This week, video re-emerged in which Michael Bloomberg said farmers didn’t have enough gray matter to work in the tech industry. In response, a farmer in Eastern Washington issued a challenge to Bloomberg: come to my farm and show me how easy it is.
Alison Viebrock-Steveson has a Facebook page called Blessed Farmgirl, USA. In response to the Bloomberg video, she issued the following response: “But rather than take offense over your comments, I’d like to offer a simple invitation- please come show me how simple farming is because evidently I have way over complicated this whole thing.” The statement accompanied a photo of Viebrock-Steveson pointing to a sticker in the cab of her tractor that says “No Farms No Food.”
Bloomberg’s full statement, during a talk at the Distinguished Speakers Series at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School:
The agrarian society lasted 3,000 years and we could teach processes. I could teach anybody, even people in this room, no offense intended, to be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn. You could learn that. Then we had 300 years of the industrial society. You put the piece of metal on the lathe, you turn the crank in the direction of the arrow and you can have a job. And we created a lot of jobs. At one point, 98 percent of the world worked in agriculture, now it’s 2 percent in the United States. Now comes the information economy and the information economy is fundamentally different because it’s built around replacing people with technology and the skill sets that you have to learn are how to think and analyze, and that is a whole degree level different. You have to have a different skill set, you have to have a lot more gray matter. It’s not clear the teachers can teach or the students can learn, and so the challenge of society of finding jobs for these people, who we can take care of giving them a roof over their head and a meal in their stomach and a cell phone and a car and that sort of thing. But the thing that is the most important, that will stop them from setting up a guillotine someday, is the dignity of a job.
Bloomberg seems incapable of making a simple statement without insulting people, likely owing to having lived and worked most of his adult life on the higher floors of Manhattan high rises. His point is fairly straightforward, teaching processes and the complexity of learning new technologies, while expressing genuine concern for everyone to be able to know the dignity of rewarding work. He didn’t have to insult farmers in the process. That just seems to be his default setting.
And, insult farmers he did. The video went viral, naturally. Alison Viebrock-Steveson owns a farm in Wilbur, Washington, about 60 miles east of Spokane. Reflecting a level of gray matter that might surprise Bloomberg, she eloquently wrote:
In 2016, you said: “I could teach anybody, even people in this room, to be a farmer. It’s a process. You dig a hole, you put a seed in, you put dirt on top, add water, up comes the corn.” You went on to say: “Now comes the information economy, and the information economy is fundamentally different, because it’s built around replacing people with technology,” Bloomberg added. “And the skillsets that you have to learn are how to think and analyze. That is a whole degree level different. You have to have a different skillset, you have to have a lot more grey matter.”
I’m going to just sidestep the fact that you basically called every single one of us farmers across America and this whole world stupid. I think that’s a matter of opinion and you are certainly entitled to your opinion, whether I agree or disagree. And for the record, I strongly and emphatically disagree.
But rather than take offense over your comments, I’d like to offer a simple invitation- please come show me how simple farming is because evidently I have way over complicated this whole thing.
See, I think you made very elitist, arrogant, pompous, degrading and extremely out of touch comments. I think you have absolutely zero clue what farmers do and the impact we have on local, state, national and international economies. I think you made a complete ass out of yourself by attempting to minimize the people who are producing the food that you and your family eat in order to stay alive. I think you are the one lacking grey matter when you have the audacity to go on record claiming that you could teach anyone anything about farming.
So, Mr. Bloomberg, please accept my invitation to show this farm girl just how stupid I am. Actually, I double dog dare you. And because I’m nice, I’ll wish you luck. But just so you know, if you trash talk one of us, you’ll get to deal with all of us. It’s just one of those things us dumb farmers do.
***I read the entire portion of the article referenced prior to posting. Farming is simple? Why did we have the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s? Heck, why were the pilgrims in the 1620’s unsuccessful as farmers? Answer? Farming isn’t that simple and Mr. Bloomberg evidently isn’t one to be speaking about the struggles and challenges facing farmers and ranchers. Period.***
Couldn’t have said it better myself.