Conventional or Organic…what do you put in your grocery cart??

I am a farmer and I am also an eater. You could almost say that I’m addicted to it…that is putting things in my stomach. I’m also a very avid cooking not-so-much wiz, that loves to try new things and really go out on a limb at times with my experimental foods. I guess you could say I’m a farmer foodie that is just trying to earn her wings in the cooking realm. Because of this I’m usually the one that heads to the grocery store to choose what is going to be put in the cart, in the fridge and eventually on the table. So as I walk through the grocery store I’m always confronted with many many choices! As are most people in the United States, who receive the cheapest and safest food supply in the world (thank you farmers). I see a lot of organic options and conventional options. So what do I buy and why?

Conventional on Left, Organic on Right.
Pretty close to the same, minus a bug hole in the top of the organic.

The organic produce and conventional usually look about the same. Truth be told sometimes the organic does look a bit on the “under the weather” side of things. But that’s beside the point, I think that they both taste good, both have the same nutrients, and in the end both have the same result. So when I go to pick up my produce, here is why I’m more likely to pick-up the conventional…

  • I like to support conventional agriculture. I truly believe that it is still our future and we can’t feed the world without that technology.
  • I myself am a conventional farmer, so I understand how careful we have to be in the US to provide safe food. We don’t just spray to spray, we do it carefully and timely to keep us all safe.
  • The nutrients are not any different, I can still be a healthy person while eating produce that had pesticides sprayed on them.
  • Many organic sprays are not healthy either, and they have to spray more often because they are not as effective.
  • Pricing, conventional is usually much cheaper to buy.

Now I would write here the reasons that I would buy organic, but honestly I can’t say that I buy these products. I think that it’s for a lot of the reasons above and I feel very passionately about them. Plus I can honestly say that I’m very frustrated about the organic movement and what they have done to the reputation of farmers across the US. I come from a farm where all you neighbors are there to help, my agriculture involves lending a hand and some advice to make others also succeed. I come from an agricultural community where literally everyone knows your name and although many of our farms are “Incorporated” we are all still family run farms. With the onset of organic it seems like they are trying to take that away. They make my farm look like we don’t care about the land, like we just go out and spray without any regard to what is going on in the soil, in the air, or around our property. I’ll tell you one thing, we couldn’t care more for the land, because if we didn’t, we would be out of work forever, and this legacy that I’m a part of, I am working hard every day to make sure that it’s there for my children. Organic has hit the scene and they are becoming successful on the back s of farmers who have been here for a long time tending the land. They bad-mouth and accuse and send out false information that just quite frankly isn’t true. I hope that we can find a place someday where we can eat what we want, conventional or organic, and be happy supporting two successful industries!


This is what people think of when they thing “Corporate Farms”…


This is what our “Corporate” Farm looks like, It’s all about family and taking care of the land.

I googled “Organic vs. Conventional” today and came up with a mayo-clinic website. It had a chart of the differences between conventional farming and organic. I would like to point out a few examples of why this debate seems very mis-educated. They say that conventional farmers apply chemicals to promote plant growth. Organic farmers apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants. These statements are true, however they are not complete! As a conventional farmer we also apply manure and compost to our plants to help with plant growth and health. It also helps the soil. Basically through the whole list we conventional farmers look like all we do is pour on the chemicals, when in reality I can truly say that we have done all the of things on the organic side. We do them all year long, the difference is that we can’t produce at the level that we need to, to feed all the people in the world, by not taking advantage of the advances in technology that the agricultural community has worked so hard to make available.

I hope that when you go the store you can choose what you want to eat. That you can look and appreciate that we have so many choices that are safe and economical for our families! Thank a farmer either organic or conventional because we are both doing the best we can for you, for the land and for our families!

In my First Year of Farming…

I have been back farming for 6 years now; but at the beginning I think my dad was very hestitant to give me a job.  Not because he didn’t want me to take over the farm someday or thought I couldn’t do it, but because a mix of me being a girl, and also me having been gone for the last 4 years at college.  People can change a lot when they are away, he wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just coming back because I thought it would be easy and something that I could do until I found a “real job”.  So while I was trying to assure him that this was something I truly felt was my passion in life, he came up with a plan.  I was going to be an intern for 2 years.  I would follow him around, do everything he did and see all sides of the business.  Then after 2 years, if it wasn’t working, or either of us thought this wasn’t going to be the best we could split ways no questions asked.  Well it’s been 6 years now and neither of us has looked back.  So after the 1st full year, I wrote a poem for my dad about all the things that I broke during that year.

In my first year, well it’s been quite the wild ride
I’ve learned a lot, and broken a lot
I’m lucky no one died

It began one Monday
Hitch pin, jack stand, and trailer tire
Next a cell phone, and door handle
Thank goodness there was no fire

Mom says, “Don’t worry just take it in stride”
I’m afraid it’s only the beginning to her I confide
If we only knew then what the farm was in for
I probably would have shown ME the door

Gears, boom saddle, and flange all go bizerk
But dad’s still laughing as I just create more work.
“Just try to take it easy” he repeats to me again
It’s a good thing you break things slower than we fix them

Three cell phones and a Nextel clip later
Out goes the starter on grey
I start to worry
He won’t keep me one more day

But as I get into my port-o-potty
And it rolls away
He thinks just for entertainment
I have to let her stay

Plus I’m much too strong to let go
For heaven’s sake I bent the lever on a PTO
Then there are the belts
And we have never gotten along

Flail and Filbert dump cart
I guess that list isn’t too long
Hair dunked in oil, eye socket to a lever
A head bump to the spray booms
Just to make it all the better

Another injury to the noggin from a Filbert tree
What are the odds of that dang branch coming down on me?!
The spreader’s drive line goes out with a punch.
It’s 8am and I’m ready for lunch!

The disc claims yet another cell to the trees.
A beep beep to dad & mom, help me please!
But Fuses, Cam locks, and Nozzles have become easy fixes
Although hopefully I don’t have 3 legged kids from all the        chemical mixes

As the intern in year two
I hope my mistakes go down a few.
For one trying to outrun a hail storm
In a pruning tower, proves bad form

It hasn’t been all mishaps and mistakes this year
Thanks to golf and Marion Ag we also had a lot of beer!
Obviously it’s hard to soar like an eagle
And farming hasn’t exactly proved me very regal

So dad I hope you keep flying with this turkey
And don’t forget we make dang good goose jerky!
It’s been such a great year I truly can’t complain
I’m just hoping the smile on dad’s face means he feels the same

 

Flying with Turkeys….

I remember back in High School we were sitting in ag class watching a movie about farmer “Gotta Go” Joe.  It was a safety video about how this farmer was always on the go and always going too fast.  I think he even got his arm cut off at one point, although it was a cartoon so not nearly as gross as that sounds.  Sometimes I think back to that video and realize that for as much as we made fun of a laughed at Gotta Go Joe, I know that many days I become that farmer.  I’m a very clumsy person by nature so when I speed up those clumsy legs and arms, usually it just ends with my dad looking at me and laughing.

On our operation I’m in charge of the spraying.  And if you’ve never been a sprayer operator you may not realize the angst that comes along with trying to find that perfect condition of day to get your chemicals on.  There are chemicals that have to be sprayed in the rain, sprayed right before a rain, 1 hr before a rain, need hours to dry before a rain, right before only a quarter-inch of rain…the list goes on!  And I never realized before having this responsibility how frustrating it could be to find that perfect condition.

So I’m outside looking up at the sky, I’m back inside looking at the Doppler radar looking for clouds, back outside, calling the neighbors across the prairie…I’m driving myself crazy with situations in my head of what to do.  Finally the decision is made, I need one hour to get the spray on, one hour of dry time, and the clouds are looking like they will dump a small quarter or so inch of rain in just a few short hours…it’s GO TIME!  But because of this I have to hit Gotta Go Joe speed in order to hit this window…I’m off!!

First thing is bring the sprayer around, I trip on the steps scraping my knee.  Brush off and keep going, I tell myself.  While the computer warms up for my GPS; I’m outside again, jumping onto the truck to mix the chemical at warp speed.  The gallons are climbing, I’m stressing, the clouds are encroaching.  The tank is mixed and still in fast time, I jump off the truck, hit the large fill hose and twist my ankle.  AHHH…shake it off, I only have a few precious minutes!  I make it out to the field in record time, flush the booms to get the chemical to the nozzles.  I have to jump down again, forgetting my recently twisted ankle and wince in pain, could have done that a little more gingerly, but I’m still behind, the clouds are still coming!  Then for the final straw as I’m getting back up from unplugging a few nozzles the pocket of my jeans reaches out and grabs the latch for the door, I hear a RRRRRIIIIPPPPPPP and feel cold seat on my bare bum, I have just ripped my pants completely open.

So I spray out the tank bare  bummed.  I look around as I drive into the home place…no one is there to see me limping into my house, holding my pants closed in the rear laughing hysterically at what I must look like, while the rain starts to come out of the sky, 45 minutes early.  In the end I learned a good lesson…even if you only have a small perfect window, slow down so you don’t kill yourself in the process of getting things done!  And no matter how “perfect” the window, the rain still comes when it wants!!!  Gotta Go Joe, with a new pair of pants and ice on her ankle is ready for another “perfect” spraying day!  And as my grandpa would say, “It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you’re flying with turkeys!”