Monday, September 21, 2009

In Defense of Farmers

Farmers unite in response to Pollan appearance
Sarah Muirhead

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: The Omnivore’s Solution, is scheduled to speak Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., as part of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s new common book program known as Go Big Read.

Local farmers are reacting to Pollan’s scheduled appearances by organizing a show of solidarity and have invited all farmers, students, agriculture professionals and “people who are thankful for our safe abundant food supply” to attend the event and wear the color green.

“The choice of this book for the Go Big Read, together with the recent movie Food Inc., and the Time magazine cover story, and now a New York Times article attacking Wisconsin Dairy Farms all call into question the decisions we make on our farms about raising crops and animals. It’s important that we show up at this public event to share our stories,” said the agriculture-based group known as In Defense of Farmers.

The group said that while it supports and believes in the University of Wisconsin, the choice of this book and the unintended endorsement of Pollan and his views simply cannot go unanswered.

Since there will be no other speakers to balance the discussion on Thursday night, “We hope to be there and offer ourselves as reasonable and respectful people who are willing to talk about our farms and answer any questions people may have about how their food is produced. We see this as a chance to gather and share,” said In Defense of Farmers. Read More

I have been getting emails from people all over the country about how to deal with the irresponsible agriculture system that Michael Pollan is promoting. Wherever he goes to speak, local farmers and ranchers are working to counter the one-sided message that many universities are arranging for him to deliver. Those of us that do more than just talk about growing food have been getting pushed and shoved for too long. It’s exciting to see that there are more farmers and ranchers willing to stand up and tell the real story of agriculture. If you aren’t actively working to promote modern food production yet, come join our growing team.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to say that I disagree with the idea that Michael Pollan's lecture as part of the UW's Go Big Read program is an implicit endorsement of his ideas. The very point of Go Big Read is to encourage students to engage in ideas, not to agree with them. Discussion and debate are encouraged.

It seems that every time someone gives a lecture on campus, it is treated as the university supporting the ideas of the person giving the lecture, rather than that the person is offering their ideas, and just that. A major point of higher education is to develop critical thinking skills. Trust that this will happen.

Also, there is a panel on Friday that will offer a chance for debate and includes people offering a variety of viewpoints. Michael Pollan himself encourages a debate that includes multiple points of view. (See the Isthmus interview). Several articles have been written about the selection of this book for the Go Big Read program and the chancellor reiterates her hope that a lively engagement with ideas is the intended outcome. Not agreement. Engagement.

By all means, everyone is encouraged to attend the lecture, regardless of agreement/disagreement with the ideas that Pollan puts forth. But please don't frame this event as being an endorsement of Pollan's viewpoint. It's simply a chance for an author to speak on the campus that selected his book, which was chosen specifically *because* it inspires debate and critical thinking.

Be there! Engage! Respectfully disagree! But you don't have to "defend" farmers to the university. The university community gets it.