Stories from Farmers

The World's a Stage

 By Brandon Whitt
• Batey Farms, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
• Eighth-generation operation
• Corn, wheat, soybeans, hay: 1,900 acres
• Strawberries and farrow-to-finish hogs
Photo by Charles Johnson

We farm in a highly urbanized area, surrounded by about 360,000 of our closest friends. There are a lot of eyes on this farm, and for some people, that would be a daily challenge. I choose to see it as a daily opportunity. 

It is humbling to think that we can give people a way to get on the farm, get their hands dirty and experience, even if only for a few minutes, what it's like to get off that main road and slow down. By helping people appreciate agriculture, you help them see the value of the land and the value of having a farmer as a neighbor. 

About eight years ago, a unique chance to highlight our pork operation came along. It was 2006, and they were going to release the "Charlotte's Web" movie. As part of that, a new book jacket was being created. We ended up with a photographer out here for an eight–hour shoot using a couple of our baby pigs. One of them was chosen as the new Wilbur, and he still lives here today. 

Wilbur is about 9 years old now, and he weighs right at 600 pounds. He takes up a lot of space. Just like the real Wilbur, he was saved. He's been to hundreds of elementary schools, red carpet premiers at movie theaters, bank openings, county fairs, you name it. We've spent hours carting Wilbur around. It's all been worth it. He is the best platform we're ever going to have to tell people our story. Meeting Wilbur is something you're never going to forget.

If, on the off chance, you're not interested in Wilbur, we're still advocating 24/7 just by being in such a public space. Our 4 acres of you–pick strawberries bring about 65,000 people to our farm every year. We also have a retail store where we sell pork and other products, and we supply executive chefs and restaurants in the Nashville area.

It's not enough to just let people come to us; we need to be willing to go to them. A lot of the places I go to speak, or to sing, are separate from the ag community. I'll walk in wearing my dirty boots to show them I just stepped away from my job to come talk to them. You have to look for unique ways to connect.

I had a grandmother give me a guitar and ask me to learn to play it. Today, I perform with another farmer from Lincoln County, Josh Ogle. We call ourselves "Pork and Beans," and it's a fun way to sing about real agriculture, our kids and growing up on a farm. All of these things—from Wilbur to music to just talking to a neighbor— they show the community who we are and what we stand for.

We also believe in the importance of encouraging the next generation, and we help provide scholarships to Tennessee ag students. We believe we all have a responsibility to preserve farming as a career choice and lifestyle for those who want it.

So, for me, advocacy is two things. It's about being out in the community today and speaking up for ourselves as one united group. It's also about helping to build and find that next generation to follow in our footsteps and feed the world.

Content provided courtesy of The Progressive Farmer


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