Tag Archives: food

A Taste of Summer

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I have always felt that food was a very emotional subject. There are individuals who get excited when you talk about organic versus conventional, GMOs and water rights. Farmers and ranchers are very passionate and proud of what they do. They should be! Their hard work and sacrifice makes it possible for us to have clothes on our backs and food in our bellies.

A Taste of Summer - California Strawberries 2

Strawberries fresh from California to our ranch in Missouri

However, food is also emotional in a very different way. Close your eyes and think of your grandma’s house, backyard barbecues, family gatherings and holidays. Can you smell the hot rolls grandma made for Sunday dinner? Can you hear the sizzle and smell the smoke rolling off the grill as your best friend challenges you to a game of horseshoes? The sight of the Thanksgiving turkey as you sit down with your loved ones and give thanks for the blessings you have received?  Maybe some of your favorite memories were made as you gathered with your friends and family to enjoy a meal.

Today, I was lucky enough to get a taste of summer: strawberries, fresh off the vines in California. A harbinger of the days to come. Their smell, their taste, takes me straight to the sunny days of June.

A Taste of Summer - Making Hay

View from the tractor while making hay for the cattle during the summer

For me, summer brings days out of my classroom at the local high school and days in the hay fields raking and hauling hay. It means fresh fruits and vegetables out of the garden my husband and I plant together. Enjoying burgers off the grill or ice cream on the porch. I get to spend precious moments swinging in my hammock with my young daughter. My son will spend his days learning the ins and outs of the ranch with his dad and his nights on the baseball field.

Summer is a busy, action packed time of the year on our ranch. It only took one bite of these berries to put me right in the middle of it.

 

National Security and the Farm Bill…Wake Up D.C.

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We are looking right down the barrel of an important junction in the history of our nation. I am sure that we all are disgusted with the bi-partisan arguing and inaction in Washington, D.C. I don’t care which side of the aisle you align yourself with, no one can be proud of what is going on, or more accurately, not going on in our nation’s capital. This summer the inaction seems to have gotten to a fever pitch, and I fear it will affect the very bedrock of our nation. That bedrock is agriculture and that means a farm bill needs to get done and needs to get done right now.

A strong agricultural system has always been the key to the success of the United States. Not only can we feed ourselves, but we can also provide food and fiber to a good portion of the world. I would challenge you to go through history and find an example of an enduring world power without a strong agricultural foundation. Food security is the first thing that must be established to ensure that a society will grow and flourish.

The United States has been a prime example of this. For many years we have known that our success lies with the success of our farmers and ranchers and their ability to not only survive but to also increase their productivity as our need for food and fiber increased. This dependence on a strong agricultural system is what led to the development of the farm bill and what has sustained the farm bill no matter which party was in control or what else was going on politically. It has long been understood that a farm bill needs to be a priority. A strong food and fiber production system was undeniably a matter of national security.

I think my friend Ben Boyd, a farmer from Georgia, summed it up best. Ben said, “If you like being dependent on foreign oil, you are going to love being dependent on foreign food.” Just think about how the price of crude oil fluctuates based on the whims of other nations who do not have our best interests in mind. Now think about how it would be if that was your food we were talking about. Maintaining and protecting our farmers and ranchers is of utmost importance.

Want an example of how important the farm bill is? Probably the most important piece in the farm bill is the support of crop insurance. Without subsidized crop insurance most farmers could not afford it. Without crop insurance many of my friends in western Kansas would now be out of business because of the sustained drought. Did they get rich because of this coverage? Absolutely not, but it did allow them to pay their bills and stay in business.

Yes, it allowed them to pay their bills, which also allowed Main Street in many small western Kansas towns to survive. We often worry about the outward migration from rural America; I promise you this would have been even worse in the past few years without crop insurance sustaining many of the farmers and the communities they live in. Crop insurance has become our food safety net.

Crop insurance has also become absolutely critical when we go to secure loans with which to operate. In a time of increased oversight and regulation on our lending partners, crop insurance allows bankers to feel more secure loaning the large amounts of capital it takes to operate a farm or ranch. Without crop insurance, many younger or newer farmers would not be able to obtain the loans they depend on. The next generation of ag producer needs to be encouraged, not discouraged, from picking up the torch and running with it.

Right now Congress is out on recess (seems kind of ironic because in school if we didn’t get our work done, we didn’t get recess), and it is a great time to contact your congressional delegation. Folks, we are all in this together, because if you aren’t producing the food, you are certainly eating it. We all need to reach out to our elected officials and let them know that a farm bill is something that needs to be done now and not later.

Maybe this stalemate is a sign of the times because most people have never had to worry about food or thought about the farmers and ranchers who produce it. It might be that it is a product of the “my way or no way” attitude that permeates our government. Whatever the reason, a farm bill must be crafted and passed. I would ask that you contact your congressional delegation and let them know that passing a farm bill is not a Republican agenda item or a Democratic agenda item; it is a matter of national security for each of us.

Don’t Believe Everything You Read

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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.