Posts Tagged With: agriculture

Farmer Perspectives: Farmers Love Technology

By Kim Baldwin, CommonGround farmer volunteer

Originally a native of New Mexico, Kim is a teacher and has worked as a television news professional for PBS and NBC affiliates. Kim moved to Kansas to marry her husband, Adam, in 2010. With their two children, the family raises wheat, corn, popcorn, soybeans, grain sorghum and cattle. 

In the last 30 years, a lot has changed about farming. Agriculture is advancing with the help of technology — just like many industries. Our farm’s philosophy is growth through innovation. In many cases, that means incorporating technology. We research, evaluate, test and calculate the return on investment on each new venture we try.

 

Targeted tech

We’re currently testing aerial crop scouting on our fields using drones (or unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs). Drones can fly above our fields and use different imaging techniques to tell us how the crop is growing or if there are weed or disease problems in a field. It’s an interesting advancement, but we still need a crop consultant to help us. Our consultant literally walks through each field during the growing season to check progress up close.

In turn, this information helps us accurately select and apply herbicides, fungicides or pesticides as needed. We don’t like to apply these products without good reason. Every additional expense means there’s less profit at the end of harvest.

We have specialized equipment to spray products on our own, and we’ve incorporated some interesting technology here too. We have sections of nozzles that turn on and off as the machine runs to better target our chemical applications. Again, the goal is to spray just what’s needed to improve yields and crop quality.

 

Letter of the law

To drive the spray rig, the operator must be licensed, which involves additional education. I worked in New Mexico’s Department of Agriculture and have a great appreciation for the detailed regulations farmers must learn, understand and follow.

There are regulations in place to ensure the safety of the applicator and bystanders as well. My family, including my two young children, live next to our fields. I’m confident their father and grandfather following label recommendations and government regulations for our crops, consumers and our children’s safety.

The herbicides and pesticides themselves are part of the technology we use on the farm. Before selecting a product, we research each one. We ask questions from our suppliers, carefully read the product label and then follow directions.

I’ll admit I was surprised by how little chemical is typically used on a field. A large part of the mix is water. Depending on the product, the amount of herbicide used is less than a large soda per acre — the rest is water to disperse the chemical.

 

Personal connections

In fact, I owe my marriage, in part, to the benefits of computers connecting people. My husband and I met online. I was teaching in southwest Missouri when a friend dared me to join an online dating service. Moving to Kansas wasn’t part of my “plan,” but technology allowed me to connect with someone outside of my geographic boundaries.

In a similar way, I hope to forge friendships with people seeking to learn more about agriculture. We can use this platform to connect, answer questions and listen to each other. I’d love to hear your questions about our farm’s use of technology!

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Farmer Perspectives: Offline and On to the Farm

By Lesley Schmidt, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Lesley contributes to her fifth-generation family farm while working full-time at an engineering firm. On the farm, she helps produce alfalfa, oats, sorghum, soybeans and wheat. She also helps manage the cow/calf operation. In the city, she is a civil computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) technician, cartographer and permit writer. During track and field season, Lesley officiates at schools, including colleges, across Kansas.

 If you have a social media account, you have probably seen some heated discussions about food. In real life, I’ve had a lot of great conversations about food, farming and agriculture. In fact, I have the opportunity to talk about my farm nearly every day at work.

My co-workers know about my family farm, and I often get questions about agriculture. I’m happy to talk about what I do on my family farm, and I have even acted as a liaison to help people interested in learning more to go visit a real farm themselves.

Face-to-face conversations are the best way to see each other as people. Rarely do these interactions end with the vitriol I’ve seen online. Frankly, that’s not how most people I know treat others. My non-ag friends are passionate about their jobs, their families and even the food they eat. The enthusiasm is wonderful, and it’s a great start to learning more.

If you feel the same way, let’s all get offline and on the farm, together!

 

Six Degrees to a Farmer

Chances are, you are less than six phone calls away from the chance to meet a real farmer. If you’re interested, ask your friends. I have helped friends learn about apples by visiting an apple orchard. They had a great time, including a hay-rack ride and drinking fresh apple cider.

Next time you are at the Farmers Market, introduce yourself to the farmer, let them know you have purchased before and enjoyed their produce, offer a compliment and share how you prepared the dish. We love to hear how others have enjoyed our produce and we love to share our ag story.

I’ve helped connect real people to real farmers for real discussions about agriculture. I’ve even helped a state legislator visit a farm to learn more about a bill up for discussion in the Kansas House of Representatives.

 

FAQs

My friends and co-workers have asked a lot of questions — and sometimes I don’t know the answer. It’s true. Farmers aren’t experts in all of agriculture. It’s a big industry that grows thousands of different crops, processes and packages them and delivers them to customers. That’s a lot of work!

The good news is interested consumers can easily find tours and experts. In fact, I’ve participated in those tours myself to learn more. I recently went on the annual Health & Wellness Coalition of Wichita Food Tour to learn more about how food is grown, distributed, prepared and consumed in the area. I enjoy learning about food in my community and all the different ways YOU can be involved. We visited a local produce farm, a community garden, a food rescue distribution locker, and a restaurant where the owner uses local produce in his recipes, whom also shared his experience working with farmers. It’s amazing to see how locally grown produce is making an impact in my community.

When a new grocery store opened nearby my office, I went to explore with my co-workers during our lunch break. This gave me the opportunity to bust some myths about hormone-free chicken. Added steroids and hormones aren’t allowed in poultry production in the United States. Any labeling you see touting “hormone-free” chicken is more likely a marketing gimmick since all chicken produced in America is up to this standard.

I’m not a dairy farmer either, but I’ve been able to answer questions about hormones and antibiotics in milk with the help of my dairy friends. Did you know an entire tanker of milk must be dumped on the ground if antibiotics are found in just one sample?

The point is, there are a lot of different aspects of agriculture to explore, and, as farmers, we are eager to share about our unique businesses. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask!

If you are interested in getting offline and away from unproductive arguments, just ask your friend or coworker to help you find a farmer.


Learn more:

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Farmers and Ranchers Join Shocker Fans for a Day at the Ballpark

Kansas farmers and ranchers greeted Shocker baseball fans with souvenir cups of lemonade and fan giveaways during the Wichita State vs. Southern Illinois baseball game on Sunday, Apr. 9, at Eck Stadium in Wichita. Fans had a great view of the action from the right field pavilion, where they were able to get their farming and food questions answered by the families who raise crops and livestock on their nearby farms.

Three lucky families — Brandi Rice, Sonia Payne and Elisa Valencia — won four-packs of tickets to the game through a contest on the CommonGround Kansas Facebook page.

Fans also enjoyed giveaways including pom poms and sunglasses. Volunteers Kim Baldwin, Janna Splitter and Katie Sawyer welcomed fans to the pavilion and answered questions about their farms.

The cups of lemonade weren’t just a welcome refreshment for a sunny spring day. They were also a great illustration of how much weed killer is applied to an acre of cropland. Tyler Field is about two acres, so if it was a field growing crops, farmers would only apply about two lemonades’ worth of weed killer to the area. The visual reference offers an enlightening comparison to understand how little weed killer is prescribed and mixed with water to be applied to a large area.

CommonGround is a national volunteer-based organization that connects grocery shoppers with the farmers and ranchers who raise their food.

Grocery shoppers have more food choices — and questions — than ever before, yet few personally know a farmer or rancher they can feel comfortable having that dialogue with. Sourcing credible information on food production can be especially challenging with the abundance of conflicting information online. CommonGround offers an opportunity to go straight to the source.

CommonGround aims to help grocery shoppers make more fearless food choices by building connections with farmers and ranchers, providing opportunities to ask questions and offering links to resources rooted in science.

Learn more at findourcommonground.com.

Love for the land, our families, our friends and our food – that’s what fuels our CommonGround community. CommonGround is funded by America’s corn and soybean farmers. Learn more at findourcommonground.com.

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Conversation Flows at “Dinner on the Farm”

dinner on the farm

by Laura Handke, CommonGround Kansas volunteer

Handke

Laura and Chris Handke, with daughter Audrey Ann, are proud to represent the fourth generation on Chris’ family farm near Atchison, KS.

Grain finished beef brisket, fresh-from-the-garden green beans, butter yourself (and lots of it, please) homegrown sweet corn and homemade dinner rolls preceded a perfectly crusted, vanilla ice cream topped peach cobbler—is your mouth watering yet—all from the farm and all the main topic of conversation at the Dinner on the Farm evening hosted by Bismarck Gardens, Lawrence, KS, on July 9.  It was a made-to-order event: a nice breeze beat the heat, the location was picture perfect and great conversation flowed throughout the event. It was a perfect evening!

Both the owners and employees who make Bismarck Gardens so successful, in cooperation with Kansas Corn, made sure that the evening was all about mingling, food, fun and lots of conversation! Farm owner Patrick Ross addressed the group right after the meal to talk about the farm, the dinner we had all just enjoyed and to thank everyone for coming and sharing in the evening.

I sat by a fun-loving couple from Shawnee Mission: she manages the produce department at HyVee and he is an Uber driver; a lively pair of BFFs in their eighties; and a young entrepreneurial couple from Arkansas who moved to Lawrence to grow their business of helping foreign students acclimate to a new environment, both academically and socially.  I couldn’t have hand-picked better conversations! We talked about the advantages of grain fed beef, nutrition, sweet corn versus field corn and how field corn is used, and the incredible feats agriculture technology has achieved in the past decade. We shared childhood stories of growing up on the farm — we all had farm roots, but most had long-since pursued lives in town.

As events go, I would have to say that this has been my favorite to participate in as a CommonGround volunteer. I was excited to have been invited to participate and even more excited by the thought of similar events in the future! These are the events that spark those touchy conversations that ignite interest, but with a farmer on hand to meet that interest with correct, factual and current resources and information. Way to go, Bismarck Farms and Kansas Corn, you hit the nail on the head with this event!

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Volunteers answer food questions at KC women’s expo

Just for Her Expo

Volunteers LaVell Winsor and Laura Handke chat with attendees at the Just for Her women’s expo.

One booth stood out amid a sea of exhibitors offering beauty, fashion, home goods and health products at the Just for Her expo in Overland Park, Kan., May 30-June 1. With welcoming smiles and a variety of conversation-starting materials, the farm women of CommonGround Kansas offered a unique opportunity for attendees to ask questions about farming and food.

The annual Just for Her expo is a regional event attracting a diverse population of women. Volunteers LaVell, Laura, Kim, Katie, Lana and Sarah were on hand throughout the weekend to chat with attendees. They answered a variety of questions and conversed with consumers on hot topics such as organic foods, GMO crops, antibiotic use in meat production and family farms.

Do you have questions about how your food is raised? CommonGround volunteers farm in 16 states across the nation, raising fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock. They love sharing how they take care every day to produce safe food for consumers around the globe.

 

 

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CommonGround volunteers connect with nutrition professionals

CommonGround Kansas volunteers LaVell Winsor and Laura Handke discussed common concerns about GMOs and helped provide clarity to make sense of confusing information.

CommonGround Kansas volunteers LaVell Winsor and Laura Handke discussed common concerns about GMOs and helped provide clarity to make sense of confusing information.

CommonGround volunteers traveled to Manhattan, Kan., in late April to discuss hot topics about food and farming with dietitians and nutrition professionals during the annual meetings of the Kansas Nutrition Council and Kansas Dietetics Association.

During a presentation to Kansas Nutrition Council members Thursday, April 24, volunteers Laura Handke and LaVell Winsor discussed common fears expressed regarding genetically modified organisms and shared facts to help reduce the confusion and help consumers feel more confident in their food choices. About 30 nutrition professionals attended the short breakout session titled “GMOs: To Fear? Or Not?”.

Laura and LaVell shared how selective breeding has been used for 2,000 years and how today’s technology speeds up the process and focuses exactly on the traits desired, instead of a lottery system where the outcome is still left to chance. GMOs more highly regulated than any other methods to introduce traits into crops today, and are subject to rigorous testing from the USDA, FDA and EPA before being cleared for the market. Part of that testing must prove that the GMO food is nutritionally equal to its non-GMO counterpart, or it will not be approved.

Several attendees expressed that they were surprised to learn that only eight GMO crops are available today — corn, soybeans, alfalfa, canola, cotton, sugar beets, squash and papaya — and that there are currently no foods available from GMO animals. Other attendees noted that they were pleased to see an extensive list of credible health and medical associations have studied and deemed GMO foods safe — including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association.

The presentation helped clear up confusing information and better equipped attendees to explain the technology and what it means for our food supply.

On Friday, April 25, volunteers Lana Barkman and Karra James visited with members of the Kansas Dietetics Association during their annual meeting and trade show. Lana and Karra spoke one-on-one with attendees, answering questions on topics such as antibiotics in meat, organic production methods and biotechnology.

Have a question about how your food is grown? Ask a farmer!

 

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Go Blog Social starts great conversations about food and farming

Go Blog Social

Katie Dosen of To Live for Style chats with Kansas volunteers Laura Handke and LaVell Winsor and CommonGround Missouri coordinator Luella Fischer.

What a weekend! The ladies of CommonGround Kansas and Missouri spent a beautiful, sunny Saturday filled with great conversation with truly lovely people in downtown Kansas City during Go Blog Social. We were so happy that we could help answer attendees’ questions about how we raise crops and livestock on our farms. We were especially excited about the genuine interest that so many of you expressed. The fact that you feel a personal investment in learning how your food is grown is really encouraging! We love to share our stories and convey what it means to be a farmer!

We wanted to give a little blog love to just a few of the fine folks who took time to chat with us! We know missed some! If you stopped by to chat with us and we didn’t get a chance to swap contact info, please shoot us an email at commongroundkansas@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to add your link here.

A special thank you to CommonGround Missouri, who partnered with our CommonGround Kansas ladies for this special event!

 

 

 

 

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We’re ready to get social!

We're excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

We’re excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

Go Blog Social may already be underway in KC today, but we’re getting really excited to meet bloggers and social media mavens at this special event in downtown Kansas City tomorrow, Apr. 5. We’re even more excited that we get to share our sponsorship with our next-door neighbors, CommonGround Missouri, to help answer questions about food and farming.

As farmers and moms, we understand how important it is to have confidence in where your food comes from. That’s why we’re excited to have conversations with some wonderful folks tomorrow about their most pressing questions about their food.

We love sharing the story of our farms and ranches. Most importantly, we are honored to be a part of the fact-finding mission that every consumer should embark upon to learn about how their food is raised. It’s like our teachers told us growing up, doing your homework (and doing your own homework) is important. We couldn’t agree more!

When we find out the real stories behind our food, we can make more informed decisions about what we feed our families.

Attending Go Blog Social? Stop by our booth and say hello! More importantly, bring your questions. Our farm moms will gladly answer them!

 

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Why Food Day “Facts” Aren’t So Factual

Oct. 24 is Food Day, which celebrates healthy, affordable and sustainably produced food. It sounds like a pretty great cause to get behind, right?

As farmers and moms, we support the movement to get Americans to eat healthier and move more. But what really concerns us is pushing out loads of misinformation behind what seems to be fairly noble cause.

Do we agree we should spend less time in the drive-through and more time as a family at the dinner table? Absolutely!

Do we agree that we should strive to eat more balanced diets with fruits and vegetables instead of cartons of greasy fried foods, gooey pastas and sugary desserts? You bet!

But here’s where we simply need to set the record straight:

Food Day urges folks to cut back on “fatty, factory-farmed meats.”

What exactly is a factory farm, anyway? Take a good look around at the 2.2 million U.S. farms. We are hard-working families, not factories. We devote our lives to giving our animals the best care possible, often putting their needs above our own. In any weather and at any time of day, we’re there to ensure our farm animals have the food, water, shelter, space and medical care they need.

We also want our critics to know that cattle spend the majority of their lives in pastures eating grass. When mature, cattle are sold or moved to feedlots where they typically spend 4-6 months. Feedlots allow ranchers to raise beef more efficiently with fewer natural resources like land, feed and water. Feedlot cattle live in fenced areas that give them plenty of food, fresh water and room to move around. Veterinarians, nutritionists and cattlemen work together to look after each animal every day.

And labeling all meats as fatty? Well, that’s just not accurate. In fact, there are 29 cuts of lean beef and six cuts of lean pork that meet the USDA’s guidelines for lean, heart-healthy meats with less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams of saturated fat and 95 milligrams of cholesterol per serving. The trend of avoiding meat because it’s generally “unhealthy” is simply unfounded. Why can’t we all just adopt the attitude of “everything in moderation,” park a little farther from the store and talk a walk more often?

Food Day advocates say “a meat-heavy diet takes a terrible toll on the environment.”

Farmers are the original environmentalists. For generations, we have cared for the land so we can pass it on to our children and grandchildren. We care about what goes into the soil and the air, and we work tirelessly to do more with less inputs and land every day.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, livestock production accounts for 3.12% of total emissions, far from the claim that cows are worse than cars. In addition, modern farming continues to implement sustainable practices that significantly reduce the amount of fuel and chemicals required for food production. There’s an old saying that “You can’t make any more land.” That’s why we work hard to protect what we have.

Food Day activists “are united by a vision of food that is healthy, affordable, and produced with care for the environment, farm animals, and the people who grow, harvest, and serve it.”

Hey, wait! That sounds a lot like our vision as farmers and ranchers. Like any successful professionals, we want to do our jobs better. We are constantly finding new ways to grow safe, affordable food on less land and with fewer resources. If we didn’t care for our animals and our land, we couldn’t stay in business. And if we can’t stay in the business of growing food and fiber for a booming world population, it won’t be long before we’ll have some very serious issues on a global scale.

We are farmers. We are moms. We commit our lives to producing safe, healthy food — the same food we feed our families. To infer that hard-working American farmers and ranchers aren’t producing food with care? Well, we invite you to look again. That’s what we do, day in and day out.

Have a question about your food? Ask us! We’re always happy to share openly about how we grow crops and raise livestock on our Kansas farms. We’ll never tell you what to eat, we’ll just answer your questions so you can make the most informed choices for your family.

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Kids’ Reading List: Corn

Corn on the cob is one of my absolute, favorite foods.  When I had braces, my mom would cut the corn off the cob, but it just wasn’t the same.  I couldn’t wait until the next summer, when my braces came off, to taste the sweet kernels right off the cob.  The summertime staple has an impact on our lives beyond the supper table.  Learn more about the impression of corn on our daily lives from the authors of Corn,  Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey

Corn

A part of the Awesome Agriculture series, Corn explores the important commodity crop from A-to-Z for kids ages five to eight.  AGRI, the tractor, shares interesting facts at the turn of every page.  In addition to photos that illustrate the multi-faceted agricultural industry, each book ends with an activities section for continued learning and fun.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.
Check out the past selections in the reading list:

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