A unique mom sees the value of her son on the farm

The link below is to a blog so good, it simply needs no enhancement.  See how a mom describes what happened to her son when he had the advantage to work on a farm, and why the current plan by the Dept. of Labor to keep kids from working on the farm is so misguided.

http://learningtosubmit.com/2012/04/25/should-rural-kids-be-allowed-to-work-on-farms-ranches/

A reflective harvest

Getting ready to unload on the go

Harvest is a tremendous time of year.  Growing up on a farm, and now working in town, harvest is an annual event I so look forward to.  It gets my mind clear.  I love the open air and space, I love reconnecting to a unique and wonderful group of people who grow food for all of us.  These people are the salt of the earth.  Their values, their caring for each other,are a tremendous boost whenever I’m there.

So, when our tenant called last Friday morning and said the corn dried out earlier than predicted, and they’d be in our field in the afternoon, I called my wife, we loaded up, and headed to the farm.

As we happily drove, with excited anticipation of being on the combines, tractors and trucks, watching the culmination of the miracle of growth of a crop, we saw some sobering sites.  As we passed many fields on the way to our own, we saw that this year would be different.  Farming in SC Kansas, we were on the edge of the severe drought that hit the Midwest this year.  We saw dryland and irrigated crops that didn’t look like year’s past.  We knew what that meant.  Many farmers would struggle this year.

Making room for more

What we also knew was ours was far from the worst.  Further west in Kansas, and into Oklahoma and Texas, many farmers had nothing.  The further we went, the more we reflected on our fortune.  No, we wouldn’t have the crop of past years, but we were blessed to have what we did.

We made it to the farm, rode the combines, tractors and trucks, and watched the corn flow.  It was still a wonderful harvest, but we did take time to talk about and ponder what could have been, and what was reality just a few miles west and south of our farm, as well as some who were not as fortunate right in our area.

Farming can be a teacher for all aspects of life.  When we think we don’t have what we want or all we’d like, we should consider others, who would be ecstatic just to have what we have.  We always try to count our blessings.  This year some of those blessings came in small yellow kernels a lot of good people didn’t have.  Take some time to count your blessings.  I’m betting you have more than you think.

It’s tragedy, not politics

I hesitated for a long time debating with myself whether to write this, but as time went on, writing it won, so here is a ‘get it off my chest’ blog about the atrocity that is the shameless political use of the terrible tragedy that occurred in Arizona involving Dem. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.  I’ll go through some points, then have a comment on something curiously missing from the debate.

Now is probably the time to say that while I would rate myself much more conservative than anything else, I have no personal or professional allegience to Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, or any other conservative commentator or politician, and certainly do not always agree with their views, though sometimes I do.

As soon as the shooting occurred, a host of hypocrites who apparently cared little about the victims, and more about not wasting a good tragedy, started blaming everyone from Sarah Palin, to any other conservative for prompting the action.  They also clearly wanted to imply that it is only conservatives that voice such things.  It was nuts, and thankfully, most of the nation has said so, but here are just a couple of thoughts:

Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, nor any other conservative made this deranged nut in Arizona do this.  Got it?  He had threatened a host of people in the past, having nothing to do with politics.  This guy acted on his own.

Just to preserve a little balance, check out this diatribe from a Democrat who said a GOP governor should be shot. Still think this is a one-sided political discourse?  There are plenty more examples out there.

Also, the ignorant hypocrites who say they want more political ‘tone-down’ can be directly attributed to the host of death threats that Sarah Palin, Limbaugh, and other Tea Party members are now receiving.  Which side of their mouths would they like to speak from next?

Then come the gun control extremists.  Again, not wanting to waste a tragedy.  Well let’s look a little deeper into the Arizona situation.

This sheriff  Dupnik, (or is it Dipstick?) not only showed his political side, but just may be have been covering his own rear end.  It seems after some investigation that Dupnik knew Jared Loughner.  Loughner had been making death threats by phone to many people in Pima County including staff of Pima Community College, radio personalities and local bloggers. When the Pima County Sheriff’s Office was informed, his deputies assured the victims that he was being well managed by the mental health system. It was also suggested that further pressing of charges would be unnecessary and probably cause more problems than it solved.  One source said it may have been because Loughner had a relative working at the sheriff’s office.  I have no idea.

I do have an idea of the end result.  If the sheriff had arrested Loughner, and pursued charges, including felonies, Loughner would never have been able to purchase the gun he used in the killings.  Should the sheriff be held accountable?   The sheriff was well aware of the political discourse, and apparently felt Loughner wasn’t a threat.  How did he become a threat after the fact?

Do we want to tone down the political rhetoric?  Then let’s have the decency and ownership to say it needs to happen from all corners.  But let’s also note that rhetoric or not, and though it would be very beneficial to have a more reasonable discourse, nobody caused this madman in Arizona to perpetrate these terrible acts, and anybody trying to score political points at the expense of the lives of those lost and injured, should have their values checked.  It is amazing the blinders that can be placed on agenda-driven issues.

Oh, that item curiously missing from all the political exchange?  Thankfully, it appears Rep. Giffords is improving.  Funny you have to hear that from general sources, not the idiots trying to score political points.  I have no doubt I probably don’t share many of Rep. Giffords political views, though I may be surprised.  But I do pray for her complete recovery.  And I also pray for the victims who did not survive and their families.  Another tragedy has been that apparently a few (not all) of the victims, have joined the chorus of trying to blame someone other than Loughner for their pain.  I hope they wake up soon.

There is a bottom line here.  We are people, let’s start acting like it.

In the eye of the beholder

You hear a lot about media bias.  And yes, I believe there is a great deal of it, to the point that I believe very little  journalism exists from the network level down through major dailies, and even below.  Sometimes it’s not even hidden, sometimes it’s by omission, and often it’s by headline because many people are just headline readers.  You’ll also see bias in how some information not really wanted, but that must be included to at least imply impartiality, will be slipped in as late in the story as possible because so many others don’t take time to read all of an article.

Well, I ran across such an article the other day.  I’m not even going to get into the subject matter of the article itself and whether the action was right or wrong, that’s not the point.  I Just wanted to show the effect of the written word, depending on your views.  Here is the original article, word for word.

 

California Approves Use of Cancer-Causing Pesticide
Fresnobee.com via AP

FRESNO, Calif. — California pesticide regulators have approved a cancer-causing fumigant for use by fruit and vegetable growers, despite heavy opposition from environmental and farmworker groups.

Officials announced Wednesday that the state Department of Pesticide Regulation will register methyl iodide as a substitute for the pesticide, methyl bromide.

Methyl bromide is being phased out by international treaty.

The agency tentatively approved methyl iodide’s use in April, despite concerns by a scientific advisory panel that it could poison air and water.

Regulators insist the chemical can be used safely and say strict guidelines will be followed.

Tests have found no traces of the carcinogen in fruit from treated soil. The pesticide already is registered in 47 other states.


OK, from the headline on, you get the gist.  They may as well have said, “How could these people have possibly done this?”  As if to avoid it, at the end, if a reader goes that far, you finally see that 47 other states have approved it, and tests show no traces of chemical on the fruit.

But, if a regular observer/consumer is reading this, what if it said the following? Note the information is the same.

 

California joins 47 other states to approve agricultural economic tool
wherever.com

In what some are saying is overdue and could restore the fruit and vegetable growing sustainability of the region, California regulators have joined 47 other states in approving methyl iodide, a protective fumigant for fruit crops.

Following tentative approval in April, the state Department of Pesticide Regulation has now officially approved the crop tool, citing testing that show no traces of carcinogen in fruit after its use.

Methyl bromide was targeted for phase-out by some countries as part of an international treaty, forcing a substitute for the protection of California fruit crops.

In spite of safe testing results, some environmental groups are opposing the action, but regulators stress that the tool can be used safely and effectively under the guidelines imposed.

 

Sound a little different? If anything can be taken away from this, it’s that we should be careful of not only what we read, but how we read it.  We also need to make an attempt to put personal bias aside, and see if there is actually a jewel or two of truth we can discern.

Still plenty to be thankful for

Sometimes you wonder.  All the political bickering, the bashing of agriculture, misinformation by some groups who are trying to mislead the public, or just don’t know better.  What a mess!

But wait, let’s take a breath. Here are a few things to remember and be thankful for.  Call it a top ten list, not necessarily in any order.

1. OK, this one’s in order for me. First, thank you God for my life, your work in it, and the work I know is left to be done.

2. I’m thankful I can have Thanksgiving with my wife, daughter and other family, and pray for those who can’t.

3. Thanks, AgChat Foundation, for helping to get farmers to tell their story, so consumers can better know the truth, and know that the people who grow their food care about the land and animals.

4. A big #foodthanks to the farmers and ranchers who grow the food for this world, and especially all of those who are joining the #agvocate ranks.

5. Thanks to those who haven’t always agreed with me this year.  Some of you are hopeless :-), but truly, most of you have been great to visit with, and I’ve truly enjoyed the exchange of information.  I hope the learning and respect has gone both ways.

6. I’m thankful to live in a country where we are still free, and where our food is safe and abundant.

7. I’m thankful for my travels, where I’ve seen hungry people and know with the right plan farmers and ranchers can feed them, where it’s possible help them better feed themselves, and also feed a growing population, even through political challenges.

8. I’m thankful my work life brought me back to agriculture, where I can stay in touch with farmers and ranchers, help them do their jobs better, and support their ability to grow my food, and food for the world.

9. Thanks to the soldiers, the men and women who fight so we can take so much for granted, even though we shouldn’t (see no. 6).

10. Thanks for one of the best parts of my year, going back to the farm for harvest, and being refreshed by the farmers and ranchers who care for their land, water, and animals, and for the genuine honor they have, the humble attitude, and wishes to pass their legacy on to the next generation.

An additional thanks for the hope that we can have another year ahead, and somehow, some way, it can be better.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Stupid is as stupid does

It’s hard to find a really good movie these days, but one good one a few years back was Forrest Gump.  The story was OK, but I will remember the great phrases, such as, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”

In agriculture, that’s certainly true.  It seems in the last few years there has been a new concentrated attack like never before.  Whether you call it traditional, modern, conventional, or whatever, it is now considered by some the worst of the worst in ways to feed the planet.

The same goes for animals.  Everyone can pretty much agree on animal welfare, and abhors what is seen on some ‘undercover videos’ that are released.  The problem is the Humane Society of the U.S. and PETA videos have little to do with animal care.  Their agenda through showing these very rare abuse cases is to get us to stop eating meat.

If you ask most ag people, they roll their eyes that people are swayed by such efforts. “Don’t these urban people know what these groups are trying to accomplish?”  “I can’t make a living if I abuse my animals, they won’t grow efficiently, sickness will cost more, and dang it, I know I grow them for food, but I care about those animals, I love being around them.”

Well, in the words of Forrest, ‘Stupid is as stupid does.’  I’ve had encounters with people who think we shouldn’t worry at all about feeding the rest of the world.  And, get ready for this, that anybody in say, Egypt, should just have their own ‘Victory Garden’ and supply their own food.  Now, if that should happen in places like Egypt, it’s a given for the U.S.

OK, sorry, that’s stupid.  Just as it is to mistake the difference between animal welfare and animal rights.  Yes, some animals are grown for food.  If some choose not to eat meat, that’s their business, but it’s not the choice of the vast majority, and some of the misinformation and misguided efforts by those who want to achieve their no-meat agendas are…stupid.  But why does anybody listen?  Why doesn’t simple common sense take over?  Well, it’s a must to understand that most of the population is two, three or more generations away from the farm or ranch. They’ve only known food to be readily and abundantly available.  And, in too many cases, the only information they’re hearing is from the agenda-driven groups, not the farmers and ranchers that safely grow their food and care for farm animals.

I’m glad groups like the AgChat Foundation and farmers and ranchers in general are starting to recognize the problem, and are getting much more active in telling their story.  Because if they don’t, only one side will be told, and it’s not the real side.  In other words, farmers and ranchers out there need to get busy telling their story, or they can fit into the category as well.  You see, ‘Stupid is as stupid does’…or doesn’t.

Who hijacked ‘Sustainable?’

Did you ever wonder about a word?  In agriculture, one of the most used (and misused) terms around is ‘sustainable.’  Just what does that mean?  The World Dictionary definition of ‘sustainable’ says “to keep up or keep going, as an action or process.”

Well, let’s apply that to agriculture.  In 1996, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman issued a memorandum on USDA sustainable agriculture policy. It stated, “USDA is committed to working toward the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of diverse food, fiber, agriculture, forest, and range systems. USDA will balance goals of improved production and profitability, stewardship of the natural resource base and ecological systems, and enhancement of the vitality of rural communities.”

If that statement is broken down, you see economics and the environment share equal footing in providing diverse food, etc. systems. That means both economic and environmental concerns are important.

Then, maybe the biggest word of all is used.  The next part reads, ‘USDA will BALANCE (bold/caps added) goals of improved production and profitability, natural resources and vitality of rural communities.’

It seems that word ‘balance’ has been lost in the discussion.  I know some people, and have met others on social media sites, that prefer organic, only locally grown food, or as close as they can get.  They also understand that while that’s their preference, it takes modern agriculture to supply the needs of the rest of the U.S. and the world.  They also understand the business of farming is just that, a business. They know a profit is necessary, or nothing can be ‘sustainable.’

I’ve also come across activists out there that I’m not sure care about the economic side of agriculture, or anything else for that matter.  They just want their version of ‘sustainable.’  To some on the fringe it may be all organic, everybody around the world with a Victory Garden, an acre or less per family to feed itself, forget the rest of the country, and certainly the world.  Leaving the science of nutrition and safely applied crop inputs aside for the moment, this fringe thinking is as goofy as it gets.  I’m guessing they’ve never been hungry.

Remember that word ‘BALANCE?’  It’s what we need in the discussion.  There is a world to feed.  Only a handful of countries on this planet grow more food/grains than they consume.  Those few countries have to feed the rest.  As mentioned before, any agricultural effort must be profitable, just as any vocational venture.  If it’s not, it certainly won’t be ‘sustainable.’

Also, I’ve heard the flap that if the U.S. changed its agriculture policy, all these other countries could feed themselves.  Well, that’s just not true.  Try a visit to the Middle East, Africa, parts of Europe or Mexico, and it will be clear no amount, yes, that’s no amount, of investment will allow many of those countries to be food self-sufficient.  If the land and the climate aren’t there, it’s not going to happen. Welcome to reality.

The world population is growing.  The need for more food must be ‘BALANCED’ with the environment.  If we truly ruin the environment, that’s not sustainable either.  I think that’s why you will find that modern/traditional agriculture has found ways to use dramatically less chemicals in recent decades, why technology has been able to increase yields without having to cultivate more land, why conservation efforts like no-till and minimum-till practices are on the rise, and the list can go on.  All of this advancement is critical to protecting the environment.

One thing I’ve noticed among those that are on the fringe of the ‘sustainable’ movement, is a marked cynicism.  They can’t seem to believe a farmer may truly care for the land and animals, and want to pass a lifestyle and value system learned on a farm down to the next generation.  Well, here’s a newsflash for you.  There are some true, caring, patriotic, value-based people out there.  And many of them are farmers.

By the way, here’s just a thought while everybody seems to want to define ‘sustainable.’  Think of 4,5,or 6 generations on the same land, drinking the same water, eating the same food, using technology to increase production and environmental stewardship, with the main goal of caring for the land, water, other resources, and animals so the farm can be passed on to the next generation.  That sounds pretty sustainable to me.

The fact is organic farmers and consumers should have their choice.  Locally grown food should be greatly appreciated.  If a group of people in the middle of a city can have a rooftop garden, or an open lot to grow food, that’s wonderful.  There is room for all kinds of agriculture, and one group shouldn’t be putting down the other.  All sorts of agriculture must be ‘sustainable’ to provide the abundant diversity of safe, wholesome, and nutritious food we enjoy.

Let’s don’t put down agriculture by hijacking a word.  Let’s understand the balance of the diversity and the need to feed a hungry planet.  We’ll be better off getting off the fringes, and working together.