5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT FARMING

Originally published by BestFoodFacts.org

Cows and chickens, fields of corn, a big red barn, green tractors and dusty jeans – these are just a few of the images that come to mind when people hear the word “farming.” But for today’s farmers, there is much more to agriculture than meets the eye. We spoke with three farmers for their insights on how and why they’re committed to producing safe, nutritious and affordable food.

Here are five things we learned:

1. Most farms are owned and operated by families.
The 2012 Census of Agriculture shows that 97 percent of the 2.1 million farms in the United States are family-owned operations. Most farmers would tell you that working with their family is key to why they are so passionate about what they do.

“The biggest misconception I’ve heard would be that, as farms have gotten bigger, they have been labeled as factory farms. That we just use the land and move on. Yet, every farmer I know is very family-oriented. I love that our farm is something I can pass on to my family, a legacy, a business and a way of life that my kids love,” said William Layton, a third-generation Maryland farmer and owner of Layton’s Chance Vineyards and Winery.

Jenny Rhodes, University of Maryland Extension Educator in Agriculture and Natural Resources, who owns and operates a grain and broiler chicken farm with her family, said, “I love the whole family aspect and wanted my children to grow up the way I did. Instead of rushing home to spend a few hours with my family, we can spend time together working together. We are all family farms and at the end of the day it’s families working.”

2. Farming is efficient because it is high tech.
Farmers use technology to make advances in producing more food that is more safe, affordable, and produced more efficiently than ever before. Layton said, “Many people have an idea of the old-fashioned farmer, but in reality I spend half of my time in the office making GPS maps for what is going on in the field at any given point. We also have tractors that drive themselves, so we are very technology-based, and technology creates efficiency.”

“Everything you do in farming has to be efficient and sustainable and I love working to improve the resources on our farm so that we can do that,” explained Jenny Schmidt, a registered dietitian and Maryland farmer, whose family produces corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, hay, tomatoes, green beans and wine grapes. “When I talk to people about pesticide usage on our farm, I explain that our sprayer for our tomatoes, green beans, wheat, corn and soybeans sprays at the rate of 15-20 gallons per acre for herbicides. It is a 750-gallon tank so using 15 gallons per acre, this sprayer can cover 50 acres per tank – that’s only 0.04 ounces per square foot. This type of efficiency wouldn’t be possible without technology. Also, many people think we are dousing our fields with pesticides, but that would be inefficient. Spraying isn’t dousing.” Learn more about how the “dose makes the poison” in pesticide usage in “Should You Be Concerned with Pesticides On Produce?”.

3. Farmers are passionate about producing food.
“The thing that I love most about farming is working hard and seeing the results of that hard work. At harvest, I love quitting at dark after a 14-hour day and seeing all that I’ve harvested right in front of me. It’s a great feeling to see that,” said Layton.

“Farming is a passionate job and requires patience to weather through the ups and downs. Ultimately, I love being able to care for the soil and land with the available resources and set the stage for the next generation,” said Schmidt.

Farming is a lifestyle, not just a job. It is 24 hours a day, seven days a week and every day of the year! (Yes, this means vacations are nearly impossible to take!)

4. Farmers use a variety of production methods.
Debates about “organic” and “conventional” crops suggest there are only two ways to grow food: a “good” way and a “bad” way. But an important question to think about is, “What is the best way to feed a growing population, while reducing the amount of resources required?” To address this, farming will need multiple approaches, not just one.

“Many farmers don’t want to be seen as one thing; for me, I want to be seen as both holistic and sustainable. For example, there are trade-offs with all production methods. And each provide different benefits: it’s not an either/or, it’s more about melding the practices together,” added Schmidt. Want to learn more about organic versus conventional? Check out “Organic versus Conventional Foods: Is There a Nutritional Difference?”.

5. There are many ways to become involved with agriculture.
Farm and ranch families make up just two percent of the U.S. population, while most people are at least three generations removed from agriculture. However, the farmers we chatted with all agreed that getting involved in agriculture is for everyone.

Rhodes said it’s important to know what your goal is: Do you want to learn more? Do you want to own your own farm? “After you figure out your goals, then you can decide how to reach them through things like farm tours, working with different national councils, talking with your University extension programs and, of course, talking with the farmers in your area.”

“Social media is a great place to start and to seek out transparent farmers if you have questions about food. I love sharing information about my farm and interesting news articles that are related to the happenings on my farm,” Schmidt added.

Layton concluded, “Agritourism, corn mazes, farm stands, community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs, farmers markets – these are all ways to connect with farmers. Talk with the farmers – they are happy to chat with you! I give tours twice a day every day at the winery and people ask questions not only about the grapes and wines but about our crops, too. I love answering these questions.”

Our food supply is abundant, affordable overall and among the world’s safest, thanks in large part to the efficiency and productivity of America’s farm and ranch families. Want to learn more about growing food? Reach out to a local farmer or let us know and we can connect you with one!

HOW DO FARMERS FEEL ABOUT THE TRADE AID?

How do farmers feel about the trade aid?  In a word, bad.

Not that I should be putting words in farmers’ mouths, but the majority of farmers that I’ve heard from would rather have good market demand and a good price for their commodities than receive government money to keep their farms in business.

To go back to the beginning and really understand this issue, you must have a good understanding of supply and demand.  The basics are, when supply is high and demand is low (you have a lot of corn and no one wants it), then the commodity price for corn is low.  When demand is high and supply is low (you have very little corn and everyone wants it), the commodity price for corn is high.  What farmers really want is both of those things in moderation – good steady supply and good steady demand.  Both of these things would help maintain farm incomes at a reasonable place for farmers to stay in business and for customers to be able to afford the corn they are growing.

The only piece of this equation that farmers can really control is supply.  But when farmers are growing crops for a supply that they thought existed, and then the government screws the demand side of the equation up, all of the sudden there’s no demand for the steady supply farmers were providing when they put their seeds in the ground.

That’s what happened here.  Farmers were growing for a very exciting and vibrant export market when they put their seeds in the ground, but now those markets aren’t there.  All the additional supply without the vibrant demand is sending corn prices into a hole.

Because the export demand failure is not the fault of the farmer, President Trump is trying to keep them in business another year with a trade aid package.

Is this what farmers really want?  No.

Will farmers take the few cents offered to them?  Yes.

If a big tax refund were planned for 2019, wouldn’t you take that cash even if you thought the politics behind the cash were wrong?

The bottom line?  This trade aid stinks and farmers don’t want to see the government outspending itself any more than the next guy.  But tariffs stink too and if farmers have to live with tariffs, they will also have to live with the trade aid.

What are your thoughts?

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

A FUN LITTLE GRILLING COMPETITION WITH U.S. MEATS

IL Corn works with other associations to promote U.S. corn, ethanol, DDGS, beef, poultry, and pork in other countries.  We often fund educational, fun, and meaningful opportunities for chefs or average consumers to experience the difference with U.S. products.

This video shows a fun event in Mexico promoting U.S. beef and pork, hosted by the U.S. Meat Export Federation.  IL Corn didn’t happen to fund this particular event, but you’ll see how much fun we have showing folks the YUM factor with U.S. meats!

BUSY MOMS DON’T HAVE TIME TO RESEARCH WHAT TO PUT ON THE TABLE

Busy moms don’t have time to research what they put on the table.  That’s where farmers can help.

Watch this video of Texas cattle farmer Kyla meeting Kelly, a busy mom of two, and answering all her questions about how that steak gets from the farm to the table.

My personal favorite quote from the video?

“The night that I delivered Clara, Cole left to go bale hay.”

FORGET CORN & ETHANOL, EVEN DDGS TRADE IS PROFITABLE!

We talk a lot about corn and ethanol on this blog, but what about DDGS?  We sell a considerable amount of DDGS overseas – worth $2.34 billion!  And that’s worth talking about!

DDGS stands for Dried Distillers Grains with Solubles.  DDGS are what’s left over after corn has been made into ethanol.   Corn-based distillers grains from the ethanol industry are commonly sold as a high protein livestock feed that increases efficiency and lowers the risk of subacute acidosis in beef cattle.

IL farmer Lou Lamoreux shows the DDGS he feeds his cattle.

Those are a lot of big words, but the main point here is that after we make ethanol out of the corn, what’s left can be fed to livestock and it’s becoming increasingly important in the livestock industry, both in the U.S. and around the world.

So important, in fact, that DDGS are sold and trade just like corn, ethanol, and other commodities.

It’s recycling at its best!  We don’t waste a bit of that precious Illinois corn!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

 

For more information, watch this video!  DDGS are a bit of a dry topic (pun intended!) but for the folks that are interested, you can learn a ton here!