Shortly after our oldest was born, I started reading everything the search engine returned about how to feed children the “right way”. It would be a few more years before I realized this is almost never a good idea.
From the first article on, an overwhelming weight was being pushed onto my shoulders. The weight of fear, fear of our food.
Everywhere I looked, I was being told our food was scary. It wasn't like it "used to be". It wasn't "natural". It wasn't "simple" or "clean".
His runny nose, my extra baby weight, his occasional rashes, my cough, our inability to sleep well, the mysterious missing other sock - all clearly stemmed from consuming this new "Franken-food".
I was being told this, being sold this, by food manufactures and restaurants and bloggers and even other moms. I was being told I had to pay more, be more selective, and demand more. I had to "know my farmer" and “buy local” or else...
And I was ready to do all of that and more. This was my child's health after all and I am his mother! And no one knows better than his mother.
I also remember my first dose of reality. I was quizzing my farmer husband about GMOs, while eating sweet corn from our own field. He didn't laugh or put me off, but answered as best he could. He did smile a little at some of the crazier things I had bought into, but never laughed.
Over the next few months, and continuing today, I started learning about our very own industry - modern agriculture – from a new perspective. The perspective of a mom.
I spent more time on the farm; I spent more time with other farm families. I spent time with the scientists and researchers who develop our technology, with people who test it, with the people who actually use it. I spent time with our consumers, talking to them about our industry and hearing their own concerns. I spent time with other moms, who also happened to be well educated on farming and food.
I spent time learning about where we had been, and where we are now. I learned that both eras in agriculture - yesteryear and modern times – are represented with inaccurate, incomplete stories often told to evoke emotion instead of truth.
Soon, I realized - we are those farmers.
We are those farmers they want you to fear. We are those farmers who raise GMOs. We are those farmers who use chemicals. We are those big farmers. We are those farmers who raise that grocery store food.
We are the farmers who use GMOs.
We use them by choice. We use them because they help us fight drought, erosion, pests and fungus. They help us leave a smaller footprint and be more responsible stewards of our land. We are also the family that proudly buys and consumes products grown with GMO ingredients because we understand what they are, how they help, and the science that has proven them safe for over 20 years.
We are the farmers who use chemicals.
We use chemicals carefully and in the correct amounts. We do not “soak” your food in chemicals. We use chemicals to manage risk and our environment and to provide you a safe, reliable food source. We often rely on modern chemicals that have been developed to be more effective and less toxic that chemicals used decades ago.
But we are also the farmers who use GMO's and other technology to reduce our chemical use as much possible. Not because the chemicals we use aren't safe, but because they are expensive and require extra trips across the fields.
We are those big farmers.
From the outside looking in, people often look at us as large farmers. Surveys have indicated the average American defines a “large farmer” as anyone farming more than 100 acres. We are 20 times that.
Other farm families would consider our farm size average or standard. We farm more acres and have more animals because we needed to grow to support another family returning to the farm. We farm more acres because we have equipment and technology that allows us to. We farm more acres and have more animals because we actually love farming!
We are those farmers that raise grocery store food.
We aren't "local" to hardly anyone, with the exception of a handful of folks in Linn County, Missouri. Our calves and lambs end up on your grocery store shelves, without any labels to distinguish it as "better" or "safer". Our corn and soy end up feeding animals across this country and in food products that end up on your store shelves, again, without any distinguishing labels.
We are those farmers. The farmers you hear about on TV and social media. We are those farmers you read about on fast food bags and internet blogs. We are those farmers, but that is NOT our story. We are those farmers, but we are not scary, and neither is the food we are raising!
I married into a farming family. And when you marry into a farming family you realize they take some things very seriously. And this family takes gardening, and sweet corn, very, very seriously!
A few years ago I had the privilege of spending the day with my husband’s grandparents and learning about how his Grandma freezes corn – she does dozens and dozens of quarts each year. A few years later my father in law added an office and small kitchen on to his shop – so the corn freezing moved there and now they freeze with assembly line efficiency!
So today that is what they did – they picked, cleaned, boiled, cut and froze corn. The whole family got in the action – from my baby boy who just turned one to great Grandma Mildred and Great Grandpa PD who have been married over sixty years!
The steps (and pictures) we took are below. Enjoy and let me know what your family does differently!
1. Pick or buy the corn. If you are buying to freeze, make sure and ask the folks you buy your corn from. Often they will have a discounted price on multiple dozen and sometimes they will have a special price for "freezer corn". This may be some of the smaller ears (that often taste better!) or some of the corn that had the tops stolen by birds or raccoons and you can just cut those spots off.
2. Shuck the corn. Grandpa and Grandson make a great team for this.
3. Desilk the corn. There is a silk for each kernel on the cob. The silk is what transfers the pollen down to the plant to make the kernel! But, they get stuck in your teeth so its best to get rid of them before you freeze.
The first time I froze corn with Grandma Mildred she showed me how to take a paper towel and rub it up and down the ear to remove most of the silks pretty quickly. It was still quite a process.
This year however we had a MAJOR upgrade in our project. Check out the below images of this electric corn desilker!
4. Check ears for bad spots and remove. Quickly look over the ears and using a sharp knife, remove any areas that have animal damage or undeveloped kernels that you won't want to cut off into your final corn.
5. Place ears into a large pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Keeping the water hot through multiple batches gets tricky!
6. Remove the corn from the boiling water and place immediately into an ice bath. Leave corn in ice water just long enough to cool the ears down to where you can easily handle them.
7. Cut the corn off the cob. Grandpa Paul reminded me to be careful not to cut too deep into the cob or this winter when you go to eat it the corn will taste like cob instead! After you cut the kernels off, scrape up and down the ear to release some additional sugar from the ear.
8. Put the corn into freezer tubs or freezer bags. Make sure and leave some extra room in the containers because they will expand when they freeze.
9. Cover with salt water mixture. Grandma Mildred suggests a teaspoon of salt per quarter of water for the salt water mixture.
10. Put into your freezer and remove sometime this winter when the memory of 100 degree days has long since faded!
Quick Steps to Freezing Corn:
1. Pick or buy corn.
2. Shuck corn.
3. Desilk corn.
4. Check for bad spots and remove.
5. Boil corn for 3-4 minutes.
6. Place corn into ice bath.
7. Cut the corn off cob and scrape sides for extra sugars.
8. Put into containers.
9. Cover with salt water mixture (1 tsp salt/ quart water)
10. Freeze and enjoy!
I am in Denver this week, surrounded by some of the leading minds in agriculture real estate. I have had some amazing conversations and learned much, some of which I'll try to share!
A fellow appraiser and family farmer in Washinton explained to me how many of the organics are grown in her region of Washinton (state).
You can see on my drawing above that farmers grow conventional plants in an outer area with the organics contained within the middle.
This setup allows for a "barrier" from pests. The conventional products can be treated for pests with highly regulated and tested (and safe) pesticides. The organics in the center then benefit by being surrounded by the treated area.
How would it effect yields and quality of production if growers didn't have such barriers? What would happen to cost?
Are organic farmers often portrayed as more caring? More careful? Does it alter your perception when you realize many of the organics on the market are produced by the same families who are also growing much of the conventional food?
Jackson County, Oregon has passed, and the courts have upheld, a county wide ban on growing GMO’s.
The Farmer’s Daughter does a great job giving an overview of the decision that was upheld on Monday in Oregon.
This is not a ban on the consumption, sale or processing of GMOs. It is only a ban on growing them. It’s obvious why conventional farmers would lose sleep over such a decision, but here are some other people who should be just as angry.
1. Consumers: County by county ban on production practices will negatively impact food choice and food price.
If this single county sets a precedence and farming management decisions are being made in courtrooms by judges, instead of at kitchen tables by farm families, food selection will go down and price will go up.
Consumers, preferably with reliable and fact based information, should have the right to choose which type of farming practices and products they want to support with their purchases. Farmers should then have the right to respond to consumer demand with farming practices that make the most sustainable and economic sense for their farms.
2. Small Business Owners: Any small business owner should be enraged at the government making management decisions for us.
An important and often overlooked fact is that each family farm in your community is a small business. They employ part time and full time workers, they buy and sell thousands of dollars of goods within the local community, they pay taxes, and they donate time and money to local causes.
The Government, without the support of fact or science, determined some farm families to be of more worth than others. They have handed a death sentence to conventional family farms in their county.
3. Supporters of Young Farmers: Young farmers could be wiped out if the government limits their ability to use the latest technology.
Young and beginning farmers face unique challenges compared to their more established counterparts. Our margins are even thinner than our neighbors that have been operating longer. Our debt is greater, our equity is less. We make farming decisions based on long term projections and rely on the ability to use all resources available to us.
If the government removes our ability to farm using the most advanced seed technology available, it would very well bankrupt us. On good years there may not be measurable difference in yield (income). But on bad years? We could suffer a major loss without the assistance of insect protection, drought protection, and more that GMO technology provides.
Go here for an in depth analysis of the cost and income differences of GM and non GM crops.
4. Science Community: In a single ruling, a judge rejected the lifetime work and opinions of scientists who have devoted their careers to studying GMO technology.
There is no more thoroughly tested food on the market today than GMO variety food crops. As explained by Genetic Literacy Project, 89% of scientists believe GMO foods are safe! This judge threw science, fact and reason out the window and instead used emotionally changed anecdotes to make a ruling.
5. And everyone else. It has become cliché to call someone un-American, or un-patriotic when they don’t agree with your principles. But there is something terrifying to me about a group of voters willing to strip away the ability of farm families to make their own management decisions.
It’s even more terrifying the government would make such broad based laws with no science, fact or reason.
Remember, this decision has nothing to do with the actual consumption of GMO's products. This ban only limits the ability of families to chose which production practices are best for their family on their farm.
(Note - there is no safety or nutritional difference in organic and conventional raw products. The difference in organic and conventionally grown products is ONLY in production practices.) Read here for a great analysis on the two.
3/7/2015 31 Comments
I asked several of my non-farming friends what their main concerns are when grocery shopping. Most of them rattled off a few things about health and safety and then nearly all of them, almost quietly, mentioned cost.
I am here to tell you it’s a GOOD thing to be considerate of cost at the grocery store and I am going to tell you why you can feel good about, or dare I say PROUD, about buying conventionally grown products!
1. Conventionally grown is equally as nutritious and safe as its organic counterparts!!
All foods are rigorously tested for food safety in the USA which is why in the rare case when someone does get sick from food, it still makes headlines. In many countries, a person getting sick from food is not even considered news worthy!
Hundreds of tests have been done and there are no nutritional differences in the two. Organic is a method of producing food, not a label that indicates anything about the safety or nutrition of the product.
(Review one of the studies completed for nutritional differences here: http://www.ilsi.org/FoodBioTech/Publications/10_ILSI2008_CaseStudies_CRFSFS.pdf)
Most all produce can be found with extreme trace amounts of pesticide (yes organic production does allow for the use of over 50 pesticides). There is no notable differences in these trace amounts from organic and conventionally grown making both options SAFE options!
2. Being financially smart is GOOD and IMPORTANT for your family!
I would guess most families are just like mine – living on a budget that most often is pretty tight. When you refuse to pay twice the price for a gallon of milk labeled “antibiotic free” because you know ALL dairy and meat are antibiotic free at the time of consumption, you are telling your family that their financial security is important to you!
I am giving you permission to be financially smart –without guilt – about your buying decisions at the grocery store! Moms especially tend to stress about doing the absolute best for their children. Don't let this be one of the things that adds stress -- because fresh food is always a good choice regardless of how it was produced!
3. You are supporting family farmers, whose livelihood depends on their farms!
People have a tendency to confuse the “organic” label with “local”, “small” or “family”. Yes, a lot of organic is produced that way (some is not). But guess what – nearly all conventionally grown foods are also grown BY FAMILY FARMERS!!
My husband raises conventional grown (yes that means GMO) corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay and of course cattle and sheep. We also eat what we consume. We also feed it to our livestock and children.
When you purchase products that are conventionally grown you are not supporting some scary “agribusiness giant” – you are supporting him. And hundreds of farmers just like him. A majority of which are also small farmers like our family.
4. You are supporting technology that allows a safe, affordable food source worldwide!
GMO technology is the most thoroughly tested product on the market today. In fact, there are over 2000 independent and peer reviewed studies that show the safeness of GMOs for both human and livestock consumption!
(See a discussion on those studies here: http://geneticliteracyproject.org/2013/10/08/with-2000-global-studies-confirming-safety-gm-foods-among-most-analyzed-subject-in-science/)
When you say “Yes!” to conventionally grown products you are supporting further development of this technology that has allowed us to produce more food on fewer resources than ever before!
GMO technology allows us to better care for our land and water. GMO technology allows us to use less chemical and to better negate the risks involved in farming such as drought, flood, pests and disease. GMO technology is keeping food at affordable prices.
5. You are teaching your children to base decisions on logic and fact, not fads and marketing.
Many labels were developed as a means of fetching a premium for a product. Many of these practices have higher costs and higher waste, so marketing the product for a premium is vital to the industry. This marketing is often done by ill means – misleading information, scare tactics and food guilt targeted at food produced by other, more modern means.
Organics is a $35 billion dollar per year business – so do not be fooled. It is a business – one that is not anymore concerned about your wellbeing and health than any other business is.
Trust in fact and science to take comfort in your purchase decisions. Trillions of meals containing GMOs have been consumed and not one case causing human harm has been found.
The World Health Organization, AMA, FDA, European Commission, National Research Center and even the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation all support the safety of GMOs.
(Someone will argue that some other countries do not allow GMOs, which is true. The reason however has nothing to do with science, evidence or any ill effects of GMOs. It is simply because their governments caved to public pressure when the public was scared by the same tactics being used here now).
Not all of us have the luxury of being able to spend limitless dollars on food. Not of all of us think it’s necessary even if we did have the money.
Many of us know that it’s OK, even something we can feel good about, to feed our families with scientifically proven products, that are safe and nutritious and grown by family farmers!
So say no to #FoodGuilt and yes to #FoodFacts!
For more information about all types of farming, please visit some of the following links:
Genetic Literacy Project
Missouri Farmers Care
For information regarding the requirements of organic production please visit here:
Tonight we went out to see Matt for a bit, because we haven’t seen him much at all the last few weeks. He finally finished up calving heifers, but just in time to start field work!
It has warmed up enough to start the first phase of spring planting, applying anhydrous ammonia. Matt and his Dad apply for their farms as well as custom apply, meaning they are hired to put it on for other farmer’s as well.
Anhydrous ammonia (NH3) is a synthetic form of nitrogen, used in corn and milo production because when we harvest a crop we take nitrogen from the soil that must be replaced. Nitrogen is a naturally occurring chemical that makes up 78% of the earth’s atmosphere.
NH3 (meaning simply its one part nitrogen to three parts hydrogen) is the most cost effective and efficient (therefore the most environmentally friendly) source of synthetic nitrogen. It’s stored in the nurse tanks you often see being pulled slowly down the road by a truck or out in the field behind a tractor. In the tank the anhydrous is in liquid form and kept under high pressure to keep it as a liquid.
The tank is pulled behind a tractor and a combination of high tech computer system and application system work to inject the chemical into the soil about 8-10 inches deep where it comes into contact with moisture and instantly turns into a gas. It is then absorbed into the soil moisture. At this point, there is no difference between the synthetic nitrogen and natural nitrogen.
Corn, a grass, requires nitrogen to grow. Our other most common row crop, soybeans, are a legume and actually generate their own nitrogen.
The internet is full of bloggers who like to tell you that all farmers should switch to use of natural nitrogen (manure) and using synthetic fertilizers are a hazard to our environment.
There is one big problem with that idea – the amount of manure we would need. If we were to replace the 11 million tons of anhydrous used each year with manure, this would require 1 billion more cattle! Even more shocking, those cows would require an estimated 2 billion more acres of land!
We simply cannot meet the world’s corn demand without using synthetic fertilizers. Anhydrous ammonia has the highest efficiency (meaning more of it is absorbed by the plant) than any other source, making it not only the most cost effective option – but the safest option for our soils and health as well!
Farmers are very concerned with applying fertilizer using the best practices to keep cost and waste low, and profits and overall safety high!
“Local Farmers”-- what a romantic buzz word. “Locally grown” from “local farmers” must be healthier, safer, and better for the environment than say… a “non-local” farmer?
For obvious reasons, food production typically occurs in rural areas (we need land…and a lot of it to feed the 313.9 million people in this country).
Meet my husband. He lives in Brookfield, MO, a town of about 4500 people, in Linn County, population roughly 12,484. (You read that number right…the entire county population is less than the average town size of the United States at 20,000.)
If we consider the county population to be local that means that my husband is a local farmer to 0.0039% of the population.
He goes to work every day on a family farm. There are no hired hands. It’s his Grandpa, who is 81 years old and still works at least 5 days a week and often 7 days a week during planting and harvest. It’s his father. And it’s him.
They work approximately 2,000 acres of row crop land, about 90 cows and 100 head of sheep. Throw in some hay ground, some custom chemical work, some shop work, and that keeps the three of them busy about 400 days a year.
The trio farms about 2,000 crop acres. Assume half of those are planted to corn on any given year. That equals 1,000 corn acres.
Estimate his yield at 140 bushels of corn per acre, making total production 140,000 bushels. Americans consume 28.4 pounds of corn product, per person, per year. This means each person is consuming roughly half a bushel.
If every one of the “local” consumers purchased their entire needed corn product from my husband – he would have a market for…. 4.6% of his corn or roughly 6500 bushels.
In fact, my husband’s corn production is enough to supply 70,000 people with their average consumption. (Recognize that corn goes into other products, not just for human consumption though.)
So does this mean that my husband (a non-local farmer to most of you) is growing food that is not safe, nutritious or good for the environment? Absolutely not! My husband is like most farmers all over rural America and is constantly educating himself on new farming practices such as cover crop rotations that allow us to use less chemical, less fertilizer and better preserve the soils.
My husband carries his chemical applicator license to be able to safely and responsibly utilize only the chemicals that are absolutely necessary. My husband studies new products, runs test plots, keeps detailed records in order to ensure they are doing everything they can to grow a safe product for his children to consume.
So what? This means that “locally grown” is a nice concept. But it also means that if you want to continue to live where most Americans do, with a Starbucks on every corner, than you have to face the facts that a lot of your food has to be grown by a 28 year old guy with a toddler at home, and baby on the way who also happens to be a “non-local” farmer (to you). Because suburban Chicago doesn’t have the land he needs to grow your food.
And by the way, the concept and math is exactly the same for our beef cattle operation.
Kate Lambert grew up in northern Illinois, not on a farm but active in FFA and showing livestock.
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