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I was invited to an adjacent school district in 2010 for the first time to be one of eight to ten speakers sharing a 40 minute presentation eight times throughout the day on food.  Each speaker reaches most of the eighth graders.  The school requires all eighth graders to read Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, and they study multiple aspects of food during their “Health and Wellness Day”.

I learned a lot from the reactions of the students as we conversed back in 2010.  I made samples of pork fajitas and offered them to each group of students.  At least 90 plus percent of the morning groups happily accepted a sample.  Then the tone changed and I didn’t know why.  Only half of the students were willing to accept samples, and the questions about why farmers treat animals so poorly began to be fired at me.  Attitudes changed after hearing a presentation from a Chipotle representative.

I finished the day and went up the hall to talk with the Chipotle presenter.  She showed me her slides on “factory farms” and explained how bad they are.  Then she showed pictures of the type of farms their pork comes from that clearly {to me} had been enhanced in Photoshop including cute decorative borders.  The angles, lighting, etc. were very different on the slides.  At that time the presenter had only been to one farm in Iowa, so I invited her to tour an Ohio farm that has gestation stalls.  She was busy for months at a time, but I just kept inviting her.  She eventually turned down the offer all together.

So in the fall of 2011 the line-up of speakers included Chipotle again.  I added these two slides to the end of my upbeat presentation that addressed why farms are bigger and why farms have changed over time.

A family dairy farm in Ohio in the summer

I began talking up how these local farmers care so much for their animals, how the cows are happy outside {just like the Chipotle chick} lalala…you get the picture.

A family farm in Ohio in the winter

Then I flipped to this picture and asked what the group thought.  In every group someone pointed out the cow with the “crazy eyes” and asked if she was okay.  Then I said since the barn looks dirty these people must not care as much as the first farmers.

I flipped back to the pretty one and suggested that we dissect each photo.  As a group we determined that I don’t really wear nice clothes like that to the barn.  We acknowledged that the frame gave the photo a classier look and that the picture was taken by a professional photographer with top notch equipment.

I shared that the second photo was actually at the same farm and taken with a cheap, point and shoot camera that had a dirty lense.  Thus the cause of the “crazy eyes”.  The cow was fine.  She was cautiously coming up to sniff my Little Farmer and check out what he was doing.  The lighting caught her eyes the wrong way.  We also said that it was a cold winter day in Ohio and that the cows likely preferred to be in a barn.  Part of real life in a barn is….yep, you got it just like the eight graders….poop.  We put fresh bedding in that area with straw where the cows laid two times every day.  The cows liked to lie down.  We would get them up and guide them towards the parlor to be milked.  After lying down for the day they would stand up and…..yep, poop.  This picture was taken just after getting the cows up in the evening and just before fresh bedding was put in the shed.  That’s what the Little Farmer and I were there for, to help move bales of straw and shake them up.  The picture was also taken on a snowy day when the sky was gray versus on a nice day with a blue sky and fluffy white clouds.

In 2011 I also had several students share that the Chipotle speaker showed their new Back to the Start video and another group showed the Meatrix.  The students pointed out that this video that I shared was the only one that showed real people and animals and footage inside of real barns.  The others were made from “claymation” or animated.

I concluded by encouraging the group to consider reality, be critical of pictures and stories and use discernment in advertising.  It really cut down on questions about these so called “factory farms”.   I encourage you to use to the same critical thinking that this group is working to develop.