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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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