Chipotle Sparks Conversation

I think the idea of returning to 40 acres and a mule is nice. I like the idea of having a small hub of diversified agriculture with beef cattle, hogs, a couple of milk cows, some chickens and a big garden.

I also think it’d be nice to live in the days of wide open range and traveling everywhere on horseback with a six-shooter wrapped around my waist. I definitely would have nipped that whole dress/petticoat business in the bud though.

Nice ideas aren’t always actionable. Stepping back in time to an era when most people had homesteads with lots of elbow room isn’t possible in our current world. Why? Even if land and finances made it possible, most people aren’t willing to sacrifice time or location to make that happen.

I don’t see urban centers liquidating. I don’t see many people making time to cultivate gardens or raise barnyard chickens. I don’t see many people giving up their careers or the amenities of big city living to rough it out on the prairie.

If that isn’t happening, then how are we supposed to “go back to the start” as Chipotle’s commercial depicts?

In light of a sky-rocketing population, I don’t see how such a move would sustain our appetites. Ignoring all the knowledge we have gained through decades of research on the intricacies of agriculture seems foolish to me as well.

If we are going to evaluate sustainability of agriculture, we must do so from all angles. How are we going to sustain an increasing number of people? How is the farmer or rancher going to sustain his/her business from an economic standpoint? How do we manage our resources in ways that sustain them while also maximizing the needed production? These are the questions farmers and ranchers are addressing.

Looking at my own day-to-day life, I don’t see myself raising chickens, having a milk cow in the barn or growing a year’s worth of vegetables.

Why? I don’t have the finances to support a land purchase or amenities such as barns and corrals to accommodate livestock. I also don’t have the time. It takes an incredible time investment to maintain a garden large enough to provide enough produce until the next growing season.

My family raises beef cattle. When I was little, my dad substantially increased the cow herd with the purchase of 120 first-calf heifers. The ranch has continued to grow in the last two decades, but believe me, family is the absolute core of that business.

Does it look like the small herd dad started with? Of course not, but if anything, it’s more family-centered than it was back then.

I don’t think it is right to disparage one type of agriculture over another – i.e. organic, grass-fed, conventional, farmers markets, etc. There is a need for each type, and that’s being said by a person raised on a conventionally-run ranch. I also support the right of people to choose where they source their food. Agriculture is a business, and the law of supply and demand is equally at play here as it is in every other business.

However, if you have questions on the source of your food, there are so many places where you can go directly to that source instead of a marketing campaign by a large company such as Chipotle. Farmers and ranchers from all genres of agriculture are putting voice to what they do.

Just a handful of people who are a great resource about agriculture:

  • Crystal Young – Crystal does an excellent job of sharing her agricultural experiences as well as her love for turquoise. She wrote a post on her reactions to Chipotle’s ad. (Twitter)
  • Trent Bown – Trent is recently back in the blogosphere, but his video about his dairy and was downright great. I really can’t say enough good things about it. Go. Watch it. (Twitter)
  • Emily Zweber – I have learned a great deal from Emily. Her family owns an organic dairy, and I’m thankful for the way she has broadened my views when it comes to different types of agriculture. (Twitter)
  • Jennifer Elwell – Jennifer is the voice behind Food, Mommy. I am continually impressed by her thoughtful, well-researched posts on food and nutrition. (Twitter)
  • Jan Hoadley – Jan is another person who has been indispensable in helping me learn more about other areas of agriculture. Coming from a commercial Red Angus ranch, it’s been a lot of fun to see different agricultural practices. (Twitter)
  • Jeff Fowle – I know you’re probably seeing a pattern here, but every time I read Jeff’s site, I learn something. The man has a very common sense approach when he addresses food and agriculture issues. I always walk away with something new to ponder. (Twitter)
  • Meg Brown – Meg is an inspiration. Opinionated and passionate about the beef industry, she shares her experiences with both ag and non-ag folks and is always willing to strike up a conversation and answer questions. Plus she has an amazing meatloaf recipe! (Twitter)

Marketing is a misleading source of information. At best, ads (for anything) should be a spark for researching a topic in-depth. Jennifer Keller wrote a great piece on truth in advertising and her experiences in presenting to the same students as a Chipotle representative. As the Euripides quote goes, “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.”

Finding answers is an elusive hunt. What constitutes an answer for me won’t be the same for you based on our different experiences, values and outlooks on life. I hope this Chipotle ad sparks questions. I hope it drives people to search for more information about where their food comes from, and I hope talking to the farmers and ranchers who are at the beginning of food production are high on the list of people to visit with.

Here’s one final question to ponder: have you ever seen a commercial suggesting computer technology go back to the start?


  1. James Allgood says:

    I don’t think we should go back to diversified farms but I do think we need to focus on product quality over the corporate profits. Our tomatoes are bred more for their ability to survive transport over flavor. Factory farm runoff is creating a dead zone 7,000 sq miles in size in the Gulf of Mexico. Our food is literally killing us and making us sick and poisoning our water. I reject that it has to be this way. It won’t be easy, it won’t be cheap, and it won’t happen until people understand how their food is made. When technology starts killing us, I will demand that we go back.

  2. Thanks for the mention! I think there is a middle ground, but it’s not just farmers that have to approach the tip off line. In order to get truly fresh/local some need to move away from the cities into existing housing that doesn’t take land away from ag production. There are those willing and ready to provide food choices, but we can’t make consumers choose and pay for it. I see “factory farming” blamed for much, but animals outside still distribute manure within the confines of their pens, which can accumulate and needs spread or composted or dealt with somehow. And I think those that farm – even specialty like just cattle – will come through a crisis better than those too far from their food supply. If we’re hungry enough there’s people who would trade produce or eggs or pork for beef…barter still works, small scale.

    Food choices exist as long as people allow and finance farm choices.


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