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Learning How To Be a Good ‘In Law” On a Family Farm Or In a Family Business

jones family

I have really struggled with how I want to represent this blog and myself on this blog.  Should I focus on parenting, technology, or giving voice to the 2% of us that feed the other 98%?  I follow so many wonderful Agriculture advocating blogs (aka agvocates).  Some write about new equipment, some about biotechnology, and others share wonderful recipes and stories about their toddlers.  While I love all of these posts my children are getting older (8 and 11), I do not have a degree in any science related field, my hubby and father in law (FIL) are the equipment experts on our operation and I am just not sure what my area of expertise is!  I have many blog posts started and because of this struggle I have not been able to decide which ones to finish.  So I have come to the conclusion that my blog needs to be about a little of everything because that is what the role of a farm wife requires, a little bit of everything every single day.  Although my passion lies in sharing stories about the positives and possibilities of biotechnology and the realities of modern day farming operations, today I am writing about another issue; how it feels to wear the hat of the ‘daughter in law’ in a family business.

Being the one to marry into a family business is a difficult task indeed.  Often work routines, beliefs, values, and pay structures have already been established.  Although the new ‘in law’ has often been raised by an entirely different set of values, this person is sometimes expected to abandon their previous experiences and ‘go with the flow’.  Opposition or voicing new ideas can be viewed by other members of the business as causing trouble.

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Blog Page Giveaway!

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With lots of precipitation in the past couple weeks and more rain in the forecast we called in some custom seeding help to finish up those last few acres.  We are getting lined up so we can make it to the Canadian Farm Progress Show in Regina next week! Interested in attending Canada’s Largest Agriculture Tradeshow spanning 1.8 million square feet of exhibit space?  Take part in my FPS giveaway sponsored by Seedmaster (https://www.facebook.com/SeedMaster or https://twitter.com/leader_bydesign ) and RJ Sales and Service in Wadena, SK (http://www.agdealer.com/display.cfm?path=/rjsales).  Here’s how to enter;

Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agtodayblog);

1 like on my post = 1 entry

1 share directly from my page = 2 entries(if someone who is not on my ‘friend’ list or hasn’t ‘liked’ Agriculture Today facebook page – shares this photo I can not see the likes on their post so those people will not be eligible for entry)

Twitter (https://twitter.com/AGtodayblog);

Favorite this link = 1 entry

Re-Tweet this link = 2 entries

Agriculture Today Blog Page;

Sign up to receive my blog posts by email = 2 entries

Notification of the winner will be sent via the method you used to enter the contest so enter fast and check back Thursday June 12th.  See you in Regina!

 

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Why “Better Beef” Is Not Any Better

I know I am a little slow with this post.  There have been blog posts and news stories floating around the internet for months criticizing A & W and their new better beef campaign and I may be echoing some of what they say.  My motivation to write this came from a recent trip away with friends.  Although most of them know of my stance towards A & W, we ended up stopping there for burgers to bring home for one of the husbands.  The silence regarding my choice to eat a cookie from my purse instead of a burger made me reflect on how much the general population understands, or even cares about the ‘fear marketing’ that is going on around us at an increasing rate every day.

I come from a small town in the middle of Saskatchewan, a good 2 hour drive to the nearest Walmart and 100km away from the nearest Tim Horton’s.  Here, the ever increasing in your face marketing from organic food companies and fast food chains isn’t as much of an issue as it is in bigger centers.  A large part of the local population farms, and if you don’t farm you know a farmer and have been to their house, talked about their work and have waved to them in their tractor.  The general consensus locally is that our food is sustainably grown and safe.  This also makes the majority of us oblivious to the food hysteria that is going on in other parts of the country.  I am a farmer.  I read all the emails, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, attend the informational days, agriculture tradeshows, and generally do whatever I can to educate myself about our industry.  Even I only recently became aware of the growing disconnect with the people who grow our food (2%) and the rest of the population (98%).  Sitting smack dab in the middle of our food production chain are companies like A & W with their scare tactic campaigns.  They don’t care what long term effect they have on our food production or public perception of agriculture, as long as they can sell you a burger today.

I am not a cattle farmer but I do know a marketing campaign full of BS when I see it.  The cattle farmers really get the short end of the stick when it comes to people understanding the reasons for using hormones in the industry.  So since my ‘BEEF’ is with A & W, let’s take a look at a few of the facts surrounding this campaign.  When you go to their website the first thing you see is;

 

100% pure beef raised without any added hormones or steroids.

 

Notice it doesn’t say 100% Canadian beef?  That’s because they import beef from Montana and Australia.  I know lots of local cattle farmers who don’t use hormones.  As an industry, agriculture is adaptive, tell us you want something and we will grow it – A & W doesn’t care about ‘supporting local’.  Next look at the wording ‘raised without any added’.  They have to use this wording because all beef has hormones in it.  There is no such thing as ‘hormone free beef’.  And lastly ‘hormones or steroids’, this is redundant term and the ‘or’ is put in there to make it look like A & W went to extra work to keep BOTH things out of their better beef.   Every single word is a marketing tactic to make you buy their seemingly healthier burgers.

So why the hype about hormones?  In Canada and the US cattle can be given something called growth promotant early on in their life.  Using growth promotant means less crops are needed to grow the animal and less animal waste is produced because it helps the animal to process the food they eat into muscle tissue.  An implant is given when the animal is young so the hormone has passed through its system long before it goes to market.  Here are some stats from a blog post by Sarah Schultz http://www.nurselovesfarmer.com/2013/09/fear-marketing/;   (she sourced the Beef Cattle Research Council at http://www.beefresearch.ca/blog/qa-on-conventional-production-of-canadian-beef/)

If we did not use growth promotants we would need;

-12% more cattle

-10% more land

-11% more feed

-4% more water

-7% more fuel and fertilizer

to produce the same amount of beef that we do today.  Also the cattle would produce 10% more manure and 10% more greenhouse gasses.  As Sarah points out it is likely that prices would increase and become unaffordable for many people, and our beef would be uncompetitive in the world market.

This is my favorite part though, because this is where A & W’s marketing really starts to look pointless and unreasonable.  All this work to go hormone free, what levels of hormones are we talking about?  Let’s look at some comparisons I borrowed from Andrew Campbell at; http://www.realagriculture.com/2013/10/im-done-with-fearing-food-and-done-with-aw-andrew-campbell/ , and Wikipedia.

 

Levels of hormones (estrogen)

5 nanograms (ng) – 500g (1.10231 LBS) of ‘hormone free’ beef (like A & W better beef)

7 (ng) – 500g (1.10231 LBS) of beef given the hormone implant

136,000.00 (ng) – produced daily by a man

513,000.00 (ng) – produced daily by a woman

20,000,000.00 (ng) – produced daily by a pregnant woman

300,000.00 (ng) – 500g white bread (so yes the bun has more hormones than the beef, a lot more)

20,000.00 to 50,000.00 (ng) – birth control pill

11,905.00 (ng) – 500g of cabbage

28,773.00 (ng) – 15 ml (1 TBSP) soyabean oil.

555.00 (ng) – eggs (500g)

Shall I keep going?

 

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Picture; (http://nefb.wordpress.com/2013/08/23/whats-the-beef-mms-and-hormones/)

 

If we want to focus on those 2 extra (ng) of hormones we only have to look as far as Health Canada.  “Generally speaking, in Canada there is zero tolerance for hormone, steroid or antibiotic remnants in beef destined for hungry, human stomachs. Those that can have trace amounts  – known as maximum residue limits – are strictly regulated by Health Canada and are “considered to pose no adverse health effects if ingested daily by humans over a lifetime,” the department website says.” (http://www.ipolitics.ca/2013/09/26/canadian-cattle-groups-respond-to-aw-better-beef-campaign/)  There are reasons we have organizations like the FDA, CFIA, Health Canada, WHO, FAO, and many others.  Marketing campaigns that use fear to sell food undermine the real research and actual science that goes into making policy.  Not only does it weaken trust in these organizations but it is an insult to the hard working farmers who labour to grow safe food in a sustainable way.  Companies like A & W want you to believe that the farmers who grow around 95% of the food in Canada are not ethical or sustainable.  Quite the opposite is true and if you look at the statistics, beef with hormone implants are actually more environmentally sustainable then the better beef cattle, especially the ones shipped from other countries.

So Yes, I realise that my family driving past A & W and going to a different restaurant that sells 100% Canadian beef isn’t going to make the marketing team lose any sleep.  But my hope is if enough people understand how these companies are trying to target us, then maybe they will lose a few customers.  If they lose as many customers as they gain slowly the trend of using fear to market food might stop.  This is exactly what happened with General Mills.  Not long ago they switched some of their cereal brands to Non-GMO.  Cheerios, which is made with oats, was one of them.  There are no GMO oats on the market anywhere in the world so all they were changing was the source of some of the trace ingredients like vitamins, and the marketing.   The new Non-GMO Cheerios ended up being less nutritious with only 2% RDV of riboflavin (vitamin B2) where the original Cheerios had 25% RDV.  It was the same story with Grape Nuts with the Non-GMO version having no vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin B12 or vitamin B2 (original Grape Nuts had all of these vitamins).  “The company revealed the effort failed to improve the brands performance and it has no plans to reformulate additional products without GMOs”   http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/Business_News/2014/04/General_Mills_defends_GMOs_in.aspx?ID=%7B8EBE8C7A-FA78-4323-BB7F-0AD0D4EE99D7%7D&cck=1.  People didn’t buy it, so they stopped advertising with fear.

In the end A & W’s better beef is not any better.  I don’t care if you eat it, I don’t care if you don’t eat it.  I just want people to understand that this is not about making better food, it is about manipulating people and unfortunately that is at the expense of a very hardworking industry.  Those of us that try to stand up to marketing bullies with our words and our wallets don’t want to fight, but this time A & W took the first swing.  Hey Canadian cattle farmers I support you and want to buy some beef – I am making homemade teen burgers from now on!

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Ag Literacy In the Classroom.

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As requested here is the slideshow I presented to a Saskatoon classroom in the Wildwood School during Ag Literacy Week (March 3rd to 7th) this year (with a few changes, the actual slideshow didn’t save properly).  Keep in mind that there was a lengthy presentation along with it so some of the captions may not make sense.  I spoke to the students about the weather, why we use chemicals, how we grow our crops, how we store and sell our grain, teaching younger generations of farmers, how farmers care for their animals, why some animals are kept in barns, and the importance of biotechnology now and in the future. After the slideshow presentation we talked about organic and conventional farming and did a taste test. We read a book about farming on the prairies, enjoyed oatmeal cookies and looked at samples of lentils, wheat, oats and barley grown on our farm. It was a lot of fun and I hope more schools and more volunteers sign up next year (hint, hint W.E.S.). Thanks to everyone who helped me out with pictures!

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Prairie Farmers and the Railways

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A former post about this was made direct on the facebook page and it got deleted (along with all the likes and shares), I’m going to try it again.

Here is a call to action for farmers across the Canadian prairies;

The grain companies are in the process of lobbying/marketing to cast the farmers in a negative light and to make it look like they are innocent in the recent grain movement crisis. CP’s Hunter Harrison speaking to a wall street audience, recently said bulk shipments, including grain, were ‘modestly’ affected this winter. He seems to have no intention of acknowledging the impact the poor rail service has had on farmers and grain elevators across the prairies. For those of you that don’t know about the situation here, the railways have focused on shipping commodities other than grain across the country this winter. This has left grain elevators plugged and farmers unable to haul in their grain and clean up temporary storage (which may now sit at risk of spoilage due to spring melt). The cash flow across prairie farms slowed to a crawl and left many producers in a very tight spot. Ships sat at port empty for weeks waiting to transport grain to other countries while elevators paid fines up to $100,000 a day because they couldn’t fill the ships. Prices dropped (Canola for example dropped from around $12.00+ a bushel to lower than $8.50 a bushel) and most places wouldn’t even let you haul it in at the low price because they were full. An entire industry sat around and waited for the railway, and everyone lost money.  If we let this issue die quietly then no changes will be made and Canada’s reputation as a reliable grain exporter will suffer.  That will affect everyone in the Ag industry in Canada. If your farm, your business or your place of work has been affected at all by the railways neglect this winter please share your story in the comments, like or share this post to help raise awareness.  Also, let us know what you think; is the amount the railways take off our cheques (for shipping grain months late) fair? A modest 25% plus was taken by the ‘poor’ railways on the one pictured in this post….

 

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GMOs, Vaccines and Social Media; What Is Our Responsibility?

corn squirrels

For about a year now I have been torn between wanting to start my own blog and not wanting to tackle the political hot topics that interest me. I have read many blogs and stories about issues that deal with our food production and people can get mean. I have hesitated in the past because I didn’t know if I could handle the heat directly on me.

Lately I have been listening to the pleas of farm advocates across the country to join the cause. So many people are vocal on social media about our food and where it comes from. Many of these people have not had the opportunity to ever talk to a farmer about farming practices or have ever set foot on a farm. As a farming industry we need to be sharing our stories with the world. So this train of thought has brought me to my very first (farm related) blog post. I am not attempting to tackle the science behind these issues right now but instead I am focusing on what the end result may be when YOU share a story written about them.

Now I know you may be wondering how vaccinations tie into a farming topic. It doesn’t, not exactly anyway. But between stories about GMOs and posts telling me to (or not to) vaccinate my kids, I hardly see any other status updates anymore. I get the feeling that with the pressure to be the perfect parents in today’s culture, women rally at their keyboards to prove to the world that they are the quintessential ‘Supermom’. Feeding their families organic, sharing stories about the horrors of GMOs, saving their children from autism by avoiding vaccinations, and using only ‘green products’ and ‘all natural’ cleaners. Many moms feel that these things make them socially responsible parents and they are eager to show the world just how responsible they are. Many of us haven’t stopped and thought about what the effect of all this ‘liking, sharing and linking’ on social media really is.

Last year I attended a conference and heard Cami Ryan, Ph.D. speak. A Professional Affiliate with the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan, she has a very educated opinion on how sites like twitter and facebook can be used as a tool to launch anti-science campaigns and how quickly they can gain steam. Check out some of her posts https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cami-Ryan-on-agriculture-science-technology-and-society/164540416910426?ref=ts&fref=ts. She gave a compelling speech about how GMOs are becoming the myth of our time and the long lasting dangers of people having an uneducated opinion on this topic. Yet ask almost any mom that has a facebook account and an opinion they will have.

So how do topics like our food supply and vaccinations become so political in this country? Anti-vaccers and anti-GMO activists run highly motivated and targeted campaigns to get people on board with their cause. Admit it, you have clicked on more than one article boasting the horrors of GMOs or listing the top 10 reasons you should eat only organic. It’s so easy to skim over these stories and hit the ‘like’ button without a thought. Or maybe even with the thought that we should tell others how terrible it would be for them to feed their children GMO corn that even the squirrels wouldn’t eat (it must be true, there was a picture of corn NOT EATEN!). These campaigns are not reserved for social media but also target poorer countries where the population does not have access to scientific information to refute any claims. What we are doing by engaging in these sites and stories is giving momentum to a movement that really has no legs other than using the fear of others.

When it comes to GMOs it’s not really about the genetic engineering. “if genetic engineering were really the issue, citizens in rich countries would be just as skeptical today about the use of GMOs in medicine as in agriculture, yet citizens in both the United States and Europe welcome the recombinant drugs made from GMOs that now constitute approximately 25 percent of all new drugs approved for the market in rich countries.” (Robert L. Paarlberg, Starved for Science, Harvard University Press, 2009. Print.) So what is it about? I encourage you to search the internet, read some books, follow the science and decide for yourself.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti – organic. I support and respect those farmers who have chosen to venture into the organic market. I do question though how the word ‘organic’ has become synonymous with being a good parent. Last night on TV I watched a show where a couple was planning on moving to Panama with their young daughter because they wanted to live a more ‘organic’ lifestyle for her. What does that even mean? I think as a society we are confusing a set of ideologies with science.

I personally have spoken with people who have read a story about GMO’s written by someone who runs an organic grocery store or watched an interview with Jenny McCarthy about vaccines. Some of these people speak like scholars on the dangers of conventional farming and the horrors of vaccines. One heartfelt story can be enough to convince a person of a viewpoint, and the next thing you know they have taken up the cause. They will share their version of the ‘truth’ with everyone they know. The results are simple to figure out; sharing stories leads to empathy and compassion by a large part of the population, which leads to pressure on political members, which leads to changes in policy. So although it seems extreme and a tad dramatic, it is true; sharing a story about eating only organic produce can cause children to suffer and starve in places like Africa.

What do we need in North America to put things into perspective? In the low income countries around the world mothers are begging and desperate for the very thing the mothers in our country are fighting against; crops that produce more food and higher yields and vaccines for our children. According to many of my peers these things are evils that need to be destroyed.

Although I could write a 10 page report concerning the suffering that we have caused in Africa through policy changes in North America and around the world in the last 30 years, I will generalize by referring to one main incident in 2002 when drought hit Africa for the second time in a decade. The United States responded by sending aid in the form of shipments of Maize. Many of us know what happened after that;

“Not to be outdone in the chase for money from fear-mongering, Greenpeace and other special interest groups, such as Friends of the Earth and the U.K.’s Soil Association, deployed their considerable media-manipulating machinery to spread more scare stories.
Activists claimed they were performing a public service by alerting locals in Africa that GM foods from the United States would render the men impotent. In the Philippines, people were told, and some convinced, by activist scaremongers that merely walking through a field of genetically modified corn could turn heterosexual, virile men gay. European activists went to Zambia during the height of the 2002 famine and convinced then president Levy Mwanawasa that the GM corn in food aid contributed by the United States was “poison.” As reported by the BBC, Mwanawasa duly locked up the food in the warehouses – the same GM corn eaten without incident by millions of Americans – and then watched his subjects die, insisting such a fate was preferable to eating “poison.” That is, until the starving Zambians broke into the warehouses and gorged themselves healthy on the allegedly poisonous corn.”

“-To be a well fed westerner, to tell lies and deliberate misinformation to starving people only to further a political viewpoint about food types one disagrees with being eaten, without any scientific proof of the claims made, is really beyond the pale. People begged for food, begged for food for their children, for their families, babies cried with empty bellies- and there were warehouses of food available, donated, left to rot- yes, literally rot – because of some well-fed westerners who grandstanded on a scientifically unproven point that was political from start to finish.
(http://idigmygarden.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58984)”

Close to 25 Massachusetts middle school students were forced to skip lunch a few months ago because they came up short on their pre-paid lunch cards. The school threw away the food and made the kids go hungry. This story was all over the internet within a few days. I read it on CNN (http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/05/us/massachusetts-lunch-denied/index.html)
“[My son] said ‘because I was a dollar short they made me throw my lunch away and I couldn’t eat,'” Jo-An Blanchard, a parent of one of the students, told NBC10. “I told him this is bullying, neglect, child abuse. You can’t do that to children.” http://idigmygarden.com/forums/showthread.php?t=58984 Six million children around the world died last year, 20,864 people will die of hunger today. I guess ‘we can’t do that to children in the United States’ is a more accurate statement.

Similar incidents have occurred regarding vaccines with NGO groups preaching scientifically unproven facts in poorer countries. This is a calculated and strictly political effort to scare the government into passing legislation that is in line with their cause;

Anti-vaccine sentiment plagues Nigeria:
“In the early first decade of the 21st century, conservative religious leaders in northern Nigeria, suspicious of Western medicine, advised their followers not to have their children vaccinated with oral polio vaccine. The boycott was endorsed by the governor of Kano State, and immunization was suspended for several months. Subsequently, polio reappeared in a dozen formerly polio-free neighbors of Nigeria, and genetic tests showed the virus was the same one that originated in northern Nigeria: Nigeria had become a net exporter of polio virus to its African neighbors. People in the northern states were also reported to be wary of other vaccinations, and Nigeria reported over 20,000 measles cases and nearly 600 deaths from measles from January through March 2005.[35] In 2006 Nigeria accounted for over half of all new polio cases worldwide.[36] Outbreaks continued thereafter; for example, at least 200 children died in a late-2007 measles outbreak in Borno State.[37]”
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaccine_controversies)

Can you imagine all of the neighbor’s children dying of disease and not having the option to vaccinate yours? Or having your own children cry in your arms from starvation even though there is food available just down the road? All the while groups from rich countries are telling you that starvation is preferable to feeding your family food that millions of people have eaten with no scientifically proven ill effects, and a slow painful death by illness is preferable to receiving a vaccination that has saved millions of others around the world. The mother in the poorer nation has as much love for her children as you do yours; she just isn’t always offered the choice to save them. Your children were just lucky to be born to you instead of to her.

“- I have believed for a long time that disparities in health are some of the worst inequities in the world—that it is unjust and unacceptable that millions of children die every year from causes that we can prevent or treat. I don’t think a child’s fate should be left to what Warren Buffett calls the “ovarian lottery.” If we hit this goal of convergence, the ovarian lottery for health outcomes will be closed for good.”
(annualletter.gatesfoundation.org)

In conclusion I am calling together the troops of Mothers who care about their children, and the children of the world. While you are sitting at your computer drinking your pumpkin spice latte and catching up on your social media of choice please practice due diligence when reading anything related to vaccinations or GMOs. Click the link and find out whose opinion you are listening to and figure out if it is scientifically founded information before you share it because your choices have effects that echo around the world. What you share with the world is a reflection of you and the truth is what is most important. Yes squirrels will eat GMO corn and you don’t have to prove a thing to me, I already think you are Supermom.

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