A New York Times video series that vilifies farmers as “planet-destroyers” is pure propaganda, writes fifth-generation New Jersey farmer John Rigolizzo, Jr. Far from being objective, these videos fail to include the views of real producers and bypass the sustainability success story of modern agriculture.

sustainability successRead John’s article as he puts the record straight.

by John Rigolizzo, Jr., New Jersey farmer
March 2022

“This is just pure propaganda.”

When I heard Jennifer Jacquet utter this line in a video op-ed that tries to vilify farmers, I laughed so hard that I could have fallen out of the cab of my John Deere combine harvester.

If the comments weren’t so out-of-touch, I’d be amused because Jacquet is so unaware. She seeks to demonize people like me, a farmer in New Jersey. Instead, she describes her own ideas and behavior.

An associate professor of environmental studies at New York University, Jacquet is one of the on-screen stars in a 14-minute film, the first of three videos in a series about agriculture that was titled “We’re Cooked: Meet the People Getting Paid to Kill Our Planet”, recently released by the New York Times.

“We’re Cooked” is in fact half baked, starting with its ridiculous title. The videos are a smug and obnoxious attack on agriculture—a one-sided account that misleads and even lies about the business of farming.

I can’t put it any better than Jacquet: “This is just pure propaganda.”

I’d find the whole thing outrageous and shameful if this mini-movie weren’t an unintentional comic masterpiece.

Jacquet sits in her bright and clean Manhattan office as she attacks the men and women who get dirt on their hands and mud on their boots as they work in fields, growing crops, raising livestock, and also raising children.

In the film, it might appear that farmers do not have time to appear in videos about agriculture. The moviemakers did not bother to include any original interviews with farmers.

sustainability successFor a flick about farming, you might think that the producers would have thought to send a camera crew to an actual farm inhabited by real farmers. Then they could have heard what we think about production, sustainability, technology, and more. That’s what a news organization that aspires to practice fair-minded and objective journalism would do.

Jacquet’s co-star in the anti-agriculture flick is Peter Lehner, who works at Earthjustice, an environmental outfit that appears to spend a lot of its time suing agricultural groups. The video reveals that he sits in his own shiny office, just like Jacquet, from which he delivers an absolutely adorable line: “I’m a lawyer and my client is planet earth!”

As a farmer, perhaps I should be reminding everyone who eats: “I’m a farmer and my client is you.”

This is what the propaganda series refuses to understand: Farmers work for everyone as we grow the food, feed, fiber and fuel the world needs.

We produce meat, fish, vegetables and potatoes for families as well as kale salad with quinoa and carrot ginger dressing for those whose tastes go in another direction.

Farming is one of America’s great success stories. We’re growing more food on less land than ever before. Food is more affordable and abundant today than at any point in history.

The majority of Americans appreciate farmers: 88 percent of them trust us, according to a 2020 poll. Another 58 percent rate our sustainability practices as good or excellent.

The New York Times and its ideological allies can say what they like—it’s still a free country—but most other Americans appear more inclined to thank a farmer. There’s even a song about it.

Just don’t expect Sen. Cory Booker, who happens to be my Senator from New Jersey, to hum along. He’s the third figure to appear on screen for an interview in the first video. He warns that farmers are among the worst planet-destroying people in the history of everything.

Then he partakes in the video’s accidental comedy: “There must be regulation,” he says, as if agriculture isn’t already regulated and required to abide by rules that touch every area of their business.

Perhaps someone should take the senator on an Uber ride from the Capitol, where he meets with lobbyists and delivers speeches, to a place about a mile to the west. It’s called the Department of Agriculture, and it’s a building full of regulators.

sustainability successAn old expression says that ignorance is bliss. I have a suggestion: Senator Booker and friends, I invite you to go online and take a virtual farm tour, hosted by a farmer, and see first-hand some of the practices we are putting in place to protect and enhance the environment we live and work in. Or better yet, come visit some local farms in South Jersey. Let’s make a day of it!

Forget the propaganda. Ask your questions and listen to their answers. In the world we are living in, there is no need to be ignorant.