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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day is Every Day for Farmers and Ranchers

Earth Day - a day that reminds us all to recycle more, use less and think about future generations when making decisions that can affect our environment for years to come.

But guess what? We should be cognizant of our choices more often than just once per year - as consumers we should be striving to lessen our environmental footprint every day in order to preserve our world for future generations.

Good thing that farmers and ranchers have been working towards sustainability and resource conservation for as long as they have been producing food. Here are some hard facts about food production and resource conservation:

  • Farmers who grow crops like corn, soybeans and wheat, will practice crop rotation which is the process of changing what is planted in a particular location on a farm from season to season. This helps with nutrient management of the soil and soil erosion.
  • Hog farmers use manure from their farm as a valuable organic fertilizer that is readily used by crop farmers to help build beneficial carbon content in soil.
  • Hog farmers have also streamlined their production practices which have led to a 35% decrease in carbon footprint from 1959-2009. That's quite an improvement!
  • The beef industry reduced its water use and greenhouse gas emissions by 3% and 2%, respectively
The beef industry works towards sustainable production every year.
What are you doing in your life to lessen your environmental footprint? How could you improve?

Until next time,
~ Buzzard ~

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why the Food Babe is BAD for Food Education

We are all about learning and engaging here at Food For Thought. Learning about where your food comes from and speaking directly with the farmers and ranchers who grow crops and raise livestock. We believe it is fundamentally important to be confident in one’s food choices and know that our food supply is safe, wholesome and accessible.

The Food Babe is not a food educator
NOT a trusted source for farming/ranching/food production
Which is why the Food Babe is NOT helping consumers learn more about their food and, in turn, trust producers. She’s actually doing the exact opposite. She uses fear tactics to sell her books, promote her diet plans and force companies to stop using federally inspected and approved products that help our food be safer. The Food Babe is not thinking about consumers. She’s thinking about numero uno and how she can make more money scaring the living daylights of you, the consumer, while simultaneously disparaging companies that use ingredients that are FDA approved safe for consumption. And she won’t let facts stand in her way – just read this piece about airplanes for further proof (you may have to call on your sixth grade science knowledge).

Rancher feeding a baby calf
This rancher IS a trusted source for raising cattle and beef.
 Food For Thought is not a group of fear mongers, nor are we out to make the Food Babe look ridiculous. We don’t need to do that and it’s not our goal (quite frankly she is making herself seem ridiculous all on her own). Food For Thought’s main focus is to help consumers learn more about where their food comes and answer questions about food production. It’s even in our mission!
Food For Thought will provide consumers with answers about where their food comes from by empowering agriculturalists, informing consumers and confronting myths about modern agriculture through innovative and effective methods.

What this means, dear readers, is that we want to hear YOUR questions and concerns. How do you feel about your food and the people who produce? Ask us anything – we want to talk to you!

This pig farmer is responsibly caring for her animals and IS a
trusted source for animal care and pork production.
Please, we beg you, if you have a question about GMOs, corn, cattle, sweet potatoes, rice, pigs, lizards, marshmallows: ask! We are here to quench your thirst for knowledge!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Is High-Fructose Corn Syrup Worse Than Sugar?!

High fructose corn syrup is a major ingredient in soda
High fructose corn syrup. It’s pretty much everywhere – breakfast cereal, soda, Spaghettios. It’s become the go-to substitute for sugar and as such, gets a lot of criticism. But, what exactly is HFCS and is it really worse for our bodies than sugar?
A video by the American Chemical Society set out to explore that question in-depth and the results will surprise you.
The process by which HFCS is developed seems pretty straightforward, however there is chemistry involved so don’t try this at home! Corn, the starting product, is broken down into corn starch and then further broken down to corn syrup. This syrup is finally sweetened by tweaking the proportions of fructose and glucose to yield the end product of high-fructose corn syrup.  

Corn à Corn Starch à Corn Syrup + glucose + fructose = High Fructose Corn Syrup
In reality, real sugar is very similar in composition to HFCS because both are made up of fructose and glucose. The video explains, “High fructose corn syrup comes in different concentrations for different products, but it’s remarkably similar to sugar.” And, most importantly, “the scientific consensus is that there’s almost no nutritional difference between the two."

To be clear, I’m not saying that you should now go out and consume soda by the gallons and candy by the pound but only that you should be just as concerned about HFCS as you are about sugar. Basically, consume sweets in moderation and try to fill your diet with lean meats, veggies, fruits, whole grains and dairy. The big takeaway is to put a cap on your overall sweets intake and substitute healthier choices like fruit or yogurt for a bag of Twizzlers or a soda.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How Do Farmers Use Water?

When you think of water, what do you think of? Maybe you think of a refreshing drink on a hot day. Maybe you think of irrigating your lawn. Maybe you think of a farmer irrigating their crops. One thing that is certain is that water is an important resource that needs to be preserved.

Corn sprouting

So you may be wondering to yourself just where the water goes that is used by so many people world-wide. According to the United Nations, food production uses approximately 70% of the world's fresh water supply while 20% is for industry use and the other for 10% domestic use. With water being a hot-button issue these days to both consumers and agricultural producers, I wanted to take this time to explain some ways that producers are efficiently using water to combat climate change and a growing population.

Ear of corn in a cornfield

Drip irrigation allows a producer to place water at the top of the soil or on the roots of a plant. The irrigation system accomplishes this by setting up a network of tubing, valves and emitters that manage how much water is dispersed to plants. This minimizes water runoff and increases efficiency to help producers better allocate their use of water. Traditional systems are operated by gravity, but some systems have become solar powered.

Drought tolerant seeds enable farmers to grow crops in areas that may have a very limited water supply. This has been achieved through the identification of a gene in a specific crop's genome being mapped out over time. As more of the genes are being identified among various crops, the potential for increases in yields and decreases in resource use such as water bring monumental economic and environmental benefits to producers.
Farmer working in his field

Rotational grazing systems make it possible for livestock producers to alternate the grazing ranges for their animals. This practice allows the ground and soil to recover from the animal hooves breaking up the soil. Through this system, organic matter is returned back into the soil while also reducing water runoff. With organic matter being returned to the soil there is increased water holding capacity for crop production if the producer chooses to return that ground to crop production in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about these techniques, or others, I strongly encourage you to check out this link that discusses water conservation efforts in farming and gardening.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, send them my way. I would love to hear them!

Signing off,
Wyatt Pracht

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Upson Lecture Series - Charlie Arnot and Big Food Recording on YouTube

If you weren't able to attend Charlie Arnot's recent Upson Lecture Series that addressed why people love to hate "Big Food," your fretting can end - the lecture is now available to view on the Food For Thought YouTube page!

Or, if you are click-averse, you can view the lecture below!

We would love to hear your thoughts about Charlie's presentation - so please leave them below!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Not the Farmer's Daughter

Riding my horse, Daisy
Riding my horse Daisy
Hello to all you FFT readers! My name is Cheyanne Evans and I’m new to the Food For Thought scene. I am currently a sophomore at K-State in Animal Science & Industry with a focus in production management. However, my true passion is with the swine industry. By now I’m sure most of you caught that I didn’t grow up farming by the title of the post. I grew up in a very small town about an hour north of Manhattan. I didn’t have farm animals to and take care of growing up, but what I did have was a passion for animals and a love for the earth. Then when I was a freshman in high school my family bought two horses and a farm and that when everything changed for me. I got involved with 4-H (showing horses)  and FFA and started helping with the local farmers around me to experience what it was like to be a farmer. Some people think you have to be raised to be a farmer or that you have to till dirt and plant seeds or maybe we all have cows but that’s not completely true. I hope I help show you that anyone can get involved and can be a farmer if they want to.

Holding a growing pig
Holding a grower hog
Growing up I had dogs and cats which I loved, but I always wanted horses, cows, and every other farm animal you can name. Living in town, it wasn’t easy to have all these animals.  We also had a large garden that we would grow different kinds of vegetables that we would eat or can all summer long. This was not enough for me though, so I begged and pleaded with my parents to buy a horse, but they did the next best thing. They bought a small farm house on a little two acre patch and two ponies for me. I was in seventh heaven. Later we expanded our farm, we got chickens, ducks and pygmy goats. This is when all the real chores of having a farm kicked in I had to get up early every morning and go out and feed all of these animals before I ate breakfast and sometimes before the sun had come up along with getting ready for school. We may not have had cows or even crops to worry about but taking care of any kind of animal is time consuming. Fast forwarding to the bigger step toward becoming the farmer I always wanted to be, after high school I started dating a hog farmer’s son and this was a huge change from the farm I lived on with my family.
Feeding the pigs
Feeding the pigs marshmallows
Hog farming is messy and sometimes smelly work, but it is so rewarding in its own ways. For me, the reward was watching piglets that were coming from the nursery to the finishing building and watching them grow and become adult pigs. I will tell you being a hog farmer isn’t an easy job. You work very hard to keep your stock healthy and growing like they should, and then you send them to be harvested to feed people around the country. It seems like you work so hard for nothing, but when you look at the bigger picture you realize it is something . You just helped feed a family or kids at school. That’s something, you helped a bigger cause! This is where I found my calling, I could raise animals that I loved to help people not go hungry. Many people think farmers look at their livestock as something to make a profit and that they don’t care otherwise, but it’s deeper than that. They love these animals and it’s a way of life but it’s never easy when you have an animal that is sick or injured. On the lighter side if you think you want to work with agriculture in anyway go for it. Find a local farmer that’s willing to let you spend a couple days on the farm see what they do, how they do it and why do it. Be ready to put your hand in the dirt and get dirty because it’s and experience that you will remember for the rest of your life.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

National Ag Day 2015: What Does Agriculture Mean to You?

A spring wheat field in Kansas
A spring wheat field in Kansas.
Happy National Agriculture Day! Here's a quick question for your Wednesday coffee break:
When you think of agriculture, what comes to mind?

Do you think of a pasture full of cows? A waving wheat field? Apple orchards? I tend to think of a rolling wheat field, because I hail from the Wheat State. However, do the people of agriculture ever cross your mind?

Baby pigs and a face of agriculture
What's cuter than a baby pig?
I hope that you think of people when you think of agriculture, because the people who produce the food we eat are very important. That doesn't mean they are more important than doctors, teachers or firefighters but they still do play a vital role in our society. In fact, many agriculture producers are also teachers, firefighters, lawyers or students. All of these different people may help produce food in a unique way. A teacher may help his/her family raise cattle after the last bell rings. Similarly, many farmers or ranchers volunteer in their communities as firefighters, school board members or community leaders.

Agriculture is not a cookie cutter industry.

It's a complex chain of producers, consumers, retailers, agribusinesses, families and friends all working together to produce food for a growing world. Working with communities to provide good food that leads to healthy lifestyles. Working in conjunction with public health leaders, educators, public policy officials and many others to move forward with feeding the world. See a pattern? We are a nation working together, hand-in-hand, to feed the world. Pretty daunting task.

Today, on National Ag Day, I challenge you to think about agriculture and how you fit into our U.S. food chain. Do you make informed food decisions? Do you help produce food? Do you market, sell, distribute, promote or eat food? If so, you have an important role and should celebrate National Agriculture Day as a food enthusiast and agriculture impressionist.

Just some Food For Thought!
~ Buzzard ~


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