Thursday, March 28, 2013

Sustainable Ag and Food Myths Busted


This is a powerful word that is creating buzz all across the ag world and among consumers, corporations, farmers, families, everyone, everywhere. I watched a video--just today, in fact--that claims to have all the answers but do they really?

Food MythBusters, which is a "campaign to provide videos and resources debunking the yarns Big Ag players spin about our food system," created a video that, in my book, invokes more questions than answers. The video states that the story of "Big Ag" (I'd love a definition on what "Big Ag" really is because I think we fall into that category but we aren't that big in comparison, we are also family owned but we contract too--define please) is "full of holes" but I found a few "holes" of my own. 

So, lets break it down piece by piece:
  1. "[Farmers] Stop practices that keep soil healthy" -- If we don't keep the soil healthy then we would not be able to continue to produce year after year. This statement implies that farmers are irresponsible and uncaring, which is illogical. Comparable to a mechanic that refuses to service vehicles. He won't be in business for very long! Crop rotation is mentioned in the video and is a great way to keep soil healthy. Every farmer in this area, including us, rotates our crops. Usually between corn, soybeans, wheat, and sometimes a cover crop like cereal rice or rye. So, are we really stopping the practices that keep soil healthy or are consumers just confused about farming because they've been removed from it for so long?
  2. "Livestock, that use to be raised on the farm, get crammed into polluting factories"-- Our livestock are still raised on the farm. We use barns and modern technology to raise them but they are
    still on the farm. We live down the road from one of our barns and my sis-in-law and parents-in-law live next door to our other barns. How is this not on the farm? Furthermore, if we were polluting then we would only hurt ourselves. Not only would we be violating our government issued permits (hefty fees for doing so) but it is our water and our land that would be polluted. Would you pollute your own water? Additionally, if we were a factory then we would have better pay and more benefits. I've seen what the factory workers in town make, heck of a lot more than my husband and they don't even do a fraction of the hard labor. Maybe we should all just work in a factory...Nah!
  3. "These farmers now buy expensive inputs" -- Hate to state the obvious but inputs have always been expensive and farmers have purchased them for decades. Inputs, expensive or otherwise, are nothing new. However, the good news is that while farmers still use chemical inputs we use a lot less. Like, 223 million pounds less! Wait! It gets better. Despite using hundreds of millions of pounds less in chemicals we are producing more in yields. Maybe Obama and Congress should take a few hints from farmers on how to use less while getting more to get our economy back on track. Farmer for President! So, are we buying more inputs?
  4. "Got to use more drugs [on livestock]" -- Again, antibiotics are not new to the world of farming and the use of antibiotics is not even related to the size of a farm. Farmers that have 10 animals or 10,000 animals all use antibiotics to keep their animals healthy. Unless they are certified organic, then the animals just get chicken soup and wait to die. I'm joking, dark but still a joke! I know some organic farmers and they are wonderful people. Seriously, another interesting fact is that in an IFT report a panel of experts estimate that 96% of antibiotic resistance is actually from human use, not animal use. So, is the "more drugs" an issue of one singular group or do we need to look at the bigger picture and discuss the use of drugs across the board, primarily with human use?
  5. "Got to use more chemical fertilizer [on crops]" -- I will again state what I said in #3: Like,223million pounds less! Not only are we using less chemicals of every kind but our farm, our neighbors (plural, all of them with pigs), along with friends and family that all raise pigs in barns use less chemicals than ever before because we have the power of poop. I know for a fact that hog farmers use all that poo in their lagoons and, more commonly, their deep pits to fertilize their crops the way grandpappy use to. Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poop-on? Why, yes. Yes we do.
  6. "Corporate ag is good for some folks...not the typical farm family" -- Who is the "typical" farm family? We could be considered under the label "corporate ag"because we contract our pigs through a larger company, as many do. Our family's farm began with less than 100 acres and a husband and wife with three kids attempting to fulfill their dream. Since then, it has grown over the last couple decades to several hundred acres, several thousand hogs, and employs all three children plus spouses and then some. The same is true for several other pig farmers we know. So, how are we not the "typical" farm family? And, if we aren't then who the heck is?
 The bottom line is that I want you to watch the video. I want you to make your own judgment call. But more than anything, I want everyone to understand that farming is just like skinning cats--not the gross, bloody, scratches up and down your arms kind of way, more like there's more than one way to do it kind of way. It is an idiom. I'm not really skinning cats. You people are gross.

Watch the video and let me know what you think. Unlike Food MythBusters, comments are always open and welcome.


  1. Not sure I could stomach watching a video like that. Lies, misinterpretation, and deception. I'm glad you set the record straight though!

  2. Thank you so much for providing feedback on the misconceptions in agriuclture! This industry needs more voices across the nation to tell the story. Thank you for what you do! If you have time, please go to and comment on what your thoughts are.