Kashi, in a move almost certainly based on a desire to drive profits and not a strong-held belief, joined the legions of companies currently making very public, splashy moves toward non-GMO ingredients. Openly disclosing this action seeks to meet the “ever-evolving needs of our consumers,” the company showed its willingness to kowtow to the rantings of food elitists.
Tellingly, the press release issued by Kashi comes quickly on the heels of an agenda-driven campaign to “out” the health food maker’s use of foods produced with biotechnology. The declaration of the cowardly cereal creator’s about-face on biotechnology use fails to site new science, or any damaging information on biotechnology, that would explain the rapid move away from ingredients that have been used by the company since its inception more than two decades ago.
Instead, the nuevo-hippie equivalent of a corporate titan, chose to play the blame game. As a member of the Whole Foods-loving, any “green” embracing set so popular among luxury SUV-driving wannabe earth mothers, Kashi obviously has only used the ingredients because the food system needs to be changed, man. It’s “big ag” growing those bad crops.
So, let’s get this straight.
Ninety-five percent of U.S. farms are family farms. Families, farming together, grow crops used in the foods sold on grocery store shelves, be they at posh luxury grocers or supersaver chains, across the country. So, those big bad families are forcing tiny, little Kashi (owned by the ginormous Kellogg conglomerate, by the way, producer of Froot Loops) to use their GMOs.
The fact that running massive advertising campaigns like Kashi’s, something family farmers could never afford, indicates the size of the food industry giant does not jive with their flow. Face it, “Big Health Food,” buying, including and selling cereal made with GMOs for as long as you have shows one of two things. Either:
A.) You actually do believe that biotechnology is safe, as studies have repeatedly shown, and that their use helps produce an abundant affordable supply of quality food. As you have no data that indicate there is any reason other than pandering to baseless accusations against the technology, you decided to institute a policy against GMO use, that will take effect sometime in the future, because the 99 percent of the global population unable to eat did not have enough cash to be Kashi consumers in the first place.
B.) You have only paid lip service to the idea of providing a quality, healthy product until this point and, rather than admit that, you prefer to just say that you are changing your policy, at least in a few years. Let’s face it, if they really believed biotechnology use was wrong or dangerous, Kashi would immediately cease production of any foods that contain biotech ingredients.
For a “movement” that wraps itself in touchy-feely images painted with broad, washed out brushstrokes, Kashi and its cohorts seem to espouse an approach to business where science and concern for the truth don’t sell, so marketing and public perception reign supreme.
It is time for the American public to take a long, hard look at the truth of the situation. The executives at companies do not sleep well at night because of their clear, blemishless social consciences; they sleep well at night because they sleep on 1,000-thread-count sheets paid for with the money of consumers they seem to confuse and guilt into buying truly tasteless cereal baked in an oven of propaganda and fear-mongering.
This Earth Day, a lot of people will gather in parks and at events across the country to both celebrate our amazing planet and look for ways to protect it.
In St. Louis, just a few miles down the main east-west corridor from the National Corn Growers Association’s headquarters, concerned citizens and eco-enthusiasts alike will converge upon Forest Park, weather permitting, in droves to discuss a wide array of enviro-issues. In previous years, conversations tended to hold up food-related movements, such as those toward organics or locavore lifestyles, as models of how the eco-conscious should live.
This year, instead of dismissing these celebrations as agenda-driven vehicles for anti-ag activities, farmers and those who support them need to join the conversation. Attending events, participating in open forums and telling the story of modern American farming, growers can bring an informed, balanced voice in support of their industry to the conversation.
In many ways, be it through the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance or CommonGround, farmers have already learned about the importance of telling their story. Many have even practiced doing so. Earth Day marks a distinct opportunity to take a moment out of the field and actively cultivate public understanding and dialogue.
A new website featuring award-winning videos produced by the South Dakota Corn Growers Association and Utilization Council, www.trueenvironmentalists.com, reveals why farmers should value Earth Day in striking clarity. Using the example of their home state, the videos focus on how taking care of the land, air and water while increasing productivity provides hope. Hope that farmers will be able to help sustain a rapidly growing, hungry world. Watching the population counter tick up rapidly, thinking about the need to produce more food in the next 40 years than was produced in the last 10,000 years combined, it becomes obvious that we need to share the message of hope.
Take the time to share the incredible hope that farmers have for our growing world. Activists who would falsely accuse farmers of destroying the earth while promoting practices that would starve a constantly increasing segment of the population have already spun their yarn standing under the Earth Day banner for years. Let’s take part in a day that celebrates the earth, air and soil central to the very core of every farmer.
Many amazing farmers volunteer to agvocate as association leadership, through social media or as part of larger programs, like CommonGround. In taking valuable time away from their farms and families, they act upon their belief that creating a dialogue that acquaints the public with modern agriculture is essential to ensuring a bright, vibrant future for the way-of-life that they love.
State and national communications staff appreciate that, for farmer volunteers, leaving busy operations involves a major investment by farmer and family alike. In light of such, it is essential that those helping organize these programs evaluate the effectiveness of every opportunity, carefully weighing the potential benefit against the possible impact upon the volunteers.
Let’s face it- it takes a lot to walk out the farm gate, onto the stage and showcase such an integral part of every grower’s life, his or her farm. Volunteers face public scrutiny and, at times, even criticism based in misunderstanding of either farming practices or of the specific operation itself.
Watching a lovely grain farmer who grew up around cattle gracefully handle sharp criticism of poultry-raising techniques, despite the fact she herself had never set foot into a broiler operation, can spur the thought, “I really hope that something positive comes of this- because she deserves results.”
CommonGround volunteers across the country are seeing positive results as the bloggers, reporters and other food thought-leaders they interact with come to understand and respect the achievements and character of the American family farmer.
On St. Patrick’s day, CommonGround hosted a dinner, upon which the National Corn Growers Association reported immediately following the event. The initial story provided a peak into the thoughtful, creative events many state programs are hosting.
Yet, one question remained. Would the attendees relay their experiences that evening? Did the volunteers manage to make a real connection?
As in many prior instances, the answer appears to be a resounding “yes!” Just yesterday, an influential Kentucky food blogger, who uses the name “foodie girl,” recounted her encounter for her readership. Peppered throughout her step-by-step how-to on preparing the cheese grits served at the event were her thoughts about the farmers she met and her impressions.
Impressed she was too. Foodie girl praised the women for their cheerful, warm demeanor when answering questions, noting that she was struck by their genuine passion for what they grow.
“I look forward to getting to know the ladies of CommonGround better and to discovering the wonderful food they produce with their own, trusted hands,” she said. “Now that is something I can feel good about.”
Opening a positive, constructive dialogue about modern farming is something that we can all feel good about too. While building the connections that elevate the public discourse and create trust takes effort, it is worth it when volunteers, and everyone involved in grassroots agvocacy, can see the how the discussions that will impact the future of farming changing their tone.
In Nashville, Tennessee last week, Commodity Classic 2012 attendees heard one message loud and clear, “we need a farm bill, and we need it now.” Echoed repeatedly in the corridors, meeting rooms and public gatherings, featured speakers, grower leaders and association staff all reiterated the imperative nature of passing new farm bill legislation before the calendar year expires.
In his address to the General Session, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spent the vast majority of his address explaining not only what this legislation should encompass, including a safety net in the form of improved crop insurance offerings and investments in research and infrastructure, but also that it absolutely must be passed within the next nine months.
“Saying budgets are tight and complaining about how hard it is to pass a farm bill won’t make it any easier next year,” he explained. “Today’s legislators need to quit pointing the finger of blame and the difficulty of our economic times and get things done.”
The Secretary’s proclamation resonated with National Corn Growers Association leadership and staff with President Garry Niemeyer driving the message home to Corn Congress attendees during Saturday’s session.
Farmers and the Americans dependent upon agriculture for food, feed and fuel must speak up now. A remarkable demonstration of grassroots support is direly needed to spur legislators to action.
Take just a few moments and add your voice to the cry. Click here to send an email telling your elected officials in Washington that Americans support agriculture and demand action on the farm bill in 2012. Speaking together, we create the megaphone needed to wake up our Congress and secure the future of one of the most vital sectors of our economy.
Looking around while pumping gas at a local filling station yields a bounty of scowls, grimaces and a plethora of pained facial expressions these days. With gas prices creeping steadily upwards, it is hard to imagine how much worse it could be, but, without ethanol, it would.
Last week during the General Session of Commodity Classic 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke passionately about the service farmers provide in growing the fuel stock for ethanol which he cited as reducing gas prices by a full dollar per gallon.
A dollar? Just the word in and of itself sounds so small. Panhandlers, charities and elementary school-aged children alike know that asking for such a negligible amount frequently often receives the desired response whereas requesting a larger lump-sum generally does not. But, if add the phrase “per gallon” as a suffix, a dollar suddenly seems like an amount capable of impacting the national economy.
Research beyond the Secretary’s address confirmed that ethanol does play a sizable role in keeping gas prices down in the United States. While information substantiating the dollar claim did not appear within the first few options Google presented, confirmation of the impressive relationship from well-respected sources did.
Most Americans feel the pinch of a slow economy. It is time to stand up for ethanol, a sustainable, domestically-produced fuel that already provides real savings for real people. Click here to tell Washington that you support the Renewable Fuel Standard; keep ethanol in our tanks and hard-earned cash in our wallets.
Bill Gates, respected for his visionary work as founder of both Microsoft and the philanthropic Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called for a new digital revolution today. This time, instead of promoting software to improve office productivity, he passionately advocated for application of the advanced technology to help end world hunger.
Many stop reading the story here, assuming that through massive donations Gates will provide the cash needed to revolutionize farming in the developing world. A closer look turns up a more interesting, nuanced viewpoint, one which requires public recognition of the amazing technologies American farmers use today.
In short, supporting the Gates Foundation’s fight against hunger does mean supporting the use of advanced farming techniques including genetically-engineered seed varieties.
While Mr. Gates may not have always been known for his ability to fit-in or follow the “cool” crowd, he changed the world around him for the better by having the intellect to analyze a situation fully, evaluate each facet meticulously and act accordingly even when doing so required courage.
As he turned his attention to the plight of global hunger and malnutrition, Gates encountered a wealth of information on possible farming practices. Most consumers in the United States have access to a great deal of the same sources today because of Microsoft innovations he fostered decades ago. Instead of unquestioningly buying into bogus arguments cloaked in a soft, fuzzy, nuevo-hippie, organic wool sweater, he delved into the science.
What he found was that to feed our world’s growing population we need to use the most productive, innovative techniques available. To grow more food using fewer resources and creating less waste, we need the rapid-paced developments brought about by biotech engineering. Using what many consider a “dirty word”, Gates outspokenly promoted wide-spread public acceptance of biotechnology.
Afterward, when reporters questioned him during a roundtable, Gates refused to back down encouraging doubters to “go out and talk to people growing rice and say do they mind that it was created in a laboratory when their child has enough to eat?”
Pragmatic and effective, Gates sees what many do not. He sees that failure to embrace agricultural advancements directly impacts the ability of farmers to achieve their potential productivity. At the same time, feeding the world requires them not only to meet it but to push beyond its current bounds.
Join the real, active movement to end hunger by embracing Gates’ message. Farmers, scientists and their allies are working hard to create change with palpable results that fill empty bellies and nourish real people who are really hungry right now. Have the courage to be like Bill. Billions of lives depend on it.
Today, Corn Commentary features a guest blog entry from Jennifer Elwell, Director of Communications for the Kentucky Corn Growers Association, CommonGround team member and author of the popular blog, Food Mommy! Following the CommonGround Shared Voices Conference, Elwell took a moment to share her thoughts on the volunteers that she met, the state of agriculture today and to suggest that her readers take advantage of the valuable resource that they have in CommonGround volunteers.
I remind myself everyday how lucky I am to work for farmers. The world of agriculture is like a family to me, and I have built some very strong relationships within my state and across the nation. The exciting part is that my family continues to grow.
For the past year, I have been witness and huge nurturer of a sprouting seed called CommonGround. Farm moms and women are becoming empowered to talk about life on their farms and how they are working to raise safe, nutritious, ethical and environmentally-responsible food. And for the first time in my career, I am working with young, vibrant ladies who represent all facets of food production!
From Shana Beattie who raises corn, soybeans, alfalfa hay, beef cattle, 8 million pounds of pork and her four children alongside her husband on a 100+ year old farm in Nebraska to Mary Courtney, who raises vegetables for local customers through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Kentucky. She and her husband bought a new farm and are working to support their two young children with one on the way. Linda grows organic produce and crops to enable a livable return on their small farm and Ashley farms several thousand acres of grain in which her family is able to support 14 families by providing jobs in their community. Did I mention they voluntarily participate in an environmental certification program? The best part is that they all support each other.
As a mom of two, I embrace the concept of CommonGround: being able to have a conversation with my peers. I have learned so much by listening to these ladies, and I feel better than ever about making a trip to the grocery store. I also know that I want to support local farmers like the Courtney’s, because I have a connection with them, and I know that getting produce closer to the source tastes better. And… wait for it… I no longer look at organic food as some evil marketing scheme trying to dupe me out of my money. It takes a lot of work to comply with certification standards, and a farmer willing to do that should be paid more for his or her labors.
There is room on my table and in my refrigerator for it all, and I can feel good about what I am feeding my family. I have developed trust in my farmers because they are willing to be open with me about why they choose to grow my food in the manner that they do. They are also willing to listen to my concerns and tell me if they can do better. That is meeting on CommonGround, and I am proud to support the movement.
My plea to my readers is that the next time you hear of a food issue in the news or from a fellow friend who may not get their knowledge first hand, seek out one of these fabulous ladies and just ask. You can find them at http://www.findourcommonground.com/. Bookmark it! You can also find many of my farmer friend’s blogs by clicking on the tab at the top.
The volunteer farm women involved in CommonGround state programs across the country are talking and, increasingly, the evidence shows that urban and suburban moms are joining in the conversation. With many states recently launching their programs or preparing to do so this spring, the buzz surrounding this open, honest approach to discussing food is spreading too.
Earlier this month, CommonGround Kansas launched its program with a full court press during the University of Kansas women’s basketball game at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.
The Lady Jayhawks may have fallen to Kansas State University’s Lady Wildcats, but the ladies of CommonGround stood tall as they explained how they grow food and the facts about modern agriculture. For a few hours on the cold January evening, volunteers shared in outstanding Kansas City barbeque and in conversations on subjects including the locavore movement, organic fruits and vegetables, sustainability and livestock production to a group of reporters, bloggers, government representatives and community influencers.
While bringing together farm women and the people who speak to urban and suburban moms on a large scale started a conversation, what truly matters is knowing that the dialogue opened that night made a difference. Judging by an article featuring volunteer LaVelle Winsor that ran in the Lawrence World Journal, the stories these women have to tell and understanding they offer about food scored with attendees.
In explaining the program’s goals and offering it as a resource, the article spread the word that there is another source of information for moms concerned about the foods they prepare for their family.
“We aren’t trying to tell anyone how to eat,” Winsor was quoted as saying in the article. “But we would like them to know what actually happens on our farm.”
Want to learn more? “Like” the CommonGround Facebook page and look to see if there are upcoming events in your area.
These days, farmers and ranchers seem to be constantly having to defend every practice they use to produce food, fuel and fiber – and much of it is based on just plain ignorance of agriculture in general.
Ignorance may be bliss, but it is also extremely dangerous. We just recently came across this Penn and Teller video about how willing people are to sign a petition to ban water when it is called by its chemically proper but unfamiliar name, “dihydrogen monoxide.” This illustration of ignorance and radicalism is not new. Wikipedia traces it back to some University of California students in 1990. Penn and Teller updated the hoax in 2006 and it would be funnier if it wasn’t such a sad commentary on how gullible some people can be and how it could have disastrous consequences.
There is a conversation going on about food. Entire television networks, radio programs and magazines have long sought to elevate the humble act of eating by transforming the tastes and textures of our meals. Now, consumers want to know more. They want to know how their food was produced, if it is safe and if it is the best option for their families.
Farmers must be part of this conversation. Logically, it makes sense. Farmers grow the food. They have the most intimate knowledge of how they do so and why they select particular methods. They understand consumer questions intimately because they too must answer them when they prepare meals for their own tables.
Programs such as CommonGround and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance facilitate this discussion. Helping bridge the gap between the rural communities in which farms exist and the urban landscape in which most consumers reside, the volunteer farmers who speak out about their personal experiences lend a voice to the very small percentage of the population who grows food for a hungry world.
How effective are these efforts? Can one conversation really make a difference? While this evidence may be anecdotal, the impact of one conversation can radiate infinitely like ripples on a pond.
This summer, a group of women who volunteer to speak through the Missouri CommonGround program shared a lunch with Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Jon Hagler during the state fair. Through the course of their conversation, the women talked about their farms, their feelings about food and the importance of opening a positive, inclusive dialogue with the people who eat what they grow.
November 30, those messages hit a larger audience when Hagler appeared on the National Public Radio Program St. Louis On the Air. While Hagler certainly covered a variety of topics and in no way parroted the conversation, the tone of inclusive, positive, open conversation carried through.
Callers responded. Ordinary citizens from across the metropolitan area asked specific, direct questions about a wide variety of food-related topics. Whether their particular interest was in food safety, production practices, sustainability or in where to find answers, the move toward an intense public interest in agriculture was evident.
Did this one luncheon shape Hagler’s perception? While it certainly was not the entire basis for his viewpoint, the importance of a sustained conversation between farmers and the public is undeniable. Directly or through influential persons, farmers need to help address concerns and become a part of the conversation.
Make today count. Join the discussion on food. Farmers impact the world through what they grow. It is time to talk about it.