I had the pleasure of meeting two remarkable women Wednesday morning. Debbie Lyons-Blythe is the 2012 America’s Farmers Farm Mom of the Year, and April Hemmes is the 2011 Midwest Regional Farm Mom of the Year. The pair visited Monsanto’s Creve Coeur campus to discuss their advocacy roles and life as a woman farmer. (Both are the primary farmers of their family farms – the husbands of both have jobs ‘in town’.)
It’s an interesting concept. When I picture a factory farm, I picture acres upon acres of land, owned by some corporation that is owned by some larger corporation, squeezing out family farms. That’s not the case though.
One thing that I learned from these women, and that will stick with me, is that the idea and definition of a “factory farm” need to change.
“We need to re-define the term factory farm because there really is no such thing, ” Lyons-Blythe told me in a meeting prior to the pair’s presentation. “More than 95 percent of America’s farms are family-run. Those farms may be getting bigger, and they may be incorporating for tax purposes and inheritance and things. So while they may be corporations technically, they’re not a factory and they’re not some huge company.
“We need to be able to re-define the term ‘factory farm’ and make it feel more friendly, more true to what a farm really is.”
“Some of the biggest farms in our area might be several thousand acres, but have four or five family members working on it, ” Hemmes told me. “So is that a family farm or a factory farm? In my opinion, it’s a family farm.”
Hemmes also re-focused the stereotype of the farm family for me.
“The message I always like to give to our ‘urban’ cousins is that we’re normal people. We worry about our kids and their future, taking care of our parents as they age, ” she said. “We would never do anything to intentionally hurt our farm, or our livestock, or put anything in them that could hurt anybody else. I mean, honestly, why would we do that?”