Posts Tagged ‘local food’

Farming Tuesday: Do Farmers Wear Business Suits?

Yes, farmers wear business suits...but not all the time. All of these people are farmers and friends of mine.

I recently read a blog entry about about local food.  The author was breaking down the energy it takes to get food from the farm to the dinner table, and debunking some common beliefs about local food.  Read it here. A short and very interesting read.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love local food!  I love the farmer’s market!  I love CSAs (Community Supported Ag)!  Locally grown produce and meat provide an excellent opportunity for those who don’t have a connection to food production.  And they provide my family with fresh food when it’s in season.  But… (you knew there was going to be a but) that doesn’t mean that modern/industrial farming is the “bad guy.”  There is a place and a need in this world for all forms of agriculture.

Anyway… there was a person on this blog that commented that small local farmers wear blue jeans and worry about their crops, unlike “industrial” farmers in the Midwest who wear suits and worry about their balance sheet.  Ok, I know many of you who read this blog are in the Midwest.  And most of you have met a farmer.  Was he or she wearing a suit??  Probably not.

So many terms get thrown around when it comes to food production.  What do they even mean?  I’m a farmer in the heartland of America, just 50 miles from Cedar Rapids, the “Food Capital of the World” and I’m not really even sure….

My crops and livestock are sold, for the most part, to food processing companies.  Does that make me an “industrial” farmer?  My hogs are kept indoors.  Does that make me a “factory?”  I use herbicides and have a professional accountant do my taxes.  Does that mean I’m “corporate?”

All of the labor and management on my farm is done by family.  Does that make me a “family” farmer?  I sell beef directly to local customers.  Does that make me a “local” farm?  We use cover crops, no-till, and crop rotation.  Does that mean we’re “sustainable?”

I have been known to do cattle chores and get covered in manure (although my husband is the champion at getting dirty, he can look at dirt and it will stick to him).  Then the next day I will be dressed in a business suit to attend a Farm Bureau gathering.  I’m so confused!  Am I supposed to do only one of these activities?

Then there are the days that there isn’t enough time to transition from one role to the other and you end up walking into the bank with your filthy, holey jeans on.  Or you extend your dirty greasy hand to family from the city who decided to stop by for a visit.

Then there’s the other way around.  Such as when you’re on your way to church and spot 40 head of feeder calves plowing through the newly planted corn field.  There isn’t enough time to go home and change into your chore clothes.  Or, you go straight to the field after prenatal classes (because you know if you miss one your baby is gonna come out with three legs and hairy ears) because the weather is perfect for the first time in weeks for soybean harvest.

Yes. All of the above situations really happened to me.

I’m not rare.  This is how agriculture in the Midwest is.  The people you see on the cover of the Farm Bureau Spokesman in their business suits are the same people you will meet on the road with their tractors and manure spreaders.  The same people you will see in the bleachers at their kid’s tee ball game.

People who think that “industrial” farming is a horrible, evil, greedy, destructive way of life  are the reason I blog.  The way they see modern farming just isn’t so.

So, even though there are times my family looks like this....

We are much more comfortable like this....

or this... (yep, a lot of these are old pictures)

"Even this is better than wearing a dress." says Hazel

And this, well, this is typically how Justin looks when he gets home. There's just something about a guy who is willing to get dirty and get the work done. 😉

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Consumers a.k.a. Customers a.k.a. YOU!

If you eat, then you are a customer of mine.  And you know what they say… “The Customer is Always Right!”

My own family eats the beef we raise and the grain we sell.  We are consumers too.  I am always keeping my ear to the ground when it comes to consumer issues, especially safety, health, and welfare concerns.  It is my goal to address some of these specific issues in future blog postings.

We have a lot of options when it comes to who we sell our livestock and grain to, but primarily:

Our beef cattle go to Tyson. http://www.tyson.com/Consumer/Products/Beef/Default.aspx

Our hogs go to Hormel. (and yes, I know this is a picture of chicken….but I had a heck of a time being able to get a Hormel image!!)

http://www.hormel.com/protein/MeatMadeGreat/Pork.aspx

Our corn goes to ADM and local ethanol plants.

http://www.adm.com/en-US/products/Pages/default.aspx

And our beans are raised specifically for Cargill’s Vistive low-lin soybean oil.

http://www.vistive.com/

We also often sell some of our feedlot cattle to local families who are looking to buy beef.  When we do this, we deliver the cattle to the local meat lockers for them.  We love to be able to sell our beef directly to local people, and are always looking for new customers!

Please feel free to ask me anything about our farm.  If there is something you’d like to see me address, I’ll do my best to put some info out there, and tell you how we handle it in our operation.  I won’t be satisfied until you are, I care deeply about the people who consume the product I produce, my livelihood depends on it!   In fact, please feel free to visit us!  Although I am purposely leaving details out of this public blog, I am completely open to showing my farm to anyone with an honest interest in learning about what we do!!  Just contact me.

The Farm

Our farm has cows, pigs, corn, soybeans, and hay.

First, we have a herd of cows.  Every spring the cows give birth to calves.  Then in the winter we wean the calves from the cows and put them in a feedlot for 10 months before they are sold for meat.   Justin and I own approximately 50 cows.

In addition to the calves we raise, we own approximately 400 more cattle, called feeder cattle.  They vary in age and gender, and are grouped and fed according to their age and sex.  We buy them shortly after they are weaned and feed them in a feedlot until they are about 1 1/2 years old, when they are sold for meat.

We also own half of a modern hog farm site, where 2400 hogs reside.  The other half is owned by Justin’s brother and his wife.  We take care of the hogs on a twice daily basis.  The pigs come to us when they are about 2 weeks old and weigh only about 10 lbs each  They stay in the barn and are ready for slaughter in about 6 months.

Justin and I farm about 700 acres of crops.  We grow corn, beans, hay, oats, and rye.  Almost 95% of our crops are planted in ground that is never tilled (called no-till) to conserve the soil.

Although we own and manage our crop ground seperately, we do share labor and equipment with Justin’s dad and brother.  We are a modern family farm.  We do almost all of the work and management ourselves, with only occasional part-time help.

This lifestyle is the absolute best one for us.  I cannot imagine raising my family anywhere else.  We are always busy, and sometimes the work isn’t fun, but the rewards of farming far exceed the drawbacks.  Our kids have a strong work-ethic, and we get to make an honest living from the land, we get to be our own boss,  and that is just to name a few of the benefits of being farmers!

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