Why Can’t We Be Friends?: Calling for a truce in agriculture

Growing up in rural Minnesota, I have been involved in agriculture my entire life.  My family had a small family farm and even after it was sold, I managed to raise rabbits in our backyard for our own consumption.  So, when I started high school, I joined the local chapter of the National FFA Organization, just as my four siblings had done before me. 

For those of you who don’t know, the National FFA Organization is the premier agricultural-based leadership organization in the United States.  With over 500,000 high school and college age members nationwide, it is easily the largest youth-run organization.  It was started in 1928 by 33 young farmers as a way to provide leadership and agricultural experience to young agriculturalists.  FFA members are easily identified by the blue corduroy jackets they wear.

As I became more involved in FFA, I noticed one particular theme.  I noticed that organic and sustainable agriculture were somehow made out to be ‘evil’ and bad for agriculture.  Through my involvement in the sustainable agriculture community, I came to question this attitude.  Why is it ‘us against them’?  Aren’t we all dedicated agriculturalists?  Surely there are misperceptions among the agriculturalists I am surrounded by in the FFA.
But I also noticed this to be a two-way street.  Somehow, conventional agriculture is seen as ‘evil’ by organic and sustainable agriculturalists.  Coming from a conventional farm, this worried me considerably.  98% of all farms are family based, and I would venture a guess that 99.99% of these farm families feel just as dedicated to providing wholesome food and taking care of our earth as organic and sustainable agriculturalists. 

I continually asked myself, ‘What is wrong with us?’  ‘Are we really so narrow minded that we can’t accept something different than our own methods?’  You could say it came down to the classic phrase popularized by the band War, ‘Why can’t we be friends?’ 

This post is not meant to criticize any sector of agriculture; we all have made mistakes.  Simply, this is meant to spur some critical thought.  To this day I maintain a simple attitude: there is no one right way to live.  This means there’s no one right way to grow food, no one right way to feed a world.  The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can all work together: conventional, organic, and all kinds of sustainable agriculture.  Together, we can accomplish amazing things. 

So the next time someone brings up the discussion of conventional versus organic, don’t fall into the trap of argument, looking for one ‘right’ way.  Instead, ask yourself, ‘How can we work together, despite our differences?’  Only through cooperation and acceptance can we survive.

Steve Lammers

Authors note: If you are interested in this idea or have any questions about what I have presented here, please, contact me at lamme057@umn.edu.  Only through calm discussion can we make headway.


  1. Thanks for this. As someone from an organic dairy farm, which transitioned when I was about 10-11, I have always supported conventional and organic. I think they're both viable options and it's an individual or farm choice which should be respected. I hate to hear different sectors of agriculture hearing another sector down and I think we should all work together to support agriculture.

  2. Here Here....I have been saying this for years in this "battle" which is really NOT a battle..yet no one listens. I agree...there is NO right way or wrong way to farm...all options are viable and can coexist. As my parents always told me.... "Never try to make yourself look better by putting someone else (or something) down!"

    Monsanto has not and is not engaging in this debate! Check it out...who is suing who and WHY do organic activists or anti-GM opponents (farmers or other) insist on slinging arrows!!"

  3. I agree and tell people I like both organic and conventional farms as they both put food on my table! I think that we truly have a case here of a very vocal minority and the majority is getting weary of the fight and more of us need to stand up and say we think farming rocks! Regardless of the production practices, American's enjoy the greatest food supply and choices in the world.

  4. Farmers work so hard at what they do, and we would be in rather a pickle without them. The beauty of having so many farming practices is that people have choice - whether they care about animals being treated humanely, sustainability, price, taste, or the level of artificiality in what they buy and consume. homegrowncow.com is here to support ALL meat and poultry producers, regardless of farm practices. We help you recoup more of the hard-earned retail dollar that gets lost to all the middlemen. Check us out - it's totally free to sign up. You can also view a clip about us on Madison WI's morning news at http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CEUFj0q1ibA