I had the opportunity to share with Amber from Stirlist.com about our farm and what I do with CommonGround. We had a great conversation about growing food, GM or biotech crops and I shared a favorite recipe: Patio Corn Salad! Here is an excerpt from her post about our conversation.
These phrases sound so romantic, right? We love using these buzz phrases because they make us feelgood. They imply a direct connection between the farmer and the consumer and that’s romantic. The problem is that the average consumer is about four generations removed from the farm and for many people, their only connection to a farmer might be the images they see portrayed on television commercials or ridiculous articles they read on the internet.
Last week I met with Hilary Maricle, a 6th generation farmer, who participates in just about every aspect of agriculture from raising calves and hogs to farming corn and soybeans. She even grew up working in her parent’s grocery store. She’s also a wife, proud mother of five, and serves as the Dean of Ag, Science, and Math at Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska. She has literally been apart of every aspect of farm to table and she also shared with me this great recipe!
I wanted to hear Hilary tell me a romantic story about how food travels from farm to table, because I’ll admit it, I’m a hopeless romantic. My favorite movies are The Princess Bride and Sleepless in Seattle. Come on, who doesn’t love the moment when Wesley yells, “As you wish” after Princess Buttercup pushes him down the hill? Or the moment when the elevator door opens at the end of Sleepless in Seattle and Meg Ryan sees Tom Hanks standing there with his little boy? That is romance.
What farmers like Hilary have helped me to realize is that farming is not about romance.
Farming is hard work. Farming is a business. Farming is a science and modern farming practices, including the use of biotechnology (genetically modifying food using genetic engineering) are indeed, safe.
I think we’ve romanticized farming to the point that it has hurt both the farmers and the consumer’s perception of farming. Sure, we all love a good story. But sometimes these stories are turned into horror films by making consumers fear farmers (Chipotle, cough cough) and modern science instead of respecting a farmer’s knowledge and expertise. Hilary has been a volunteer for CommonGround Nebraska for the past five years. She said she started volunteering for CommonGround because she hates to see young mothers scared to buy food.
“As a farmer, the biggest challenge that we have today is the media making young moms fear their food. Whether you shop at Whole Foods or Walmart, you should be able to feel confident in your food choices.”
What Hilary enjoys most about volunteering with CommonGround Nebraska is being able to have conversations with mothers from all walks of life. She is often asked questions about farming practices including the use of biotechnology (most often referred to as GMOs) , pesticides, and food safety.
I know I’ve mentioned Genetically Modified Organisms before on the blog, but let me just take a moment and provide a little clarity because let’s face it, GMOs do not sound that romantic. According to GMO Answers, “GMOs are often used to describe organisms developed using the tools of genetic engineering.” Many of my friends and students think that many foods are GMO, when in reality there are actually only eight commercially available GMO crops which include corn, soybean, cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, papaya and squash. A lot of the controversy regarding GMOs has been regarding safety or the argument that they are unnatural. In order to better answer these questions, I sat down with UNL plant scientist, Dr. Sally Mackenzie for a crash course on all things GMO. Dr. Sally Mackenzie is a plant molecular geneticist who works in the department of Agronomy & Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She is also one of the experts featured on Best Food Facts. She gave a fantastic lecture earlier this year at UNL, which is available online if you want to check it out. One of the first things she pointed out to me was that I was wearing a jean jacket. “Um….yeah lady, I’m wearing a jean jacket,” I said sarcastically in my mind. Then she said, “Did you know you are wearing GMOs?” Ha, no…I guess I hadn’t thought about that before!