A Dance Mom Inspired Me to Agvocate

My name is Angie Barton and my husband Dennis and I grow 180 acres of irrigated hay and have a small licensed raw dairy in the mountains of Northeast Washington.  He works full time seasonally as a backhoe/excavator operator in the summer, so my daughter Ellie and I do a lot of the haying. Since I have raised all sorts of animals that eat the hay, I enjoy ‘custom-fitting’ the type of hay for our customers and their animals.

Angie Barton

We also milk between 3-5 cows and 6 goats on our micro-dairy that started with trading some hay for a Jersey heifer. I had worked on a dairy when I was younger and since we had the barn, land and hay, I wanted to add a milk cow to our farm, which turned into several, and since raw milk sales were legal in our state, I became a licensed raw dairy to sell the extra milk. So, with sheep, goats, pigs and horses and all sorts of poultry and a few extra exotics like emus and a baby llama, I have many years of experience in raising and caring for all sorts of critters, learning so much along the way.

Angie raw dairy
Living on a farm with kids and animals is just the life for us. The smell of the fresh cut hay, watching the lambs run back and forth in their pasture, reaching in a doe in labor and sorting out a stuck goat kid, being on calf watch for an expectant Jersey cow and even cleaning the chicken coop are all part of the satisfying work of growing and raising pork, beef, eggs and dairy.
Angie cow and kid

On Dealing With Consumer Fears

While waiting for my daughter at dance class one time, another mother who knew that I farmed said she had seen a movie about farming and wanted to know if the way things were described were true. My mouth proceeded to fall open and the steam began rising from my ears as she described horrible stories and downright cruel situations that had been stated as fact in a supposed ‘documentary’ called “Food, Inc.” I explained that since I had raised all sorts of animals, I knew how the animals behaved and what they needed and in no way was what she had seen representative of farming or the farmers that cared for the animals.

Ellie cow

This seemed to be the starting point of a truckload of misinformation that I began to see on social media and hear from my acquaintances about farming.  I began checking out the sources and found that the worst case examples were being heralded as the standard of treatment and situations on farms and found that people that never watched a sheep reject its newborn lamb or pigs fighting until they are bloody were mistakenly placing their own emotions on instinct-driven creatures out of genuine concern and goodness of their hearts.

I have always been a truth-seeker and a myth-buster since before social media (back in the days of email forwards that always seemed to warn of some dire but untrue situation), but now with my 40 years of animal experience and my time spent working on a commercial dairy, I couldn’t just stand by and let a way of life that meant so much to me and my family be twisted into something that distorted and damaged farming for everyone.

After attending several conferences with like-minded people, I have learned that it is important to tell my story, share my experience and to find something in common with those that don’t farm but have heard of situations that concern them.

Angie haying
There’s nothing more prevalent on our minds as a farming family than the care and comfort of our animals and being a good steward of our land.  Many of the techniques that are employed on larger farms are actually used on our small farm also because they just make sense. They are better for the animal and more efficient for the farmer.

Working the land and raising animals has been difficult and rewarding and frustrating and wonderful and our family wouldn’t choose to live any other way. I have learned so much and want to share the realities and the truth about farming while showing that farmers care.

About Angie Barton

Angie raises alfalfa hay and has a small goat/cow dairy in Northeast Washington with her husband and their four children. She has been raising all sorts of animals for most of her life and her menagerie includes every sort of farm animal plus a few extras like llamas, emus and guinea pigs and a tarantula. Having done a little of everything, from working a commercial dairy, to being involved in every aspect of making hay, she also has trained horses, and given riding lessons, delivered lambs, kids and calves, raised a few deer and is known for taking in or finding homes for various animals in her community and now is involved in wildlife rehabilitation. Giving farm tours and sharing the truth and her experiences with animals and farming in general are ways that she helps support the freedom to farm without fear.

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