Things have been in a rapid state of change for the last year, and especially the last month. And you know what? It’s been pretty great. Last week marked one month since I started a new job in Seattle, which is very different than my previous one working from the Midwest out of Kansas City. I wanted to write a post about the gratitude this new path has given me, some way to honor how much my previous job taught me, about asking for what you want, about myself, about working styles, and so much more. I’ve said it a million times how grateful I am to Kansas City for bringing me closer to my family and Midwest friends, allowing me to meet the love of my life, having the exploration of living alone, and for making me a more grounded person.
Working in an ad agency is a strange thing. It doesn’t matter which one, I think a majority of people who come from outside agency life, go into an agency, and then come out the other side all pretty much have that feeling. At least all of the ones I have talked to. It’s strange because it feels like a small business, a creatively driven, family-type environment. But then for most of the day, especially in account management, you’re dealing with corporate clients, sometimes in many different realms, so it becomes a real hodgepodge of personalities and cultures.
I was lucky to get to work with many amazing people on a segment of business I feel strongly connected to, animal health. Do I agree with everything happening in the animal world right now? Absolutely not. But that’s not the point. No matter how you look at it, from large to small, organic to corporate, farming and animal husbandry are HARD work. There are a million ways to discuss the “right way” to farm and everyone has an opinion on it – something that has literally been argued since the beginning of time. What often is missed in those arguments are the people who work sun up to sun down every day on all types of farms so that we can go to a “restaurant week” and enjoy a three course meal of beef tartare, braised short rib, and bread pudding for $32 dollars with flowers on the table, and not have to worry about anything except critiquing the chef.
If you sit for a moment and reflect on the safety of the food and just HOW much of it we eat every day, even if you are a vegan, or you’re a drive-through junkie, it all starts with farmers. Farmers are the people leaving their fate up to the land and mother nature, they’re the ones going to work at four in the morning to milk cows and shovel slop. They’re ranch hands and cowboys and day laborers and farm managers and owners and renters and mowers and pickers and drivers and milkers and so many others. And unbeknownst to many, they really are an innovative bunch. And in my experience, truly, truly care about animals and their land.
On one of my last assignments before I left my KC job, I had the unique privilege of attending the 50th Anniversary of the World Ag Expo in the central San Joaquin Valley of California. I’ve worked a lot of trade shows, but I was not prepared for the sheer massiveness of this international expo. It stretched for miles, with hundreds of different tents, three expo facilities, and rows and rows of outdoor exhibits of the newest farm technology, some of it looking like it was straight out of The Avengers.
People were flocking to this place from all over the world to learn more about their thankless trade and it inspired me to share it with you. We spent four days driving to and from our hotel through the valley’s hundreds of dairy farms, citrus and almond groves. Mostly at six in the morning with fog so thick you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face, to get a unique taste of farming that I’m not sure you could get anywhere else.
It really hit me on the last day as we packed up our booth and drove through the dirt road valley fields under the Sierra Nevada mountain range how lucky I am to have so many people working towards the betterment of my food supply. How I never have to worry my almond milk will be tainted, or my cheese will be toxic, and how I have the option to buy locally or from a large store sourcing food from all over the world.
I could be biased because I grew up in an agricultural community and family. I know that. But I’ve also had more than average exposure to all schools of thinking when it comes to raising food. And when I look at it from either side, we (non-farmers) could do more to be grateful. Consumers are becoming more educated about their food supply, which is great because it paves the way for farming to become more transparent. While that might annoy some in the agricultural industry,the way I look at it – if you’re doing nothing wrong, then there’s nothing wrong with educating the public on the hard work that goes into raising just one cow or pig or field of lettuce. Because all people need to know. Then, maybe someday, safe and readily accessible food can get the respect it deserves. Instead of being looked at as a “gross” or “dirty” trade, the conversation can swing towards the middle, where a farmer, no matter how big or small, can be thanked for doing the initial work and putting their livelihood on the line to properly care for animals, to keep oranges in our kitchens and charcuterie on our tables. Consumers can say “thank you” and also drive results. There are still many ways we can improve worldwide, and a lot of that can be driven by decisions you make about food on a daily basis.
And if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, thinking you have no idea what goes into growing a radish or a glass of milk or even, the leather in your shoes, then do some research, but make sure it’s grounded in science, and not just emotion. Get to know a local farmer. Look into how those peanuts got into your Thai food. I’m not working with farming now, but it is never far from my mind and because of these experiences, I’m hopeful for the future. Thank you always, Midwest, for being a grounding place and a stepping stone, all at the same time. But never just a collection of “fly-over states”.
Cheers to saying thank you for food! ~ Amanda