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Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Strike is Over!

Both parties have been appeased! The strike is finally over!

No, no bus drivers or teachers here on the farm, just some disgruntled chickens. They wanted more daylight. I told them they’d have to take that up with a higher authority. But finally, after months of waiting, the workers are back.

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I think the trouble started when my early spring chicks began to molt in their first year of life. Most chickens molt during their second fall. Well, these ladies didn’t begin molting until after Thanksgiving. Which I told them was a bad decision, but do chickens ever listen?!?!

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At least they have now made a comeback. I’m not getting a lot of eggs at this point but I didn’t expect that in January anyway.

Now the biggest problem is collecting them from the coop before they freeze!

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Categories: Animals | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Organic vs GMOs- What Are They?

Have you ever entered the conversation a little late and had to bluff your way through a discussion like you knew what was going on?  Maybe you’ve heard the talk surrounding a news story but never learned the bases for it all.  And then sometimes you’re the person talking in acronyms and using insider phrases while others nod their heads.

I’d guess we all do some of both.

A few weeks ago I posted about Cheerios and their switch to becoming GMO-free.  To write this post I did some research on the General Mills website and read the comments of many people on both sides of the issue.  I also read some comments by people who didn’t seem to have a side in the issue because they really didn’t understand the issue at all.  That got me wondering. How many people are bluffing their way through this conversation? So if you missed the original news story, I’ll try to break it down for you.

GMOs vs Organics- What Are They? GMOs are Genetically Modified Organisms, which means their DNA, their genetic code, has been selected on purpose.  Many argue that farmers have been modifying plants since nomads stopped following animals herds and stayed in one place long enough to grow a crop.  Farmers could look for the best plants, plants that had characteristics they wanted in their crops, and choose that plant to gather seeds for the next season.  Interestingly enough, it wasn’t always just plants that grew the most food (although yeah, that one is popular!) but crops with strong stems or the ones that did best in the climate.  Back when crops were gathered by hand it was even a good thing if the grain fell easily from the stem– something we try to prevent today!  Its not a great leap to suggest that none of the seeds we have today have the DNA they had 7,000, or even 150 years ago.

Obviously, that’s not what all the GMO fuss is about.  Today scientists have the ability to map the genetic code of organisms from potatoes to people.  Using all kinds of technology– as well as vocabulary, that is way beyond my educational training (although I did try to explain it in this post) it is now possible to choose the bits of code you want and put it into a seed on purpose.  That is what a GMO is.

. GMOs vs Organics- What Are They?

Interestingly enough, being organic has almost nothing to do with being a GMO and here’s why.  Creating GMOs is a massive undertaking.  We’re talking time, money, facilities, brain power.  For that reason and many others there are only eight GMO products you can buy today– corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beet, canola, alfalfa, and papaya, with rice right around the corner. (If you’ve overheard some of the GMO debate you might have heard that China has banned GMOs, but they actually have GMO sweet peppers and tomatoes there.)  Meaning everything else is organic?

Well, no. Organic isn’t related to the DNA of the seed, but rather the way the seed is cared for as it grows into a mature plant.  Modern farming practices involve protecting plants from insects and weeds with products that are sprayed or applied to fields and crops.  Organic refers to the types of products used.  A common misconception about organic foods is that they are grown with no products at all, but unless you either grew it yourself or talked in detail with the farmer who did, this is probably a false assumption.

GMOs vs Organics- What Are They?

If you farm for a living you’re going to need a product to sell.  And no one wants to buy apples with worms, no matter how organic they are. The USDA (that’s United States Department of Agriculture) certifies food as organic.  You can go to their website to see the list of approved products organic farmers can use.  Some products are the same as non-organic farming, but require the farmer to receive training about how to apply the products.  It can also take several years to qualify as organic, since products used on the soil in previous years can count against the organic certification.

So generally speaking, pretty much any plant can be grown “organically,” while only a few plants are GMOs.

GMOs vs Organics- What Are They?

We grow GMO, non-organic beans on our farm, but we use farming practices like growing rye grass as a cover crop to enhance the soil and prevent weeds.

Since this is my blog and I get to write about what’s interesting to me, I’ll add that one goal of GMOs is to create plants that don’t need to be protected from insects because they have their own resistance in their genetic code.  Just an interesting side note! Well, there you have it– the highlights of GMOs and organic foods.  The food debate might well be one of the most important we have in this century.  And now you come to the table informed. 🙂

Categories: Food, Science | Tags: , , , | 10 Comments

American Farm Bureau annual meeting

Hello from San Antonio!! I’m sitting at the trade show the American Farm Bureau explaining to interested parties how our “Where does your pizza come from?” field trip. (Well, okay, I’m typing a blog post right now, but I’ve done tons of explaining the last 24 hours!)

The conference is been great so far! We arrived in good time on Saturday and got our booth all set up.

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We had a chance to eat at a Mexican restaurant, and walk a little along the Riverwalk before bedtime. Sunday morning we were up and at ’em for the start of the conference. Bob Stallman gave his opening address, and I was super excited to hear him mention data protection rights.

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Not the data protection is a particularly interesting subject, mid you, but this all came about directly because of Daddy! Daddy uses lots of Precision Planting equipment in the spring. These companies were recently sold, leading to some concerns that he brought to the attention of the state Farm Bureau organization. They thought the concerns were pretty important as well, so they brought it to the attention of the national organization. And yesterday the president of the American Farm Bureau brought it up as a main point in his speech. Way to go Daddy!

I hadn’t known to expect it, but Missouri was also given another honor during the speech, and the University of Missouri was recognized as the home of FAPRI and Dr. Womack. Dr. Womack is known as the number cruncher for the United States Senate Farm bill. He’s done a great job, and it’s kind of a big deal for all of us here in Missouri. 🙂

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We spent the rest of the day mostly at our booth–in between running around the rest of the conference snitching cinnamon rolls and popcorn. 😉

We met Bob Stallman this morning, and got our check from him! (And our certificate. But let’s focus on the important things!) I also met a woman from Monsanto who helped with the new commercials. More on that later! I’ve given a radio interview and our county president has been filmed for TV. We’ve met a ton of people gotten many new ideas.

Love our Farm Bureau vacations!

Categories: Science | 1 Comment

The one and only, Cheerios

Its only 8:00 AM and I’ve already fought two battles today.  The first I fought with extension cords, bales of straw, and more Carhartt than any person not employed by the company should decently wear at any one time.  The second I’m fighting with a laptop, cell phone, and Instagram account.  It is the battle of public opinion.

Some days you win.  Some days you loose.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

We buy the bulk “2 Box” kind from Sam’s Club.

Modern agriculture recently lost a battle with General Mills, the company behind the one and only, Cheerios.  On January 2nd the company announced we will be seeing new cereal boxes in our grocery story aisles stating that the original Cheerios are now GMO free. This frustrates me on several levels.

First because, as General Mills points out, there are no GMO oats.  The switch involves a small amount of corn starch used in the cooking process and the gram per serving of sugar.  Its a relatively small change on their part that will generate a massive amount of negative opinion on ours.  Definitely frustrating.

Secondly, General Mills themselves states over and over that GMOs are safe.  They link to factsaboutgmos.org, The World Health Organization, The European Food Safety Authority, and the USDA.  But they won’t stand behind this science they apparently believe in.

Third, this Q&A statement from Cheerios mentions “investments” in the new process– places to store the corn starch and sugar etc., and I can’ help but infer that General Mills didn’t do any of this out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather to make a profit.  This leads me to believe that I, as the consumer, will be paying for the “investment” each time I load up my cart at Sam’s Club.  Perhaps my family budget can afford this, but surely you will allow me to stretch my imagination and guess that others cannot.

And this is, perhaps, my greatest frustration.  This is such a first world problem.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

I let my kids pour honey on the original type. Its less sugar than Honey Nut and I used to feel good about letting them eat it.

Only people will full stomachs can be picky about what they put into them.

Mind you, I’m grateful I can be this choosy myself.  I want my kids to have good nutrition, safe food, even adventurous diets.  But what about the mom who just wants her kid to have enough to eat.  Or the mom who wants her kid to have anything to eat.  Because to me, that’s what GMOs are about.  Once they’ve been proven safe, and I’ve done my research and feel they are (Read here and here), GMOs are the ONLY route I can see that leads to full stomachs for a population of some 9 billion people.  Its safe.  Its affordable.  And its possible.  The technology of our past won’t get us there.

IMHO, the one and only Cheerios.

Brett will pick Cheerios over pancakes some days. Whose crazy kid does that?!

So will I keep buying Cheerios?  Dunno.  But I may look around at some different brands and see what my family will eat, because today I feel that General Mills isn’t supporting me and my farm.  They aren’t supporting ag’s efforts to feed the world.  And somehow I think that could have been profitable for them too.

We lost this battle.  The world can’t afford for us to loose the war.

Categories: Food, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

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