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Farm to Fork Class Comes to the Farm

Last November, thanks to the Minnesota Farm Bureau’s Speak for Yourself program, I had the opportunity to share my farm story with the Farm to Fork class at Tracy High School. At the conclusion of my presentation, I invited the class to come visit our farm, since we are less than 30 miles from their school. On April 27th, they took us up on the offer.

The day dawned cold and windy with 100% chance of rain. We had tractors and machinery parked in the shop and the machine shed so we wouldn’t have to stand outside. I was very thankful that Jonathan and Adam took the time to clean the shop so we could meet in there…and they even turned the in-floor heat on again. In April in Minnesota, it’s not unusual to go from heat to air conditioning to heat in the span of a week.

We started out in the shop where we had our planter tractor parked with the corn and soybean planter attached. We talked about how the planter works, and how we use GPS technology to plant in a straight line, and how we can adjust the depth the seeds are planted according to the recommendations for that seed. Many of the students have helped plant gardens, so they understand the importance of planting the seeds at a proper depth. We also talked about how we use computers to plant just the right number of seeds in an acre, and how we can adjust that depending on soil types. The three monitors we have in our planter tractor were running so the kids could see what kind of information we use when we’re planting. They were able to climb up into the tractor if they wanted.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork tractor experience

While in the shop, we also talked about the records we keep and the process we go through to become a certified organic farm. We had our Organic Systems Plan, Clean Truck Affidavits, and Yield Maps & Soil Tests books that they could page through.

Next we walked over to the machine shed. Fortunately, it wasn’t raining yet. The machine shed was chilly, but at least we were out of the wind! Jonathan talked about the field cultivator and the tractor that pulls it, and how we can change the tracks on that tractor to narrow ones that will fit in between our 22 inch rows if we need to. The kids were standing around the pallets of seed that were waiting to be delivered to our seed customers, but they didn’t seem to mind.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork track tractor

The rotary hoe is parked to the left of the tractor in the photo, so we walked over and talked about why and how we use it. Then we turned and talked about the combine. It was a good time to talk about farm safety as well. The kids could see the size of the machine up close, and realize that this isn’t really meant to be on the road. I hope the message of giving the combine room in the back, and only passing when it is safe to pass is a message that sticks! The kids had the chance to climb up into the combine cab and up on the back to see what it looks like. I think they liked this part!

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Combine

We viewed the flame weeder from the door of the machine shed, since it was starting to rain at this point. Back in the shop, we gathered around our newest project, a cultivator. This cultivator has a camera that “sees” the crop and adjusts the cultivator’s position accordingly. I’ll explain that a bit more in another post.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork students

The kids were able to put their hands in a bucket of wheat seed, and we talked about how the seed we plant becomes the food they eat. Sometimes King Arthur Flour buys our wheat through one of our grain buyers. We also have sold corn and soybeans to dairy and poultry farms to supply feed for their animals. To help connect the farm to fork concept, I baked some of my favorite scones for our guests using ingredients that could affect our farm when they are purchased by consumers. The King Arthur Flour, and Organic Valley dairy products are two of our potential markets. The organic sugar and egg may not directly affect us, but show that those choices are available to consumers in southwest Minnesota. The ground vanilla beans are there because I love using ground vanilla beans in my baking, even though it is considered a premium ingredient.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Ingredients

The students asked some great questions, and know they have someone they can ask when something comes up that they want to understand a bit more. One of the reasons why I love to share my farm story with groups, and why I love hosting groups on our farm is that connection I now have with all those I visited with.

It is important to Jonathan and I that we show consumers the impact that farmers and agriculture have on them. We talked about how Jonathan and I are giving consumers a choice by farming organically, and that we don’t mind what their families choose, since agriculture is filled with farmers and farm families like ours. No matter what they purchase in the grocery store, it started on a farm.

CarolynCares Farm to Fork Scones and Organic Valley milk

To me, there is no better way to cap off a morning on the farm than by eating a vanilla bean scone with a carton of Organic Valley Chocolate Milk served from the workbench. Thanks to the students for being awesome, and thank you to Mrs Campbell and Ms Noll for making both visits possible!

Some might think it is scary to host a Farm to Fork or Family and Consumer Sciences class at their farm. It doesn’t have to be fancy, you don’t have to be an expert on everything. Most of the kids just want the chance to meet a farmer and get a little hands on feel for what it takes for the food they eat to get to their table. If you are interested in hosting classes, contact your Farm Bureau and see if they have programs that will help you connect with teachers.

 

A huge shout out to my friend, Emily Zweber of Zweber Farms for supplying the chocolate milk…and to Jonathan for cleaning up the shop, getting equipment parked inside, and talking about farming to the Farm to Fork class…and to our hired dude, Adam, for cleaning the shop with Jonathan, and picking up after us and turning off equipment and turning out lights when we were done.

3 Phrases Agvocates Should Lose

Agvocates do nothing from rivalry or conceit

As agvocates, we share our perspectives of agriculture from the lens of our own truth. My lens, or filters will be different from all other agvocates, because I have different experiences and my farm is different from all others. Having that diversity is awesome when it comes to agvocating, especially if the main message is a unified one: Agriculture is important in the United States, and we are blessed to have the safest, most abundant food supply, with the best choices available to fit everyone’s desires. So, if we see things through our own lens, which gives us our own truth, how do we stand united?

Over the past 18 months, I have been to many conferences where speakers and consumer researchers have told the attendees to meet their consumers on an emotional level. We need to make them feel good, and help them understand that no matter what they purchase in the grocery store they are supporting a farming or ranching family. Looking at agvocating from that perspective, I see three phrases or ideas that we should lose in order to reach our consumers on that emotional level.

Food Shaming

It’s pretty safe to say that there isn’t a person alive in North America who hasn’t felt the sting of judgement from their friends or neighbors. Heck, some of us have felt the sting of judgement from our fellow agvocates. The most popular form of judgement is food shaming. Typically, it is seen as a totally granola mom telling all her friends they have to eat only organic to “properly” raise their children. There is a lot of outrage in those instances. When a mom who feeds her kids organic gets shamed, and told that she’s just wasting her money on a marketing scheme, is that any better? There isn’t as much outrage when that happens, but to me, shaming is shaming, and it needs to stop. We will never be the trusted source of information for consumers if we are making them feel bad about their choices. Bottom line: nobody wants to feel stupid for the choices they make. We lose their trust, and they go elsewhere for their information (Peta, HSUS, etc). We need to stop shaming our consumers…and each other.

#Stand4Science

I’ll admit that this hashtag and the accompanying tweets associated with it annoy me for a couple of reasons. First, most of the tweets have a “I can’t believe you don’t know this” attitude when telling people about some study or another that proves that biotech or whatever is safe. The problem with that attitude is, we make consumers feel dumb. How many people have a science degree, or can understand what the studies are saying? We’re told when giving speeches or agvocating in public to speak at a 4th grade level…I’ve read many study abstracts, and I can tell you, they are not written at a 4th grade level! The Center for Food Integrity’s 2014 research talks a lot about this very thing. We cannot forget about the impact that emotion plays when people are deciding whether or not to trust your truth. Secondly, many of the tweets associated with this hashtag make it sound like the only science in agriculture is biotechnology. When you think about it, biotechnology is a pretty small part of the science that goes into raising a crop, even if the majority of corn, soybeans, and cotton raised in North America are genetically engineered. We all need to pay attention to soil science, plant science (including weeds), pathology, animal science, and hydrology…not to mention computer science, and engineering. I know I’m missing some major ones, but you get the idea. Agriculture involves a lot of science, no matter what you grow. We just can’t assume that our consumers will “get” the science that we work with every day. Heck, I don’t understand the science that goes along with range management or animal nutrition, because I don’t ever work with that. Fortunately, I have trusted friends I can go to when I have questions. That’s what we need to be to our consumers.

Biotech is the only way to feed the world

I’ve had many great conversations about this phrase. Looking at it from an agvocating point of view, though, I think we need to lose it. As consumers, we are all a bit self centered. We want what we want when we want it. When we are making our way through the grocery store, we are not thinking about how many people in the world the average farmer is feeding. We are thinking about checking off our grocery lists, or we’re trying to remember what it is we needed as we’re being distracted by kids, neighbors who want to say hello, or the little old ladies who need help getting a bag of cat food into their cart. This message is being lost on the consumer. I don’t know about you, but I eat a pretty diverse diet. I like my cereal or eggs in the morning, but the rest of the day I’m eating a variety of meats, potatoes or rice, and vegetables. For snacks, I like fruits, or coffee. I don’t like eating the same thing all the time, because I get bored with it. There are what, nine genetically engineered crops on the market? Foods made with those crops do not make up the entirety of the average diet. We need the diversity in agriculture to make the whole system work. We celebrate diversity in every other aspect of our lives, why not in agriculture? When the whole choir only sings one note, there is no harmony. When my BLT has no L or T, it is just a bacon sandwich…but that actually doesn’t sound all that bad….

So, what should we be saying when we agvocate?

In our lenten series at church this year, our Pastor has been talking about not separating our faith from our every day life, but to treat it as we do everything else. The funny thing is, I have taken a ton of notes during his Sunday sermons lately, because they fit agvocating so well. The verse on the photo above summed up my feelings about how to agvocate effectively without running the risk of alienating other farmers or our consumers.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2: 3-4”

How cool would it be if we all agvocated that way…doing nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

We can do this when we tell our story, since we know it better than anyone else. This also goes back to each of us having our own truth. Nobody can argue with you if you say, “On my farm, we do this…” or “On my ranch, we do that…” That is your story, and your truth. You can find things in common with your consumers if you write about things they may be able to relate to. They won’t relate to farming, but if you develop a relationship with them over a common topic, you will be their trusted source when you do write about agriculture.

I absolutely believe we can speak as a unified voice for agriculture, but it’s going to take a little change in attitude from all of us. Will you join me in supporting all of our farming and ranching families?

 

Where Agriculture and Horror Movies Collide

Have you watched the movie “Alien” where a creature bursts out of the chest of a human, killing him? Truth be told, I am not a fan of horror movies. However, when similar things happen to insects in nature, I am totally fascinated!

Starting today, one of our soybean fields will have little wasps that act like the Alien. They sting soybean aphids, and lay their eggs inside the aphid. This kills and mummifies the aphid. When the larva is ready for the next stage of life, it bursts out of the mummified aphid body. So cool!

So, what do these vicious creatures look like?

CarolynCares Wasp

Did you see it? Maybe this extreme closeup will help…

CarolynCares Wasp Closeup

Yep, these tiny little wasps are the size of a soybean aphid…which is about as big as the dot of a Sharpie Fine Pen. Nick, a doctoral student from the University of Minnesota entomology department came out today to distribute 75,000 of these little buggers. They arrived in their shipping containers, which were mummified soybean aphids on soybean leaves. The black dots are the aphids which house the wasps…

CarolynCares Mummies

Nick transferred the wasps, leaves, and larva to a slightly larger cup, making sure he had a similar amount of wasps in each cup (yes, someone had figured out how many there were in each cup). He then put a mesh over the top that was large enough for the wasps to go in and out, but not large enough for predators like lady beetles to get in. These cups were put in milk crates as a base of sorts for the wasps.

CarolynCares Wasp Release

Nick then went walking on the edge of the field, flagging locations for the six crates to be placed. After that he measured out about 2 meters in each direction, and placed another flag. The soybean plants by those flags will be checked in 3 weeks to see if the wasps have moved that far from their point of release.

One of the limiting factors in this research is the amount of soybean aphids currently in our fields. When we were looking, we really didn’t find many at all. This is due to the delays in planting, and the cooler weather that has slowed the growth of the soybeans. Nick was explaining the optimal time for aphid movement according to soybean plant stage, and encouraged scouting within the next two weeks.

Jonathan and I are pretty interested in learning more about how this natural aphid control will work in a real world situation. We are hoping that this will turn into a viable tool that we can use to combat the soybean aphid. Right now, as organic farmers, we have no effective method to control them other than planting naturally aphid tolerant varieties of soybeans. Nick is hoping that the wasps that were released today will not only help us this year, but their future generations will be helpful in the years to come.

How cool is it that scientists have found an Alien like way to control an agriculture pest?

 

 

Fun Fact Friday – Organic Farming is Not Like Grandpa’s Farming

CarolynCares Organic Farming

30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 21: OATF

What? No photo? I totally failed on this one. I brought my camera along to our first Organic Advisory Task Force meeting, and I forgot to ask for a group photo.

So, what is the OATF, and why am I thankful for them?

The Organic Advisory Task Force is a group of 15 individuals from around the state of Minnesota who meet a couple of times a year to discuss the organic industry in our state. We then advise the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and the University of Minnesota on policy and research issues. The group is made up of farmers, processors, distributors, certifying agencies, University faculty, a non-profit general farm organization representing farmers, and the public.

The coolest thing about this group, besides the people, is that farmers get to hear from consumers (processors, distributors and the public) as well as the certifying agencies and the faculty, and everyone else gets to hear from the farmers. I love how we all come together with the goal of finding a consensus on the issues facing the organic industry. I am thankful for the opportunities that we have to share with each other, and the friendships that are made.

On Tuesday, the new 3 year term began. We were able to hear from a Deputy Commissioner of Ag and Deans from the University of Minnesota. We also had a chance to share what the concerns are in the area we represent. We had some really good discussions! One thing that was made clear to the Deans, is that with funding sources shrinking all the time, that they hire faculty that is friendly towards organic agriculture. We realize the importance of shared research and resources, and know that there are many research areas that benefit both organic and conventional agriculture. We are not a group of extremists that are hell bent on taking down anyone. We focus on ways to support and educate what the organic farming and food system is about.

I am thankful for all of the members of this Task Force, and I am thankful that I have been given the opportunity to serve as their chair.

 

To follow other 30 Day Blog Challenge participants, click here.

Agriculture is Not One Size Fits All

We all like things neat and tidy. We want everything to fit into the box we see as ideal. Our perceptions as to what is right, true, and good are shaped by our experiences and the people around us. Funny thing is, even those who have grown up in the same family have very different opinions on how they do things.

There are 5 kids in my family. Three of us have three children. Even though we were raised the same way in the same house, we parent very differently.   We all remember family things differently. What sticks out in my sister’s mind as a significant event, I may have totally forgotten about. We each see the same things in a different manner.

When Jonathan and I went on our first date, I can remember what I wore, but I can never remember where we went to eat. Jonathan has a great memory for the details & places of significance in our relationship, but I tend to remember the emotions. It’s part of what makes us work together well. We can help to fill in each other’s gaps.

What does this have to do with agriculture? Everything. We each bring our unique perspectives to our farms and ranches. We have certain ways we like to do things, for reasons we probably cannot explain. Does that make me wrong if I do something a different way than you do? Absolutely not. The diversity in agriculture helps to fill in the gaps. We can’t all grow cotton or rice or soybeans or tomatoes. Consumers are asking for choices, and we have the ability to provide that.

We farm our crops organically. We like the process. The management, the record keeping, the constant assessments in the field, the soil management, the relationships with our buyers – we like it all. It suits our land, and it suits our personalities.  Neither one of us thinks that everyone would be good at organic farming. We’re okay with that. We just want the opportunity to be the best organic farmers we can be. If your passion is raising cow/calf pairs in South Dakota, that’s awesome. Be the best rancher you can be. If your passion is raising vegetables and running a CSA, more power to you. It’s not where my passion lies, but I’m glad it’s yours – especially when I want a BLT.

The point is, agriculture is not a one size fits all you have to do it this way everything is black and white industry. Find your passion, and run with it. Just remember, my passion is going to be different from yours, and that’s okay. Just concentrate on being the best you can be in whatever you choose to do. Everyone should be given that opportunity.

Related posts:

Who Am I To Judge – For Farmers and Consumers

What Does it Mean to Love Our Neighbor?

Tillage Radish Cover Crop Update

The neighbors have been asking, so here is an update on our Tillage Radish and Oat cover crop.

We have received more rain this fall than we have during the same time period the last two years, so our cover crops have gotten off to a great start. We planted this field on August 31st. You can read about the process here.

Neighbors are starting to ask what we have growing in our field. They know one of the plants is a small grain (wheat, oats, barley, and rye are considered small grains), but they are not sure what the other crop is that was planted in rows. This made me think that maybe the rest of you would like to see what our neighbors are seeing.

This first photo shows the tillage radish planted in rows with oats in between the rows.

Tillage radish planted in rows

Tillage radish planted in rows

This is the overview of the field. You can see how the Tillage Radish is more noticeable in the oats.

Cover Crop of Tillage Radish and Oats

Cover Crop of Tillage Radish and Oats

The radish leaves are broad, and very different from other crops grown in our area. The leaves and the root will almost disappear completely over the winter, leaving the nutrients behind in the soil.

CarolynCares Cover Crop 3

Close up of the Tillage Radish leaves

I wanted to see how big the radish taproot was 38 days after planting. To make sure I was getting a random radish, I walked out into the field, and plopped my shovel near a row. That was the one I would dig up.

Choosing a random radish to dig

Choosing a random radish to dig

The soil is still pretty moist after our weekend rains, so digging was easy. I wanted to get as much of the taproot as I could, so I teased it out of the loosened dirt.We are in a wind advisory, so holding the radish still enough for a photo outside was a bit of a challenge.

Freshly dug Tillage Radish

Freshly dug Tillage Radish

I walked back into the house to measure the length of the taproot. The diameter is just shy of 1/2 inch at its widest. I was impressed that the roots measured at 8 1/2 inches already!

Measuring the Tillage Radish Taproot

Measuring the Tillage Radish Taproot

I believe I was able to tease out the entire taproot, and didn’t break off the end, but it was difficult to tell without a magnifying glass. Here is another view of the root length.

Closer view of the root system of the Tillage Radish

Closer view of the root system of the Tillage Radish

As long as we don’t have a hard freeze (around 20 deg F), the radish will continue to grow both in diameter and length. I’ll take a few more photos in a couple of weeks, and give you another update. In the meantime, we are getting ready to finish harvesting our last field of soybeans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First Week in October

“In harvest time, harvest folk, servants and all
Should make, all together, good cheer in the hall
Once ended the harvest, let none be beguiled
Please such as did help thee, man, woman and child.”
–   Thomas Tusser, Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry

Late September begins harvest on our farm. We typically start harvesting soybeans first, then move to corn when the soybeans are all in the bin. This year, we got started a little later than usual, due to the late spring and cool summer.

A few years ago, I started running the combine. This year, we have a new to us combine, so I needed to get used to new controls. Jonathan was also really patient with me when I was sick in bed on Monday, and baked for Cottonwood’s Central Park Market on Wednesday. I did run the combine for awhile on Tuesday, which made me feel a whole lot better.

We combine our soybeans at an angle to prevent dirt from building up on the platform. We don’t roll our soybean ground to make it flat, since we cultivate the beans a couple of times during the season. The cultivating created ridges, which can sometimes cause dirt to get scooped up when we combine straight down the rows. Since we use AutoSteer technology in our combine as well, we are able to program it to follow the angle we want.

Harvesting Soybeans

Harvesting Soybeans

Wednesday evening, the predicted rain began to fall, and put to a halt our harvesting for this week. The guys worked quickly to move all of the equipment into sheds to keep the harvested soybeans dry.

Bringing the Soybeans In

Bringing the Soybeans In

This was the first evening thunderstorm that I can remember this year. Most of the storms we did get came during the day. I have always wanted to try taking photos of lightning, so I quick looked up a basic how-to for my type of camera, and started shooting. Now, I can’t wait for the next round of lightning!

My First Lightning Capture

My First Lightning Capture

The weather has been rainy and drizzly the past few days, and it looks like that pattern will hold until Sunday. It has been nice to be able to catch up on a few things in the house, and get a bit more rest at night.

Have a great week!

 

Teaching Flat Ryan About Cover Crops

FlatRyan is the brainchild of a few fabulous agvocates who took over the Agriculture Proud blog while Ryan is finishing his Master’s degree. You can read all about it and learn how to participate here. This blog post first appeared on Agriculture Proud on September 18th.

On the last day of August, #FlatRyan got in on a little cover crop planting on our farm. Saturday was pretty warm for Minnesota standards, but it was a good day to get some work done.  We do things a little differently than most of our neighbors, which sometimes leads to many questions. We farm organic row crops, so we follow different rules. One of those rules is a three crop rotation.  Each year, we have approximately one-third field corn, one-third soybeans, and one-third small grain (wheat, and a mix of barley & field peas).  We use cover cropping to help lock in nutrients, for weed control, and to prevent soil erosion.

The field we were working in had been a barley and field pea field.  The barley and peas had been harvested, the straw baled, and manure applied for next year’s corn crop.  The manure was worked into the soil with a deep till chisel plow before we seeded oats with a broadcast spreader. The oats were worked in with the field cultivator, which was set to go only an inch or two deep.  We were then ready to try something we’ve never done before.

#FlatRyan, Pongo the Rat Terrier, and I took the Ranger across the road to check in with Jonathan and see how he was doing.

Pongo Meeting Flat Ryan

We have been seeding Tillage Radish with our oats for a few years. Tillage Radish is different from the radishes you grow in your garden. A Tillage Radish has a pretty strong tap root that can break up compacted layers in the soil. The root keeps nutrients locked up over the winter, and when the plant dies, it leaves a hole the size of the radish that the corn plant’s roots will be able to use to grow bigger.

Tillage Radish and Full Size Sharpie

Tillage Radish and Full Size Sharpie

Last year, we attended a cover cropping seminar, and heard about a study that was being done where they planted the Tillage Radish seed with the corn planter, using sugar beet plates.  To us, it made total sense. Using GPS mapping in the tractor, we have the capability of planting the corn directly over the rows that we planted the Tillage Radish in. We weren’t sure exactly how well it would work, or if the Precision Planting system would be able to accurately measure how many seeds per acre we were planting.  This is where #FlatRyan joined us.

When Jonathan got to the end, we needed to check the planter boxes to see if he was planting the correct number of seeds per acre.  Here, #FlatRyan is looking to see how much seed is left in the first box. FlatRyan2 carolyncares

It was decided that Jonathan needed more seed, so #FlatRyan, Pongo, and I headed to the seed shed in the yard. Many of our bags are white with no markings, so reading a seed tag is important. Tillage Radish comes in colorful bags, so they were easy to spot.

FlatRyan3 carolyncares

We loaded a couple of bags into the back of the Ranger, and went back across the road to meet the planter once again.

FlatRyan4 carolyncares

Jonathan split the 50 pounds of seed between the 16 boxes, and we put the other bag in the rock box. We still weren’t sure how much would be needed to finish this field. #FlatRyan was so excited by how well the planter was working to plant the radish seeds that he was kicking up his heels!

FlatRyan5 carolyncares

Not long after Jonathan finished planting this field, the clouds rolled in, and we were blessed with ½ inch of rain!

FlatRyan6 carolyncares

This is how the field looked 10 days after we planted the Tillage Radish. Looks like both the oats and the radish are off to a good start!

radish seedling carolyncares

After #FlatRyan’s weekend with us, Jonathan and I seeded and planted our wheat fields the same way. In the last field, we planted 46 acres of Tillage Radish like we did in the barley and pea field. We were racing with the rain on the last day, so we decided to broadcast seed the oats and Tillage Radish on the remaining 100 acres. Then, for good measure, we left about 8 acres as a check strip. That way, we have all three methods in one field.  Next spring we will till the field with the field cultivator, which will disturb the decayed matter and small weeds on the surface, but will preserve the channels created by the Tillage Radish.

We hope #FlatRyan had fun helping us with our experiment! This is one experiment that will take a long time to see the results, but in the meantime, it does keep the neighbors guessing about what we’re up to!

To see more of Flat Ryan’s adventures, click here. He’s had a lot of fun, and has learned some amazing things so far!

Why Is It…?

My Twitter feed is increasingly making me crabby. I follow a pretty diverse group, both conventional and organic farmers, a variety of agriculture businesses, and a wide range of bloggers. Why is it that every morning, my twitter feed is clogged with more conventional farmers putting down organic agriculture? The organic farmers I follow don’t share near the non-GM stuff as what the conventional farmers are sharing. Even some people that work for groups that are supposed to support all of agriculture are sharing more anti-organic graphics. I thought that when you claim to be an “agvocate”, you would be speaking for agriculture, not pitting one method against another.

I belong to a speakers group through the Minnesota Farm Bureau called Speak for Yourself. In our training sessions, we are taught to tell our farm story through the use of Power Point presentations. We are given the opportunity to create our presentations, then give them to our class for practice. We are to focus on our farm, and not worry about what our neighbors are doing. That way, when we go out and speak to groups like a Lions Club or Rotary Club, we are putting a face on farming. We are taught to present a positive picture of agriculture, and to be a resource to those who we have shared our story. As an organic farmer, I have been able to give my presentation to a group that had quite a few Monsanto employees in it. They enjoyed the presentation because I focused on my farm, without putting any commentary about other farms into my presentation. This is proof that speaking about only my farm can bring a clear message.

Do you hear a lot of people talking about the Paleo diet, vegetarianism, veganism, the Whole30 Challenge, and other restrictive diets? Why is it that those diets are acceptable, yet people who choose to eat organic foods are called anti-science? Last time I checked, it was not advised to go on a diet that eliminates whole food groups or are too restrictive. There are many scientific articles relating to the long term viability of vegan diets, for example. If I were to follow in other farmer’s footsteps, I could post a graphic that I found on the internet. After all, whatever is on the internet has to be true, right?

A few of my friends have told people that they can go ahead and waste their money by paying extra for the organic label. Really? How is that attitude fostering a positive image of agriculture? These same people are so excited when the farmers market opens and they can finally get fresh produce. I’m sure you could get tomatoes from the grocery store for less. So what if they are a little more pale and pulpy than the organic ones, or the ones fresh from the farmers market. Sounds a little bit hypocritical to me. No wonder consumers are confused.

Speaking of consumers, I see a lot of the anti-organic graphics and studies aimed at them. Talk about mommy guilt. Conventional farmers are just as bad as organic farmers if you really look at the graphics being shared. Why is it that only the end products are looked at when people are arguing over methods? Isn’t there a grower in there somewhere that is preparing the soil, buying seeds, planting, nurturing, and harvesting? In my mind, there is a whole lot more to these systems than just the end product.

This brings me back to the whole organic farmers are anti-science statements that make me cringe. We are anti-science because we choose not to use a certain seed technology? What the heck? That is such an insult. We use science to determine what our soil profiles are, how much manure needs to be applied, how much nitrogen the corn plants are taking up, when to flame weed the corn, and what tillage methods we need to tweak. We use more technology in our tractors than most of our neighbors. So, using the same logic, we can call all farmers who don’t use GPS guidance systems and field mapping anti-technology, backwards, and old, right? Why is it that conventional farmers feel the need to call others names because they farm different? It sounds a lot like school yard bullying, and makes us all look stupid.

Why is it so hard to resist hitting the share button when you know it’s going to hurt your farming friends and neighbors?  You tell your story, I’ll tell mine, let other farmers tell theirs. When we start to tell each other’s stories, the whole agriculture message gets all mucked up, and consumers don’t know who to trust. We need to resist the temptation to post things that prove we are “right”. Who says that anyone is wrong? What is right for you will not be right for me. Even if we farmed using the same methods. Your soils, climate, personality…everything about you is different than me. That is what is awesome about being a farmer in the US. We have the freedom to farm how we like. We have the freedom to grow what we want. We have markets available to sell our products. There is so much good happening in agriculture, why is it that we feel like we need to put others down?

Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes:

“To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater.” -Bono

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