Who farms our food?
Farmers touch our lives each and every day. They provide animals wool to make clothing, and most importantly, the food to fill our plates for each and every meal of the day. Despite all that farmers do for us, many people do not know who truly farms our food.
Many people have these steryotypes made up in their mind of farmers being uneducated white people that have this perfect picturesque red barn with a couple chickens, pigs and cows, while farming a small amount of crops on the side. This steryotype was accurate during the early 30s and 40s, but in the 21st century, farmers are among the most educated, and are less diversified then 80 years ago. You can learn more here with my audio piece.
Farmers being among the most educated population is due to the high percentage that go to college for two or three year degrees, in agronomy, chemistry, animal science, food science, among several other difficult majors that are most often science related. In order to have successful crops, farmers must know about the weather, chemistry for the soil and natural resources for the best way to create a healthy crop, just to name a few. Animal farmers, also known as ranchers, have to know the best ways to care for their animals to keep them safe and stress-free, while also being efficient in getting their animals to market weight.
Another aspect of farming and agriculture that many people do not know about, is that the majority of farms are family owned. In Illinois, that percentage is 95%, and the United States as a whole is 96%.
Many believe that farms are corporate owned, and many think that company is Monsanto. In reality, a majority of farms are family owned, even if their farm has Inc. behind it. Monsanto is actually a company that does lots of research to help and assist farmers in solving the world food problem.
This issue, and family farming, is discussed in my video package. The package discusses those two issues, and is centered around the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of two different generational farmers: Darren Riskedal, and Lauren Honegger. Darren grew up on a grain farm with corns and soybean, and also has a few head of cattle that him and his brother sell as retail beef to people in their home community and Champaign, Illinois. Lauren grew up helping her grandparents swine operation that has over 50 had of swine. She showed swine in 4-H and has held several internships with pork organizations across the midwest.
Farms are also most often generational farms. One of the people I interviewed, Darren Riskedal, is a sixth generation farmer. His family is from Norway. Darren represents a typical American farmer due to him being white, and in his twenties. A majority of farmers are still in the 50 and 60s age range, but a large majority of farmers Darren’s age are coming into the agriculture industry. This is an exciting time in agriculture because of it.
These young farmers are bringing new techniques and talents to the industry into technology with GPS in the field, biotechnology to keep our crops productive, and other discoveries in animal agriculture to keep our animals stress-free and happy. Darren is helping this movement as he is a college student studying GPS systems in hope of improving the precision agriculture field one day.
Another interview from the video was with a second generational swine farmer. Lauren, works on the farm with her mother, cousins, siblings, aunts and uncles, and grandmother with a farrow to finish operation. This means that they breed the hogs, raise them, and then send them to butcher, or sell them to different breeders and people that show swine in their local county fairs for judging contests.
Lauren is also a generational farmer of the 21st century with her interests in animal agriculture. Lauren attends the University of Illinois and studies animal sciences. She hopes to pursue a masters degree in animal science to continue learning, and hopefully educating others around her about animal agriculture, especially that of the swine industry.
All three interviewees discusses family farms with such happiness on their faces. It brings their family together across multiple platforms that they can bond over. Holly in particular writes for the Prairie Farmer blog very often, and often times she discusses her family. Favorite posts that often buzz around social media are her posts on the family dog, what her children did that day or weekend, and the love that she and her family have for the agriculture community.
Holly and her husband are also a part of the Illinois Farm Families program and farmers who host Chicago moms interested in agriculture and learning more about where their food comes from. Holly blogs about those experiences, talks with the mothers fairly often, and does a great job of relating to mothers from Chicago because she is one herself. Here is a video on the Illinois Farm Families program if one is looking to learn more.
The agriculture industry is a small industry, yet it has such a large impact on everything in our daily lives. If there is one thing that agricultural communicators hope to inform the general public on, that is to educate yourself on agriculture from a farmer. These men and women do not just treat agriculture as a business, it is a livelihood. Farmers, and ranchers especially, work 365 days a year. Animals need fresh food and water each day, stalls need to be cleaned out and so on. These individuals put in a lot of work to make this industry the best it can be, all while providing America and the world with safe and healthy food that is affordable.
To learn more, please contact a local farm bureau near you that can answer questions, and put you in contact with those behind scenes growing our food. It is always important to talk about issues in agriculture, or any industry for that matter, with professionals, and those that actually work in the field.