Real Farmers, Real Food
Monday 24th of October 2011 07:45 AM
By Kim L. Fritzemeier
KFRM Central Kansas Reporter
Farm Wife along the Stafford/Reno County Line
Today is Food Day. You mean you didn't get the day off? Me neither. In fact, we'll likely try to gather up those heifers that didn't cooperate last week.
Food Day was organized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. However, I'm not so sure that the Center for Science in the Public Interest is interested in me and my family, a real Kansas farm family.
Some of Food Day's founding principles downplay the importance of modern agriculture and criticize the way of life of many food producers who don’t fit the “local” or “niche” mold. For example, two of Food Day's goals include “limiting big agribusiness” and “reforming factory farms” – terms that conjure up negative and misleading stereotypes about today’s agriculture industry. Here's the truth: 99 percent of American farms are owned by individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. And in 2011, there are only 210,000 of us left.
By definition, I suppose our methods of food production here on the County Line aren't "local." We sell our grain to the local elevator, which sells it to bigger elevators for export, to flour mills in the region or to feedlots for feed grain. I'm not taking the wheat we raise and grinding it into flour myself. And, yes, we used fertilizer and herbicides on the crop. It's not "organic" by definition.
We sometimes sell half a beef to someone local. But it isn't organic or exclusively "grass-fed," two attributes that seem to be buzz words for "healthy" products these days.
I'm all for the producers who are making a living by selling organic foods or who have found a niche by selling locally. I love the Farmers' Market in the summertime, too. But it's not how we are going to feed our nation and the world.
I think that many of our most vocal critics would prefer that our farms still look like this. It's a photo from my husband's family from a hundred years ago or more. A similar photo was hung in my Grandpa Leonard's office. These images are part of both Randy and my history. We both come from families who have been farming for generations.
However, the same people who want us to farm with horses and mules still want to drive the latest cars. They spread the news about how unethical modern farming is by using the latest in phones and technology. I'm kind of guessing that they - like me - enjoy having grapes in the produce aisle all year long and an array of foods to fill the grocery cart.
I'm guessing they don't want to move back to middle America and take up farming themselves. Farmers and ranchers make up less than 2 percent of the population. If we go back to the horse and buggy days, it's going to take a bunch more of us to create the food and fiber necessary to feed and clothe America, much less have enough to share with hungry people around the world.
Modern food production relies on a mix of tradition and technology. And here's a news flash: Efficient cattlemen and women are a boon for the environment. Efficient grain farmers are a boon for the environment. Washington State University animal scientist Jude Capper says:
"In every part of the world, we're going to face the issues of feeding more people on less land with fewer resources."She cited estimates that, by 2050, worldwide population will increase by 50 percent and we'll need 70 percent more food to support the people.