It is hard to explain what it is like raising market animals in the suburbs. On one hand it is a great way to educate a population that is very disconnected from where their food comes from, but on the other hand you are a target for all who disagree with using animals as food. The vegan and vegetarian population is much more abundant in suburban and urban areas. There are a few factors that play into that, I have read articles that blame this on rural areas not being wealthy enough to sustain a plant based diet and other articles claim it is because of the continuously growing gap of understanding the agriculture system for people who aren’t apart of it, but whatever the reason is the vegan/vegetarian population tends to be in urban areas. Because of this, I became an advocate for the agriculture industry at a young age. This was not as fun as it sounds, I have been called a baby murderer, cow rapist and other cruel names before I even turned double digits. Especially as a kid I was so frustrated and angry with these people who in mind, didn’t understand what I was trying to do. As I grew up my anger turned into hate, and I would write off anyone who wouldn’t eat meat or animal products. If they didn’t support me, why should I support them?
The county fair was a special week where people from urban areas get to come and see first hand how animal owners take care of their animals. I tried to fit in with the other 4Hers who were from actual rural areas by mocking the city folk as they walked through the barns looking at our animals. One little boy named Lucas was my favorite. He was a proud dairy and beef farmer who was as sharp as they come. I’ll never forget one afternoon when him and I were sitting by his cows watching people walk by when we saw a couple. The man in the couple was eating a cheeseburger and the girlfriend was yelling at him and telling him how cruel he was for eating meat. She took the burger out of the man’s hands and threw it in a near trash can. Lucas, being only 7 at the time, jumped up from his seat and ran to the trash can. He got on his tiptoes, stuck his hand into the trash can and pulled out the burger. He looked up at the couple with an adorable frown and said, “I spend way too much time taking care of these animals for you to waste a good burger like that!” He shoved the burger back at the man and stomped back to me. The couple, at first alarmed, sheepishly walked towards us to talk with Lucas. The girl asked very politely how exactly Lucas grew his cows and how they were processed. The two of them talked for almost 30 minutes about the industry and their opinions on it. I remember watching the girl who was interested and invested in the conversation and thinking to myself, “is she really my enemy?”. That day I came to the realization that most people, whether they be vegan or a farmer, want the same thing; for animals to be treated with respect and to find ways to sustainably feed the earth. I realized plant based eaters weren’t my enemy, but my partner in an extremely complex problem. I slowly came to understand that their views and actions were relevant and admirable. Hate will always lead to a dead end when it comes to problem solving. Watching little Lucas explain his life and the girl who voice her concerns made me realize respect and understanding is the only way to achieve happiness and sustainability.