Our farm is a small, diversified operation that focuses on local sales of certified organic produce and poultry. I now have sixteen years of experience and have a pretty good feel for what it takes to navigate the twists and turns that an operation like ours encounters each and every growing season. I am aware of the challenges farms like mine face, and I have knowledge and expertise that is shared with other farmers who have similar or related operations.
I am part of a larger community of growers who deserve to be fairly and accurately represented by our elected officials. This is one of the most important reasons why I vote. Because my vote is bigger than I am. It speaks for the well-being of those who share my profession and interests.
Speak out because others need you to
In a previous PAN blog, I revisited the aerial overspray event that adversely affected our farm in 2012. Rather than recite what can be read there, I want to make it very clear that we did not want to go through the litigation process. While we needed help after the actual event, and it was true that we had suffered physical injury and financial loss, we were not initially inclined to be confrontational and aggressively pursue compensation.
What changed our minds was the realization that we were one of many farms who suffer chemical trespass damages every year. We were aware of numerous occasions where the victims bowed quickly under the weight of a system that made it difficult for them to seek corrective action. We heard, over and over, “we just don’t want to cause a problem, but they need to understand that this is hurting us.”
We went through the frustrating process of litigation for nearly three years because the problem was bigger than we were. If no one spoke out — if no one took action — nothing would change.
Our peers need us to vote
Here we are in 2020, with elections upon us, and I have had other farmers I know tell me that they are “not political” and that they do not have a compelling reason to vote. What could I possibly say that could encourage them to participate?
Farmers who operate small, diversified operations have a specialized set of skills and tools, a pool of knowledge specific to what they do, and a shared experience that makes them who they are. No one knows better the struggles we face and the support systems we require so we can successfully farm. Why would we forego the rare opportunity to speak for what we know to those who likely cannot fully understand what it is we do?
If none of us are able to serve in public office, then we must identify the people who will be willing to listen when we need help. It is important that we find the people who will respond and seek out the knowledge necessary to make decisions and craft laws that reflect what we know is necessary. But, if we fail to speak — if we do not participate — then our public servants will go about their tasks completely unaware of our role in the community.
I tell my friends, those who aren't sure they will vote, that if they will not vote for themselves, they should vote because the rest of their peers need them to. The vote they hold is bigger than they are.
Your vote is not just for you
I am not just directing my comments to other farmers. The same holds true for everyone. You hold skills and knowledge that are specific to who you are and the community of people with whom you interact, both professionally and personally. You are a representative of your profession. You are a spokesperson for your craft and your fields of knowledge. Your experience and knowledge is needed to support the people and things that hold importance for you.
Your vote is bigger than you because it speaks for all of those who share your experience and your concerns.
Your vote is bigger than you. Your vote sends a message that you care about the health of the community, whether it is a national, state or local election. But, even more important, if you have the privilege to vote, your vote can speak for those who don't.
What if we don’t like politics? What if we’re tired of political ads and constant chatter about upcoming elections? We need to get over it, because it is not just about us. That vote we have the privilege of casting this fall? It’s bigger than we are and I invite you to join me in using it well.