Sausages and laws

One of the toughest things about deciding that you want to become a farmer (especially when you decide this in your late 30s) is that you can’t really go to Farm School, mostly because it doesn’t exist. Farming used to be a profession passed down from generation to generation; farms stayed in the same family for decades, and sons and daughters learned how to care for animals and grow food and nurture the land from the time they were tiny. This is so much not the case any longer.

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We named February our Month of Education, and so in our pursuit of self-designed Farm School, we attended just about every single course, seminar, conference, talk or networking event geared towards farmers and ranchers in Colorado. We’ve been to a lot of classes since we started seriously planning Quiet Farm three years ago, but this past month took our education to a new level. We went to a grantwriting course and Alfalfa University and a tax planning class and a potluck farm forum and toured a hydroponic farm and a million other events. And we went to the State Capitol, too.

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We’re members of the National Young Farmers Coalition, a grassroots organization devoted to supporting and encouraging farmers of all ages in the U.S. As we’ve discussed previously, the average age of a farmer in the U.S. is now close to sixty, and there simply aren’t enough young farmers entering the profession to replace those who are retiring. The NYFC aims to change that, and one of the many activities they sponsor is an opportunity to speak directly to your local elected representatives about your concerns.

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We’re the Mile High City because of the elevation, not the weed.

So we spent a day at the State Capitol in Denver, a gorgeous building downtown that opened in 1894. Fun facts: the dome of Colorado’s State Capitol is covered in gold leaf, and the interior contains what is thought to be the entire known supply of Colorado rose onyx, a rare, pinkish marble quarried in Pueblo County, south and east of Denver.

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It turns out that watching your elected representatives “work” isn’t exactly the most inspiring way to spend a day. The gatherings on the floor were so unruly, with people chatting, laughing and generally ignoring the procedure, that it reminded us of a poorly-supervised preschool. Nothing seemed to get done, but plenty of boisterous “networking” happened. The overall mood was one of careless joviality, which surprised us; it’s not that everyone needs to be serious all the time, but a little more gravitas wouldn’t have been out of place. These are laws we’re making here, for goodness’ sake.

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The one-on-one meeting we had scheduled with our state senator? We were stood up; she never bothered to cancel or reschedule. Or apologize. And the single low-level staffer we did speak to, from another rep’s office, promised to have his boss follow up with us shortly. That didn’t happen, either. How have we gotten to the point where these people run our state and by extension, our country? Oh, yes. Because we elected them. We get the leaders we deserve.

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To speak frankly, this day at the Capitol wasn’t nearly as impressive (or productive) as we’d imagined. It’s easy to feel let down after a day like this, to feel as though your vote doesn’t matter. And to that end, we’d like to remind everyone reading this – no matter which country you’re in – that the strongest and most powerful vote you have is the same everywhere: the way you choose to spend your money. You vote every single time you choose a local coffee shop over Starbucks, when you refuse to buy feedlot pork at 99 cents a pound, when you purchase a book in a local bookstore rather than online. We cannot complain about Amazon taking over the world when it’s pretty clear that’s exactly what we voted for.

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When it comes to food, your vote matters more than ever. If you want to support small family farms, then buy from the source. If you believe in farmers’ markets, shop there. If you want animals to live a better life, don’t eat cheap commodity meat. Let’s be honest: those people in those photos up above don’t care about your health or your family’s health or the environment’s health. Don’t trust them, or anyone else, to make the decisions that are right for you. The vote that got them their jobs might not have counted for much, but the vote with the dollars you spend every day counts for a lot. Don’t waste it.

“To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them being made.”

Otto von Bismarck

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21 thoughts on “Sausages and laws

  1. Very well put!! It should be everyone’s duty to spend a day like you guys did to see how things don’t work. Maybe then they will be held accountable. Our state leadership is frightening, and the higher up you go the scarier it gets. There is a big, really big, red button at the top.


  2. I was on board with pretty much everything except one digression. Reference, “when you purchase a book in a local bookstore rather than online.” I want to put in a plug for e-books. First, isn’t this the most environmental way to read a book? No trees are chopped down for an e-book and the amount of energy consumed I’m guessing is minimal. Also, e-books have many advantages: You can control the font size; if you don’t know the meaning of a word you highlight it and the definition pops up; When you click on a footnote, it brings you directly to it, after reading it, click again and it brings you back to your page; you always have your books with you as your e-reader can sync with the same app on your phone; it’s easy to highlight areas or you can copy and paste important info into a word doc; if you use a free PC kindle then you’re reading in the most appropriate posture, sitting upright, looking straight ahead, using your cursor to guide you along. What’s not to like?


    • Thanks for your comment, Marty. I will admit that I do not own an e-reader, nor do I ever plan to purchase one. Although I can certainly see your point about the consumption of paper and other natural resources to produce traditional books, I have some major issues with the planned obsolescence of every single piece of electronic equipment we’re now so dependent upon. No devices, including e-readers, are built to last, and that e-waste is a major environmental issue. I cannot support that business model. I may be the last person on earth reading paper books, but at least they won’t be obsolete. And I don’t need power, only candlelight, to read by. It is true that I should have been born in the 1850s.


      • Just for clarity, I don’t have an e-reader either. Instead, I downloaded a free kindle both onto my computer and smart phone. And you have at least a computer and probably a smart phone too, right? So with just a click, you never have to buy another bookshelf and dust off shelves of books or contribute to paper waste.


      • I had no idea e-readers were available for free. As soon as I read all of my paper books, I will download one. I miss you challenging me in class, Marty. You made me a better chef. 🙂


  3. Elizabeth, we love your posts. Claus and I are not even American citizens, we only have the Green Card but this is not an American problem, lawmakers all over the world are the same.


  4. Very thought provoking! You’ve got me excited to shop at my local farmers market as often as possible. With all your passion and intention, I have no doubt you will find your dream farm!


      • I do not write about it much because I spend more time with other work. It is hard to make a living on a farm, especially here. Although I enjoy my other work, I really want to get back to what I do best.


  5. I started reading this post thinking “I need to visit the Capitol – why have I not done this in the 20 years I’ve lived here?” but of course by the end fairly deflated at how unimpressive it is. I think you should name the Senator who stood you up. He/she deserves the press, and I for one would like to know so when it comes time to vote, I can make my vote matter there too!


    • Thanks, Kelly! We’re still trying to schedule a meeting with this senator, but I for one am doubtful that will happen. I wish I could say that our day at the Capitol gave me renewed faith in our leaders, but the effect was just the opposite – it simply confirmed what I already believed. Disheartening, to say the least.


  6. Also, my alma mater (NC State U) has a huge agricultural college, as does some other school like Texas A&M, etc. Would this be considered a farming degree of sorts?


    • There are more farm schools now than there used to be, and many land grant universities (like CSU) are starting to offer farming certificates and degrees. It’s gratifying that working the land is once again considered an honorable occupation, rather than something you do because you’re not qualified for anything else.


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