Due to weight and balance restrictions on a small plane a couple days ago the flight attendant asked for volunteers in the first seven rows to move to back open seats. No one was moving. I grabbed my purse and bag and moved to the first open aisle seat, 14B. The woman now seated beside me was an attractive blonde woman who made a few comments to me about her boyfriend having his pilot’s license and how weight and balance restrictions freaked her out. She was flying into Bismarck from Los Angeles and asked where I was coming from. I explained I had been in Fresno working with women in agriculture and that I previously had worked with farmers across the state. And that’s where it all began. As the plane pushed back from the gate from Denver, bound for Bismarck, I thought I was going to shut my eyes for a nap.
Instead, the blonde woman who I’ll call Anne for her privacy, said “Oh are the farmers doing better?”
I said, “Better? I’m not sure what you mean?”
Anne replied, “At not abusing their animals. I did a lot of campaigning and fundraising for Prop 2 to pass and we did it. But I’m just wondering if they are still abusing their animals?”
At that moment, I knew in order to get a nap I either had to move seats again quickly or I was in for the long haul. I stayed in my seat, took a deep breath and started a two hour journey with an animal rights activist on CRJ-200 plane filled with 60% oil workers flying into work for the week. But by the chance, fate or divine planning, I was seated next to the only animal rights activist on the plane who boldly raised her voice and said to me, “I can’t believe you believe in the inhumane treatment of animals” when I started to explain my background in agriculture, the history of our family farm and my passion to not have farmers taken out of business by activists.
At first she did not understand my position. It was like talking to the best trained spokesperson that was filled with false propaganda. I thought again about moving seats. Then I said:
“I am a mother of three children. I would never hurt or abuse my children or any children. But there are child abusers. I have zero tolerance for child abusers. They should be locked up and never allowed to touch a child again. But just because you hear of child abusers in the news, you don’t assume that because I have children I abuse them do you?”
“Why do you assume that because there have been extreme and few cases of animal abuse that the rest of the 99.9% of farmers care for their animals in the same way? Do you know that some insistences activist groups have actually planted people on farms to create undercover falsified videos? If someone is indeed though mistreating and abusing animals as far as I’m concerned they can be punished just as a child abuser is. But please don’t disrespect all farmers.”
Then I got out my computer and began a journey through numerous photos. I’ll show you a few photos today and continue my story in upcoming days. I care about animals. I care about people. I have given this days to settle within me and the story must continue before I can let it rest.
I am blessed to know where our food comes from and I trust our food system is the safest in the world. Anne doesn’t. Matter of fact she hadn’t ever thought of feeding the world until we talked about it.
Anne and I agreed that in general we are affluent and selfish Americans who can afford the food we want to purchase compared to most of the world. I explained global food demand with quickly increasing population and increasing demands on farmers.
Then Anne and I discussed Prop 2 in California and the economic impact of this ballot initiative that was passed in 2008. By 2015 it will have put many egg laying chicken farmers out of business because of the cost it requires to meet the new standards.
What are the solutions? I don’t have them all but I know an opportunity when I see one. Anne and I talked for two hours. Do most Americans even care about these issues? Not for a moment. Should they? I think so.
Because where your food comes from matters. I want my food grown in North America as much as possible. As Anne commented as she looked through my many photos, “Those look like happy chickens.” They are and they are healthy American chickens. I explained in further what I knew about the chickens and the egg safety. Then Anne opened up to me about her background, her boyfriend’s animal foundation and her true feelings about animal rights activism. By the end of the flight we were exchanging contact information.
What did I learn from Anne? Plenty. She’s a Republican that wears leather but not fur. She eats meat but doesn’t trust farmers. She won’t have kids in Los Angeles. She thinks her superstar neighbors are weird and craves the serenity and peace of her childhood in North Dakota. That’s more for another day.
What did I learn?
1. Be willing to listen first.
2. Share your story.
3. Find common connections and build upon them.
You might just end up with mutual respect.
Holly Spangler says
Katie, this is so great! I’m looking forward to hearing how the rest of the conversation unfolds…particularly what her true feelings are about animal rights activism. Thank you for sharing, both now and on the plane!
I never thought about it that way, and it sounds weird to say this, but that child abuse analogy was great. Great job on capitalizing on a opportunity to talk about ag with someone like that.
Phyllis Villarreal says
Thank you for sharing! Would love to hear more.
Lisa @ Two Bears Farm says
Certainly sounds like quite a flight!
This Farm Family's Life says
This is great. Thanks for sharing your side of the story!
grain girl says
There needs to be many more conversations like Anne and yours. Too many of us would have changed seats! Thanks for sharing, and I hope your conversation turns into a relationship!
Well said! Thank you for taking the time to talk with this woman instead of switching seats.
Agreed, thanks again for sharing your knowledge & not turning the other cheek. It sounds as though Anne’s eyes have been opened….and her mind as well. =o)
Katie- Thank you for this. Thank you for listening, and thank you for speaking up. I have been there! Hope you eventually got some rest! 🙂
Gold Star Katie!
1. Take a deep breath and collect your thoughts. Excellent start to the conversation.
2. Listen vs. be defensive.
3. I agree the child beating idea is an excellent analogy that most people can relate to.
4. Great idea to share not only your ag story, but experiences you have had with pork producers, chicken farmers, dairymen via your computer.
It is always refreshing to hear stories like this, Thank You for all your Agvocacy!
God bless you, katie, for sticking it out. i know it must have been very difficult at times. but i think you both have valid voices to be heard – and listened to!!!
My two acres says
You are an inspiration and a wonderful advocate for agriculture! I wish I was as gutsy as you are! You ROCK!!!!
Aimee @ everydayepistle.com says
As Emeril says, bam! Way to show us how its done, Katie. What wonderful advice: listen, share, find common ground and mutual respect. We’re not as far apart as we think we are. Happy chickens, hogs, cows, goats, rabbits and a whole host of other animals and farmers are applauding you today. Thank you for sharing. Will look forward to the rest of the story…
Mike Smith, Truth in Food says
God bless you for the effort, sincerely. But if “because where your food comes from matters. I want my food grown in North America…” is the best we’ve got, we are going to continue to lose this fight. Those of us who believe in the modern food system must get better at our response, and getting better means answering on their terms, not ours. Here’s what that means…
Why Animal Rightists Beat Agriculture in Missouri
Keep the faith!
Well done! Each person reached in this way truly matters. Thanks for taking time.
WOW! I am so impressed with the way you handled the situation and can’t wait to read the rest !
My son now runs our family dairy farm and things have changed so much since we started ! I get so sick and I admit defensive when I hear peole taking about how bad “cows” milk is and that they drink , soy or almond or whatever milk. I had 3 babies that went from Mama’s milk to OUR cow’s milk and I have the of the healthiest adult children there are ! Please keep up the good work !
Look forward to reading more.
I would have been the one to ignore her by turning on my ipod and sleeping. I would have gotten angry at the guestion and not have simply heard her out and had a mature conversation. I have strong beliefs when it comes to agriculture, but I am just as ignorant as the people who have the opposites beliefs because I won’t listen to their side before busting in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing this. I hope one day I have the opportunity to share my story with someone who has the opposite story!
Karri H says
Katie, I think we need to create “story starter” flash cards (American Girl Doll has as set that are one a ring and can fit into your purse for travel) that give examples of how we can relate a story to a non-aggie. Such as your child abuse example or why we give our children antibiotics when they’re sick….
Hannah Haynes says
Absolutely perfect. These people aren’t stupid or ignorant, they’ve just been subject to a much louder voice. If that’s all you’ve ever heard that’s all you’ll ever know. We as farmers are doing a good job of making our voice heard.. we’re just such a small number! People like you who talk to these people with patience and respect are making great strides. I am in vet school at NC State and I talk to my CLASSMATES about these types of issues daily.. so it’s not just people from Los Angeles! Thank you so much for posting this and spreading truth about agriculture.
Just another reason why you are so amazing Katie!! So glad that you didn’t change seats and instead you let her hear the ag side. Now when she has a question she just might call you instead of believing what she is told. Also glad that you were able to take something away! We can all learn from one another!
Great post Katie! 🙂
Katie, thanks for taking the time to share this story. Props to you for not throwing her off the plane. I was in a similar situation at a dinner party about a year ago and it was all I could do not to pour my beverage over the other woman’s head. (I decided I would rather consume the vodka tonic than wash her hair with it.) How did you get the other woman interested in listening? I couldn’t get the other party to do that and finally had to say that the topic of conversation was ruining the meal and that perhaps we should just agree to disagree and move on. (You can only tell me so many times that ‘big ag’ is killing the environment and that I’m part of the problem without listening to what I actually do before I say something like that). It sounds like you got some good understanding from the conversation as well. Isn’t it funny how karma works?
From the Heart of Eve says
I absolutely agree with Hannah. People can be misinformed so easily by media messages that they are subject to on an almost daily basis. I love the way you made such a great connection with her and how you were able to back up your words with pictures to show what responsible farming practices really look like. God has certainly given you a gift.
Rowan Morrison says
The whole thing sounds fabricated and self-serving. And no true animal lover would think those animals looked happy- the cows with their meat tags in their ears, the pigs jammed into a cement pen, and the chickens crammed into cages. Good grief – do people seriously fall for this?
This is just made up story!…I don’t think those animals look happy!! If you haven’t heard Harvard University shared their research lately on drinking dairy and how it is harmful for humans. Also, we are also the only species who is evil to steal calf’s milk…and drink their milk. No living creature wants to die…
With the increase of meat and dairy diet, there are increase of breast cancers, tumors, other cancers, etc…some people may thing they are healthy now but I won’t be surprised they suffer from cancer soon.
Smoking cigarettes was ok in 50-60-70-80-90s..but now You all know it cause lung cancer…wait what animal products will do to you soon…just wait!!
What a great experience to share Katie…it was nearly a year ago that I had my experience with the HSUS supporters on a plane stuck on the tarmac.
Your closing points are essential to remember, no matter who you are or what you do; it’s all about communicating and building relationships.
My routine is to always say hello with a smile. If they are wanting to talk, they will, if not, on to reading or music 🙂 Listen with genuine interest, find common interests to build upon and it will lead to the opportunity to share your own story.
To Rowan & “Anonymous,”
It is amazing what conversations can take place when individuals start conversations with open hearts and open minds. I have personally learned, the hard way, that it is never wise to assume or pre-judge people from and opening introduction.
Many of the challenges that we as people face every day are a result of others assuming they know what or how something is, when in fact, it is quite different…I think it is safe to say that we are all guilty of this from time to time. I know I have to make a conscious effort to not do this.
I can assure both of you that Katie is a very kind, loving and honest person whom I would trust to babysit my own son. I can also confidently say that both she and I would love to take an opportunity to address any questions that you may have in regards to animal husbandry. If we are unable to answer, I am certain we can put you in contact with someone who can.
God bless you both for commenting.
Thank you again Katie for sharing your experience.
Hey Katie I don’t remember filling out a model release for those cows. 🙂
Yep those are my cows and my family takes great pride the care we put into our dairy farm. If you want see more head over to http://www.raylindairy.com
Isn’t it amazing to find out what people think? I’m so grateful you were the one she sat with, and that you had a chance to share the truth!
Leah Beyer says
Katie-what a great post to remind all of us that most people never get to see animals in person and that people will sell fear of unhappy animals tithe unknowing. If we could just take all Annes’s by the hand and take them to our farms she would be the first to fight against the leaders of prop 2.
Kirsti Craig says
I love this TRUE story. I loved it when you shared it with me in person and I love your written account. Katie, I’m so proud of you for keeping your cool and working to change perceptions by developing relationships and telling our story.
To those who doubt,
Katie is my sister and I will forever trust her credibility. We come from a fifth generation family farm and love helping feed the world–safely and humanly. We know hundreds of others who do the same. Thanks for joining in the discussion. Learn more about our farm by reading our mom’s blog, griggsdakota.com–Katie also has a link to the blog on the top of her sidebar.
What happened to the pigs’ tails?
As a proud member of the agriculture community, and a mother of 4, I applaud your ability to listen and respond to concerns that are valid to many consumers. And it’s great when those conversations can show them that the best way to “research” something about agriculture, is to go to the source directly. If I wanted to put time into it, I could find “statistics” anywhere to prove just about anything. But you have to realize that there are a lot of sources that don’t have accurate information. I’m glad you’re being a voice for so many, Katie. What a great example of how to have a true conversation…and truly listening. You are an amazing inspiration! Thank you for taking the time!
Rowan – What exactly is a “meat tag?” Have you ever been to a farm? Our tags for our cows have a specific purpose…and it has nothing to do with what cut of meat they may become. You can read more here: http://wagfarms.com/2010/09/11/and-the-tag-means/
Also, I’ve actually BEEN on a farm that raises pigs, or houses chickens…and they do much better in a climate-controlled, separated environment, rather than “free-range” as is reported by many animal-rights activists. Are you familiar with the term hen-pecked? Well, it comes from the fact that many species of birds will continue to pick on the weaker birds in their flock…until they kill the weaker bird. If chickens, and other fowl, aren’t kept separated, the smaller, weaker birds would be mutilated and pecked until it died. And then they move on to the next weakest bird. I know, because we used to raise chickens. I appreciate your concerns, but instead of attacking Katie and accusing her of making it up, why don’t you ask questions and engage in a conversation? It’s sometimes funny to me that people that claim that I do not treat our livestock humanely, act the least human of all. Katie has no need to make up a story about talking to someone on a plane, even though she’s flown so much, I’m surprised there’s someone left for her to meet! 😉 And the fact that she listened, and responded, and held an actual two-sided conversation shows just how much class she has…as opposed to anonymously attacking her on a blog. Thank you, Katie. I truly appreciate all you do for agriculture.
Sarah Bedgar Wilson, "Farmer On A Mission" says
Great job with that conversation and THANKS for the excellent blog post Katie! For those who don’t know my husband and I, our kiddos are the fifth generation on our farm and I’m proud of the work of all my colleagues in agriculture, especially animal agriculture. Katie, you’re a class act. THANK YOU for telling a true story that so often goes unheard. I agree with Val. For those who have never seen first hand what happens on farms or ranches, just ask one of us who is living it every day. Personally, I love what I do, I have nothing to hide, and I’m glad to share my passion with others. For more information see http://farmeronamission.blogspot.com
Katie @Pinke Post says
Thank you kindly for your feedback and comments! I am happy to continue dialogue here or email me katpinke (at) gmail (dot) com. The most important points I wanted to share is that different viewpoints can find common ground through listening, engaging, being empowered to share and being willing to build upon the connections you share. I purposely have not shared in great detail about Anne in this blog post because I respect her privacy and want to continue to have offline conversations and friendship with her. She is aware that I wrote this blog post and we are keeping in touch by email and text messaging. Thank you again for reading.
Elizabeth Martin says
Great job Katie!! You did a great job explaining your views and had a great honest to goodness conversation! This needs to happen more often! Keep up the great work!
Well done Katie! I may have been able to held my temper, but I would have been able to be as articulate about that in such a short amount of time.
Sometimes it is a very small world when you change a seat on a plane… Thanks for your story
Wow Katie, thanks for sharing. This touched me so much. I have such a hard time imagining how I would talk to someone like this that has no respect for what I do, yet you took the high road. I need to remember these things and take them to heart, even if it is hard. Also, please, please don’t let those anonymous and negative comments get to you. I’ve had an influx of those too lately. Delete or ignore is my new policy. You are doing a great job and should be proud!
Refreshing article and perspective. I love being part of this new “online” ag community I’m learning so much!
Thanks for sharing. I always have a hard time maintaining my composure when someone insults agriculture. I really appreciate how you handled this situation and strive to conduct myself this way in the future.
A great story. I raise orphaned calves and would never abuse one. One of our large cattle was scared and ran through the gate while I was closing it and the impact broke my arm-good reason to beat a cow–but why. It does not make any sense to hurt an animal.
How terrible for you to have to explain yourself rather than get to take a nap.
I watched the video with Connie and her pigs. She states the pigs will become mommas someday and that they ship them all over the US and to Mexico. She also talks about the steps they take to eleminate stressors and to sterilize the living enviroment, equipment, visitors, etc.
How do the pigs adapt to being shipped and to their new homes which may not include sterile and/or a barn enviroment. I would think their immune systems would have a harder time protecting them. Thank you ahead of time for your response as I am truely interested in your answer.