Back in 2013 the Illinois Farm Families team accepted applications for City Moms (formerly called Field Moms.) The City Moms project took city and suburban moms from Chicago to local farms to learn about farming. From the first until my last tour this past weekend, I collected common farming myths. Below are the most common myths either I had or learned from others.
Myth: The family farm is dead.
Nationwide, 93% of farms are family owned - individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Source: USDA.
Myth: Seed corporations dictate what farmers grow.
Farmers run their farm like any other profitable business. Farmers research, ask questions and made an informed decision on what seeds will thrive in their fields. The seed companies ultimately works for the farmer since they must prove how their product performs. The signs alongside the field advertise to other farmers what seed company's product were planted in that acre.
Myth: Farmers are rich since they own lots of land.
Every farmer I asked rented most of their land. To stay competitive and support a growing family business farmers are forced to expand by renting land from neighbors. Farmland is very expensive and some portions of the country face losing precious farmland to development.
Myth: GMOs are not safe.
Do you know what are GMOs? If not, you are not alone. GMOs stand for Genetically Modified Organisms. The USDA and FDA support their use with over 20 years of scientific research of GMOs in our food supply. The FDA states they are safe from "unreasonable risks of harm to human health or the environment."
I have not made up my mind on GMOs. What I do know is they are safer for farmers and the family members who live near fields where GMOs are planted. A great video where two farmers and a seed salesman talk about why they chose GMOs can be found here. (I am in the closing shot of this video in the blue shirt.)
Myth: All meat is filled with hormones making girls develop early.
The USDA has very strictest regulation on our meat supply. When was the last time you heard of a nationwide meat recall? Before any animal can enter the food supply, the farm's paperwork must prove any antibiotics given the animal have cleared the meat. Veterinarians and farmers work closely to ensure if any antibiotics were given that the correct withdraw period has passed. Evidence shows America's growing waistline is the cause for girls to develop early not the meat supply. There is no scientific research linking meat and girls development.
Myth: Farming and farmers have not changed since the invention of the tractor.
Farming has changed dramatically in the last 50 years. Today, farmers use technology to grow more food on less land. A few examples include: GPS in the tractor for precise planting, iPads to gauge the immediate moisture content of a harvested crop in real time, soil testing for precise fertilizer spread, drones to monitor field development and many other advances. A view of what a farmer's day in the near future according to John Deer. Farmers are also a highly educated group. A record number of Ag-related undergraduate and master degrees are growing. There is also a strong movement of young farmers starting their own business after a few years off their family farms.
Myth: Farmers are greedy.
They do not care about their animals or land. Farmers need to be good stewards to the land and the animals they manage. If an animal is not cared for properly a cow will not give milk or grow large enough to bring to market. When the land is neglected or polluted, crops do not grow to the optimum yield. It is good business to be good stewards.
Fact: The US Food supply is the safest, abundant, affordable food supply the world has ever known.
Heard a myth about farming and want to know the facts? Ask away. I can have the right person respond.
Sharon Blau, Des Plaines
Sharon was one of the Illinois Farm Families 2013 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visited several Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each tour, the Field Moms shared their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms, including five things they found most interesting. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago moms meet farmers.