chemicals that help farmers produce more food with less resources.” No I am not a paid Monsanto employee, we are a customer of theirs and are one farm family out of the other 259,000 of us who are charged with task of feeding the next 2 billion people that are predicted to be our neighbors by 2050.

Am I a little disappointed? Yes, but I know there will be other opportunities to write for other publications, and I will continue my blogging and farm advocacy work just as I am doing and “telling the farmer’s side of the story”. This recent setback just reinforces the need for farmers all over the country to be ”real and to be open about what we do” and most of all, be approachable. So with great anticipation for next year and because I am the “boss of me” I choose to persist, be positive, to innovate and be a significant factor for American Agriculture and to tell its story.

Thank you again for stopping by, I read every comment & love ‘em and above all, please email at if you have any questions. I’ll sign off for now as a farm-wife, a mom and agra-diva. All my best, Gayle.


  1. Great job, Gayle. It can be frustrating dealing with people who believe "sound bites", half-truths and opinion rather than science-based fact. Good luck on future opportunities!

  2. Proud of you, Gayle. This door may have shut on you but that just makes you more available to the next opportunity.

  3. There are a lot of people who are misinformed about GMO's. If modern farmers did not use the varieties we have today nor use the chemicals we use ( i.e. Grew all organic ) there would be fewer people in the world. We could not even begin to feed the world using the methods we used even 50 years ago. Hey, if you like organic, great for you, but don't expect to feed the whole world with organics. Just keep doing what you are doing, educate people when you can, but just be aware some people will not listen to reason. When you prove them wrong, they will just try to shout you down.

  4. I loved the analogy you used in explaining Monsanto's proprietory rights to development and technology. I'm just sorry that she still didn't "get" it. Maybe she'll continue to think about what you said. And while it might not lead to the opportunity you thought you had, maybe it will make a difference in how she looks at farming in the future. I will hope so. My best to you and yours!

  5. Thanks so much for all the great comments, compliments & support. You are all the best!.

    Also thanks (Holly) for the suggestion of writing to Country Women to inquire if they need a column or two from this farm-wife. Now why didn't I think of that?

  6. I'm sorry you lost your opportunity to have a wider voice. I hope your explanation will have opened the editor's mind on some level and have a positive impact. I must be honest and say I don't know much (little in fact) about GMOs, but the knee jerk reaction of most people is that it is evil personified... guess I need to educate myself on the issue, thanks for prompting the thoughtful lesson...

  7. Gayle -- Thank you so much for expressing in the written (& spoken!) word exactly what we as farmers do. We (mom & I) too farm(pears) and it is so frustrating talking with people who don't or won't understand what we are doing. I tend to just get riled up and tounge tied!

    Tonia in central WA

  8. Love the analogy you used as well. Another misconception is that farmers like me are tied to these contracts for long periods of time. That just isn't true. I'm going to grow Monsanto and Pioneer products this year, and if i don't want to next year i don't have to.

    Thanks for the post!