Tag Archives: corn

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

While perusing the Internet the other day, I came across a great quote from Abraham Lincoln – “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.” Of course, the irony is that there were obviously no computers – and furthermore no Internet – in Abe’s day, but it made a great point. With the advent of the Internet, we (as a society) have gotten lazy and careless about what we post and what we believe. The same day, a friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook that claimed Monsanto refuses to serve GM (genetically modified) foods in their own company cafeterias. There was nothing to reveal the source of this information. There was no evidence or proof to back up the claim. And yet, there was a feeding frenzy in the way people ate this up and forwarded it on as fact.

Alex FBlog photo

I took the time to do some of my own research on this subject and confirmed that it is, indeed, false (metabunk.org, monsantoblog.com). It all stemmed from a story about ONE particular Monsanto location (out of hundreds), and the claim was made by Sutcliffe Catering Group, NOT Monsanto employees. Then Greenpeace (an organization with an anti-GMO agenda) jumped on board and ran with the story to the point that every time it was told, more exaggerations were added to the story until the final product is a simple photo of a cafeteria brimming with tasty looking foods and one line about how Monsanto won’t even serve its own GM foods in its own cafeterias. Without fail, people seemed to pass this false image on with the click of a button, believing it to be true.  

People have always feared new technologies and things they do not understand. That’s nothing new. Isaac Asimov capitalized upon this to sell millions of books about robots conquering the human race. What’s new is the accessibility of the Internet to promote this fear mongering with the click of a button. People have a tendency to believe what they read without ever questioning it or researching its authenticity. I admit, I have fallen into this realm at times, usually forwarding a political post that is maybe a half truth. That’s the other thing to be aware of: it’s easy to make something look or sound bad when it is taken out of context. I am much more keenly aware now and scrutinize heavily whatever I may choose to pass on. I call out friends when their posts are inaccurate. It truly is a challenge to sort out fact from fiction and definitely easier to just click that “forward” button. However, it is our responsibility to make sure what we are posting is accurate.

Aside from checking with experts in the industry to confirm or deny the truthfulness of statements, make sure you check those posts against “fact-checking sites,” which do the research for you.  You’ll be surprised at how much you read that is “sort of true.” That is to say, maybe they got the headline right but most of the story is wrong. Check your friends’ posts and people who leave comments on stories. Don’t be afraid to call them out when they are wrong…just make sure you have the evidence to back it! Here are some fact-checking sites to help in your endeavor: Snopes, Fact Check, Truth or Fiction and About.com Urban Legends.

Why Biotech Works

By Jeff VanderWerff

Recently, I was reading a blog on an agriculture website written by a man who made the switch from GMO to non-GMO corn and soybeans. Among the things he talked about were the challenges he faces with weed and insect problems. Among them:

  • The herbicide mixes are complicated, toxic, and have to be applied very carefully as to not damage the crop.
  • He has had to go back to using highly toxic organophosphate insecticides to control pests such as nematodes and root worm.
  • On many of these acres, they are using mechanical cultivation for weed control, which is time-consuming and burns lots of fuel.
  • Conservation and “no-till” farming are far more difficult due to the weed issues.

Now, I use a different system. And no, I’m not looking to start a huge GMO versus non-GMO debate. I’m simply pointing out the pros and cons of both as I see them.

With our biotech cropping system we can:

  • Use herbicides which are far less toxic and less harmful to the environment (remember, Roundup is sold at Home Depot. No license required.)
  • Avoid using toxic insecticides on corn. My wife just had a baby, so trust me, I don’t like that stuff any more than you do.
  • Utilize conservation tillage, vertical tillage, and “no till.” We use far less fuel, cover more aces, and have fewer weed and erosion problems. This is all possible because we have a safe, economical herbicide like Roundup for weed control.

Now, I support all farms, farmers, and production systems. This blog post isn’t intended to be a hit piece on non-GMO crops, nor is it intended to be a commercial for biotech and Roundup; but facts are facts. As a farmer who grows, uses, and has to handle these products and work within a system, I need to understand how they all work. Many of you out there have differing opinions than I about these, and I respect that. But please, check into a few things and ask me open questions before you attack me, my way of life, and my production system.


Jeff VanderWerff is a 4th generation farmer from Sparta, Mich. and a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. Learn more about his family farm at www.youtube.com/agsalesman.

It’s Winter, Whatever Shall We Do?

What do you do in the winter? It’s January in Nebraska, we are between harvesting crops in the fall and the cows haven’t started having their calves yet. So, I guess we’ll just sleep in and go to bed early. Oh well, I guess we can dream!

This time of year we spend a lot of time caring for our animals and preparing for Spring. Our cows are on the cornstalk fields, so we are checking on them and giving them extra minerals and vitamins. Their calves from last summer are growing fast and are on split into two groups with the bigger calves being fed with the feed wagon and we are carrying buckets of corn to the smaller ones. The pigs are nice and warm in their barn that is temperature controlled like your house; it’s the best place to be on a cold winter day. One of the continuous projects this time of year is to make sure that all of the water for the animals stays thawed out so they can drink. Right now, we don’t have much snow, but when the snow blows, someone will get to spend hours in the tractor and payloader working on clearing roads to get to all of the animals.

We also clean up and put away the harvest equipment and begin to get ready to plant our crops in the Spring. There is a lot of time spent in the machine shop as we work on any broken tractors and implements and repair and maintain anything that we will need in the field. There are many hours spent in the office working on keeping farm records, we finish up the paperwork from last year and plan our budgets for this year. The record keeping that has to be done on the farm seems like it never ends.

There are also a lot of things to learn this time of year! Farmers attend meetings and conferences to learn from experts on everything from ag trade to corn hybrid selection. Farmers are required to renew a lot of licenses from pesticide applicator training so we know the specific science of how to help our crops grow to BQA and PQA programs that help us become even better animal caretakers and review what we know. We just returned from the American Farm Bureau Convention in Hawaii, I spent some time at the South Dakota Women in Blue Jeans Conference, and we will go to our Nebraska Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference next weekend. That is just a small assortment of our meetings and we have had to turn down a few more because you can only do so much in January while still taking care of the farm.

What exactly do we do at these meetings? At the American Farm Bureau meeting, we competed in the Excellence in Ag contest, attended workshops about Ag Trade with Asia, Regulations, and many others, and went on some great Ag tours to learn about farming and ranching in Hawaii. While we were on tours, some of our good friends were working on setting policy that will guide our legislative projects during the next year. The discussions were about everything from the Farm Bill to the Water management! We can’t forget networking and getting new ideas from other farmers and ranchers.

When we go to the Young Farmers and Ranchers Conference next week, we get to visit with and learn from other farmers who are under 35 about how they have been successful. Quite often we get ideas that we can implement to improve our farm from these meetings.

Next time you wonder what a couple of farmers with college degrees do all winter when we are not in the field, I hope you think about us! We take care of the animals, prepare for the crop season, and seize a lot of opportunities to never stop learning!