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.
Entering its second season, the Missouri Corn fall promotion builds on last year’s successful campaign in which weatherproof stop signs were featured in 25 corn mazes across the state. The 2011 maze materials continue the theme with yield signs answering some of the most common questions about field corn. Partnering mazes also received a free Many Uses of Corn poster and Corn in the Classroom education materials for visiting teachers.
“We want to help the next generation explore agriculture,” said Missouri Corn Outreach Coordinator Hilary Holeman. “The goal of Missouri Corn’s educational efforts is to help today’s children better understand the relationship between our nation’s top crop and its impact on our daily lives.”
Taking it one step further, three corn mazes were selected to participate in a pilot program featuring a series of oversized displays highlighting the top uses for Missouri corn: feed, fuel and exports. The interactive exhibits invite visitors to post pictures to the Missouri Corn Facebook page for a chance to win $50 in free fuel.
Of all the things I am; a wife, an employee, church council member, lawn mower, bill payer, grocery getter, cook, friend, aunt, daughter, granddaughter, niece, you get the idea…I feel that one of the most, if not the most important title I hold is that of Mom. Oh believe me, there are definitely days I wonder why God ever entrusted me with two spawn (as they humorously call themselves)! None-the-less, I take my opportunity to be a Mom VERY seriously (with as much humor built in as possible)! Like any mother of teenage “spawn”, I face all of the fun situations (never wanting to pay for their own gas), challenges (two broken cell phones at one time), celebrations (major part in the one-act play & great grades), and heartbreaks (oh the hard choices that have to be made…especially for teenage girls!). And like every other mom, especially moms of athletes, nutrition and food safety come to mind all the time; especially when I’m buying ANOTHER $100 in groceries for the week. Teenage spawn eat a LOT!
Big Eater (Spawn #1)
The Other Big Eater (Spawn #2) and his Dad don't like facing the camera.
Since becoming a CommonGround volunteer, one of the most common questions I get is about the safety of food derived directly or indirectly from GMO grains. After a lengthy conversation with a fellow ag enthusiast recently at Husker Nation (for all of you non-Huskers reading this, that’s the entire area surrounding and including Memorial Stadium in Lincoln where we Huskers like to gather by the droves), I decided I just need to get the info in writing and hope that many, many people read and share what I am about to divulge.
I have to admit, it has been quite some time since I was in a science class daily. So, I had to do some digging and reading to be able to verify what I thought was right and make sure that what I share isn’t just me trusting all that is out there to be used in the wide world of technology.
Let’s begin with what GMO stands for: it is not “Get More Oreo’s”, though this afternoon, I wish someone would – cookies and milk sound really good right now! GMO really stands for Genetically Modified Organism. Do not let that scare you! For perspective, the organism is only the seed, in fact, just a small part of the seed. Now, as for the genetically modified part… When a gene from one organism is purposely moved to improve or change another organism in a laboratory, the result is a genetically modified organism (GMO). It is also sometimes called “transgenic” for transfer of genes. See further explanation of this here. If you read through that article, you will find that genetic engineering is certainly not new! In fact, Bt proteins, a very common GMO in today’s farming, has been used in many organic farms for over 50 years as a microbial pest control agent. A complete article on Bt strains used in organic farming can be seen here.
After all of the reading and questioning I have done to put together this blog post, I am even more comfortable with farmers utilizing GMO technology when raising crops. GMO’s for insect resistance are typically very specific proteins that can affect only the target insect. My take on this: fewer pesticides being applied topically. I think that is a good thing! Of course there are GMO’s for a few other things such as certain herbicides (Round-Up Ready) and drought resistance. I can see wonderful opportunities coming from this technology! For those of you VERY science-minded people, check out this document.
One more thing…the folks developing the technologies and the farmers using them are people just like you, with families and friends and neighbors. We are purchasing food in the grocery store and we are drinking the water from under our fields and pastures. None of us would ever do anything to intentionally harm our food and water supply. GMO’s have been around now for more than 5 decades. We can all rest assured that the dinner we serve our families tonight, whether it is meat from animals fed GMO grains or cereals from those grains, they are as safe and nutritious as ever. And, because of modern farming and technology, there is enough for all of us to have plenty of choices of product when we do our food purchasing.
I know – I can already see the comments coming in… “But it is primarily one or two big companies putting those GMO’s out there and hauling in the mother load financially.” I can tell you – anyone in the world had the opportunity to put forth the time, effort, and risk to do the same work they have done. In any other business, the successful leaders are rewarded, as they should be in agriculture. Is it frustrating being on the purchasing side of the technology? Of course! Am I glad we have the choice to purchase or not purchase that technology? Absolutely!!! This is America, folks. We are supposed to be able to enjoy free enterprise. All of us need to continue working hard to live the life we think is best for ourselves and our families. I am not here to tell you have to purchase food grown with or without GMO technology or any other specific quality or label. I am only trying to reassure you that food in the United States is the safest in the world.
Now, go enjoy a wonderful meal with someone you love. I think we get to enjoy some left over roast beef at our house tonight – probably in the form of roast beef salad sandwiches. YUM!!!!
Corn growers in the Midwest have been putting the spotlight on ethanol during state fairs this summer.
During the Missouri State Fair, an official from USDA’s Rural Development agency paid a visit to recognize Missouri as the national leader in renewable energy. Through a partnership with the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council (MCMC), the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives and the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri fuel retailers have been approved to install 26 biofuel pumps – more than any other state in the nation.
“It’s the Show-Me State and they’re showing us alright,” USDA Rural Development Business Program Administrator Judy Canales said during a speech at the Missouri Corn booth. “It behooves Missouri because in the long run this is going to be a locally grown product that is creating and keeping jobs in rural communities. That’s why we’re so pleased to have this partnership with Missouri Corn.”
In this photo from Missouri Corn, Canales (green shirt) poses with from left to right: Missouri Corn board member Rob Korff of Norborne, Mo.; Matt Moore, Missouri USDA Rural Development business program director; Barry Hart, executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives; Bradley Schad, Missouri Corn director of ethanol policy; Gary Marshall, Missouri Corn CEO; Janie Dunning, Missouri state director USDA Rural Development; Kenny McNamar, Missouri Corn Growers Association president from Gorin, Mo.; and Billy Thiel, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council chairman from Marshall, Mo.
Nebraska Corn Board along with the Nebraska Ethanol Board (NEB) are on site promoting ethanol and flex fuel vehicles.
The groups are splitting duties with NEB focusing on FFV awareness and the economic benefits ethanol provides to both local and state communities and the national economy. Next door, the Corn Board will have a blender pump on display with jars of corn representing corn production from 1930, 2011 and the future. “There are approximately 100,000 FFVs in Nebraska and nearly 90 percent of consumers don’t know they drive a flex fuel vehicle,” said Kim Clark, Ag Program Manager from the Nebraska Corn Board. “The Nebraska State Fair is a great opportunity to educate consumers from all parts of the state about flex fuel vehicles and ethanol.”
On Saturday, September 3, from 3:00 – 4:00 pm, there will be a “Do You Flex Fuel?” presentation. On hand to answer questions will be an auto mechanic, fuel retailer, ethanol expert and automobile salesperson. Finally, to showcase ethanol in action, the groups will host an ethanol blended fuel promotion beginning Saturday, September 3rd through September 5th. FFV drivers will see discounts on mid-level ethanol blends include a 20 cent discount on E20, 30 cents on E30 and 85 cents on E85. Click here for details on the FFV fuel promotions.
It’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally time and bikers are getting a continuing education about ethanol as a fuel option. With the theme, “Ethanol, Fueled with Pride” educational materials and promotional t-shirts are being distributed during the event at the Buffalo Chip Campground which is the hub of the activities and concerts that make up the event schedule. The event is sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association.
Providing a helping hand at the event is Jere White, Executive Director, Kansas Corn Growers Association. I sat down with him to get his thoughts on this promotion and what it means to corn growers. Jere says the audience is a little different than might have been considered in the past but when it comes to the E15 issue it was found that some of the push back came from boaters and bikers. The Sturgis event is the largest gathering of bikers in the country and he believes that after several years of promotion and education a difference is being made. Jere rode his own motorcycle to the event which he has converted to run on E85 and it is performing well. I also asked Jere to give us an update on the status of the corn crop in Kansas which, like other parts of the corn belt, has some widely different conditions at this point in the season.
This Saturday, the Iowa Speedway will host the fifth Iowa Corn Indy 250, presented by Pioneer, and ethanol supporters have a chance to show how “green” they really are. Under green lights, a green flag will drop before cheering fans clad in the same hue. Combining the excitement of racing with these clear visuals, the Iowa Corn Indy puts both the incredible fuel performance of ethanol and its ecological benefits squarely in the spotlight.
Ethanol has raced into the national racing spotlight already this year as NASCAR switched to a 15 percent ethanol blend for fuel in every car at every race in 2011. Running on pure ethanol, the Indy cars will reinforce the fuel’s ability to perform in some of the most expensive cars in the world. With true experts watching for signs of car damage like the hawks of the gear-head world, claims that ethanol damages cars seem questionable at the very best.
The “Green Out” showcases a side of ethanol not as readily apparent as the cars rip through the turns – its environmental benefits. While racing is certainly exciting, here it is also a vehicle to reach the public with information about this efficient, clean-burning fuel source.
Helping get the word out about ethanol has never been so much fun. Have some friends over on Saturday, tune into Versus and watch ethanol break away from the pack as consumers see that they can help save the environment without sacrificing performance with domestic, sustainable ethanol.
Pedal tractor racing, corn shucking, and corn hole tossing were just a few of the fun team events that the Iowa Corn Growers hosted with Indy car drivers and representatives from the University of Iowa and Iowa State University this week to promote the upcoming Iowa Corn Indy 250 race on June 25 and their Join The Team program.
Ryan says he loves coming to Iowa and working for the corn growers in this interview that Chuck Zimmerman did with him.
Chuck also spoke with Kevin Rempp, Iowa corn grower and current Secretary/Treasurer for the Iowa Corn Promotion Board who talks about the Iowa Corn Indy 250, the Iowa Corn Fed program and their new commitment to the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series.
No doubt that water use issues are among the biggest challenges facing agricultural producers nationwide, but particularly in states where water is at a premium. That’s why corn growers are getting more pro-active in states like Texas.
The Texas Corn Producers rolled out a new public information campaign recently, with the message that water conservation goals can be achieved without severe restrictions on irrigation that would damage the economy of Texas High Plains.
“Agriculture brings billions of dollars into the economy of the Panhandle and South Plains every year and is the main driver of economic growth in the region,” said David Gibson, Executive Director of the Texas Corn Producers Board. “Through research and development of new technology, we are finding ways to grow more crops with less water. This means we can conserve water for future generations without sacrificing economic growth today.”
The campaign includes televised public service announcements, a 10 minute video and a new website, www.WaterGrowsJobs.org, with the slogan “Water grows our economy; let’s make it last.”
Biotech crops and meeting the demand for food and fuel are the main reasons why a group of Japanese reporters and professors was traveling around the Midwest this week, but what really seemed to impress them was family farmers themselves and how they run their operations, according to the Missouri Corn Growers Association.
In Missouri, the media representatives from Japan’s food and livestock industry as well as university professors and a consumer group leader first visited the family farm of Wayne and Scott Boschert in St. Charles.
“I felt a warm reception upon my arrival,” said Mr. Hirofumi Iwata, executive director of Animal Media Co. “I had an image of a farm run by a company and was surprised to find out it is run by a family, still interested in constantly progressing and not just maintaining the status quo in production, but in increasing their yield.”
The Japanese team was very interested in learning more about the history of the Boschert family farm, which stretches back six generations.
“The fact that Wayne Boschert is a fifth generation farmer and his son, Scott, is a sixth generation farmer is non-existent in Japan,” said Dr. Hideaki Karaki, professor emeritus for the University of Tokyo. “The fact that he doesn’t want to retire and is happy to be farming, along with the fact that the family didn’t have to sell off the farm, especially during the Great Depression, is incredible. To hear someone in Japan say, ‘I’m so happy I don’t want to retire’ is not conceivable.”
The group also visited the farm of John Boerding, where they got to ride in a combine and experience harvesting firsthand. After leaving St. Charles, the Japanese team went on to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa as well as an ethanol plant and several other seed producers and elevators along the way. Upon returning to Japan, team members are expected to report on the use of biotechnology and its attributes as well as the agricultural experiences they encountered while visiting the U.S. The visit was coordinated by the U.S. Grains Council.
“Remarkable” is how USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey describes the progress of this year’s corn crop.
“The corn crop, as of August 22, already passing the halfway mark for dented. That’s pretty remarkable for this early in the season,” Rippey says. In fact, 54 percent of the crop is dented, according to USDA’s latest report, compared to 37 percent for the five year average. Eight percent of the crop is mature, which is two points ahead of average and well ahead of last year at this time. USDA is not yet reporting harvest numbers, but states like North Carolina where over 70 percent of the crop is mature have already been combining for a couple of weeks now. Unfortunately, that state’s crop is in the poorest condition of all the states, with just 28 percent rated good to excellent – and most of that is just in the good category.
Nationwide, the crop is rated 70 percent good to excellent, with the Dakotas and Colorado over 80 percent. Even Iowa’s crop is still rated almost 70 percent good to excellent. ”Even though some areas of the State have continued to receive crop damage, the over all crop conditions remain in pretty good shape,” commented Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who is a corn farmer himself. Farmers in the area are optimistic, according to the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
Dean Taylor, a corn and soybean farmer from Prairie City, Iowa and president-elect of the Iowa Corn Growers Association has been affected by the floods. “Three weeks ago, our crops looked great. We were looking at 200 bushels per acre corn and above, but now even non-flooded fields that received 10-15 inches of rain in one week might top out at 120 to 130 bushels per acre. I think we’ve learned from 1993, that rain does not always make grain,” explained Taylor.
The weather has been drier over the past week, which has helped out quite a bit, and the crop looks like it could very well be a record as USDA is predicting.