I love cows. I think they’re one of the most beautiful creatures. When I don’t know what to draw, I draw cows. Standing in David Klines barn, watching the cows watch us from the roped off door of the milking room, I was standing in the barn thinking “man if only I had my notebook on me I could sketch these cows.” And these cows seemed to have an intelligence to them. I watched as one of the calves inside complained there was one cow that would call back to them, as if in conversation. Their brown eyes seemed to watch me watching them, as if asking “So are you going to feed me or what?”
I’ve always kind of romanticized farm life. There’s something about the image of a corn fields rolling out over the hills under a blue sky that captivates me more than undeveloped forests. And there’s privilege inherent in that image.
I discovered a couple years ago that I’m allergic to horses. I don’t know if its the horses themselves or if its the dust from the straw and fecal matter, but walking into the barn I started to sneeze within minutes. I wouldn’t last one day on a farm. But it’s easy for me to say that it’s beautiful and that this is the most perfect existence because I don’t have to live with it day in and day out and keep my eye on the changes in the market and the environment and watch my cows die. I don’t have to think about the state the animals I’m eating lived in or the state of the farmers who grew them if I don’t want to.
David Kline talked a lot about his organic farming practices and how his farm runs. You could tell that there’s pride in the way he runs his farm. You could tell by the way he talked about it that he felt confident that his animals were well treated and that his product was quality. He seemed fulfilled by his work, and that’s all we can really hope for in a job.
I think a lot about the way chicken farmers working for Tyson don’t get a say in how they raise their chickens because of the way Tyson sets them up. I think a lot of places would like to farm like Kline, but I don’t think they see a choice. Organic farming can be costly and its hard for non factory farms to compete with the massive amount of food that factory farms can produce–Kline said as much when he was talking about his organic co-op.