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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 ~

Monday, February 23, 2015

Upson Lecture Series to Address Big Food

What is Big Food?

Why do some consumers fear Big Food and why do others hate it?

Food For Thought is excited to host Charlie Arnot, CEO of the Center for Food Integrity, who will address these very questions with his lecture "Size Matters: Why We Love to Hate 'Big Food'" on March 2, 2015 at 7 pm in the K-State Student Union Forum Hall.

The event is free and open to the public and FREE BACON  sponsored by the Kansas Pork Association will be given to the first 200 attendees.

This is a lecture that is sure to ignite feelings and discussion and you won't want to miss it! Please join us in Manhattan on March 2 for a hot-button lecture that will get you thinking!
*The Upson Lecture Series has been fully endowed by the generous support of the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine classes of 1962 and 1966.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Common Food Myths Exposed!


Every so often, you hear about the newest diet year it is Atkins, the next it is the Paleo diet. Or the experts will try to tell you that you need to 'cleanse' and 'detox' to get all of the harmful toxins out of your body.
What Happens in Your Body During a "Cleanse" or "Detox"

We all know that most of these diets, including veganism and vegetarianism, have some purported benefits, and that they also come with sacrifices. Simultaneously, I think that we all know that half of it goes back to someone trying to push an idea or sell a product so that they can make a dollar off of someone else. It's no different than the next clothing trend, designers and fashion-experts going to extremes to make a new look in helps them sell more items as consumers have to change their wardrobe to fit in to popular culture. We all participate in it, and we're all victims of these marketing efforts.

So as long as we are on the same page and can be honest with ourselves, I think it is fair to remind everyone of some 'food myths' that many of us believe that have since been disproven. Some of these were quite surprising to me as well! While I'm going to focus on the highlights, feel free to check out the original source at ViralNova.

Myth: Chicken skin is bad for you.
Myth #1: Chicken skin is bad for you
     Seriously though, who hasn't seen someone who peels the delicious skin off a chicken breast because of this myth? I don't, but I inwardly think to myself that I probably shouldn't eat it. In fact, the breading on a piece of chicken soaks up a lot more oil than the skin has itself. We always think chicken skin is bad for us because it is greasy and delicious, but from a nutrient standpoint, over 55% of the fat in chicken skin is the heart-healthy kind: mono-unsaturated fat.
Myth: Avoid whole milk.
Myth #2: Avoid whole milk
Well, no one can argue that this is still a very active food myth, judging by the aisles of 1%, 2% and skim milk at the grocery store. The funny thing is, there is peer-reviewed scientific evidence showing that if you drink whole milk, you are at a lower risk for heart disease!
                             Myth: Sea salt is healthier than regular salt.
Myth #3: Sea salt is better for you than regular salt
Sodium chloride is the elemental name for table salt. Do you know what the elemental name is for sea salt? Oh yea, it is also sodium chloride! While it may be processed differently, sea salt still contains the same amount of sodium, which everyone is trying to regulate their intake of, despite shaky scientific evidence on that front as well.
Myth: Gluten-free living will benefit everyone.
Myth #4: Gluten-free living will benefit everyone
For the 1 in 133 people who suffer from celiac disease, consuming gluten is not in your best interest. But for everyone else out there, going gluten-free really won't accomplish much from a nutrition standpoint. Check out this review paper on whether non-celiac gluten sensitivity even exists.
Myth #5: Avoid high-fructose corn syrup like your life depends on it
There has recently been quite a stir about the superiority of table sugar versus high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). While critics point out that it's not a natural form of sugar, the inclusion of HFCS in nearly everything helps keep food prices low and is deemed "safe" by the US Food and Drug Administration. In comparison, table sugar is 50% fructose and 50 percent glucose, so HFCS only contains 10% more fructose than regular sugar.
I suppose the big takeaway for me is don't believe everything you hear about one food being the root of all of our country's problems around obesity. If you can't get through the day without drinking six or seven cans of soda, then you are probably getting way too many calories from soda, whether it is sweetened with HFCS or table sugar. Don't be duped simply by clever marketing and sales campaigns to make you pay a premium for a product that may not have any real nutritional benefit.
As with most things in life, moderation goes a long way. If you complement a moderate amount of protein, carbohydrates, fats, and sugars with a healthy lifestyle and regular exercise, you're probably going stay relatively fit and healthy.
I hope you enjoyed the reading, and this is just the tip of the iceberg! If you want to fact check on some other 'food myths' including MSG, the real nutritional content of potato skins, and whether carrots improve your eyesight, don't forget to check out the details at ViralNova!
Hyatt Frobose

Monday, February 9, 2015

Family Physician vs. Veterinarian

People today are more concerned than ever about the quality of their food, where it comes from, and how it’s raised.  The world population is growing, and those people need PROTEIN! 

Animal protein is a very economical and efficient way to meet people’s needs for quality nutrition, and American livestock producers are  better at meeting this rising need than ever before.  One of the tools we as producers have to promote the health of our animals is judicious antibiotic use. 

Judicious.  Webster’s defines this as “having or showing good judgment.” Farmers and ranchers must be extremely careful about what drugs are used, which animals they’re used on, and what they are used to treat.  Not only does it makes good sense and is economical, it’s mandated legally. 

The FDA has set forth guidelines as to the tolerances of drug residue that can be left in an animal when it’s harvested for food.  This means if livestock producers and veterinarians don’t follow the rules, they can be reprimanded, fined, and lose their jobs.  The next time you hear someone talking about all the antibiotics being used in animals, just remember: your family physician has fewer qualms prescribing you an antibiotic than your veterinarian does prescribing antibiotics for animals.

John Dwyer 


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