I wish I didn’t have to write this post. I also wish I had the opportunity to tell Chris in person the impact he had on me. I woke up this morning and for an instant, I thought I could rewind the events of Sunday night and yesterday. Chris and I first connected on twitter, and I had the opportunity to speak to him on the phone numerous times and met up once with him for coffee in Chelsea (NYC) and we had such a great conversation that a lady next to us got up in a huff and left. I guess she didn’t like people talking about animal slaughter. To us it seemed perfectly normal but to others maybe this talk would have seemed “gross”. This was one of my favorite things about Chris, his delight in dialogue, exploring ideas through debate and educating others.. On one phone call he told me that he was described as a “grass-fed beef skeptic” in an article and he said this was a miss characterization, and it probably was, he was hard to categorize. The irony that he passed away so soon after Christopher Hitchens is not lost on me; they shared a joy of thinking and a passion for ideas. Chris never took anything at face value and was not afraid to question the status quo. However, Mr. Hitchens got to achieve his potential but tragically Dr. Raines won’t because he died in a car crash at the young age of only 29.
We didn’t always see eye to eye, and in hindsight it hurts to think back at missed opportunities to show him how much I admired him. I wish I had been able to tell him how brilliant I thought he was—every time I chatted on the phone with him I came away in awe of his intellect. He loved art, meat and history and chatting with him was fun. He was dynamic and passionate. I can’t even imagine what his family and loved ones are going through. He left such an impression on me and I hadn’t known him for long.
Chris taught me to see processors as an ally and not as an enemy—seems like a simple idea but farming can be so hard and farmers so hard headed we sometimes can’t see the whole picture. He was committed to giving processors a voice as valued members of the “food chain,” this is a message I sometimes wasn’t willing to listen to but it did get through to me. Actually, Chris and I rarely agreed on food politics and yet, he changed the way I saw the world. I am a better person for having been pushed to see things from a processor’s shoes. His death is an immense loss for the agricultural community and America’s food culture: he had so much MORE to contribute.
My deepest condolences go out to Chris’ family and loved ones. He will be greatly missed.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the GL Raines Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o The American Red Poll Association, PO Box 847 Frankton, IN 46044.