Although Georgina “Gina” Gutierrez, a fifth generation dairy farmer from Mexico, loves her job, she admits that farming can be a thankless task. She means this literally. Not only does no one say thank you to farmers, but she is worried about the way that many farmers are demonized by the food movement.
When asked what she wants people to understand about what farmers do, she responded: “That we are not trying to kill them! I would like everybody to know that in our culture, farming in general is the most noble profession we can have,” she told the Alliance for Science at our recent communications training course for farmers.
“The challenge we are facing in farming is all those movements that are attacking every sector of farming”, said Gutierrez, who writes a newspaper column and also oversees the welfare of several hundred dairy cows on her farm near Hidalgo in central Mexico. “So, all those all labels are now a challenge for us because people are looking into non-GMO, gluten-free, dairy-free and all these are a bullet to our hearts every day.”
For Gutierrez, this is a social justice issue because the concerns of the rich and well-fed are now harming the interests of the poor and those who do not have access to sufficient food or better crops. “They are paying lots of money for products that don’t deserve to be high price because food should be available to all. And so, that luxury movement, because it is all about luxury, is hurting all other people that don’t have access to food.”
Gina Gutierrez talks with farmer Marcos Guigou of Uruguay at AfS training course. Photo by Robert Hazen.
So what can ordinary people do to help? “People can help farmers by trusting us, just trusting us,” she said. “I would like people to help us by not attacking us again. Because yes, we are doing the best we can and we are doing in so much effort. And we could be working in an office with a pretty view in the city, but we choose to get in our nails and our knees high in mud.”
Gutierrez is passionate about dairy. She meets a lot of people who are anti-dairy and finds this frustrating. “It frustrates me a lot because there are doctors and dietitians and nutritionists saying that milk is bad.” She finds a lot of supposed experts saying, “Don’t eat cheese, don’t eat butter, when these are very, very good products.”
Despite the polarized debate about food and farming, Gutierrez is determined to carry on with the job she loves. “The most rewarding experience in agriculture is getting to the fields every day and you know, you can watch the sunrise and the sunset every day, knowing that we are doing a good thing, that we are watching crops grow, watching our livestock grow.”
As a dairy farmer, animal welfare is central to her life, Gutierrez insists. “We care for every single animal we have. So, to be those caretakers it’s something that makes me really, really proud and that’s basically why I am in farming right now and I haven’t given up yet.”