In any community there are all types of things going on that the average individual, who is not in the midst of those activities, has no idea are happening.
When it comes to agriculture, there are also things going on in one’s own backyard that are meeting the needs of the masses, and those efforts are often unknown.
People in this region have become removed from the farm, and their only source of information about the agricultural way of life comes from outside sources. These external sources either are also far removed from the farm or they have a particular agenda that speaks out against what is happening on the farm. Much of that information is misleading at best.
So, what do those who are in the industry do about that?
The answer is in education – getting the right story out to the public directly from those who are involved in it.
An effort to provide that education is being offered at the Redwood Falls Public Library over the next several weeks, as local farmers talk about what they do and why they do it.
According to Bruce Tiffany, a Redwood area producer, other efforts to bring people to the farm have not always been effective, and it is his hope that bringing the farm to the public can help them better understand the challenges farmers face and to see what is being done is in their best interest.
“We thought the best way to do that was to have some conversations,” said Tiffany, adding he worked in conjunction with Teri Smith at the Redwood Falls library to coordinate a series of educational programs in January and February.
To begin that series, Joel, Amanda and Leo Mathiowetz visited the library Jan. 11 to talk about their way of life.
Amanda, who grew up on a farm near Clara City, admitted she had no idea what it really meant to be part of the ag industry until she really began to live it.
“What I found is that farming is not a job and it is not a just a career. It is a way of life,” said Amanda. “Farmers have a passion for what they do and love all aspects of it. They are working on something in all seasons. It is very much a lifestyle in our family.”
Joel, Amanda and Leo are part of a larger family farming partnership that includes extended family, and, according to Amanda – the self-proclaimed outsider – everyone has a job to do and they do it.
“When we got married I had no idea what would be expected of me,” said Amanda. “Would I have to drive a tractor? To me that was a little scary.”
Amanda, who taught art in Redwood Falls for a number of years, is currently a “repurposer” and painter who operates a store in Prinsburg with her mom. She also offers painting classes.
Amanda also does what she can to help on the farm, and as time has gone on she has found one of those roles includes sharing with others what it means to be part of the industry.
“At first when I heard people talking negatively about farming I would get angry,” she said, adding as time has gone on she has learned to listen to their concerns and then to spend time providing correct information.
Joel, who is a fifth generation producer in the Morgan and Clements areas of Redwood County, has lived with his family through the ups and downs of agriculture and spent much of his early adult life working away from the farm in various roles.
As the ag economy improved he was able to return and today is very much part of the operation along with his dad, brother and uncles.
To be successful in farming, said Joel, means having a good group of trusted advisors, such as one’s accountant, banker, equipment dealer, seed dealer and, today, a technology expert.
Being involved in agriculture today means thinking globally, said Joel, adding that means seeing the big picture beyond their small piece of ground in southwest Minnesota.
An important element of that is in educating the public and being able to speak up in a group in efforts to extol the virtues of the ag way of life.
Yes, said Joel, there are lots of people who have no idea where their food comes from, and the only information they are hearing is about the perceived negatives of those who are growing crops and raising and caring for animals.
According to Joel, what a farmer strives to do is provide food for the world, but, along the way, that producer also desires is to make money doing it.
That, he added, means being as efficient as is possible and not allowing for any waste.
Technology has aided in those efforts, he said, adding it is up to the producer to be educating themselves about how they can continue to do things better.
Farming was once a glorified occupation, but today many who are involved in the ag industry feel they have to go on the defensive when talking with the public about what they do.
Farmers, said Bruce Tiffany, have not been very good at telling their story, and now they are playing catch-up to provide that education.
Farmers like the Mathiowetzes know changing the mindset of the general public is about trust, and that only comes by establishing relationships and being open and willing to talk.
“To me it feels like a privilege and an honor to be involved in farming,” said Amanda. “It is a lot of hard work, but it can be so much fun too, especially when you love what you are doing.”
The next program in the series is being held Feb. 8 at noon in the Redwood Falls library and will feature a talk on organic farming.
All are encouraged to attend. To learn more visit the Redwood Falls library Web site at www.redwoodfallslibrary.org.