Posts Tagged ‘agriculture’

Monsanto: Who are they and what do they want from us?

By: Paige McFarland; Intern

After a trip to Lawrence Kansas last summer I found myself asking who is Monsanto? I was driving out of the Target parking lot where I saw a STOP sign accompanied with the word ‘Monsanto’ underneath. This honestly just confused me at first. I started thinking to myself- they are just seed dealers, right? I looked into the ‘March Against Monsanto’ movement a little more that summer and familiarized myself with the company itself and what their overall mission statement was. Upon doing my research, I asked family and friends who follow me on Facebook one simple question. I said ‘What is one word that comes to mind when you hear Monsanto?’ I got over 30 different answers- that is what you will find in the word collage above. My initial thought was that I would have ag people giving mainly ag responses. I was extremely excited when I got feedback from people with differing opinions. This wordle above has every response, so you can see that there were some differing opinions. I felt like it needed to be addressed- why are there so many different opinions?

After cruising through numerous Anti-Monsanto websites I found the Monsanto mission statement:

“Monsanto employees are 100 percent focused on agriculture – breeding seeds and developing products that help farmers produce more food, feed and fiber while conserving resources like soil and water. As a technology innovator and global leader, we are committed to: assuring the safety and quality of our products; promoting a culture of integrity through our business conduct; and supporting initiatives and organizations with similar aims.” (www.monsanto.com)

Then I came across the site for ‘March Against Monsanto’ where their mission statement says:

“Calling for further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs. Holding Monsanto executives and Monsanto-supporting politicians accountable through direct communication, grassroots journalism, social media, etc. Continuing to inform the public about Monsanto’s secrets. Taking to the streets to show the world and Monsanto that we won’t take these injustices quietly. We will not stand for cronyism. We will not stand for poison. That’s why we March Against Monsanto.” (www.march-against-monsanto.com)

What is the common ground here? What do these two entity’s have in common?

They both want a safe and abundant food source. As foodies, moms, families or food consumers of any type, we want to know what we are eating. I grew up on a small family farm in Eastern Kansas so you could say that I know the struggles of a being part of a small family operated business. On the contrary, I am also a grocery shopper so I know the struggles of choosing what is best for me to eat at the store.

After listening to Robert Fraley, the 2013 World Food Prize winner and also the Chief Technology Officer for Monsanto, I again, stand assured that our food source is safe and nutritious. According Fraley’s talk, biotechnology has been approved in 37 countries. There has been study after study done to ensure the safety of GMO crops not only by the regulatory agencies in the United States, but also to over 40 other countries due to the amount of grain we export.

There are activists who have their strong beliefs and probably can’t be swayed by the truth. However, there are millions of moms, dad, brothers and sisters who hear the anti-GMO message and truly have questions. There are many farmers who use these products who are ready to share their own stories about how and why they use GMO crops. There are many credible scientists who can speak to the safety of GMOs. Let’s open a discussion and create better understanding.

For more information you can visit any of the following sites:

www.findourcommonground.com

www.gmoanswers.com

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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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Grocery Store Tips and Saving Money

By: DeEtta Bohling, Communications Specialist

There are a few stores that I can’t seem to exit without spending a great deal of money. Target, Younkers, The Pink Suitcase and the grocery store, just to name a few. While sometimes I can’t control my desire to shop for the most recent fashions, I have learned a few things about grocery shopping.

#1: Don’t go hungry. Seems easy and we’ve all heard this suggestion but we still do it. I am much better off going to the store AFTER I’ve eaten to avoid impulse purchases.

#2. Plan ahead. Planning out your week or at least a few meals and making a list will save you multiple trips to the grocery store. My trips to the store recently got out of control so I’m focusing my efforts on this one!

#3. Take advantage of sales and coupons. Checking out the weekly store ads and stocking up on things that have a long shelf life can save you money. Though I’m not much of a “coupon-er”, “Extreme Couponing” is one of my favorite shows! (If you haven’t seen it- check it out. It’s truly fascinating!)

#4. Don’t be fooled. Organic, natural, and hormone free foods are generally more expensive. You always “get what you pay for” so these foods must be better for you, right? Wrong. There is no nutritional difference between organic food and non-organic (also known as conventional) food.

#5. Feel good about living in the U.S. where we have abundant, affordable, nutritious food at our fingertips. I often wonder if I’m paying too much for food. However, I must say that we’re fortunate in the United States to have to spend only 10% of our income on food, versus 18-25% around the world. Food in our country remains relatively inexpensive and we’re also fortunate to have a wide array of choices.

Are farmers getting rich when I pay more for food at the grocery store? Actually, the U.S. farmer’s share of the retail food dollar has been declining for more than 60 years. In 1950, farmers received more than40 cents for every food dollar that consumers spent in the store. Today, they only receive 19 cents. Transportation, marketing and distribution account for a substantial portion of food prices.

To learn more about food prices, food and farming check out http://www.findourcommonground.com.