Whatever Happened to Agreeing to Disagree?

Today my family went to the Illinois State Fair. I hadn’t been there in several years, so it was fun to go back and see what had changed, and what hadn’t. One of my favorite things about the fair – the butter cow – was of course on my “must see” list.

The 2013 Illinois Butter Cow. She also had some butter friends - frogs, butterflies, and possums!

The 2013 Illinois Butter Cow. She also had some butter friends – frogs, butterflies, and possums!

So when I heard about the vandalism to Iowa’s butter cow earlier this week (I don’t want to post a link to the story because I don’t want the vandals to get any more attention than they’ve already received), I was upset. Upset that someone thought the best way to share their message was to break several laws to make a point. Upset because agriculture, which I am so passionate about, was once again being targeted . But most of all, I was upset because this is just one more example of how we can no longer seem to agree to disagree.

Opinions are important, and they are valid. I certainly have my own opinions on many topics that I will defend vehemently. But there comes a point, in most cases, where in order to preserve a relationship it’s vital to take a step back and look at things from the other person’s perspective, and maybe, just maybe, find a little common ground and agree to disagree on the rest.

So many aspects of food production – organic vs. conventional, free range vs. traditional animal housing, “factory farms” vs. family farms – have caused people to take up sides, and sometimes leads to extreme behavior as seen in Iowa. With the experiences I’ve had in my life, I often take for granted what I know about how our food is produced in this country, and sometimes forget that others don’t have that background to filter what they hear on television or read online through.

We all have the right to make choices when it comes to what we eat. When someone has a different opinion on what’s for lunch, that doesn’t make them wrong and me right. It just makes us different. I have friends who make very different food choices than I do, for various reasons that I don’t always agree with, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still be friends.

Before we resort to finger pointing, name calling, and worse, let’s try respectfully listening to each other, REALLY listening. Programs like Illinois Farm Families start by finding out what people want to know about the way their food is produced and sharing information in a way that speaks to their specific concerns. Even though that may not completely change people’s minds, at least it opens the door for more dialogue and builds a relationship.

After all, everyone has one thing in common – we all need to eat.

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