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    A Big Pile of.....Compost.

    I recently tweeted about a Blog Entry from another site that discussed organic food production in the context of Global Warming. If you don't like that term, use Climate Change.

    The entry provides a data based position vs. emotional. I am all for that. My signature on personal emails ends with this quote by Roger Brenner (economist), The sum of anecdotes is not data. Here, here Mr. Brenner.

    A twitter friend of mine, Joya (@kubileya) read that entry and replied back as follows:


    Can Agriculture Change with a side dish on Mr. Foer

    I just read a post by a #twitter friend of mine, Zach (@ZacharyCohen). His post is here: What is wrong with me is what is right with me. I like this post and totally relate. I ran into these same issues that he speaks about regarding life in corporate america. It is, dare I say, a gauntlet that is difficult and maddening to navigate.

    Now let's take part of the message, or what I take away as part of the message, and superimpose that on to agriculture. Zach is correct, we live in a kinetic world. We are by no means static. This message is never more evident when one thinks about agriculture, the business of growing our food, feed, and fiber - and now fuel. Agricultural practices are not static. They have never been, nor will they ever be.

    As we march, some would say sprint, into the future, the practices and methodologies utilized by farmers will change; they must. The art form, based in science I might add, of farming will adapt. Take the recent advances in Precision Farming. Everything from Variable Rate Technologies, Sub-Inch Guidance, to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. Agriculture will adapt and continue to improve. As more and more scientific models become commercialized and cost effective, producers of our food, fuel, fiber, and feed will adopt and use. We are getting better every day. Below is a high level diagram depicting what we in the "conventional" ag space are concerned with. Diagram courtesy of the National Natural Resource Management System, Indian Space Research Organization

    o


    When we look at the needed debates on the production of one of life's vital components, it becomes evident that many of the discussions are founded on the idea that the current production methodologies are static. I don't think this is intentional, but it is the case. I believe there is an assumption on the #Profood "side" that "conventional" farmers and ranchers don't want to change or are afraid of change. I could not disagree more.

    Now commence the tangential discussion....

    Let's take a 36,000 foot view of switching to organic methodologies for wheat. As anyone who makes their living off the land will tell you, migrating over to producing organically takes at least 3 years, usually 5. The USDA requires a 3 year limbo period before you obtain the Certified USDA Organic label. Now, we would all love for the production of food to be all altruistic, but even in 3BL terms, you need to make a profit. So while you are waiting for that certification, you have substantial added costs that cannot be recouped in the market place. I am also not convinced that organic methodologies are sustainable (another post will cover this topic)

    Part of our issue also lies in the complexity of the food supply chain. It is easy, and sometimes warranted, to investigate and push back on the food system. There are a few players involved who are greedy and malevolent. We should not, and don't stand for the terrible practices that take place with these institutions. What happens is that the 98% of good, responsible farmers get caught in the crossfire. A perfect example of this is a recent episode of The Ellen Show where Jonathan Foer "educates" everyone on eating meat. He actually made a comment that "more than 99% of animals that are raised for meat are raised on factory farms." Huh? News to me.

    I wonder what the hundreds of thousands (or millions) of viewers thought about the US farmer after that 11 minutes?

    Anyone have a guess....anyone...Bueller??

    There is already a gaping chasm between farm and fork, and individuals like Mr. Foer are part of the problem. If you want to go after bad practices in the food industry, go for it! I will help. If you make ridiculous statements that 99% of the food, in this case meat, we eat comes from a producer who is outright deplorable, then I have a serious issue with that.

    How many individuals do you think were influenced enough to, as Rob Smart (@jambutter) states, rightly so, get their asses back into the kitchen? None

    How many individuals were encouraged to interface with a farmer to find out more about agricultural production? None. And why would they. Mr. Foer unequivocally stated that it is hidden and no-one would give him access. God forbid Mr. Foer ask an ag university or use the mighty Google search engine.

    End of tangential discussion.....

    My sincere apologies for the tirade above, but come on, Mr. Foer did not help close gaps; he made them worst.

    The collective we in the business of producing food, feed, fuel, and fiber care deeply about our profession. We all want to satisfy the needs of the environment, population, and future generations. The notion that we don't because of a disagreement on very complex, dynamic, and scientific positions is just blatantly false.

    A factual statement. The collective you (Profood) are no more Profood than the collective we. We are all profood.

    Examples:
    Profood believes in eating and cooking with fresh ingredients at home - so do we
    Profood believes in producing food sustainably - so do we
    Profood believes in local food economies - so do we
    Profood supports CSA's, and organic - so do we
    Profood believes in educating the consumer - so. do. we.

    There is room, scratch that a NEED, for all of us, and if there is a position out there that we are going to deliver on the challenges we face without "conventional" farming, I suggest a re-evaluation. There are so many issues we face, from GHG's and climate change to reduced resources (land, water, etc..), food insecurity, cost of food, sound food policy, trade issues, and the list goes on. In the final analysis, a blend of practices is needed. This isn't a fight.

    What is "wrong" with us, is what is right with us.

    The Embodiment of Service - #MPKBest Twitter User of the Year

    The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” ~ Mitch Albom


    This, in a nutshell, is what I think about Michele and how she lives her life. I respect, value, and aspire to do the exact same thing. Michele not only has an impact on the #agricultural community, she motivates others to do the same thing; make an impact. 


    In today's world, with social media tools, information can go viral, fast. In conjunction blogging has a huge impact on society, given that more and more people are "dialed in" to blogs. Michele understands this, and knows full well that we, in agriculture, need to "find our voice". Michele has dedicated herself to the ag industry and this mantra. 


    More importantly than ideals, is the ability to execute: As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stated "A really great talent finds its happiness in execution." If that is the case, Michele is certainly happy. Actions speak louder than words, so don't just take my word for it. Just have a look at #agchat and #foodchat on #twitter. Michele founded both of these open forums on twitter and the impact has been phenomenal. #Agchat has been a hub that allows the various spokes in the #ag industry to hook together to create a powerful voice. It is also a place we can come together to share knowledge, educate, and learn from one another. The biggest impact has been on the interaction with the public at large. We need to get this going. Education is a MUST! I am ever thankful for the weekly shindig known as #agchat! 


    If you need more information on why you should vote Michele (@mpaynknoper) Twitter User of the Year, check out these places. You will come to quickly notice that there are other communities in conjunction with the #ag community that are all in agreement.


    Janice's Blog (@JPLovesCOTTON) - http://jplovescotton.wordpress.com/
    Eliz Greene's Blog (@elizgreene) -  http://bit.ly/4EJ0YB
    Ray Prock's Blog (@RayLinDairy) - http://bit.ly/2k6vEy 


    We are now to the point in the posting where you have been inspired and feel so compelled to drop everything and vote. Here is the direct link to vote. http://bit.ly/OLfBy Sign in with your Twitter or Facebook account and vote every day.



    Harvesting Ideas from "Opposing" Views

    As I reflect back on the recent interactions with the #Profood folks, I believe there are just some things that need much more than 140 characters to explain. In conjunction, there are also issues that seem irreconcilable, regardless of the amount of characters, both on paper and "live".

    Let's take the simple approach and take each issue bullet by bullet. First two bullets:


    • The #agchat community has no interest in changing and are afraid of sustainability - Anyone who has been involved in the agricultural community knows full well how much farming has changed over the last century  to adapt to an ever changing environment. We now use less resources, less chemicals, and better tillage practices, all the while maintaining a safe, healthy, abundant food supply. We are also looking for better methodologies by engaging in the latest in technology, scientific modeling, and University Extension offices. The #ag community knows full well what we are up against and will "change", as we have always done. Production agriculture IS NOT static, and every single argument against current practices of good #farmers makes this assumption by the very nature of the position. Farmers want sustainability, probably a helluva lot more than the #profood peeps do. If you think the farmers I deal with on Twitter are not sustainable, I say you haul your but out there to learn, or better yet make your ENTIRE living off the land. Then come back and tell me if sustainability isn't at the forefront of all good farmers.  
    • The pushback we (#Profood) are seeing is because "Big Ag" is running scared. - Actually, the push back you get from me has zero to do with running scared. It has to do with the fact that #profood peeps tend to view our interaction as a "war" that needs to be won. Promoting production agriculture and the role it is surely going to play moving forward isn't a war or contest to see who can trump the other in a battle of wits, and it definitely isn't about a smack-down or trendig comparisons. It should be about everyone working together and listening, sharing ideas, and above all, learning. You obviously have many issues with the current food system, and I do not disagree that there are many to go after, but including the farmer in that mix and then calling them Big-Ag because it is easy and people "understand it" doesn't help and creates divides. I am not Big-Ag and never have been.
    • There is no more to learn from #agchat - Sad, truly sad. Educating yourself is very important; however, education alone is not enough. I can say that because I witnessed it first hand. A company asked for voluntary retirement with a generous package. It so happens that many people took the offer. What the company didn't realize is that a huge void was created, an experience void. Long story short, this experience void hampered innovation and new product development. I say we learn from that mistake. If you think you have nothing more to learn from the very people who have been farming for 3-6 generations, I say think again. 
    Do we not all want the same outcome? Safe, sustainable, healthy food, more kitchen time, and deep interest in our food? That is what I want. It is one of the reasons I support my neighbor, a local grower. He uses VRT, Lightbar, conservation tillage (Strip-Till), and is always researching better methodologies to grow our food. In my view, that is on the #sustainable path. 

    Before proposing a situation to discuss, I close with a question for the #profood tweeps out there: How irritating is it when you get lumped in with the #AR crazies? How about people stating that all you want to do is convert us all to Vegan? I have seen both of these happen. I know full well that you are NOT doing any of the sort, but just imagine how the conversation would go, downhill fast. Go back on look through the conversations and blog posts. What I see is that the #ag community fully supports all types of good farming practices. We will need a diversified mix to deal with the issues we face.

    Situation:
    I (not to be taken literally) produce commodity crops (corn/beans/wheat), livestock, pork, and legumes as a cover crop in between crop rotations. I use the latest and greatest in guidance from AutoFarm. This means that I plant with sub-inch accuracy & follow the same paths thereby reducing compaction. I also use Variable-Rate Technologies in conjunction with my guidance to ensure I only use what inputs where I need them, thereby reducing my environmental impact. I have also migrated over to conservation tillage to continue to increase the organic matter in my soil. I soil test on a 3 year rotation to ensure I am not depleting the soil nutrients. I capture my manure and use it as much as possible to decrease my synthetic fertilizer use. In conjunction with that, my neighbor also uses my manure to be sure we use what is produced. Removing the $180 oil price from the equation, because equipment will change, what is missing in the sustainability of my farming operation?

    I look forward to discussing the above situation with an open mind.

    So what is "Big Ag" Anyway?

    You are watching a professional basketball game. As usual the game is fast paced, exciting, and, for the most part enjoyable. The game slows down a bit for a free throw due to an offensive foul. The "rock" is thrown up and...brick!.

    This is what I believe happens with the term Big Ag. The term is thrown out there like a basketball (rock) heading to the rim only to brick. This could be semantics, but here is the thing; semantics matter, ALLOT. Semantics defined, is the branch of linguistics that studies the meaning of words. What is meant means more than what is said. Take one of my favorite expressions from my southern roots, "Bless your heart". Unless you are culturally aware, you may think this statement is meant as a positive; however, in the south this is not so positive. We southeners use this statement as a way to not offend people when we do not have anything nice to say. So what is meant means much more that what is said.

    So isn't it about time my #Profood counterparts do one of two things: Define Big Ag or just stop using the term altogether. I prefer the latter. It just detracts from a conversation because inevitably the question will be asked: What is Big Ag? The conversation will then focus on this instead of debating real issues, like safe, healthy food, stable food supplies, food insecurity, and future direction of agriculture, GM foods, and many others.     

    I took part in a #Twitter conversation last night, well according to some I didn't take part and just jumped into the middle of it. I believe that twitter conversations are meant to be broad and include our entire network. If you don't like having people take part in a discussion, use the DM functionality or migrate over to email; otherwise, please expect me to take part in discussions that pertain to any and all aspects of the world wide food supply chain. It is my passion so I cannot help myself. 

    So, why bring this conversation up and how does it pertain to defining Big Ag?

    Here is why:

    As you may already be aware, Michael Pollen was invited by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to speak about sustainable agriculture. It is also a well known fact that many in agriculture have a beef with Pollen and his stated positions. I am not going to get into the differences, but suffice it say, there are more than a few. Given this fact, one of the donors, who happens to be a rancher, Harris Ranch did not like a one-sided lecture and wanted a panel discussion instead that included meat expert(s), industry, and Pollen. Harris informed the school that they would not be donating funds if there was not a fair and balanced discussion. 

    As you can imagine, this did not go over well with my #profood counterparts. Many were livid. The disdain for Harris Ranch's action was very apparent. Obviously, this was another Big Ag move to block their voice to be sure the truth was squashed once again. Big Ag was running scared and using their massive power to keep down the little guy again. It figures, right? This is always what Big Ag does; we keep the truth hidden so we can keep pillaging the land, produce un-healthy food, and squandering Mother Earth. 

    This is the knee-jerk reaction I have seen many times. Now Harris was getting attacked by people who knew ZERO about the operation, people, and business. In a matter of a few tweets, Harris Ranch was now Big Ag.

    As the day progressed yesterday, the usual banter went back and forth. I just watched from the sideline as yesterday was a bit busy. I finally had spare time in the evening and noticed a good discussion about the previous Pollen/Harris event. My first question: Is Harris Ranch Big-Ag? If so, why? And please define what Big-Ag means. I did not receive an answer, mostly due to the fact, I was told, that my intentions are too hard to read. Fair enough. Let this serve as my intentions. I really want to know what Big Ag is. Seriously....what is it?

    So, instead of discussing the merits of why a panel may or may not have been better for an educational venue in terms of food, we spent wasted time trying to define Big Ag, and neither of the parties was going to capitulate. Dead End. 

    Let's just do away with this term. As @JeffFowle said in a twitter update "Big" is NOT "Bad". To which my response is, EXACTLY. What you do, what values, morals, and ethics you live by defines whether or not you are "Bad", both personally and professionally. 

    So there is no mistake and it is crystal clear:

    There are folks in our industry that do not abide by the rules, but these are the few. The problem is that the few is the focus of the discussion. News in our country revolves around sensationalism, and it is really hard to take the good, hard work 98% of the farmers do each and every day and make it newsworthy. This translates to a position that the agricultural industry cannot be trusted and produces un-healthy food. Then we wonder why the consumer acts a certain way?

    So, the question remains: What is Big Ag?

    #FollowFriday #Ag Folks on Twitter



     Another exhilarating week has passed by. I spent the great deal of the week at my company headquarters in State College, PA; a beautiful part of the country.

    I received a few #FF mentions from #ag folks that I hold in high regard. To be mentioned by these folks as someone to follow on #twitter is really amazing. I am continually thankful for the interactions on #twitter, especially from my fellow #ag tweeps. My heartfelt thanks for the conversations and knowledge you continually share with me. As we are all aware, agriculture, as an industry, is going to be faced with huge challenges to deliver on our promise to provide food, fuel, feed, and fiber to the world. I am very confident that our industry is going to indeed deliver, in spades. Now is the time "non-ag" folks to get involved! We need your interaction and interest so so the facts and truth about farming can be spread far and wide. Don't be sucked in with the sensationalism that compromises some of our media outlets. There are farmers and ag industry folks ready and willing to interact with you. Many are even willing to accept you as a visitor on their farm or business to answer your questions. Now is the time to find out where your food really comes from and who produces it. Yes there are bad people and companies out there as with any market, but there are more of us, many more of us, that do not get coverage and media attention. The foundation of our democracy is an educated populace, so take the time to educate yourself.

    Below is a list to make it a bit easier to get started. Every one of these individuals has enriched my life. They are also eager to spread the word about #agriculture.....and why we LOVE it so much. So, pull up a chair, open a beverage, and take a load off. The water is nice!

    #FollowFriday list in no particular order:
    @mpaynknoper
    @FarmerHaley
    @cornguy
    @CariRinker
    @jilib
    @featherchick
    @JPLovesCOTTON
    @KYFarmersMatter
    @AFBFMace
    @Tykerman1
    @AFBFCyndie
    @JeffFowle
    @RayLinDairy
    @iamafarmer2
    @KSFarmBureau
    @followfarmer

    I am VERY short on time so I will have to add to this list a bit later and send out an update. To all other #ag folks, I am continually grateful for your presence. Go ag!

    Agriculture and the political example it sets

    The purpose of this blog is to discuss agriculture. It is meant to be an open forum for everyone involved in agriculture to speak their mind. It is really not meant to discuss politics, and this post will certainly not get into political positions directly; the bully pulpit is not in effect here, but all one must do to see how polarized things are at the moment is to turn on the television. Our 24 hours news cycle can be distracting and, well, useless sometimes. That is not a knock on the media as that is just the system that is in place. A great example of sensationalist TV faring better than civil discourse is CSPAN. As many of my friends and family state, "that is the most boring TV we have ever seen." Why is that I wonder? Let's face it, how interesting is a good, in-depth policy discussion? How many individuals would tune in to that news outlet if there was a focus on policy? I propose that their ratings would take a hit. It is so much easier to pull out the race card against all dissidence of current policy. It is also great TV when Obama is called a Marxist (I wager that 1/2 the people calling him that have NO idea what that means), racist, or Nazi. Where does that really get us? Does it make our country better? The answer is unequivocally no. And this is exactly why the media and general population should take a look at agriculture.

    As all of us are aware, there is a very heated debate taking place in regards to health care in our country. Actually, there are very heated debates going on about the role of government in our society. These debates are the cornerstone of our democracy. Any President that tries to implement bold changes has faced significant opposition, from FDR to Reagan, and now Obama. I am thankful I live in a country that allows everyone to speak their mind. That being said, I must say that recent events really do challenge my die hard belief in the First Amendment. My steadfastness hasn't faltered, but it certainly is trying at times. It is, after all, the First Amendment for a reason.

    Let's take a look at the 9/12/09 protest first. I am all for grassroots efforts culminating into a march and show of support or dissidence; however, it is really difficult to determine if many of the individuals taking part were actually there showing their dissidence of health care reform (#HCR). There were so many signs, both literally and figuratively that had nothing to do with health care. Look here for examples. This is what our media covers because it is sensational. What that does is detract from the actual debate. The fact of the matter is that Obama is not a Marxist, Nazi, or "death panel" advocate, and the Republican party is not full of racists. If you truly believe either of the above, then this post is definitely for you! Does racism still occur in this country? Yes, and it is not party dependent. We need to marginalize such activities and call them out for what they are. Every news outlet from ABC to Fox news and all of Congress should repudiate these views and mention that these people are the minority in our country, minority indeed! They are certainly free to speak their mind; however, it should be stated that such positions are deplorable.

    So, why should we have a look at agriculture? How does paying attention to agriculture apply to the current health care debate? The answer is quite simple. When we debate agricultural issues, we talk about POLICY, pure and simple. Ask a farmer about the effects of, say Cap and Trade and the answer revolves around the effects such a policy will have on their ability to run their business; growing our food, fuel, feed, and fiber. It isn't about what Obama and Congress "are." It is about the actual guts of the bill. Ask a farmer about Indirect Land Use and, not surprisingly, the discussion is about policy. It isn't about Pelosi, Frank, Grassley, or any other elected official directly; it may focus on their position, but it isn't about attacks on character. Farmers spend the time required to educate themselves, and......wait for it......actually READ the bill. What a novel concept right?

    To take that further, we are currently in a debate surrounding the future of agriculture and the role various types of agricultural approaches fit into the puzzle; that puzzle being massive population growth, finite resources, and a healthy citizenry. Granted our discussions, at times, become antagonistic. There are a minority of individuals that play to the sensational also, but, as with the current debates, these are the minority. The majority of us use a wonderful approach to the discussions; that is education and facts. If there is something that one of us has detailed knowledge about, we share with the group. Lo and behold, it actually furthers our discussions!

    And that, after all, is what we all need to focus on. We need to educate ourselves on the issues and then determine our position. If you already have a position because Glenn Beck or Rachel Maddow "said so", then go back to the drawing board. There is nothing that replaces a good, in depth read. Take the time to educate yourself on issues. You may find that the 24 hour news cycle is not meant for a replacement in your own research. I also encourage you to look to agriculture as an example. Beyond that, everyone should be paying attention to agriculture as it is what drives a thriving society. Yes I know that was a shameless plug, but #ag is where it's at so come join us! We would love to interact, answer questions and talk about policy.

    #FollowFriday #Ag Folks on Twitter




    Another week has flown by! As I reflect on the events of the past week, I would like to thank my fellow #ag tweeps for yet another enriching twitter experience. I appreciate all your efforts to ensure an adequate, safe, and healthy food supply. I am especially grateful for your willingness to share your knowledge, not only with me, but with the general public. Working together I am totally convinced agriculture, in it's entirety, is going to face the upcoming challenges we are certain to experience. I am looking forward to another exciting week ahead as I tweet from my company headquarters in State College, PA. As an aside, if there are any #ag tweeps in the neighborhood, drop me a line as I would be more than happy to meet and shake hands.

    The following #FF (#FollowFriday) list is not an exhaustive list; it is a list of the #ag tweeps I had the most interaction with this week. For all "non-ag" folks, please take an interest in #agriculture. It will enrich your life as agriculture is a mix of art and science, exhilarating, fascinating, fun, complex, and just plain wonderful. It is the cornerstone of ALL thriving societies; not to mention, there are so many excellent people involved. You will not be disappointed once you take the dive, so do it to find out where your food comes from, who produces it, how they produce it, and why. (Psst - I will let you in on a little secret: Almost every family farmer that produces our food does it because they love it...their heart is in it!)

    Besides following the below individuals, an excellent resource to get you started has been put together by @followfarmer. This is a great spreadsheet designed for you to be able to follow the worthwhile #ag folks on #twitter. I am looking forward to tweeting with you in the twitterverse.

    My #FF list of #ag folks - in no particular order

    @FarmerHaley                    @foodprovider
    @RayLinDairy                     @featherchick
    @TroyHadrick                    @derekbalsey
    @AFBFMace                     @OliverRanch
    @kansfarmer                       @KYFarmersMatter
    @daringrimm                       @WriteNowBiz
    @KSFarmBureau                @jilib
    @mpaynknoper                   @n_web
    @Kath_Monsanto               @JPLovesCOTTON

    Where's the "Beef"



    I had an exchange on #Twitter with one of my #Profood counterparts last night in which a few others joined in on the discussion, well a loosely defined discussion.


    Why is it that conversations turn sour so quickly? Do I cause some of this strife? How is my counterpart interpreting my last 140 character tweet? Maybe I am just a jerk? Maybe he/she is? These are all questions that just get in the way of what we should be doing. We should be focused on debating the merits of safe, healthy food, not thinking what our next statement is going to be. In all fairness to everyone, 140 characters is really, no I am not kidding, really difficult to express your point; especially when it comes to food and agriculture.


    It all started with just an "innocent" (quotes for a reason) tweet from Rob Smart as follows, including some of the back and forth between he and I:


    @Jambutter: Curious @MonsantoCo if Norman Borlaug held any seed patents or was all of his intellectual property in the public domain?
    @natejtaylor: @Jambutter why would U ask a question you can find the answer to by an internet search Rob? (cc @MonsantoCo)
    @Jambutter: Pretty simple @natejtaylor, I wanted to know if @MonsantoCo knew the answer. Did you run the search?
    @natejtaylor: @Jambutter I did not. And nothing with #food is simple. I took that as baiting and antagonistic. Not what we need in food debate.
    @Jambutter: @natejtaylor Monsanto tweeted about Mr. Borlaug and feeding world's hungry. He approached challenge in much different way, so I responded.




    From there the conversation went down hill quite rapidly. It then became a question as to why I cam to the 
    "rescue" and "defense" of Monsanto. What? My response as noted above was why ask a silly question like that. The answer is to illicit a response. In my view, what took place was exactly what the intent was; to have a conversation in which one "side" would win. To me, this is not a healthy approach to advancing agriculture in these unprecendented times.


    To be very clear on my position. We currently live in a time where supercapitalism rules. This is not healthy for our society or economy. The outcome of our capitalistic system ends with consolidation of power and markets akin to either an oligopoly or flat out monopoly. It is just how the capitalistic system works. This, by no means, makes it right and we should all continue to fight against consolidation and inject competition into the market place. Competition is where family and specialty farms can show what they do, how they do it and why, and begin to get a fair price for their work and products. I can find common ground with my ProFood counterparts on this particular issue. That is why I support farmers markets, CSA's, and strong local food economies. We need all of those, as well as a strong, scalable, agricultural industry for our vast world. 


    At the end of the day, is Monsanto a benevolent company? No, and neither is Wal Mart, Oracle, Toyota, ADM, Cargill or any other large organization. Publicly traded companies are amoral; meaning that their purpose is to obtain capital and add Shareholder Value Add (SVA), otherwise called increasing the stock price. That doesn't automatically correlate to spawns of Satan working at these companies. I know plenty of people working at, for example, Monsanto that believe in what they are trying to do. They want to ensure an adequate, safe, food supply for everyone. I am glad they are in my life from both a professional and personal standpoint. It also means that the citizens need to push back on companies and legislators in every marketplace to ensure healthy competition. I work at a small business and we deal with entering new markets constantly. The barriers are vast, but that is where the innovation takes place and where I WANT to be. Isn't that part of the ProFood ideals? 


    To answer the question posed of my "defense" of Monsanto, I offer this; I felt it inappropriate to put forth an antagonistic question on the back of Norman Bourlag. That is all, nothing else. Why do that when we all have much more important things to worry about. Some things are better to let roll off your back so the focus can be maintained. Practitioners of circuitry will tell you that noise is unwanted signals. We should stop focusing on the noise. Let's focus on, for example, how we are going to find common ground to advance safe, healthy food production? How can we integrate what existing farmers are doing into, say a CSA? How do we develop strong, versatile, local food economies? These are pressing issues that every single farmer I interact with would be more than happy to talk about. There are also other macro-economic issues we must deal with that are just so complicated that no one group, company, NGO, or government is going to solve by it's lonesome; multiple approaches are required. I will also address the other chats that took place regarding the assumption that I thought everyone should just be silent regarding Monsanto. On the contrary, we ALL need to be vocal about our beliefs and ideals. It is, after all, how we progress.


    I propose that we do away with baiting, antagonistic questions. Anyone else in favor of that? Where is it going to get us? How can #ProFood expect to get "conventional" farmers on board and participating? This also applies to my #ag counterparts also, including myself. Why does there always have to be a "beef" when there is disagreement? None of that makes any sense to me......at all. I still stand by my previous post about the middle of the road, although I hear that post is no longer valid after last night's heated interaction. I find that a down-right shame. It is not "us" against "them." Until that has been dealt with, we can't even begin to define the parameters for a decent discussion.


    In conclusion, I need to apologize to Rob Smart (@jambutter) for stating:


    @Jambutter And I answered Rob. I am not defending Monsanto. I think your approach is ALL WRONG and I am sure you don't like that. 


    I should follow what I preach. That comment above was rude and assumes I know Rob's approach. So in an effort to get back on track, accept my apology Rob. Now, let's get back to providing safe, healthy, food for not only our country, but others as well. Time is short, so focusing on the noise rather than outcomes creates a vicious circle that leads us back to the same eroded ground. And we all know how well eroded ground performs. All it does is allow arguments, instead of debates, to fester. There is a vast difference between an argument and a debate. As Gay Hendricks stated:
    Arguments are often like melodramas -- they have a predictable beginning, middle, and end.
    Here is hoping we progress this week!



    How I pick my #FollowFriday




    Before I get into my #FF recommendations, I want to tell you why I chose the particular photo above. These are just two of my 6 animals; 4 cats and 2 dogs. This should be indicative of the fact that, although we come from different backgrounds, we should be able to find common ground! For reference, the dog's name is Lavendar, an Italian Greyhound. The cat's name is Kona. These two live in complete and utter harmony. Below is a better picture of Lavendar:



    Every week on Twitter, we all start posting our #FF recommendations. This idea was, and still is, excellent. It allows for all of us to expand our networks, not by just randomly adding people to your network, but actually adding quality people to your network. It also allows us to pass on our thoughts about what people have been posting through the week. I am always grateful and thankful that someone takes the time to read my posts, read them indeed! To have the likes of such great #agvocates include me in a #FF is an honor.

    On this follow friday I want to give the following people a shout out. I do this because they post compelling content, participate in healthy debates, know what they are talking about and are just plain great people! While you ponder the merits of whether or not you decide to follow these people, remember that they are on my list because of the value they add to my Twitter experience. Sometimes the tweets are thought provoking, sometimes irritating, (yes it is good to get irritated sometimes - it is how we become better people) many times funny, and always, always relevant! So, do yourself a favor and follow these people. If you are not interested in #agriculture, #food, and #farming, you soon will be! These are not in any particular order:

    @FarmerHaley
    @JeffFowle
    @daringrimm
    @RayLinDairy
    @KYFarmersMatter
    @WriteNowBiz
    @nel1jack
    @Mica_MON
    @SteinerTractors
    @agchick
    @mpaynknoper
    @cornguy
    @JPLovesCOTTON
    @AFBFMace
    @Ken4Corn
    @celestelaurant
    @iamafarmer2
    @craig_leach
    @jambutter
    @ZacharyCohen
    @meredithmo
    @CariRincker
    @jilib
    @farmanddairy
    @renee_martin
    @kubileya
    @Mica_MON


    I am certain there are people I have not included that should be on this list. I will continually work towards generating a longer list. As time goes by, more and more will be added as I am now searching through other industries. I cannot express enough my gratitude for how much the interaction with these individuals have impacted my life, both personally and prefessionally. I say again; do yourself a solid and just click the follow button.....you will be happy you did.

    The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.


    Charles Swindoll - Clergyman

    The Politics of Agriculture and Pro Food - Personal Responsibility and Corporate Food Chains

    As we continue the discussions on the Agri-Supply chain and all that encompasses, and at the risk of just stating the obvious, political ideology places a significant role in the sometimes heated exchanges. On one side of the equation are the folks who are steadfast in their belief that it all starts with personal responsibility; generally speaking, these are the folks who are on the front lines supporting agriculture as great #agvocates should. On the other side of the SAME equation are the folks who believe that there are other factors in play within the system that need to be considered; these are predominantly part of the #ProFood movement. Now, I am always putting out reminders not to paint with a broad brush, so to be very clear, the above is not all inclusive. There are some, with no doubt, that do not fit this scenario. For the purposes of this entry, I will be using the above generalization to attempt to further our discussions and elicit feedback.


    So, in my view, we need to see if we can elucidate this equation. There isn't a simple algorithm for this. It is complex with many different variables and outside influences like geography, family history, cultural practices, and many more. Personally, I think we all should be ecstatic that there isn't one set answer. This is where innovation takes hold, we learn to work with a myriad of individuals, knowledge is gained, and progress is made. 


    It seems to me that, after removing the "noise" from the data, there seems to be a disconnect. For the most part, I really do not think that the individuals I have interacted with that are on the Pro Food (all, I REALLY wish you would think of another name...polarizing) "side" are trying to demonize the conventional farming operations. There are those that certainly do, and to those, I call you on the carpet. We are not going to progress agriculture without the full support and participation of multi-generational farmers. As Albert Einstein eloquently stated: The only source of knowledge is experience”. So enough is enough. What many of the Pro Food advocates are trying to do is break the hold large multi-national companies have on certain parts of our food supply chain. Actually, this is a laudable goal; however, it would do everyone on the Pro Food side to remember that honest, ethical, people work at these huge companies and DO NOT deserve the disdain they receive. They are working hard towards the exact same goal we all are. I have met them personally, and you don't know what you are missing. Another point in fact is this: The United States is a capitalistic society. The inevitable outcome /progression is that businesses grow; it's just what you do. Just look at Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Oracle, etc. Focusing efforts to prevent oligopolies from forming, or worst monopolies, is where efforts should be focused. Also, not all corporations providing food and inputs to the system are the devil incarnate. They do good things and will be a part of the solution to the looming crisis we are going to face. 


    To continue the disconnect from the other side of that coin; it is important to remember that one does not have to be deeply involved in an industry to ask questions and lay out constructive criticism. Isn't that what journalist like Edward R. Murrow did for the betterment of our country? As an aside, we need more journalist cut from the cloth of Mr. Murrow. For those of us working in #agriculture, we should, change that, need to listen to what the Pro Food "side" is stating. If we are to truly #agvocate for our profession, we need to take in and assimilate all data points, whether we like the data or not! This will ensure we distribute facts and have a real discussion. We are in unprecedented times given the lack of resources and expected booming population. How do we even approach such a precarious situation? Conventional?, Organic?, Permaculture?, Biodiversity? CSA's?, Local Food Economies? Yes, all of the above. There is room for everyone. 


    I would like to touch on personal responsibility. The position that it all starts with the individual is to simplistic. It negates the many facets of life that truly impact what happens in our lives. I just finished the book The Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. If you haven't read it, it is worth your time. He has a theory that there is no-one that is solely responsible for where they are. Each and every one of us has a cultural legacy that impacts us, and if we really think about, had help along the way, either through a lucky break, parents, right time/right place, and access. I tend to agree with Mr. Gladwell. This doesn't negate the brilliance of certain successful people. It just means that the opportunity was presented to these individuals that allowed them to use their smarts and work hard. I mention this so we can remember that not everyone who "doesn't make the right choice" is lazy. Sometimes, due to circumstances we are not aware of, it just is. This is painting with a very broad brush, and we all know what I think about that. Let's look at it this way:

    What happens when the fulcrum on the above see-saw is not centered? We all know basic physics so the answer is pretty obvious. If the answer starts with and is all about Personal Choice, then we are not paying attention to what the bad companies do. There is no mistaking that there are some bad people in our industry that give us all a bad name. Unfortunately, in our media environment, this is what makes for good news. 


    If we only focus on corporations and negate Personal Choice, we will stifle innovation and not allow people to fail, learn, and progress. By allowing people to fail and then succeed, they will possibly build a successful business that grows and then start the cycle all over again. What an awesome circle! Now this is VERY simplistic and only one idealogical piece of the puzzle, but it is a good example of how political persuasion plays a role in the food debate.


    There was a blog written by @ZacahryCohen earlier this week that was very provocative. It was about Obesity and how farmers should take some blame for this crisis in our country. Needless to say, it got the attention of a few folks, including myself. @JeffFowle and @AndyVance, two excellent #agvocates that I am proud to know and talk with via Twitter wrote responses in their blogs. Both are advocating that it is personal choice that starts it all. Referring back to the fulcrum diagram, would it not be prudent to realize that, yes personal choice is a key factor, but not the only reason? There are other factors that we need to be aware of. 


    One thing I can be sure of is that farmers are not to blame for obesity issues in our country


    It is a mix of people making bad choices, bad policy, and very effective marketing.


    So how do we go about balancing the equation that we started with? Truthfully, we may not be able to balance the equation. Ideology is ideology and philosophy is philosophy; however, I am, and will always be, an optimist. The funny thing is that the equation cannot reach balance and remain there! It will always try to reach equilibrium and then an unknown force will cause more disorder. The fun, interesting, and exciting part is taking part in the attempts to balance the equation. This is what I am passionate about and what motivates me; it is about the journey.

    Living things have no inertia, and tend to no equilibrium. 
    Thomas Henry Huxley - English Biologist

    Ag Folks to Follow on #Twitter for #FollowFriday

    Another week has just flown by. Do yourself a favor and follow everyone of these #ag folks. My time is short so a broad overview  in lieu of a lengthy description of each person will have to suffice.

    #Farmers - The farmers listed below have been very active this week, from travel overseas to blog posting, interviews, and online chats via #onthefarm. They each spend time interacting with anyone, I mean anyone, who takes an interest in agriculture who wants to learn how their food, fuel, and fiber is produced. Without further ado, here is my list for the week ending September 4th, 2009, again in no particular order:

    @JeffFowle
    @RayLinDairy
    @FarmerHaley
    @TrayHadrick
    @cornfedfarmer
    @iamafarmer2
    @derekbalsey
    @KYFarmersMatter
    @shaunhaney


    #Media - As we know, media plays a crucial role in how consumers view agricultural production. The following individuals are strong #agvocates. They work tirelessly to help farmers get their message out, always report facts, and perform their journalistic duties as proper journalists should.

    @agchick
    @AgriBlogger
    @TruffleMedia
    @mpaynknoper


    #Legal Eagles - The following #agricultural #lawyers are always their to help and answer questions. They are up to date with what is going on in their communities, as well as with the industry in general. Thank you for representing the interests of the #ag community and sharing your knowledge. We all appreciate it.

    @CariRinker
    @AgriLawyer



    #Industry Providers - This group covers a broad base of #ag folks. Otherwise, we would be sifting through way to many industry segments. Suffice it to say the the following individuals provide key support for the #ag industry, whether through the supply of inputs, education (I included academic extension services in this group), research, marketing, or services. Thanks for all you do.

    @n_web
    @akleinschmidt
    @craig_leach
    @JPLovesCOTTON
    @Mica_Monsanto
    @Kath_Monsanto
    @Kate_Online

    Stay tuned for next weeks #FollowFriday shout outs to other #ag folks. Your hard work and dedication help to feed my family, and build strong local communities. All my best on this Labor Day holiday weekend. I will grill a delicious Rib-Eye and enjoy a tasty beverage for you all.

    A little Humor is always good on a Friday: Please double click to open the larger file


    PS - For Shaun, I thought I would just let everyone know that we can thank....wait for it...CANADA for our holiday weekend. The founder of Labor Day in the US, Peter McGuire, first witnessed a "Labor Day" celebration in the year 1882 in Toronto. He was so inspired that he brought the celebration back to the United States. The rest, as they say, is history!

    Farm Progress 2009 Live Tweetup

    Yesterday I attended my first tweetup! The event took place at the Country Financial Booth at the Farm Progress Show (#FPS09) in Decatur, IL. It was great to shake hands and talk in person to the people we have conversed with many times through Twitter.

    As we in agriculture are aware, social media has provided us with mechanisms to interact with other professionals in the agricultural market place. We are sharing our knowledge, disseminating factual information, and learning from one another. We need to continue to leverage these tools moving forward.

    During the tweetup I met the following individuals:

    @mpaynknoper - We all know Michele, if not personally, then through Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN, etc. She is the founder of #agchat.
    @Mica_Monsanto - Mica is a PR rep for Monsanto. I enjoyed talking about agriculture and past social media interactions. I like her sense of humor and appreciated her take on some of the current issues with agriculture
    @KateOnline - She also works for Monsanto in Public Affairs. It was a pleasure to meet and talk with Kate about her activities in the SM realm as is pertains to agriculture.
    @Kath_Monsanto - Kathleen is the SM specialist for Monsanto and conducted a SM presentation at the Monsanto auditorium during #FPS09. She is working hard to leverage the SM outlet. Nice to meet you Kathleen!
    @TruffleMedia - I have always thought John posts relevant and informed content....getting to meet him in person was, and is, a bonus.
    @agchick - Tricia is just an all around good person, a farm girl, and quite funny. I can appreciate a good sense of humor; it helps when debating issues
    @JacksonFarms - I always enjoy meeting with farmers, and Mike was no exception. We talked about how crops were looking in our areas, technology, SM, and a variety of other topics. Thanks for the good conversation Mike.
    @AgriBlogger - I had a great time discussing agriculture, from production to marketing, with Chuck. Be on the lookout for interviews and updates from #FPS09 on his website.
    @Willie1701A - I actually met Willie briefly at the tweetup; however, I did get to spend some time chatting with him during #agchat that night. Another person with a good sense of humor and knowledge of agriculture.
    @KurtLokenvitz - Kurt and I spoke in length about potential projects. It was a pleasure to meet you Kurt.
    @ArlanFF01 - I actually spoke to Arlan on the phone prior to meeting in person to discuss social media and agriculture. I believe his article on the social media and agriculture topic will be coming out soon. Check it out online.
    @cornguy - I read his blog entries, as should you. It was good to shake hands and discuss how our efforts to spread the message of agriculture are doing.
    @HelloCountry - This is the Twitter account for Country Financial. A big shout out to Country Financial for hosting our tweetup at their booth!
    @KAOjr - This was the first interaction I had with Ken, and it was excellent. He and I exchanged information on our companies and ourselves. I was not following Ken prior to the tweetup. That has now been rectified. Good to chat Ken!
    @jjatfp - Jeff helped organize both the tweetup and the conference room for #agchat. Thanks much for the effort and time. Jeff and I also spent time discussing our companies. Thanks for the fruitful discussions and good sense of humor Jeff.

    I also had brief introductions with @vmdavis @ken4corn and @shanedailey. I hope to meet them again at a future tweetup and spend some more time conversing.

    You should be following all of the above individuals. If we want to expand the reach to a broader audience, we need to follow people. Following people on Twitter will contribute to expanding your network.

    Now that I have met these individuals in person, it is going to add more to their tweets. I am looking forward to more interactions with them as well as everyone else in the twitter network.

    In light of such a wonderful experience, I am going to generate a Google calendar with the upcoming trade shows for the end of this year and all of 2010. I invite you to DM me your email address so I can share the calendar with you. This calendar should give us a good overview of upcoming events as well as allow us time to plan any future tweetups, which I HIGHLY recommend we conduct. I will also provide the link to view the calendar if you prefer. If so, let me know and I will DM the web address your way. Lastly, if there are any events you would like added to the calendar, please let me know as I am sure I have not included all events. The more that gets added, the better chance we have of conducting a tweetup.

    I want to pass along my thanks and gratitude to everyone I met at the Farm Progress Show. It was a pleasure to meet you, a pleasure indeed! I am looking forward to meeting more of you at future trade shows and/or tweetups. To all farmers, have a great harvest season. Here's my hope that we have a prolonged fall!

    There may have been other folks I did not include in this post; it is by no means intentional. It just means that I missed you. If you are not added to the list, please feel free to scold me immediately!

    ProFood people you should follow on Twitter

    I would also like to add a few people who work hard at developing local food economies that supply healthy fruits and vegetables to their community. I have been in vigorous debates with each and every one of these individuals. They are passionate about their ideals (almost as much as I am about mine :)) and are always up for a good discussion. We may not agree on everything, but we certainly all want the same thing: safe, healthy food for our community, family, and especially our children.

    @Jambutter - Rob is the founder of Every Kitchen Table. On this blog you will find the 5 stones of the #ProFood movement. Rob is extremely active and very strong in his opinions, which certainly makes for a lively debate. Rob also blogs on The Huffington Post. I look forward to more fruitful (pun intended) discussion on how we can bridge the gap from farmer to consumer as well as from #ProFood to other #ag folks we engage in on Twitter. As an aside, Rob has asked if I would write on his blog a response to the 5 Stones. I have said yes, and have not delivered. I hope to get that done next week. Sorry for the delay Rob.

    @ZacharyCohen - Zach is a food television writer and producer. He also has a blog where he covers the food debates with fairness and sincerity. I have spoken to Zach and he is sincere in his desire to engage with modern farmers to learn as well as discuss the merits of the ProFood movement. Thanks for the good discussions Zach.

    @Kubileya - Joya is an organic market gardener. Joya is a strong supporter of the tenants of #ProFood, whether that be organic production or CSA's. She is involved in it all.

    @meridithmo - Meridith also is a big supporter of CSA's. If memory serves, she is in the process of starting one in her community. Go Meridith!

    As you can imagine, there are many more that can be added to the list. As time goes on, I am sure I will be able to add a #FF shout out to other individuals and companies involved in the #ProFood movement.

    Agriculture folks you should follow on Twitter

    I thought I would add a little more pertinent information as to why you should follow the following people/organizations you should follow on Twitter for this #FollowFriday. The following list is certainly not exhaustive, but will give you a good start if you are interested in food, feed, fiber, and fuel.

    Agriculture is the backbone of our society and these people are working hard at spreading the message to the public on what farmers are doing to ensure an adequate food supply, while at the same time adopting new technologies and management practices to ensure a sustainable world. So, without further ado, here is my list in no particular order:

    @FarmerHaley - Mike Haley is a 5th generation farmer producing grain and purebred Simmental cattler. Mike works hard every day to support his industry through various social media outlets.

    @JeffFowle - Jeff is a rancher raising cattle, horses, and hay. Jeff is very knowledgeable about the beef industry and shares his knowledge freely with all who are interested.

    @RayLinDairy - Ray is a dairy farmer who is very active in social media. He engages in healthy debates on the growing of our food, always above board, and share some pretty funny stuff to boot!

    @mpaynknoper - Michele is a well known speaker and agriculture advocate. You can find more about her on Facebook through her Cause Matters page. She also is the founder of #agchat, an open forum every Tuesday night that allows people from all walks of life to participate in discussions with farmers from around the country. It is a great 2-3 hours of lively debate and knowledge share.

    @WriteNowBiz - Jan is a freelance writer who also raises rabbits and horses, as well as farms. She is also an advocate for agriculture and always participates in the food debates currently taking place.

    @TroyHadrick - Troy is a 5th generation cattle rancher. He has a blog titled Advocates for Agriculture, where he focuses on spreading the positives of modern ranching and farming. Check out his blog for some really good farming information

    @USGC - This is the Unites States Grain Counsel. They focus on increasing farmer profitability by supporting the export markets for grain. They recently came back from an overseas trip in Morocco. Thanks for your work

    @agleader - He is a 6th generation farmer in CA. I enjoy his tweets and particpiation in the food discussions. He also has a focus on water management and the issues we in agriculture must deal with.

    @JPLovesCOTTON - Janice is a PR rep for Monsanto. She is also a wine enthusiast and great photographer. I enjoy here photos and tweets...what a great sense of humor.

    @agchick - Tricia works in media and recently started working with the IL corn board (I believe that is the organization). She is very active is social media and is working on how we, in ag, can spread the message about our industry. See you at Farm Progress next week Tricia

    @OliverRanch - Carrie is president and founder of Oliver Ranch, an artisan beef producer. Carrie is full of great knowledge on the beef supply chain and works on building transparency in here operation for the benefit of the consumer.

    @KYFarmersMatter - They produce beef and have produced a variety of crops prior to opening their full time business "http://www.johnscustommeats". They focus on quality and supporting their local community by providing safe, healthy, and quality beef.

    There are certainly others in the ag community that you should follow, not just on friday, but each and every day. Knowledge share is how we are going to continue to produce food, feed, fiber, and fuel sustainably, thereby making this world a better place for our children. My thanks and gratitude to all the ag folks who engage with me on Twitter and other social media outlets. I hope to meet in person at one of the many events in 2010.

    Progress or Proving who is Wrong?

    Agriculture is the cornerstone of a healthy, vibrant society. Anyone who is involved in food production can agree on this point. If you cannot feed your people, high gas prices, taxes, and healthcare are mute points. Besides this point, on the surface it seems that the agreement ends there, but this is just on the surface. What I see happening is that the debate on food production is getting derailed by generalizations and assumptions. This just needs to stop, indeed, stop immediately!

    Food production is a complex process involving science, logistics, economics, and policy to name a few. To think that only one approach is going to "solve our food problems" is just plain wrong. This is not a problem that can be solved by developing an equation and solving for X, with X being safe and healthy food. We need to take a step back and engage ALL parties. Just to be clear, here is the actual definition of engage: to carry out or participate in an activity; be involved in. I do not see anywhere in that definition where it states your position is the only correct approach. Engage means you bring your knowledge to the table and share, then LISTEN to the other party as they share their knowledge. It is a bit irritating reading the latest articles from TIME "http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1917458,00.html" and the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/23/opinion/23kristof.html What do the authors really think is going to happen when they paint with such a broad brush? What really happens is this: alienation and defensiveness from the ag community, and rightly so I might add. Put yourself in the place of a modern farmer and read these articles. They were not represented at all. If you doubt the reactions of a farmer, just read their blogs, which you can find via this blog site. After this step in the debate "process", the ProFood advocates then make a claim that modern agriculture:

    1.) Cannot handle criticism and
    2.) Call anyone in the media who disagrees with their position just a sensationalist.

    As you can imagine, this creates a vicious circle that teamwork and innovation cannot take part in. So how do we go about working together, us modern agriculture and ProFood folks?

    Step one is for everyone to acknowledge that we are all ProFood, especially farmers. What farmer in their right mind is going to go out there and pump their livestock full of unessential antibiotics and then turn right around and feed it to their family? I personally do not farm, but feel very confident in the fact that the answer is none. This applies to the production of crops also. So how about we start off with the foundation that we are all ProFood? For more information on ProFood visit here http://everytable.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/five-stones-of-pro-food/ Step two is to do away with the assumptions that advocates for modern agriculture have an agenda that supports corporations polluting our water, ruining our environment, and destroying our soil. Looking outside in to the discussions, it is clear to me that farmers just want the facts about how THEY run their business included in the media. Ask the average consumer how food is grown and see what answers you get. I will bet you bottom dollar that over 70% of the answers will be very similar to the recent articles that have been published. No wonder consumers speak out! I certainly would if I thought that was how ALL food was produced.

    Where the debate should fall is upstream of the actual production. To be fair, much of what ProFood focuses on is upstream; however, a broad brush is used and alienates the same people you claim to support; the farmer. Why can we not have modern agriculture supplying local food economies? We can, but this takes time. Another very important piece of the local food economy is the actual food you grow? Currently much of the ProFood movement are growing vegetables and fruit. What about the staple crops that we all depend on? Do you really think a 2 acre wheat field is the same as a 2 acre vegetable field? It isn't. Please read this article: http://bit.ly/Hzlde It discusses local food economies with staple food crops.

    I am going to reiterate that we divorce the word industrial with modern/conventional. Maybe this can help facilitate calling a spade a spade instead of calling a heart a spade. Both ProFood and modern agriculture can learn from one another and actually, believe it or not, complement one another. ProFood can learn from the modern farmer and utilize the technologies they are able to develop to better manage their food.

    Just a quick thought due to last nights #agchat. If you haven't read the postings yet, look here: "http://www.trufflemedia.com/twitter/Agchat20090825RA.html" Thanks @TruffleMedia for compiling this very useful information! I leave you with this definition Tact: The ability to make a point without making an enemy. We could all benefit with a bit more tact.

    Agriculture Photos

    Can ProFood and "Conventional" Agriculture co-exist?


    Given the fact that there has been a vital shift in the amount of knowledge consumers are demanding from agriculture, as well as a focus on the "how" of food production, I believe we need to adress the question: Can the ProFood movement co-exist with "conventional" agriculture? In short, I say yes, of course it can!


    The first thing we need to do is divorce the connection between industrial agriculture and conventional agriculture. This may be a difficult task given the history of agriculture, but it is imperative we, as a society, make this happen. I work in agriculture, obviously, but do not farm. I spend a great deal of time with farmers and respect what they do and why they do it. There is a 100% garauntee that the family farms (of ALL sizes) that I work with are good stewards of the environment, focus on the welfare of their animals, and take very seriously the notion that "we are feeding the world". For this, we should all be thankful and provide our support for farmers. Now, are there some bad apples (no pun intended) out there? Absolutely! I reject the idea that these bad apples are the norm. Maybe that is my tendency as an eternal optimist coming out? So be it then! By lumping all these "conventional" farmers together with the current definition of industrial farming, we are doing a dis-service to the very many hard working farming families across our country. The vast majority of conventional farmers ARE NOT growing as much as they can with total dis-regard to the soil and the natural resources Mother Nature has blessed us with.


    So back to the orginal question and my position of Yes. The ProFood movement is compromised of very educated consumers. In our country, change can only take place if it is driven by the consumer; the essence of a free market system. We in agriculture can, and should engage in this movement. To be frank, ProFood can learn from farmers who have been growing our food for many years. There is no amount of researching and education that can replace the knowledge of experience. Another reason we in agriculture need to engage is so we can propogate the innovations and technological advancements that have been made in production agriculture. These advancements have led to reduced chemical use, sustainable processes, and reduced water use, to name a few. Is this not a stepping stone in the ProFood ideals?

    It is my position that conventional and sustainble will ultimately converge; once the economics become viable, and they are not now. By design, sustainable agriculture is closely related to organic methodologies. The tenents of organic growing require a shift in the labor required to produce crops. Technology is adopted on a limited basis in organic agriculture. Couple this with the fact that our population shows zero signs of decreasing. To the contrary, we have had rapid expansion in our population. I am not convinced that ProFood can sustain this rapid expansion; at least not in it's current form. On that note, it should be noted that conventional agriculture will also have to adapt, and has been for many years.

    There is room for all types of farmers in the agricultural space. Each has a place and provides the food we require to sustain life. As we continue to engage in fruitful conversation about the growing of our food, it would do us all good to remember that a "conventional" farmer should not be associated with the negative connotaions of "industrial" agriculture. It is due to their hard work and determination that our country has flourished. We are all looking for better ways to produce our food.

    Please stay tuned for more in depth posts touching on the agri-supply chain.




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    Agriculture passionado! I lead GeoVantage's Sales, Marketing, and Business Development activities. If you haven't explored the benefit of remote sensing for production agriculture, now is the time! Not one to rest, I am also a part of the Memes Associates team where we focus on assisting large companies in the agriculture space to "re-discover their inner entrepreneur" through the introduction of market disrupting technology(s) and services.  

    Have questions about agriculture and technology in agriculture? Ask away! 


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