What does it mean to be a Family Farm?

By: Paige McFarland, Intern

When looking up the definition of family farm on Google it shows this definition:

“A family farm is a farm owned and operated by a family. Like other family businesses and real estate, ownership often passes to the next generation by inheritance.”

I was raised on a family farm in Princeton, Kansas- about as small of a small town as small towns can get. (Say that three times fast.) My dad farms roughly 3,000 acres, with only one hired hand. During harvest and other busy times of the year he will usually have a family friend come out to help or he’ll enlist the help of his oh-so-loving children. Most people are not aware that 98 percent of the corn farms in the U.S. are family farms.

Farming is just like any other family business–farmers don’t farm strictly because they love it; they do it for YOU the consumer. And they do it to make money, not only to support their families, but also to continue farming in years to come. So how does one remain efficient while still profiting from their business? The answer the McFarland farm found about 10 years ago was genetically engineered crops, commonly known as GMO’s.

So, does that make us friend or foe? Our farm uses genetically engineered crops to maximize yield and promote better plant health. It also allows us to grow our crops more sustainably. We are part of the 95 percent of corn in Kansas that is enhanced by biotechnology.

Most of the corn our farmers grow is field corn that is harvested in the fall as a grain for cattle and to make ethanol. However, many corn farmers plant a little sweet corn to enjoy in the summer. During sweet corn season we would go out into the fields and hand pick the few rows that my dad had planted. We would take it home, shuck it, and usually eat it that night or share it with family friends. Farmers and ranchers feed their families the same products that they feed the consumers- so why would we provide anything that wasn’t safe and nutritious?

We invite many friends and family out to the farm to see what it’s all about. These are some of our favorite little summer helpers!

We invite many friends and family out to the farm to see what it’s all about. These are some of our favorite little summer helpers!

For more information on GMO’s click here.

 

Nascar by the Millions

A few short weeks ago, American Ethanol logged its 6 millionth mile racing on E15 fuel.  Nascar started using E15 fuel nearly three years ago as part of a ‘Green Initiative’ to increase horsepower and reduce emissions.

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 For all of our Nascar fans, we will be at the Nascar Race in Kansas City on Oct. 5, cheering on American Ethanol spokesman Austin Dillon! For more information on the American Ethanol partnership with Nascar read here.

 

Random thoughts from Corn Congress and Washington DC

I was in Washington DC last week for the National Corn Growers Corn Congress. I extended my stay to do some sightseeing with my grown son, so I ended up spending 6 days in DC, which is way too long. I’ve been smiling nonstop since I returned home, just happy to be here, somewhere normal! It’s not my first trip to DC, but I did accumulate a lot of random observations.

  • I spent most of my time with farmers from Kansas and many other states. Words that describe my farmer friends include the following: kind, intelligent, polite, funny, sophisticated, outspoken, focused, professional, friendly, well-rounded, honest, informed. Our farmers sat through long committee meetings, two delegate sessions and visited every member of our Congressional Delegation. All the while, they were also using their smart phones and tablets to keep track of the markets, check email, and kept in contact with their families at home who were running the farm in their absence.
    Roberts Visit 7-2014

    With Senator Roberts

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    With Congresswoman Jenkins

  • There were many farewell speeches at Corn Congress this year with NCGA Exec Rick Tolman retiring, as well as Nebraska Corn’s Don Hutchens, Monsanto’s Marsha Stanton and John Deere’s Don Borgman. Our own Jere White was honored at the March Corn Congress session for his retirement. New leaders will rise to take their places, but those are some big shoes to fill.
  • Speaking of leaders, I was so impressed with the members of the DuPont New Leaders Program offered through NCGA. Farm couples are encouraged to go through the program together. This cultivated two new leaders from Kansas: Tom and Sandy Tibbits of Minneapolis. The program’s final session was held around the Corn Congress event. We were happy to have them along on our Hill Visits and Tom was able to help Kansas Corn by serving as a delegate. Tom is already on the KCGA board and we have plans to use make use of Sandy’s skills as well as an advocate for agriculture.
  • Speaking of Hill Visits, many of the Congressional offices have offered Russell Stover candies to their visitors for years. With the new Mars candy factory in Topeka, many of our offices have candy bowls with Peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars as well! And Cheezits. Did you know all Cheezits are made in Kansas?
  • I serve on the Corn Farmers Coalition steering committee, an image program that aims to educate and inform Washington DC decision makers about corn farmers. This year’s campaign has just begun and I sawourfull page ad in The Hill newspaper, as well as ads online and intheMetro trains. This year’s ads have an innovation and technology theme because the focus groups we used when planning this year’s campaign were fascinated by the use of technology on our farms. I remember one focus group participant saying, “It’s kind of neat to think that those farmers are using the same iPad as me.” It is not always easy to overcome the stereotypes about farmers that many people have. On one hand, they are surprised to learn that 98 percent of all corn farms are family farms–many folks think that our farms are owned by big corporations. On the other hand, they think farmers look and work on the farms just like they did 50 years ago. When we talk to these people about GPS guidance and mapping, precision agriculture, they get really excited.

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    This Metro passenger was extremely interested in our CFC ad!

  • There is some corn planted in front of USDA. And the US Botanic Gardens is featuring a wheat display called Amber Waves of Grain.
  • I saw a lot of advertising in DC. I saw an excellent ad in a Metro train placed by Humane Watch. It explained that HSUS, the Humane Society of the United States, only gives 1 percent of its funding to local humane shelters and encourages people to donate to local humane society shelters instead.
  • On the Metro, we sat next to a woman holding a takeout bag from Chipotle. Over the years, I’ve discouraged my kids from eating at Chipotle for various reasons (primarily because it’s danged expensive!), but also because of how the corporate burrito company bashes farmers who grow the food. Sitting next to my son, who is a devout capitalist, I pointed to the bag in the woman’s lap and told him to read it. This quote is from Chipotle’s “Cultivating Thought” Author Series.
  • Saunders

    If no one must work, who will make the burritos?

    I’m all for love and peace, but just sitting around feeling love for one another might get a little boring after a while.  More importantly, Chipotle, if no one works, where will all that free food come from? Who will make the burritos? I’m for free speech and an open exchange of ideas, and I enjoyed reading the bag that held a nine dollar burrito. But I do have the right to disagree. My capitalist son, who in the past has been disturbed by Chipotle’s anti-farmer statements but still ate the corporate burritos, was even more disturbed by that quote.

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    Norman Borlaug is the new guy in Statuary Hall at the Capitol.

  • We saw the new statue of Norman Borlaug, the Father of the Green Revolution, during our tour of the Capitol. That an Iowa plant breeder is honored in this way Statuary Hall in the Capitol is significant. His work which created a high-yielding, disease resistant wheat is credited for saving a billion lives. Borlaug was a strong supporter of the promise of biotechnology and urged people to stand up to the anti-science crowd.
  • corn capital

    A corn capital at the Capitol. (Architect of the Capitol)

  • I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone has ever counted up the number of Greek columns in DC? It made me remember the Architecture Appreciation class I took at K-State where we learned about Doric, Corinthian and Ionic columns. Speaking of art and architecture, if you are a corn grower, look around in DC–there are many depictions of corn in the Capitol and many other places. In fact, the photo here shows a corn capital in the Capitol. A capital is the top of a column. According to the Architect of the Capitol: Carved by Giuseppe Franzoni from Aquia Creek sandstone, these columns were installed in the Hall of Columns of the U.S. Capitol in 1809. The fluting of a conventional shaft was recalled by bundled corn stalks. On the capital, husks were folded back to reveal the cob and kernels of corn.
  • I was struck by the friendliness of the people in DC on this trip. I think this was influenced by the unusually cool weather. One cab driver told us that the cooler weather was a disaster for cabbies because everyone wanted to walk instead of taking a cab. He joked that he would have to charge us double. Judging by his meandering route to our destination, I don’t think he was kidding.

3i show

By: Paige McFarland, Kansas Corn Intern

Good afternoon all!

I started writing this blog about the 3i Show and it occurred to me that I should probably start out by explaining what exactly the 3i Show is. Often times we expect that everybody knows what we are talking about, but after reading some other blogs myself, I am certain that not all of our readers know what on earth the 3i Show is.

So we’ll start with this- What do the 3 I’s stand for? Industry, Implements and Irrigation. The show hosts 500+ exhibitors who are showcasing their company, products and services. These exhibitors include seed companies, equipment dealers, and even massage chairs. (Because who doesn’t need a massage after walking around the show all day?) The 3i show is hosted in Dodge City, Kansas and creates a week-long economic boom for the Cowboy Capitol of the World.

We spent three days last week showcasing the flex fuel Kansas Corn car (runs on any combination of ethanol and gas up to 85% ethanol) and the Biodiesel truck at the 3i show with the Kansas Soybeans and Kansas Sorghum Commissions. We spent those days talking to farmers and ranchers about renewable fuels, markets and of course, the weather.

This was my third year (yes, THIRD) attending the 3i Show. Every year there has always been something that REALLY sticks out to me. The first year (2012) was how irrigation pivots run, the second year (2013) was the fact that feedlots are HUGE, and this year was something different, of course. Last week I had the opportunity to talk with so many people in the Ag industry and every single one of them was extremely positive. I’ve known for a while that I want to be involved in agriculture for the rest of my life, but this past week just really drilled that home. My internship has allowed me to meet so many genuine people and I’m overwhelmed with the positivity and encouragement of every single one of them.

It reminds me of the quote “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

-PK

Corn Communicators Summit

By: Paige McFarland, Kansas Corn Intern

Last week I traveled with Kansas Corn Communications Director Sue Schulte to Washington D.C. for an opportunity to participate in the Corn Communicators Summit. We discussed a variety of issues at the meetings, heard some very informational speakers and had the opportunity to do a few tourist-y things as well.

Wednesday:

We started at the crack of dawn heading to MCI in Kansas City, despite some minor construction, we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare! We boarded the plane, which just happened to be the second time I have ever flown. It was a breeze. Once we arrived in DC, we hopped around town and were able to squeeze in the Botanical Gardens, the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden and Pavillion Café, and we were able to see a few other sites from afar. I was absolutely blown away by the Botanical Gardens. All of the different varieties of flowers and plants that we don’t see every day were really neat.

The Amber Waves of Grain Festival was taking place at the Botanical Garden as an informational tribute to the history of wheat innovation. I have learned about many of the wheat varieties in my Crop Science class so it was pretty awesome to see them all side by side. There was even a tidbit on Dr. Norman Borlaug. I recently had the opportunity to listen to Norman Vietmeyer, who was Norman Borlaug’s assistant and wrote the book Our Daily Bread, the Essential Norman Borlaug.

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We ate dinner at the Art and Soul Restaurant. The Chef, Art Smith, is a two time guest on the TV show Top Chef. We had a wonderful server (who was trying to engorge us) and a lovely meal! We dined with Missouri Corn’s Communications Director Becky Frankenbach and Janet Adkison, the Washington DC Bureau Chief for RFD-TV. Janet is also president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasters. There was a lot of good conversation about agriculture and media.

Thursday:

Day 2 in Washington D.C. started at 9:00 a.m. on a behind-the-scenes tour of the National Museum of American History. We were shown around by Peter Liebhold, Chair and Curator of the Division of Work and Industry at the Smithsonian Museum of American History,who was extremely passionate about his. So many people think museum=boring, once upon a time I was probably one of those people. This tour was far from boring, he knew what we were there for and tailored the tour to things that would interest us. We got to see a room full of items that were full of life, each item had a story whether it was a keyboard, Dekalb sign, coca cola can, or a beanie baby. My favorite was obviously the Dekalb flying corn sign. The winged ear of corn represented the hybrid era. The reason for our visit was to learn about a new American Industry exhibit that will debut next year. Agriculture is one of the industries that will be featured and it was obvious the curator understood the importance of agriculture. The exhibit will include advertising materials from the Corn Farmers Coalition, an effort funded by several corn grower state organizations and NCGA to educate decision-makers in Washington DC about corn farmers and agriculture.

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Another highlight of the day was listening to Dr. Cathleen Enright speak about genetically engineered crops. She is a top executive from the Biotechnology Information Organization (BIO). It was enlightening to hear her input on talking to people about such a controversial topic. She pointed out that biotech plant breeding was just a sped up version of traditional plant breeding. Plant breeding is just another term for genetic modification. The vegetables we eat today are all products of plant breeding. For thousands and thousands of years, man has genetically modified plants, which has resulted in the natural vegetables we eat today.

We also met with staff from the US Grains Council, talked ag policy with NCGA’s Washington DC office, and the pro-ethanol group, Fuels America.

Thursday night we went out on the water in the Odyssey dinner boat. It was so incredibly beautiful to see the luminous skyline of downtown Washington D.C. reflecting on the water. Dinner was wonderful, the view was breathtaking and sharing stories with fellow cornies made for an enjoyable night!

Friday:

We began our final day in Washington D.C. at the Washington Post. This was an awesome experience to see the behind the scenes work of a newspaper. They are not only a newspaper, they have an incredibly large social media presence. The Post was recently bought by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and they are aggressively pursuing social and broadcast media to provide their news coverage. They assured us that they will keep printing for years to come, due to the fact the newspaper is a sentimental thing to many people. Your morning wouldn’t start off on the right foot if it wasn’t for reading the newspaper and drinking a nice warm cup of joe. As I am writing, I am drinking out of my complimentary tumbler from the Washington Post!

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After our tour we ventured off to have lunch and head back to the airport.

Here are a few other light observations I made about the trip:

  1. Washington D.C. is a MUCH more fast-paced city than Princeton, KS (pop. 276)
  2. Taxi drivers pay no attention to whether you get whiplash or not.
  3. Bicyclists don’t stop for anybody.

I had a great time mingling with corn staffers from several states from Virginia to Texas during our time in D.C. I want to say thank you to the National Corn Growers Staff for allowing me “The Intern” to take part in this meeting trip and welcoming me! I found that both serious meetings and social events are great tools for discussion and learning. I learned a lot and came back with a passion burning higher and brighter about the future of our industry.

Feast of the Fields: from Farm to Fork

By: Paige McFarland, Intern

Fine cuisine, talented musicians, local products and an evening full of the beautiful scenery only found in the Flint Hills—this is what I was lucky enough to experience recently at an agritourism event called Feast of the Fields. I, along with a few fellow K-Stater’s, had the opportunity to volunteer at this event on Bob and Mary Mertz farm east of Manhattan. The Mertz Farm is tucked away in a river bottom with the most beautiful limestone barn overlooking the Flint Hills. There isn’t a better place to host an event for people to gain the experience on the farm. A majority of guests that I spoke with were from the Kansas City area, and were also in awe of the scenery. This is an excellent opportunity for the Mertz family to share the story of their farm. I was very inspired by their story and want to encourage you all to make sure that your story is heard. People are interested now, more than ever, about the production that goes into putting food on the table.

Agritourism has gained a great deal of interest over the past ten years. Agritourism is defined as “The act of visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural, or agribusiness operations for the purpose of enjoyment, education or active involvement in the activities of the farm or operation.” Farmers and ranchers continue to be challenged by misinformation being translated to consumers, who hold the livelihood of the industry in the palm of their hands. By investing our time in acts of agritourism, we can help to bring more knowledgeable opportunities to the average consumer.

Bob and Mary Mertz are striving to bridge the agricultural gap between rural and urban demographics by opening up an opportunity for dialog on their farm east of Manhattan, KS. A magazine article captivated Mary to envision china, silverware and glass spread upon linen-clad tables stretching out into the field of green cornstalks. This vision that Mary had five years ago is what we now call Feast of the Fields.

The Feast of the Fields event at the Mertz’ family farm is one of few agritourism events in the area. They usually offer the event twice a year, once in the fall and once in the early summer. Some guests were eager to learn more about where their food comes from, while some were taking part to make connections with their family history. Guests were able to talk to the local chef and farmer about what they grow, how they grow it, how they cook it, and what inspired them to make these dishes.

“My main hope for this event is that guests leave feeling positive about Kansas farms and foods, and that they will share that message with others,” Mary stated.

I had the opportunity to speak with a gentleman who had traveled from Indiana for the event on Saturday evening. He had heard about the event from his brother who formerly sold real estate in the Manhattan, KS area.

A ticket to this event landed guests a delectable meal made with Kansas products by Scott Benjamin, owner and chef at 4 Olives Wine Bar in Manhattan, KS, the opportunity to try three Kansas made wines, and music from the “Tallgrass Trio.”

Obviously, not all farms are set up or inclined to hold agritourism events like this. But each of us can do our part by taking the time help our non-farm friends and relatives understand farming and how we raise our crops and livestock. Many special interest groups aggressively spread misinformation about farming, and it is up to us to tell our story!

 

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Know the Facts about GMOs

Know the Facts about GMOs

By Paige McFarland; Intern

“Biotechnology has helped farmers grow 311.8 million tons more food per acre in the last 15 years.”  (www.croplife.org).

How are we going to feed more people on less land and with only 1% of our population being farmers? That’s a great and frequently asked question. So what’s the answer, you ask? Biotechnology- but what is that? A new website called  www.gmosanswers.com gives us this definition of biotechnology:

Biotechnology in plant agriculture has come to mean the process of intentionally making a copy of a gene for a desired trait from one plant or organism and using it in another plant. The result is a GMO (genetically modified organism).”

This image was found on gmoanswers.com to brief consumers on how it all started.

This image was found on gmoanswers.com to brief consumers on how it all started.

 

There are a multitude of common misconceptions involving biotechnology in agriculture. So how do you as a consumer distinguish between the facts and fiction of this topic? Here is the truth behind a few commonly discussed issues with GMO’s.

Fact or Fiction: GMO’s are bad for our environment.

Fiction. Here are the facts:

There will be an estimated 9 billion people on the planet by the year 2050. The World will need 100 percent more food than we produce today. 70 to 80 percent of that food will have to come from improving technologies. Well folks, 2050 sounds like a long ways off but that is in 37 years. Biotechnology in agriculture is an efficient, cost-effective AND environmentally sound way to accomplish this. Using GMO’s is increasing yields in the fields that have been planted, therefore farmers are becoming more efficient on less land. Farmers are some of the greatest environmental stewards.

“Our deep respect for the land and its harvest is the legacy of generations of farmers who put food on our tables, preserved our landscape, and inspired us with a powerful work ethic.”- James H. Douglas, American Politician.

Fact or Fiction: GMO’s have been in our food since the 1990’s.

Fact. GMO’s were studied by scientists for YEARS before they emerged. There has been more testing on biotechnology in our crops than any other agricultural study. These biotech crops are also rigorously tested by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before emerging into our food source. Since the mid 1990’s there has not been one documented case of harm to humans or death caused by GMO consumption.

Fact or Fiction: Our crops today don’t have as much nutritional value due to GMO’s.

Fiction. Through the rigorous Food and Drug Administration (FDA) testing they have found that GMO’s have the same, if not better, nutritional value as non GMO’s. This includes the same levels of amino acids, fibers, proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Farmers and the agricultural industry deserve to be respected for all the advancements and improvements they have made in the last 50 years and even more so for the substantial amount of work they will do in the next 50 years. It’s not an easy job, if it were everybody would do it. Don’t forget to ‪#‎thankafarmer and ‪ #‎agvocate every chance you get folks.

If you still have questions about GMO’s and biotechnology you can visit the following links for some extra information:

http://gmoanswers.com

http://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Biotechnology-infographic_.pdf

http://findourcommonground.com/

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