“Where there is great opportunity, there is also great need.” Hi friend, thanks for reading! This is the second part of a 3 part series regarding heritage breeds. Check out Part 1 if you haven't yet! I was driving by an old, beautiful farmhouse recently. It was tragically decaying. So much hard work and passion, almost gone. “We should buy that and fix it up! It could be worth a lot” I thought. Then these words came:
“Where there is great opportunity, there is also great need.”
It was a profound statement dropped into my soul. It touches on exploitation. It reminded me of a family we met who sold a grossly undervalued cow because they were so desperate. There was great opportunity for the buyer because there was such a great need on the seller’s end. I have learned to be careful that the opportunities I find aren’t exploiting someone or something.
We briefly touched on the issues with our supply chain during our recent Facebook Live, but I want to get more into the capitalistic, commercial, consumerist culture in America. Is bigger better? Should we focus so much on profit?
In my opinion, heritage breeds are threatened because of the financially-driven exploitation of what made the breeds so special. With the opportunity for mass-markets and higher profits, the true value of many breeds was compromised. They lost their purpose. I’m thankful for the many people fighting for the protection of these heritage breeds and for those who strive to maintain the value of the purposes of those breeds. It takes far-sightedness to care about heritage breeds and to sacrifice some profitability for the health and stamina of the animal.
What’s the actual process of how a heritage breed is changed into what we call a “modern” or “commercial” breed? Humans have selectively bred animals for centuries, and it’s a good thing. Taking your favorite milk cow, carefully selecting a friendly bull with A2/A2 genetics and creating an improvement on your homestead is great. Really understanding an animal’s value requires attention and time, as does creating goals and ideas of improvement. This was easy for most homesteaders to give when the majority of their life was on the family farm. They stayed home, did chores with the children, and observed their animals’ behavior in great detail. Which cows behaved well during milking? Which goats picked on their children? Which horses didn't respect fences? Which chickens made great mothers? Which dogs exhibited protective instincts?
There was a relationship with the animals and both gave and received simultaneously. The goal was the success and functionality of the homestead, and all animals and humans played a role. One amazing benefit of that setup is the opportunity to customize. There’s so much creativity and self-expression that’s possible on a family farm. There’s so much personality on a small farm. This can work in the direction of the animals and infrastructure creating a culture of a farm for the people and it can also go in the opposite direction, where the people and infrastructure create a culture for the animals. Animals thrive under amazing guidance from their humans and respond to their environments- just like we do!
An animal that is emotionally stressed, over-worked, uncomfortable, etc will not be healthy and will not thrive.
Here’s the conclusion…small farmers are the ones who need to stand in the gap and protect animals. The people who really know their animals and the value those animals have to offer (not just monetarily) should also be the ones pushing for those animals' wellbeing. That's where the animals purpose comes in. To be at their best, animals (just like people) should be fulfilling their unique roles in God's creation and as their stewards, we should be looking for our animals' talents and abilities and doing our best to help express those traits, both in individual animals and with generational integrity for breeds and traits within those breeds. Definitely let us know what you think in the comments!