How much do you really know about the food you eat? If you don’t get your information from the folks that produce the food, it may not be much as you think.
By and large, low carbers pay a lot of attention to their food. Many are concerned about issues like pesticides and antibiotics and GMOs. We’ve become accustomed to questioning conventional sources of information because sometimes, personal experience told us different. So I am right there with you, always encouraging people to make their own, informed decisions about food.
I will tell you upfront, though: I didn’t set foot on the tour bus with a lot of worries about my food. (I don’t frequent some of the websites y’all do! ) But I left the tour with even fewer concerns.
The trip was immersive. So much information! I’ve lived in the Midwest amidst farms all my life, but had never formally toured one. Well, now I’ve toured eight! And I got a good, up close and personal look at where some of our food comes from, thanks to the hospitality of Kansas farmers.
- Good Pork – Olsburg
- Meier Dairy – Palmer
- Holle Farms – Oberlin
- Innovative Livestock Services – Great Bend
- Sawyer Farm – McPherson
- Ahlerich Farms – Winfield
- Dalebanks Angus – Eureka
- Juniper Hills Farms – Lawrence
What I Saw Touring Kansas Farms
I was impressed. The amount of technology employed to run even a small, family farm was more in keeping with what you’d expect in a hospital than a barn! And the knowledge base these folks had about both the land and animals was staggering.
But what I’ve found sticking with me more than the facts and figures were impressions–a picture of the people producing the food most of us are blessed enough to take for granted.
The farms we visited were often family-oriented, multi-generational operations. One of the first things you’ll hear is how many generations have farmed. Parents spoke of their parents’ and grandparents’ farms, and of their children and grandchildren–decisions constantly being made with the intention of maintaining a legacy, to pass down to future generations. It was prevalent enough that a first generation farmer was remarkable.
“If the kids want to farm…” they’d say. Always “if.” Never an expectation, but just making sure, farm life remained an option.
“Farming gets in your blood,” I heard more than once. “It’s more a lifestyle than a job.”
It would have to be! The demands of farm life are significant, complicated by factors like weather, harvest times, and birthing seasons. I learned produce even tastes different based on the temperature outside when it’s picked! Farmers don’t set their own priorities in many respects: the farm does.
To make a viable living, farming requires substantial investment in technology and equipment; hence significant debt is part of the picture for many if not most. Mix in fluctuating market conditions, high risk of loss and unpredictable prices for yield–and shifting food trends among consumers–and it’s pretty easy to see how modern farming is essentially a form a gambling. This isn’t a “fast buck” occupation in any sense of the word.
So why do it?
The sense I got was that the rewards are much more intrinsic. It’s something people seem to do because they feel called to it, sometimes from an early age.
Watch a farmer light up when they talk about what they do, or eat with a farmer, enjoying the food their own labor has produced–and you’ll feel a quiet, yet still palpable satisfaction.
They are feeding people, you know? Your work cannot be more relevant than feeding people!
After spending time with farmers, you won’t wonder for long, whether or not these folks are concerned about the long-term impact of what they do.
The sense of connection to the land–and responsibility felt for preserving it–was very evident among those we met. The love they had for the animals was also apparent, as they talked about nights spent in the barn during calving seasons or how they use the latest research to continually adapt their operations to make life more comfortable for their animals.
Now, I’m not one to tell folks what to think. If you’re uncomfortable eating something, don’t! This is a very personal decision and what I think doesn’t matter as much as what YOU think.
But I would suggest you consider information from a variety of sources, to make a more balanced determination. Some people don’t trust industry sources for their information, because businesses are looking to make a profit. That’s how business is sustained. But the same consideration is true for alternative information sources. Controversy sells. So just go in with your eyes, open, you know?
In the end, you’ll have to make the call based on what’s most credible to you.
What I know: the folks I talked to in the course of these few days obviously know more about food than I could ever hope to, even if I had a few lifetimes to study. Personally? I can tell you that I left this trip more convinced than ever, our food supply is in good hands.
Farmers eat the same food we do. They feed their kids the same food we go on to buy in the grocery store.
And if I were a farmer waking up to a face like this? I couldn’t imagine doing anything that might jeopardize his future.
For more info about your food, check out Kansas Living Magazine, the Kansas Farm Food Connection or Best Food Facts. Or just contact your local Agricultural Extension office. They can hook you up with more information than you can easily fit into your brain.
I know, I tried to fit a lot of it into my brain!
Thank you to ALL the farmers out there, for all you do. I appreciated y’all before, no question. But getting more of a glimpse into how you do it has only enhanced my respect.
Be kind to farmers, y’all! They feed us.
Do you feel confident about the food you eat?