Dear PETA,

As a third generation farmer’s daughter, agriculture enthusiast and family member to multiple people with autism and on the autism spectrum, I couldn’t be more disgusted by your earlier campaign, that is gaining new attention.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, this advertisement, created by PETA, mimics the traditional “Got Milk” advertisements, using the phrase “Got Autism?”.  The tag line reads “Learn about the links between the dairy products and the disease.”aobtjgrcdxuznuietqio

It took quite a bit of digging, but I was able to discover that you do not claim dairy products cause autism. Rather, the claim is that children with autism should not consume dairy products as it worsens their conditions.

But really, how many people are going to dig deep to find that information? How many people are going to read past the advertisement and the tag line?

Not many. That was the plan, right?

In my opinion, this is just a fancy new way for you to scare people, who don’t know any better, away from meat and dairy products. After all, according to your website, it is one of your campaign goals to end meat and dairy consumption.

You claim that studies have been done that show there’s a link between dairy and autism, but both the studies that you cite are incredibly small and are not conclusive.

Your article closes with quite the kicker. “Anyone who wants to alleviate or avoid the devastating effects of autism should give cow’s milk the boot and switch to healthy vegan alternatives instead.”

To me, this sounds like you’re promising that avoiding milk will prevent autism. Which is first and foremost NOT TRUE and secondly, not something you can promise.

The bottom line is, we get it. You’re working hard to promote your cause, your campaigns and your hard work. But, as farmers, so are we.

Your company and your claims are one of the many reasons I have a blog in the first place. When people who don’t know anything about agriculture read your advertisements, see your distorted videos or hear a clip on the radio, it’s up to me and my fellow agriculture enthusiasts to set things straight. And trust me, we’ll continue to do so.

And while I acknowledge I’ll likely have to battle against your organization for the rest of my life, someone that should never, EVER have to face a battle with you is children and families with autism. I speak from personal experience when I say, they go through enough. Scare people and protect animals as you must, but do so without involving families who do not need any more complications in their lives.

I speak on behalf of fellow farmers, agriculture enthusiasts and families with autism when I request for you to remove these advertisements and campaign until there is more scientific research to back your claims. I can say with confidence, that I don’t see that ever happening.


Macy Sarbacker

Defining Today’s Ag Grad

The U.S. Education and Enrollment Outlook Report 2013 provides data  every year on the status of agriculture education and a career outlook for those graduates.  Below you’ll see the top 9 findings from 2013.

1. 63% of students cite work ethic as the most valuable skill when searching for professional success.

2. Today’s college students have realistic salary expectations for their first job.

3. Between 2010 and 2013 confidence in receiving a job in the agriculture industry fell 8% among students. 59% of ag students are extremely confident or somewhat confident that they will receive a job within a year of graduation.

4. Only 31% of ag students are extremely confident that their friends in non-ag majors will receive a job in their selected industries within a year of graduation.

5. Only 12% of students report that their peers in degree programs outside agriculture see agriculture in a positive light. 

6. Job fit is the most important factor college students look for in their first employer. This was followed closely by job location.

7.  75% of students report that they are likely or highly likely to receive a full-time job offer with a company that they have interned with.  Ag employers report hiring 1 out of 3 of their interns into full-time roles.

8.  When evaluating job offers beyond salary, health insurance is the #1 perk students look for, followed by flexible hours.

9.  Compared to the national average, agriculture students plan to stay at their first job slightly longer than their peers. 52% report they plan to stay at their first job for at least 3-5 years.


Wobbly Knees

Calves, like babies, grow quickly.

On our farm, calves go from individual calf huts to group housing, which is typically a larger pen shared by multiple calves. Eventually, as the calves continue to grow, we move them to the freestall shed, where they continue to be in group housing.

Before our barn fire, when we moved cattle to the freestall shed, they would move from the calf barn to the freestall shed across the concrete cow yard.

For most of the calves, this was their very first time on cement. 

We’d open the doors wide, swing open the gates and then sometimes I’d still be surprised to watch the hesitant calves, on wobbly knees step onto cement for the first time.

As I count down the days until graduation, I feel like a calf stepping down to cement for the very first time. The doors of possibility are open wide. The options for my future are endless. But my knees are still pretty wobbly.

For the first time, like our Holstein calves, the setting of my life is changing. I’m leaving my comfortable group housing, and I’m facing a vast, unknown future.

Like stepping onto cement for the first time, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Am I going to like the world without school? Am I going to want to jump back into the comfortable routine of classes and studying?

In each bunch of calves that we move, there’s a leader and the followers. The leader jumps onto the cement without the fear of the unknown. She usually is the one that encourages the pack to follow her to the freestall shed.

In my bunch of graduates, I can only hope that I can jump into the unknown without fear. With just 21 days until graduation, my knees are still wobbly. I’m still a little uncertain about the cement that lies in front of me.

But luckily, from my experience, even the most hesitant, most wobbly kneed, most nervous of calves, turn out just fine.

Hosing off the Issues

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues affecting the agriculture community is how the public perceives agriculture.  It’s quite evident that this is an issue when members of the community, large companies and every day folks from around the world don’t know fact from fiction when it comes to agriculture.

I can’t speak for every farmer, rancher or agriculture enthusiast. But I can speak for myself.  

One of my earliest memories on the farm was falling into the gutter. The gutter is a manure collection system that runs behind the cows in a stanchion or tie-stall setting. Basically, the cows poop there.

I was young, probably under the age of five. I fell in the gutter and obviously got covered in poop. Chores still had to get done, cows still had to be fed and milked, so logically my Dad took me to the milk house and sprayed me off with the hose.

Obviously I was then wet, crying and still somewhat covered in cow poop.

That was the very first time that I learned farming is messy.

Farming is messy on the farm and in the barn. Farming is messy when advertisers try to make it appear to be 100% natural and safe. Farming is messy when people are uninformed. Farming is messy when members of the public spread information that isn’t true.

I’m not here to lie or to deny any facts. I’m also not here to give you the perception that farmers are perfect and everyone else is wrong.

We’re far from perfect. We have sick cows, and cows that die. We have water pipes that freeze and tractors that break. We know that farming is messy- and we need you to know that too.

What exactly am I getting at? All I ask is that you check your sources and check your facts. Instead of watching a tv show, produced by a restaurant chain, about how cows explode and then spreading that information on- consider your source.

When million dollar company, after million dollar company attack the agriculture industry, it’s obvious that public perception becomes a huge issue and continues to be a huge issue.

That’s what we want to change. We want members of the public to understand agriculture and understand farm practices. As an agriculture enthusiast and third generation farmer’s daughter, I work very hard to be transparent about my agriculture experiences and my dairy farm background.

But I’ll be honest. It’s really hard for a college student, like me, to spread the facts about agriculture when million-dollar companies are spreading fiction about agriculture. I lack the time and resources to even compete with that.

If you take anything away from this I hope you understand that farming is messy. Farming is messy, and as an agriculture industry, we’re trying to hose off the fiction, which ironically is a lot like cow poop.

I welcome you to help me hose off these issues! I would be happy to discuss questions and welcome dialogue on your thoughts, and so would many others in the agriculture industry.