Guest Post: Slow Money Farm

January 25, 2011 at 11:03 am 1 comment

Thanks to Jan from Slow Money Farm for this guest post:

When people think of American agriculture it’s not rabbits they think of. It’s “important” crops like corn and soy and wheat. It’s beef and dairy cattle, pork and chicken houses. It’s the volume that is demanded and that American farmers stand up to provide so well. It’s the variety of agriculture that insures choices for consumers and farmers.

The wording in a piece of pending legislation in Nebraska designates rabbits as pets. In Washington state there is a ballot initiative proposed to forbid production or sale of eggs produced by anything but cage free hens. This is not new – it sounded good enough to pass in California. With a “cage” being equal to kennels in dog legislation things begin to spin. In the quest for “humane”  there are laws being pushed that are not about humane care but about power.

Rabbit breeders can easily be looped into this target with designations of pet status, with HSUS appeals to tell restaurants to leave rabbit off the menu, with an amendment close opportunity to designate banning cages for rabbits.

Rabbit breeders have for years been targets of bullying, harassment and threats – so much so that some are afraid to post online. Is that not terrorism? On the other hand there are people wanting to  buy US rabbit – not imported from China rabbit. Breeders would like to sell but many people aren’t what they seem. Many areas are increasingly banning keeping rabbits, as well as banning small poultry keepers. This is a trend that  is increasing. Rabbits are unique animals – in more ways than most farmers think.

Rabbits produce meat, fur and wool. Angora fiber is from the angora rabbit, not angora goats (which is mohair). Rabbits are also key in medical research and, yes, can be pets. Every time small poultry projects and rabbits are banned or attacked it is an attack on agriculture but one that doesn’t get the attention of an attack on dairy or hogs. It’s a small part of the market –  a specialty market that many use to provide their own meat supply without selling to others. So why is it important to agriculture?

Raising rabbits for food, fur and fiber is the only hands on connection to agriculture thousands of people have! We talk about wanting to engage people about agriculture – we cannot afford to have ties severed! The American Rabbit Breeders Association has thousands of exhibitors that travel to the annual convention and show, this year in Indianapolis, next year in Wichita Kansas. Thousands more maintain youth projects as market pens. This allows those without room for a hog or a steer or a lamb to take an active part in an agricultural project.

It allows adults a connection to food production. It stimulates conversations about hay quality and how to deal with manure and the very topics that are discussed in #agchat on a regular basis. It brings an awareness of production if only from the standpoint of feeding their animals. It provides a market for farmers to sell hay and other feed to supply those markets. It provides organic gardeners with natural fertilizer that doesn’t burn plants and is easy to handle. It is a minority and yet an overlooked voice for agriculture – or against it.

Can agriculture afford to lose those connections? Does it matter if rabbits are banned or designated pets only? Which owner do you think is more able to understand feeding out pigs or steers – the pet owner with one animal or the one feeding 200 market fryers? Which has a bigger concern and understanding of feed issues? Which can better relate to agriculture as a means to produce food, fiber and other products? Can you afford to continue to look the other way?

It matters to consumers also. A rabbit breeder can be the most valuable asset to someone who can’t deal with a manure spreader full of manure but sure can use a feed sack or 5 gallon bucket of it ready to fertilize their plants. A rabbit breeder is the answer for those wanting to eat a tasty meal of rabbit enchiladas or BBQ rabbit. Rabbit meat is high protein, nutrition packed for those looking to add a little variety to the dinner table.

Rabbits can be pets – but are an important part of agriculture, if for no other reason than those connections to the farm.

The opinions expressed in the above post represent the thoughts and feelings of the blogger, and not necessarily NYFEA as a whole.

 

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