By PETTUS READ
When you write a column on a weekly basis and it is the type of column that I usually write, very often you find yourself in the direct line of fire for criticism. It used to really bother me to think that someone would dare to have the nerve to not agree with "good ole me" on every opinion that I express with ink. However, after some thirty-plus years of putting my name out there weekly and usually following it with an opinion, the criticisms from readers at times seem to do me a lot of good.
Criticism is not always a bad thing. It can help you grow mentally, increase your awareness of other people's feelings and often it is just down-right amusing to see how opinions can often be mistaken as the complete makeup of a person's character.
A few years ago, I wrote a column about one of the large fast food chains method of purchasing eggs and pork that really touched the nerve of one of my readers in a county near Nashville. In fact, I guess I can say that she is a former reader, because she said in her email, "In the past I've enjoyed your writing, but this latest piece is unforgivable. It is unbelievable that you are so ill informed about health, environment and humane issues. The encouraging news is that people with your outlook are dying off from heart disease. Bon appetit!"
That was the first time I ever received an email suggesting that the reader was glad that I might die off with heart disease. I must say that I had rather get those that say, "God bless." I do admit that I have lost some internal parts of my body, but not because of what I eat and the old ticker seems to be working fairly well.
The column that the e-mailer was upset about did mention veggie burgers and the reader did list in her email the good things about a vegetarian diet. Let me say, I have nothing against vegetarian diets or veggie burgers and probably would eat one if a real hamburger were not available. But to say that I am ill informed about health, environment and humane issues really did hurt my pride.
For more than 44 years, I have worked in the agricultural field and have seen first-hand what agriculturalists are doing daily to protect our environment, develop new healthier foods and look after their animals in the most humane way possible on our family farms. I personally have spent nights in a barn doctoring a sick calf and hoped for the best that did not come, but had to try anyway because I cared. Farmers do this daily. I don't care if you have farmed all your life, you never quit trying to protect those who cannot help themselves.
And what about the environment? This year marks the forty-fourth observance of Earth Day in this country, with numerous special events scheduled on April 22. It began in the spring of 1970, when I was completing my senior year of college, getting a degree in plant and soil science. Individuals who first proposed and supported the original idea were the unusual group that those of my generation called “hippies.” They wanted immediate laws to protect “Mother Earth” and got involved in protecting the environment.
At that time in history, many of us thought they were just a little on the weird side and if we ignored them they would just go away. However, they did not go away. Instead, many had some good ideas and today the environment has become a number one concern of our government and most of us.
While others are proclaiming the need for saving our Earth on TV and in the newspapers during this one-day commemoration each year, one group of individuals will actually be doing something about it.
America's and Tennessee’s farmers will view the day of April 22 just as they have each and every day since the inception of Earth Day back in 1970. They will rise early, go to the fields and work from sunup to sundown to preserve the natural resources that they have been taught to conserve from past generations. They will continue to keep a low profile, just as their ancestors have done, as they too took great strides toward protecting and conserving our environment. There is a great difference in talking about doing something and actually doing it. Earth Day is everyday on Tennessee’s farms.
It is good to have an Earth Day to talk about what is needed to save our environment, but it is more important to be doing something about it. Farmers may keep a low profile on Earth Day, but they are doing more than their fair share to help protect this planet for the future generations to come.
When you eat a meal on Earth Day, whether it is a hamburger or veggie burger, thank a farmer for supplying it. I’ll not close out as my critic reader friend did by saying, "Bon appetit!" Instead, I would rather say, “God bless.”
-- Pettus L. Read writes for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation.
He may be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org