Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, family, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, organic | Tags: agriculture, Agriculture education, common misconceptions, corporate farms, environment, farm, Food, food safety, small farms
Agriculture is very important for human life here on earth, but because less than 2% of the U.S. population actually works on a farm, it is often a misunderstood career. Because farm life was and can still be hard, dirty and smelly work, many left the farm for the easier life in town. As our population gets removed several generations from the farm there are even more misconceptions, some of them, sadly, are perpetuated by farm folks themselves as jokes on non-farm folks (Chocolate milk comes from brown cows is one of my favorites). Still it is right for you to be concerned about where your food comes from and how it is produced. We on the farm are also concerned. We want you to understand us so that you will be as proud as we are of American Agriculture.
That leads to this Top 10 misconceptions about Agriculture I saw today. The author is Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, but the answers are good in any agricultural state.
MY TOP 10 LIST OF MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AGRICULTURE
By Matthew J. Lohr, Commissioner, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
As we approach Virginia Agriculture Week March 17 – 23, I decided this is the perfect time to address some of the common misconceptions about agriculture. Many of you will have a similarly-titled list, but our Top 10 may differ. If you want to share your list with us at VDACS, please e-mail it to our Communications Director email@example.com.
Like David Letterman, we will go from #10 to #1.
#10 – Small farms are unimportant. In many ways, small farms are the backbone of Virginia agriculture. They range in size from three or four acres to 150 acres or so, but they probably do the best job of any farms to provide local food. Many small farms sell directly to the consumer through roadside stands, on-farm sales, farmers’ markets and events. They are at the heart of the Buy Local movement and not only provide food but also provide that all important one-on-one relationship between farmer and consumer. They are also one of the fastest growing segments of Virginia agriculture.
#9 – All large farms are corporate farms. In Virginia nearly 90 percent of our farms are family-owned and operated. Many family farms are incorporated for business purposes or to ensure an orderly transition from one generation to the next, but incorporated is not the same as corporate. The vast majority of our farmers live on the land they work, and they have a very special bond with the land that may go back generations. Their roots run deep.
#8 – Farmers are destroying the environment. This is absolutely not true. In fact, farmers are the original good stewards of land and water resources. These resources are, after all, how they make their living, so it makes sense to protect them. I find it interesting that many of the complaints to our Ag Stewardship Program about perceived environmental problems are unsubstantiated. What the public perceives as an environmental problem often is not. At the same time that farms give us environmental benefits such as green spaces and wildlife habitat, they use far fewer resources than the average urban or suburban home.
#7 – There’s no future in agriculture. I’ll admit that for a few years, many of us were concerned about the future of agriculture and the next generation of farmers. But things are changing. Fox News recently ran a feature that said ag degrees are the hot ticket for job growth. They quote data from the Food and Agriculture Education Information System that says enrollment in U.S. college and university agriculture programs are up 21 percent since 2006. The data show more than 146,000 undergraduates in ag programs. This growing interest is critical for the future of food production, as world population growth is creating a greater demand for food, and the average age of farmers in many states is near 60.
#6 – Farmers are uneducated. This is a persistent myth and one we need to bust. The days are long gone when you learned everything you needed to know about farming from your grandfather. That doesn’t mean we discount grandpa’s advice, born from years and years of experience. It does mean that today’s farmers need post-high school training in a variety of areas: animal science, agronomy, environmental science, business, marketing, communications, perhaps even law and psychology. Today’s farmers also need to be life-long learners. If you’ve been on a farm recently, you’ve probably seen a farmer using his cell phone in the field to make decisions about planting or applying pesticides or fertilizer. That’s the kind of on-the-job training every farmer needs these days to stay competitive and make a profit.
#5 – The cost of food goes directly into the farmer’s pocket. A persistent myth in the eyes of the public and the media is that the only factor in food prices is what the farmer charges. Don’t we wish this were true? But in reality, only 15 to 16 cents of every food dollar goes into the farmer’s pocket. The rest goes for things like transportation, processing, packaging and marketing. Farmers can barely pass along their direct costs for feed, fertilizer, labor or insurance. Their indirect costs are even more difficult, and when drought, hail, hurricanes, flooding or other natural disaster wipe out a crop, they can lose most of their year’s income but still have to bear all of those direct costs.
#4 – Food costs too much. In some parts of the world, this definitely is true. It not only costs too much but is unavailable to many people. But in the United States, we have one of the most abundant and affordable food supplies in the world. In 2011, the share of final household consumption on food in the U.S. was 6.7 percent. The percentage in Switzerland was 10.2; in Japan, it was 14. China checks in at 21.3 percent and in Cameroon it’s 46.9. (Source: Economic Resource Service, USDA)
#3 – Our food is unsafe. Sometimes we get overwhelmed by the headlines of a problem with one commodity or one producer. The reason these stories are called news is because they are not normal. Normal in the U.S. is a safe, abundant, affordable food supply. I Googled “safety of the U.S. food supply” just to see what would pop up, and I found many articles and studies with this same fundamental message: The American food supply is the safest in the world thanks to industry and government efforts. Because our food supply is so safe, we have a luxury people in many countries don’t have; we can take it for granted.
#2 – Farmers abuse their animals. The very idea sends me into orbit. In any industry you will find a few bad players, and agriculture is not immune. But consider this, why would a farmer abuse his or her animals when those animals are the source of his livelihood? That’s just nuts. It may be a marketing ploy, but there is a lot of truth to the statement that “Our milk comes from contented cows.” Contented cows are going to produce more milk than cows that are stressed, neglected, starved or otherwise treated ill and farmers know it. The same goes for any other food animal.
#1 – All farmers are rich. Do I hear the farmers among you laughing? I can’t think of a single farmer I’ve known whose goal was to get rich. In Virginia it’s usually more like, “I hope I can make a decent living for my family.” If your goal is to get rich, frankly, there are many ways to accomplish that goal that are easier and quicker than getting rich through agriculture. We do have some wealthy farmers in Virginia, and I am proud of them. But even among those who are wealthy, I think the motivators for farmers tend to be of a more noble nature. We farm because we love it or because we love the lifestyle or we think it’s a good way to raise our children. We may farm out of a deep-seated desire to help, to make a positive difference in the world. Or we simply may realize that farming is not only the world’s oldest profession, but that it is the only one that is truly necessary. Bottom line, when we can’t feed ourselves, nothing else matters because we will be dead in four or five days.
Filed under: family, school, travel | Tags: children, deaf education, family, Gallaudet University, school, travel
With our daughter studying at Gallaudet University this year, we decided to take a trip to visit her. Emily has tried to explain what happens at her college, but until you experience it, you do not realize how different it is. It is like going to a different land.
In Washington D.C. it is not unusual to see many people from many lands. The embassies are considered to be part of the country that owns them. The folks at Gallaudet are mostly Americans who grew up in typical American homes, and except for one difference they could all be the kid next door, they are deaf. For many years people who were deaf were thought to be unteachable, after-all they lacked an aspect that any other learning child had, hearing, and because of that they were pushed to the edges of society. Here at Gallaudet the deaf are in control. When you enter Gallaudet you enter the land of the deaf.
From the bus driver who picked us up at Union Station to every food service, security, and sanitation employee there is silence, but every gesture and facial expression speaks volumes. All are here to help the deaf learn. Not all employees and students at Gallaudet are deaf, but every person on campus is dedicated to learning in a deaf world. The rules and language of Gallaudet are not the rules and language of the hearing world around them. As parents of a student there we were given a bit of slack, but it is expected that everyone at Gallaudet speaks American Sign Language.
Our Emily is not deaf, but since her early years in school she was fascinated with American Sign Language. In college she studied to teach in a school for the deaf. She has been both challenged and fulfilled in her early years of teaching as she helped young children, many of whom had as yet received no language training, express themselves. Now she is seeking her Masters degree so that she can better understand and better help the deaf to be full partners in the American life she leads.
As parents we are curious to learn about her life, and this was another good chance to experience the life she has chosen. We were blessed to have visited her in this new step in her life.
Filed under: family, Farm, food | Tags: family, farm, farmer, farmers and ranchers, Food, quotes
I believe a man’s greatest possession is his dignity and that no calling bestows this more abundantly than farming.
I believe hard work and honest sweat are the building blocks of a person’s character.
I believe that farming, despite hardships and disappointments, is the most honest and honorable way a man can spend his days on this earth.
I believe farming nurtures the close family ties that make life rich in many ways that money can’t buy.
I believe my children are learning values that will last a lifetime and can be learned in no other way.
I believe farming provides education for life that no other occupation teaches so much about birth, growth, and maturity in such a variety of ways.
I believe many of the best things in life are indeed free: the splendor of a sunrise, the rapture of wide open spaces, the exhilarating sight of your land greening each spring.
I believe that true happiness comes from watching your crops ripen in the field, your children grow tall in the sun, your whole family feel the pride that springs from their shared experience.
I believe that by my toil I am giving more to the world than I am taking from it, an honor that does not come to all men.
I believe that my life will be measured ultimately by what I have done for my fellowman, and by this standard I fear no judgement.
I believe when a man grows old and sums up his days, he should be able to stand tall and feel pride in the life he’s lived.
I believe in farming because it makes all this possible.
Filed under: family, school, science | Tags: A Chance to Grow, art, children, dance, education, music, TED Talks
I was introduced to TED talks last night by our pastor. In particular he showed our boards the talk given by Sir Ken Robinson says schools kill creativity from 2006. In his talk he speaks of the creativity in each child and of how our society and our schools crush that creativity as they push for tests and teach for the test. Sir Ken speaks of how this is a good way to turn out factory workers and academics, but seldom people who think creatively.
My wife and daughter both have taught in elementary education. They have both used techniques that help children learn by moving as they are taught. There is a large body of evidence that without certain types of movement the child’s brain cannot develop properly. In particular they have used the services of A Chance to Grow to develop skills in channeling childhood squirms into learning.
Sir Ken tells the story of a girl who could not sit still. Until her mother took her to dance class she was having a tough time in school. This girl grew up to be a world class ballerina and choreographer, all because she was given a chance to move, a chance to dance.
I am pleased that our local school still gives children a chance to experience art, music and theatre, but more and more schools are cutting the arts from their programs in the push to teach every child to pass tests. Teaching to the test is an educational practice where curriculum is heavily focused on preparing for a standardized test. These standardized tests are good at turning out factory workers and academics, but they do little to produce healthy creative adults. Children are not made in factories, so how come we expect them to all turn out the same?
So here is my challenge for you. Teach your children to be creative. Give them open ended projects and let them figure out how they should be done. Get them away from the TV and outside learning from the world. Let them run, jump and climb. Children need to get out and make mistakes, they need to get hurt and learn from the pain. Giving children a chance to create stimulates the brain. Who knows, your little squirmer may be famous one day. You’ll never know if you do not give them the chance to dance.
Filed under: Ag education, Ag promotion, family, Farm, food, hunger | Tags: Agriculture education, Dodge, family, farm, farmer, farmers, farmers and ranchers, Food, hunger
The Superbowl always gets some of the best commercials, but it is a given that all across farm country conversation ceased when the Dodge commercial in support of farmers came on. The ad is actually the first salvo in Dodge’s one million dollar challenge in support of the FFA Foundation initiative “Feeding the world-starting at home.” Check out their initiative here <http://www.ihigh.com/ffa/video_913581.html>
The ad used Paul Harvey’s reading of the poem from his address to the 1978 FFA convention. Many farm groups have used those words and added their own pictures just as Dodge has done, but this is the first time it has made it to the Superbowl. If you missed the program it can be found here <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S87BhEJX_bg>
These are indeed words that tug on heartstrings. The emotion is there despite the calm way that Paul Harvey recites the poem. Perhaps this may be a start for some to dig into exactly what farming is today, and what it is not.
For many years now the consumer of farm products has been concerned that the family farmer is a thing of the past. In some ways they are right, farming is nothing like what it was just after WWII. The young people of the rural areas wanted more than the farm could provide and moved to city jobs in droves. Those left on the farm improvised and made life better. Today the farmer is just as likely to use a computer as his city cousin. What we use them for would amaze you. We need these upgrades in machinery and computing power if we are to feed the world of the future.
Todays farmer feeds 155 people, that is up from only 26 back in the early 60′s. The farmer does this while greatly increasing efficiency. This increase in production is done using fewer inputs than our fathers did, and this increased efficiency will continue.
Today the average farmer gets about 15 cents of the food dollar. From that 15 cents he must pay for his fuel, seed, machinery, fertilizer, pesticides, electricity, hired labor and sometimes water. As you can imagine, there is not much left over to feed his family after paying all of those bills.
Oh yes, it is still a family farm. 97% of todays farms are owned and operated by families. Some folks see names like Monsanto, DuPont, Harvestland, Tyson, HyVee, Kroger, Hormel and many others on their food and think that these are the people who grow the food. Corporations are not growing your food, they are buying the food you eat from farmers and ranchers and getting it to your grocers shelves. Please do not confuse food processors with food producers. It is still the farmer who produces your food.
If you are interested in a few other commercials featuring America’s farmers, I invite you to look at these. Yes, they are sponsored by a food processor, but those are real farm folks in the ads.
Filed under: family, Minnesota | Tags: football, Green Bay, hate, love, love/hate, Minnesota, minnesota vikings, purple people eaters, sports, vikes, Vikings
Filed under: church, family, Farm, friends, time, travel | Tags: blog, books, children, church, computer, family, farm, friends, reading, travel, writing, writing a blog
Driving down the road I think of some great story I would like to write, and then I forget it when I get to the computer. I miss a lot of stories I want to tell you all, I could tell them to you if I sat at my computer all day, or maybe not. An interesting life, and interesting stories come from getting out into the world and living it. After nearly 60 years of living life on the farm I have some interesting ones.
Opinions, I’ve got them. You don’t spend your life doing the many things I have done and not develop a few opinions. I miss telling you my opinion on many things because I’m not sitting at my computer all day. I’d love to sit here and tell you my opinion of everything, start me off.
My kids tell me I spend too much time on the computer writing blogs or reading facebook. The thing is that after the years I have spent, the need to get out and earn a living for a growing family is not as great. I’m not well off, but I am comfortable so I don’t need to be accumulating things. I live life a bit more simply than many and am content. I write what I want, when I want.
You’d never know it, but I hated writing in high school. My wife says my writing still leaves a lot to be desired. I still need to read and reread my writing to be sure I’m getting my point across, and I still mess up. I do enjoy reading, and rarely do not have a book that I am in the middle of, or several magazines that I am reading. I still prefer the old-fashioned paper book. I’ve read most of the ones in my library many times, they are old friends.
My family takes some time also. Three kids, two of them married, two grand daughters, a wife, parents, in-laws, sisters and their children, cousins, aunts and uncles, they all take up my time. Then there are activities with friends to attend. They also help provide stories to write about.
We love to travel, and I have been blessed to have traveled most of this country and several others. It can really crimp your writing time if you are on the road.
During the cropping season I am especially busy, and now record keeping and tax preparation will be taking up some of my time. I also have church and organizations that I belong which keep me busy, and provide more stories.
My life would be a lot more boring if I sat at my computer all day. Not only that, but I would have a lot less to write about. So I guess you are just going to have to miss out on some of those stories I could have written, if they were good enough, they will come back again anyway. In the mean time, I’ll be out living life, so I have some more stories to write about for you.
Filed under: Christmas, family | Tags: anticipation, children, Christmas, family, hope, presidents, season of hope
Why is it that the anticipation is so much better than the actual event? Here we are in Christmas, a season for hope if ever there was one. Soon we’ll be watching little children bounce around the house anticipating a new toy, and then they play with the box. There will be children wanting a puppy or kitten or horse, and then finding that the chores and training that go along with that pet were not anticipated. Are you anticipating something that in reality will never happen?
The presidents that are most remembered in our country are those who presided at times of great hope, Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, The Roosevelts, Kennedy, Reagan. Some promised more than they could deliver, but indeed the promise, and making us believe the promise are the key. Those who can give hope will ever be those we remember fondly.
Children also are a sign of hope. We wish for our children and grandchildren more than we had. We hope and pray that they can be so much more than we were. Children are our hope for the future.
I invite you to become a remembered person, a person of hope. This is the season for hope of a better tomorrow, it may take a bit of work, but we can build it. Please start building that hope for the future in your world today. Even if it never happens, it is worth the work.
Filed under: Ag education, Animal care, cats, dogs, family, Farm, farm animals, food, food safety, friends, Uncategorized | Tags: Agriculture education, animals, dog, family, farm, farm animals, Food, nature, pig, pigs
I am constantly amazed at the folks that turn up their nose at the slightest smell, and those that cannot stand the least bit of disarray, life is messy, deal with it!
We are conceived and born in a rather messy way. That’s how life starts out. We eat, and the leftovers leaving our bodies are anything but neat. To top it all off, for anything of any size to live, something must die, it’s a fact of life. When we die, despite the nice cleaned up corpse the undertaker provides for our friends and relatives to see, we decay, it’s a fact of life. We must join the circle of life, we are born, eat to live, perhaps pass on a few of our cells to create a bit of life to follow us or two, then we die.
Where is this all going? Back to the farm of course. We who are left on the farm are being told how to do our job by folks that turn up their noses at the least smell. We have a messy job, and know how to deal with it. Some famous person, with a fur person in their house, thinks all farm animals are just like their furry companion. Folks, a cow is not a cat, a pig is not a dog, a chicken is not a baby.
It seems all too easy for those with extravagant life styles to make the world better. Out of guilt for the huge amount of money they have, they promote legislation that is supposedly better for farm animals, all the time putting farm folks out of work and making food more expensive for those who cannot afford it. Because of “feel good” regulations, it is getting harder and harder for young folks who love the farm, to stay there.Those of us who love the farm know what to do with pigs, cows, chickens and other livestock. We want them to be healthy and happy despite the fact that we know we will eat them. Leave the mess to those who understand the mess. If you want to know how things are down on the farm, please ask a farmer, not a news anchor.
Filed under: Corn, family, Farm, farm animals, food, garden, harvest, hunger, Minnesota, Soybeans | Tags: Agriculture education, Corn, eat local, family, farm, Food, garden, harvest, history, machines, Minnesota, Soybeans
We live in an area that is not exactly food diverse, because of market availability we do not raise many crops here. Our area is mainly corn and soybeans and a bit of wheat and alfalfa for field crops. For livestock we mainly raise swine and beef with a few stray sheep, goat, milk and poultry producers in the area. Fruits and veggies are relegated to gardens with only a few making their way to a farmers market. Our problem here is not lack of produce for the local eaters, nor lack of soil or climate that can produce food for our locals, but a lack of customers. We produce more food here than can be eaten in the local area. The average farmer in the U.S. now produces enough food to feed 155 people. Because of our distance from markets where our produce can be consumed, we have a history of producing products that move on the hoof to market, beef and pork. Those who live closer to a population center can and do produce the perishables that are consumed fresh.
We are lucky to have harvest facilities for both pork and beef in our area. A little to the east there are processing plants for sweet corn and peas. Most of this production is shipped to the east coast. There are a few scattered vineyards for the production of locally consumed wine and craft breweries for beer. Some local gardeners set up stands to sell their excess produce in season. Beyond that, we also ship in most of the food eaten in our area. We have no local producers of bread, pasta or rice, and tropical fruits, chocolate and seafood are still craved here just as they are in the city.
As I said, our markets drive our production. The livestock of our area are our chief consumers of field crops. Until WWII the only way to get produce to market was to walk it there. There was no interstate transportation except the railroads and most production was consumed on the farm for the horses that worked the farm. Except for wheat, milk and eggs there was not a lot of produce that was sold to others. As more and more people moved to the cities the need for food to move from the farm to the city increased, thus was born modern agriculture. Now with only a few percent of the population left on the farm we have developed machinery and crops that feed those who do not work the land. Ninety-eight percent of the food produced in our country is produced by families who care for the land and animals that feed our world.
Although some in our world would like to eat local, it is just not practical when you live in the city for all to eat that way. There is not enough food produced within a few miles of our large cities to feed the city, you need the farmers and ranchers of middle America to produce enough to feed not only the cities of the U.S., but the world. So eat local if you want to. In the mean time I and others like me will be putting food on the table for the many who do not have access to, or the money to pay for, locally produced products.