I tend to be easily persuaded, to believe the person I am listening to at the moment. I am a people-pleaser by nature and that seems to come with the territory. But when it comes to the truth about the foods that I feed to myself and my family, I don't want to just believe what I am hearing in the moment. I want to know what is really true and then act on it. I think most of us can agree on that.
When I heard of the opportunity with the IL Farm Families to go see different farms across Illinois and meet the farmers and see what they do, I knew I wanted to join them. What better way to get the truth about how our food is grown and farmed than straight from the farmers themselves. And this past Saturday, I got the chance to do just that.
Our first visit was to Larson Farms in Maple Park, IL, a cattle and grain farm. Founded back in 1953, this farm defines "family farm" with all the kids and now even the grandson (and great grandson) of the original farmer still making this farm their livelihood. And what an operation it is!!
While there, I took copious notes on the facts and figures of their grain-corn and beef cattle operations. But, reflecting back on the day the important things I learned there have little to do with specific numbers and details.
I walked away from Larson Farms feeling so very impressed with how intentional they are about their farming. I don't have to get bogged down in the details because they do that for me. For all of us. Down to the exact mix for the feed for their cattle and the soil samples that tell them where to concentrate most of their seed and what nutrients need to be added to the soil to give them the healthiest yield possible. So impressive. They are always striving to make their farm more efficient so that they can maximize their yields and minimize the costs (both for them and the consumers). Mike Martz, one of the owners, said "It's either doing 1 thing 100% better or 100 things 1% better, but we are always trying to improve." I love that ! I think I might have to adopt that phrase for myself.
Another thing that stood out about Larson Farms, is their commitment to supporting Ethanol as an alternative energy source. They sell their grain to the Ethanol factory and then purchase the end product grain back from the plant for use in the feed for their cattle. According to Lynn Martz, they support Ethanol because "we can grow it, we can use it. It's very renewable. Its a win-win."
Oh, and I got to ride in a combine and harvest some corn! My boys were super impressed, commenting that Mommy might be in their next "Mighty Machines" DVD. :)
The second farm we visited was Lindale Dairy Farm in Hampshire, IL. It was striking to me how although we were on a totally different type of farm, so many of the same themes rang out. They are mainly a dairy farm but they also farm corn and wheat and hay as a means of growing their own feed. Dairy farming has been passed down their family through many generations and they are passing it on to their kids too.
Linda started out our tour by saying "We hope to show you that we are very conscious of using our resources to the best of our ability." And I think that she did show us that. The Drendels, just like the Martz family, put their whole heart and life into this farm. Seeing their farm and hearing them introduce us to their cows gave me such a sense of gratitude for their diligence and work ethic.
I loved seeing Linda Drendel interact lovingly with the cows and tell the story of how she nursed one calf back to health shortly after its birth. It is more than evident that they take great pride in this craft they have chosen.
We had a very frank discussion with their vet regarding growth hormone and antibiotics and organic milk. It was so thought-provoking and enlightening to ask these questions to someone who TRULY knows what he is talking about. They live these questions, they think about this stuff all the time.
The same goes for the discussion we had about grass vs. corn fed beef with Mike Martz. They have studied these things and come to conclusions based on scientific facts and true data. Talking to these farmers about such questions was exactly why I wanted to be a Field Mom. I want to get the truth from the source. They were not afraid to answer our questions or give us the facts they know. And I was truly grateful for that.
Now, in all honesty, I am still thinking about some of the things the Martz and Drendel families talked about last Saturday. Like I said, I tend to whole heartedly agree with the person I am talking to at the moment. So I need some time to chew on the things they said regarding the importance of what the cattle eat and use of pesticides and growth hormone and all such questions. I need to weigh it all with the other things I have heard and read and see if I can figure out the truth that is probably somewhere in the middle. But getting to see the farms firsthand gave me the utmost respect for these families and what they do.
They are growing food and raising livestock in order to feed my family and their own. They live off these farms and eat what they grow. That speaks volumes to me. They care about what their little grandson eats just as much as I care about my own boys and they do all they can to provide the highest quality food for my table and theirs. But beyond that, they care about feeding our world and keeping up with population demands.
I am so grateful to be a Field Mom and get to see all these things first hand. I love the conversations that have started between farmers and moms. I love hearing truth from their lips and seeing it with my own eyes. I love seeing their passion and dedication and maybe being able to encourage them a little along the way. Hopefully, I will be able to share with those around me what I am seeing and learning and bring you along on this journey with me.
You can find out all about the Field Mom program and meet all the moms and the farmers at www.watchusgrow.org.
Glendale Heights, IL