Conventional *AND* Organic (Celebrating Diversity in Agriculture)

Hello everyone, welcome to my blog about conventional and organic food.

The video below is of a TEDx talk that I gave in February of 2016. The theme of the TED event was “Fueling Human Existence” and the title of my talk was “Celebrating Diversity in Agriculture.” There are some missing powerpoint slides in the YouTube video, so I included a summary below to help make sense of parts of what I say. This video will serve as an introduction to my thoughts on conventional and organic (found below the summary of the TED talk). Thanks for watching and reading!

Summary:

Agriculture fuels human existence. Without agriculture, we could not survive.

The story of agriculture is that of diversity. There are millions of farmers all over the world growing an incredibly diverse amount of crops, plants, and animals in all sorts of climates, soils, and cultures. These farms can be large, small, conventional, organic, etc.

One farm is not like another. Just because one farm does something one way, does not mean that all farms do it that way or need to do it that way. It all depends on what is best for a particular farm in that particular location.

Farmers are experts in their particular field. Most have been trained since they were children in how to farm. Colleges, universities, and agricultural organizations offer tremendous amounts of research and conventions, workshops, and expos to help farmers farm as efficiently and sustainably as possible. However, an expert in one type of farming isn’t always an expert in another type of farming.

Family farm operations still make up the vast majority of farms in the U.S. and around the world. While large agricultural corporations and business are a big part of food production, family farmers are at the root of the equation, and are made up of some of the most honest, value-driven, hard working people you will ever meet. We should be able to trust these families.

Technologies like GMOs, Pesticides, No-Till/Cover Crops, Precision Farming, Intensive Livestock Farming, and Organic Farming are all valuable tools that can help us solve some of the problems we have in the world today. However, they are often met with skepticism, criticism, and resistance both from people and from other farmers. Many of these criticisms are misguided. (Please read the blog below for more on this!)

-We do need to question new technology and keep people, government, and corporations in check, but we need to stop the fighting between farmers and misguided attacks on different types of farming practices.

-Instead of fighting to get rid of each other’s farming practices, we should be fighting to change the real problems we face: 1) Difficulty of Farming 2) Hunger 3) Waste 4) Environmental Impact

We need to support and improve all methods of agriculture! (Conventional, Organic, Urban, Vertical, Greenhouse, etc.) If we took all the time, money, and effort spent debating which method of farming is better and invested it into making each method better, we would make a lot more progress in fighting the real problems we face.

We live in a diverse world with diverse types of people and we need diverse types of farming. It doesn’t make sense to limit farming to one type of practice (Ex. conventional OR organic). To exclude or alienate the others. One type of farmer can’t feed the world. One type of crop can’t feed the world. Just as it is better for a farmer to rotate between several different crops instead of planting one crop over and over again, it is better for agriculture to utilize all of its methods instead of just one. Diversity is the answer.

Be thankful for the remarkable food system we have.

Make sure to get information about your food from experts, not random people who post online. An expert in organic farming would be an organic farmer, an expert in conventional farming would be a conventional farmer. An expert in biotechnology would be a geneticist, an expert in pesticides would be a chemist. And so on and so forth.

-Fighting, conflict, accusations, fear, propaganda, and misinformation are not what will fuel human existence in the future. Human existence will be fueled by supporting one another and working together to find diverse solutions for diverse methods of food production in a diverse world.

My Opinion of Conventional and Organic

The conversation about food these days is filled with misconstrued, biased, agenda-driven information. While I don’t think my opinion is perfect or 100% right, I have tried to form it in a way that is as accurate and fact driven as possible. You don’t have to agree with all I have to say! Please feel free to leave a polite, respectful comment below.

From what I’ve heard in person and seen on the internet, the general opinions people have of organic and conventional food seem to fit in one of the following categories (paraphrased).

  1. I buy whatever is the cheapest or best tasting and don’t really know or care about the difference between organic and conventional.
  1. I buy only organic (or non-GMO, dairy free, vegan, cage-free, free range, etc.) because the alternative (conventional) is filled with toxic things that might kill me like pesticides and GMOs. I buy organic to support the small farmers and not support Big Ag Corporations. Conventional farmers use terrible practices that harm the environment and abuse animals but organic farmers are held to a higher standard and aren’t hurting the environment or animals. I just want farming and food to be like it used to be for my grandparents.
  1. I never buy organic because it is a waste of money. Organic marketing is a scam. Organic farming can’t feed the world. Organic farmers are just taking advantage of higher premiums. They don’t produce as much per acre and their crops often fail.

ALL THREE OF THESE OPINIONS ARE MISGUIDED!!! While there is a bit of truth in each one, all three of these have many misconceptions and inaccurate statements. I will try to address each of these.

Let’s start really quick with #1. I understand the idea of purchasing the cheapest food you can as I know many people must spend as little as they can to fit their budget. However, you should care about your food! Don’t be a lazy consumer. Learn about where and how each type of food is grown and the people who grow it. Learn about nutrition from credible sources. Farmers are always happy to explain why they do what they do and many will even offer tours of their farm! Don’t just rely on marketing schemes to determine your buying choices. Visit farms! Talk to farmers! Educate yourself.

Okay, now my thoughts on the never ending debate between organic and conventional.

I Support Organic

I believe the organic food movement is a good thing because it is waking people up from being lazy consumers like described above. People who are part of this movement care about their food! And they are trying to make a difference through their purchases. That’s great! And I am not going to ask those of you who buy organic to stop. It is your freedom and your choice and if that is what you believe is best for you then please, continue to make those purchases.

I believe organic food is healthy and nutritious and that organic farming is a very viable way of growing food. Every organic farmer I have met is doing the best they can to grow food in a different way than most do. I greatly respect organic farmers because a lot of times it is far more difficult to grow crops organically (although you do get paid more). They have made great strides in developing tools to grow crops using natural substances in more environmentally friendly ways. They use heirloom seeds and protect and promote genetic biodiversity. They find ways to raise animals in better conditions. What’s really neat is that many of these developments have spilled over into conventional farming as well! Organic farming has actually affected conventional farming is a very positive way. It’s challenged the conventional way of doing things and has helped a lot of people start to think outside the box when it comes to food production.

I Also Support Conventional

However, when it comes to sustainability, practicality, and overall efficiency, I do not believe organic food production is the solution all by itself. However, it is part of the solution! As mentioned in my TED talk above, it’s going to take a diverse set of solutions to feed the world sustainably. One of the biggest arguments against organic is that it “cannot feed the world.” I honestly believe we could feed the world with small, organic, free range, non-GMO farms. But it wouldn’t be efficient or practical because all of these methods require more input for less output than conventional. It would require most of the population working in food production again. It would raise the cost of all of our food. Many people (especially those on lower incomes) would be far worse off if we made a complete transition to only organic food. That doesn’t make sense!

Large, conventional farms could feed the world by themselves as well. The advancements being made in conventional agriculture are astounding. Technology such as GMOs, pesticides, precision farming, and intensive livestock farming allows farmers to produce far more food with far less resources! That is a huge part of sustainability.

However, I do not think feeding the world with only conventional farming would be as friendly to the environment, to local communities, or to biodiversity by itself as it would be and is with the inclusion of organic farming. That’s where I believe organic has its place. We need local farmers markets. We need small farms in rural communities. We need farmers who save seeds, build healthy soil, and protect biodiversity. All of these things can be found in a balance between conventional and organic. As mentioned in the TED talk, we need diverse farms, diverse farmers, diverse areas of expertise, diverse approaches, and diverse solutions to diverse problems.

I Do Not Support Fear Marketing and False Accusations

While I do support organic farming and organic farmers, I do not support the marketing strategies the organic industry employs. The reason most people buy organic food is because they believe it is “better” than conventional food. The organic marketing schemes take full advantage of this concept, and try to convince consumers that conventional farming is destructive to the environment, toxic to their health, unfriendly to animals, and bad for small farmers. In reality, conventional farming is far from those things. Conventional farmers (like organic farmers) are a community of honest, hard working, value-based people who are raising food in the method they think is best on their particular farm. Every conventional farmer feeds their family with the same food they grow. I will link some of the blogs I have written about conventional farming here:

Organic marketers also perpetuate a lot of myths about organic food itself. Many people who buy organic food do not realize a lot of the following:

  • Organic doesn’t necessarily have to do with nutrition or health. An organic apple is the same nutritionally as a conventional one grown in a similar environment. The same goes with GMO and non-GMO. A fruit is a fruit, a vegetable is a vegetable, a grain is a grain.
  • Organic doesn’t necessarily have to do with safety either. Organic farmers still use pesticides, they just have to be natural chemicals and not synthetic (man-made) mixes of chemicals. Many times these natural chemicals used in organic farming are much more toxic than the man-made versions used in conventional farming. It is true that pesticide residues in organic food are typically lower than conventional food. However, it would take eating hundreds of servings every day for these residues to ever reach a harmful level. Harmful pathogens, on the other hand, are generally more present in organic food as organic farmers are limited to only using animal waste for fertilizer instead of synthetic (man-made) fertilizer.
  • Unless you buy local (farmers markets) or know exactly where your food is coming from, buying organic food does not necessarily mean you are supporting the small farmer and the small business. The organic industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. Whole Foods profits over $14 billion a year. There are CEOs, presidents, and industry reps in the organic industry that are making a ton of money from sales of organic foods.
  • Organic farming is not always better on the environment. There are huge organic farms (many located overseas) that hire cheap labor to grow organic food. Often times, forests and marshes are being cleared to do this. Because organic farming produces less food per acre and per animal, one could say it impacts the environment more per unit of product.

There are pros and cons about both conventional and organic. There are people in both industries unfairly accusing one another of being a fraud. There are issues in both that need fixing. One is not better than the other, and people should stop saying that. As I’ve said before, we need to work together to better both of them!

Should I buy conventional or organic food?

The way I’ve always looked at conventional and organic is like the way I look at different brands of cars:

  • There are luxury cars and there are economy cars. Sports cars and family cars. Cars that cost more and cars that cost less. Should everyone buy a Lamborghini? Should everyone drive a beat up 20-year-old Honda? No. It all depends on what they need for their situation in life and what they enjoy. In the same way, there should be different types of food available for people to consume. If people want to pay more for organic they should be able to. And in the same way, no way should be forced to pay more for organic food. There should be multiple options.
  • Driving a luxury car does not make you “better” than another person who drives a cheap car. Eating organic food does not make you “better” than someone who eats conventional food. There are rich people who drive economy cars and people in debt who drive luxury vehicles. There are going to be rich people who don’t want to buy organic and poor people who want to save up to buy organic food. It’s a preference and it shouldn’t be a decision we judge others negatively for.
  • Both cars should take you from point A to B. Both types of food should give you safe, healthy nutrition. I truly believe that both conventional and organic foods are safe and healthy. However, luxury cars have things go wrong with them. So can economy cars. There are farmers (both conventional and organic) who are going to abuse pesticides, abuse the environment, and abuse animals. We don’t live in a perfect world and we will always have these things happening. But we need to do our best to stop them.
  • If you put oil in the gas tank of a luxury vehicle it’s not going to run right. Same thing with an economy car. You can eat only organic, but if your diet consists of organic energy drinks and organic donuts, you’ll still be unhealthy. You can also eat only conventional foods and be completely healthy.

Living a healthy lifestyle comes from eating balanced portions of healthy food, getting enough exercise, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress. It does not come from eating organic or conventional food. I’m not going to tell you which type of food to purchase. That is your freedom of choice as an American consumer. I think both options are great and I am thankful that our food supply is so bountiful that we have options. Many people in the world are starving today and would do anything for food. They wouldn’t care the least bit if it were organic or not. The lesson to be learned is that if you have plenty of food to eat each day you should not complain, you should be thankful!

It’s sad to me to think that so many consumers are complaining about food when they have it in abundance. And the people who don’t have food could have it if we just improved all of our methods instead of fighting about which ones are better! Let’s stop the fighting, the false accusations, the spreading of fear and misinformation. Let’s start uniting to fight the real problems we are facing today. Let’s feed the world!

 

Introduction: Why Do We Raise Animals for Food and Products?

Part 1: Why Do We Raise Animals For Food and Products?

Part 2: The Welfare of Livestock Today

Part 3: Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, Wildlife

  • Why do we use livestock products for human use and consumption? 
  • Should I feel bad when I eat meat because an animal died to become that meat? 
  • Why can’t animals be set free to live as long of a life as possible?

Livestock animals (Cattle, Horses, Chickens, Turkeys, Pigs, Sheep, etc.) have been a huge part of human existence since the beginning of our civilization. Humans have used animals for meat, milk, eggs, labor, and clothing for thousands of years. Millions of people around the globe take care of livestock every day! (See video below)

But do we really need animal agriculture? Must innocent animals lose their lives for human benefit? Why can’t we just rely on fruits, veggies, and grains to feed and clothe the masses? Here are 10 reasons why animal agriculture exists and why it is ethical.

1. Animal Products are the Reason Most Livestock Animals are Born

The fact that humans eat and use animal products is the main reason most livestock animals are alive in the first place, even though in certain cases the process theoretically ends their lives as well. If you believe animals like cows, pigs, chickens, or sheep deserve a chance at life, you must believe in the use of animals for humans, because without us, 95% of these animals would never be born in the first place. Farmers help bring these animals into this world and give their lives meaning and purpose as they leave it (food and products). The only question that remains is whether or not the quality of life for these animals is worth them being born in the first place, which will be addressed in the subsequent “animal welfare” blogs found on the home page of our blog.

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2. Livestock Infrastructure Produces Billions of Pounds of Food & Products

Meat, milk, eggs, and thousands of other food products come from animals. Animal products are found in a vast amount of foods consumed today. Furthermore, animal by-products are used extensively in almost every walk of life. While you may be able to avoid eating animal products, it is nearly impossible to avoid using animal by-products. The infrastructure of the livestock industry has allowed for thousands of these products to be made affordably, efficiently, and sustainably.

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If we did away with livestock products, we would have to reinvent the infrastructure of our food supply and product supply, which would prove to be extremely costly. Thousands of farmers would have their current farming methods they have developed over centuries taken from them. Technology is what has allowed 1 farmer to feed 155 people today instead of 27 people in 1950. Livestock technology is a huge part of that. If we were to abandon animal agriculture, we would see a drastic decrease in food production and an drastic increase in food prices. This would be taking us in the opposite direction of producing enough food to feed a growing population.

3. Millions of Grassland Acres Would Go to Waste Without Livestock

Millions of acres of land are not suitable for crop production (due to slope of terrain, soil type, rainfall, etc.) and are therefore grazed by livestock animals. In fact over 13 million square miles are grazed by livestock animals around the world. These animals help maintain the ecosystem of these grass acres and convert the grass into food for humans. If we took those livestock animals away, the millions of acres of grassland would become unproductive instead of providing billions of pounds of food each year. If our goal is to feed 9 billion people by 2050, this would be a huge step backward in reaching that goal.

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4. Livestock Animals Roaming “Free” Is Not Plausible

Currently there are over 11 billion birds, 87 million cattle, 67 million pigs, and 5 million sheep used in U.S. livestock production today. Farmers breed these animals, feed these animals, and protect these animals. They are domesticated. If livestock production ceased, the incentive for farmers to spend their lives caring for these animals would be gone. Farmers would no longer be there to take care of these animals, they would no longer be maintaining fences, caring for the sick, protecting them from predators, etc. Animals would either die out, live in the wild, or live in a zoo. In the wild, livestock animals would no longer be producing food, products, and labor for humans, they would become road hazards and would get into yards, gardens, and public places. They would be a nuisance. The reason these domesticated animals have survived over the generations is based on their importance to humans. Even if sanctuaries were built for large numbers of animals, only a small percentage of the amount we have today would exist.

5. Livestock Produce Vast Amounts of Fertilizer Needed to Grow Plants

Without fertilizer, farmers of all types could not grow half as much food as they do. While there are synthetic fertilizers available for farmers to use, many farmers, especially organic farmers, rely on manure from animals to fertilize their crops. Putting nutrients back into the soil through spreading of manure is one of the most natural ways to grow food without depleting the soil and the environment!

6. Livestock Food Products Provide Essential Nutrients

While it is entirely possible to consume a diet free of livestock products, it can be quite difficult. Many people in this world do not have the extra money, time, or discipline to spend avoiding products from animals. Meat, dairy and eggs contain essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. Again, the infrastructure of livestock production has allowed for these products to be low in cost and easily accessed.

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7. The Livestock Industry Employs Millions of People

If animal agriculture did not exist, millions of people would have to find a job doing something else. This includes jobs in animal production, processing, sales, nutrition, and health. As many know, finding a job can be a struggle no matter what industry you are a part of. Livestock farmers and ranchers have developed and passed down skills and talents over hundreds of years learning how to take care of livestock animals. Colleges and universities around the world have trained thousands of people in different areas of livestock production (see below). Abandoning all of that would be a waste of time and resources and would leave many searching for a job, possessing skills that are no longer needed.

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8. The Livestock Industry is a Huge Part of the Economy

The livestock industry provides massive economic benefits to many different countries around the world. In the United States, the numbers are as follows:

  • 1,851,000 jobs
  • $346 billion in total economic output
  • $60 billion in household income
  • $15 billion in income taxes paid, and
  • $6 billion in property taxes paid

(Source: http://igrow.org/livestock/profit-tips/economic-benefits-of-the-livestock-industry/#sthash.O9ARKhNT.dpuf)

Many countries are struggling economically, but agriculture is usually one of the bright spots in an economy. If animal agriculture were removed from the economy of a country like the U.S., it would be devastating.

9. Many People Rely on Animal Agriculture for Survival

Hundreds of thousands of farm families around the world rely on livestock animals for their survival. There are places where livestock animals are the only thing a family owns besides their home. In wealthier societies, we do have a choice of whether or not to eat meat, but in many places that is not an available choice.

Source: http://bit.ly/1LuXlF7

Even in wealthy countries, livestock animals can provide the majority of a farm family’s income due to location (surrounded by pastureland), amount of land owned (not enough to make a living on crops), and climate (grow crops in the summer, livestock in the winter). Families could relocate and adapt to make a living apart from animal agriculture, but it would be unfair and extremely costly to them.

10. Livestock Animals Are a Huge Part of Our Culture

Animal agriculture is a huge part of human history and culture. Livestock farmers and ranchers view working with animals as more than a job. It is a lifestyle that is deeply ingrained in who they are and their purpose here on earth. Millions of children have been raised taking care of livestock to teach them how to do chores, develop a work ethic, and spend time with their family. You can see that in our video, “Takin’ Care of Livestock” linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc1X0CMDDNY&feature=youtu.be

11. Animal Food Products Taste Amazing

Although tastes and preferences vary tremendously throughout society, most people would agree that the best tasting foods involve animal products! A world without burgers, steaks, eggs, milk, and ice cream would be a sad scenario.

Source: http://bit.ly/1JIwR3S

 

Bottom line: You can choose to avoid animal products for a variety of reasons. You can work to improve animal welfare. And you can continue to ask questions to help keep livestock farmers and ranchers in check. However, the practice of animal agriculture is a very important part of society and the people who are involved in the industry should be supported when they are doing a good job. To see what the current state of the livestock industry looks like, please read the rest of our blogs detailing the life cycles and welfare of different livestock animals. And please, feel free to leave questions at the bottom of this page!

  1. The Life Cycle of Beef Cattle
  2. The Life Cycle of Dairy Cattle
  3. The Life Cycle of Swine
  4. The Life Cycle of Poultry
  5. The Welfare of Livestock Today
  6. Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, Wildlife

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Hi there! My name is Greg, and I am the eldest of the Peterson Farm Brothers. This is an introduction to our blog and in it I will do my best to explain what the lyrics to our parody music video, “All I Do is Farm” are all about!

Watch the parody: 

This blog will focus mainly on family farmers like us who live in the Midwest and grow typical Midwest crops and livestock (wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum, cattle, etc). There are countless other farmers out there who grow all sorts of different things (fruits, veggies, nuts, etc.) and raise all sorts of different animals (swine, poultry, dairy, etc.), but since my expertise lies solely on Midwest USA farmers, that’s what I will generally be referencing. The point to take away here is that we need to appreciate all farmers, no matter what kind they are, and we should all do our best to thank those who help grow our food!

I know a lot of you will disagree with at least one thing I will talk about on this blog. And that’s okay! But I beg you, please do not think that simply because you disagree with us on something, you can no longer be one of our friends! I disagree on something with pretty much everyone I know. If I didn’t talk to everyone I disagreed with, I’d be a pretty lonely person! It is important that we listen to different perspectives and keep an open mind. If you want to discuss something with us, visit our Facebook page!

It was extremely hard to fit all of my thoughts into one blog, so I have included several links to future blog posts where I will fully discuss my thoughts on why farmers do what we do! You can sign up to be notified when these blog posts are done by subscribing to this blog and following our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/petersonfarmbros

Okay, let’s take a look at the lyrics:

Peterson Farm Brothers goin’ in cause you know that we can’t stop, won’t stop now

I’m gonna make it clear for you like the black and white on a Holstein cow

That I ain’t goin nowhere, farmers have got yo’ back!

I’m raising crops and livestock so that you have food to snack

My brothers and I are your typical college age farm kids from Kansas who live on a 5th generation family farm in Kansas. We also just happen to have a YouTube channel! We have been doing farm music video parodies for about the last 2 years. It has been a crazy ride since our first video “I’m Farming and I Grow It” came out in June of 2012. It received 5 million views in just over a week and took our lifelong message of advocating agriculture and spread it all over the world. It was definitely a surprise to us that so many people enjoyed watching our videos. 30 million views and 5 parody videos later, we still don’t really know what we are doing but what we do know is this: We love agriculture and believe it is one of the most important things each and every human being needs to survive. And we try to show that in our videos and in our blogs as well. We also believe that farmers are some of the most misunderstood and underappreciated people in the world, and it is our goal to shed some light on why you shouldn’t take the millions of farmers raising crops and livestock in this world for granted! We hope you’ll continue reading….

All I do is farm, farm, farm no matter what!

All they do is farm. That’s what a lot of people think about farmers. “Yeah, they work hard and they are important and stuff, but they’re just farmers, right?”

There are thousands of professions out there, many of which are higher paying, more respected jobs. But where would all the people working in those jobs be without farmers? That’s right, they would be spending their time growing their own food. Today, the average farmer feeds over 155 people and the average American spends only about 6% of their income on their food, compared to 17% in 1960. Less expensive food has allowed for 98% of the population to spend all of their time doing something else besides raising their own food. How would you like it if you spent each day of your life growing your own food, instead of working at your current job and spending loads of time and money on family, leisure, and entertainment? So yes, all we do is farm, but without us farming, you all would be starving! (Or at least growing your own food!)

And not only do we farm, we farm no matter what! In heat, cold, sleet, rain, snow, weekends, holidays, and everything in between farmers are working hard to take care of animals, crops, and people! Thank a farmer!!!

Got farming on my mind I can never get enough.

I still love to farm, farm, farm

And if you know the charm put your hands in the air

Make ‘em stay there!

So what makes one want to farm? The long hours, dirty clothes, hot sun, bitter cold, and high levels of financial risk don’t sound very desirable, do they? Farming certainly isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t always profitable. But farmers love their jobs. There aren’t many farmers who don’t love farming because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be much incentive to farm! There is just something about putting seeds in the ground in the spring and reaping the harvest in the fall, as well as caring for animals and feeding people, that makes farming one of the most rewarding, satisfying jobs out there.

Watch “So God Made a Farmer:” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sillEgUHGC4

And every time I step up in the building

Tractors make my eyes light up!

‘Cuz they so big!

And they so fine!

Though sometimes they break down, break down, break down…

Anyone who knows a farmer knows that farmers love tractors, combines, and basically any type of farm machinery! Walking into a dealership full of new equipment makes a farmer feel like a kid in a candy store. However, new farm equipment costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it extremely hard for any farmer to afford. This leaves a lot of farmers with older equipment that is very susceptible to breakdowns. Breakdowns can be very frustrating (you can see us throw up our hands in the video!) and can also be very expensive. But again, once you’ve fixed a broken down piece of equipment, that feeling of accomplishment sweeps over you and you remember why you love to farm!

Working lightning pace to harvest at the right time is the battle

I’m bouncing up and down like bobbin’ heads of cattle

I fly like Julius Erving, so that you get a servin’

Of fresh and healthy food that’s what you call the agricultural version

Harvest time is one of the most exciting times on the farm! The crops that need to be brought in can be wiped out in minutes by water, wind, fire, and other weather elements. Farmers spend a lot of time stressing out about how they are going to get their harvesting done. The weather never seems to cooperate and the aforementioned breakdowns always seem to get in the way! But most of the time, through hard work and patience, the farmer is able to bring in the harvest and take it to market, where crops like corn, wheat, soybeans, etc. will be made into a lot of the foods and products you use every day! Check out these different links:

Products made from Corn: http://www.businessinsider.com/corn-product-infographic-2012-7

Facts about Wheat: http://www.kswheat.com/consumerspageid220_WheatFacts.shtml

Products made from Soybeans: http://extension.agron.iastate.edu/soybean/uses_soyproducts.html

You see, it’s not just food that farmers are raising; it’s thousands of other products that we use in every day life as well! This remarkably efficient system has developed over the last couple hundred years, and is one of the major things responsible for the advancement of our society.

And farming’s not just for the old, it’s for the young and for the girls!

There are kids and women helping out on farms around the world!

There are thousands and thousands of women and children helping out on farms! Many farms are owned and operated by women as well. Our mom and sister both know how to drive tractors and help us out whenever we need them. Everyone knows that a farm wife is one of the most important parts of a farm and many women are actually the head operator of a farm!

Here are some neat statistics about women in agriculture: http://www.americanagriwomen.org/files/women%20in%20ag%20census%20data%202007.pdf

All 3 of us brothers have enjoyed helping out on the farm since we were 4 or 5. Our roles have gradually grown from riding in the tractor with dad, to driving the tractor ourselves, to helping make big decisions on the farm. Many family farms often have several kids helping out with the production! Family farming is truly one of the neatest parts about the agricultural community.

Some like to count me out

Y’all better count me in

Got empty bank accounts, but I’ll just trust in Him

I’m feedin’ hundreds every year, there’s no need for alarm

cause all I do, all I, all I do, all I do is farm.

As I mentioned previously, it can be hard to make a profit sometimes as a farmer. All the costs of farming have risen extremely in the last couple of decades, making the risk of farming extremely high. Land can cost up to $10,000/acre (or close to $1,000,000 for one large field). New tractors or combines can cost around $400,000. This means that sometimes (or a lot of times!) a farmer’s bank account will be drained or even in debt. Farmers have to trust that their next crop or their next livestock sale will pay their bills. Since those are never a guarantee, it never hurts to trust in a Higher Power as well!

All of these financial extremes in the farming community have led to fewer farms and bigger farmers. Farmers today on average feed hundreds of people (And this average is taking into account all of the small hobby farmers out there, an average Midwest farm is likely feeding thousands per year) and can consist of thousands of acres of land and thousands of animals as well.

Some like to question my methods

And that is perfectly fine

As long as you make sure you are polite, respectful, and kind

See farming is a family affair, you know we’re just like you!

The only difference is this farming thing is what we do! (Whole fam together)

You may now be thinking: “Wait, you said thousands of animals and thousands of acres of land? That sounds like factory and industrial farming to me, not family farming.”

Not really! Family farming is as alive as it has ever been! 96% of farms in the United States are family farms and I cannot name a single farm in our area here in Kansas that isn’t a family farm! The key point here is that family farms are getting bigger and many of them fall into the “industrial/factory farm” label, giving them a bit of a bad reputation. But I can assure you that farm families across the Midwest are doing everything they can to raise your food as ethically as possible! If you are interested in learning more about this, check out our family farm blog by clicking the following link:

Read our full blog post about Family Farming

All I do is farm farm farm no matter what

Got cattle on mind, caring for them when it’s tough

Feeding the cattle a healthy ration, in typical farmer fashion

Caring for my animals has always been a number one passion

We love our cattle. Yes, we have over 1,000 head of cattle in our feedlots when we are at maximum capacity. Yes, that means we are considered a factory farm. (Please read the aforementioned “family farming” blog post!) But, like I mentioned earlier, most large cattle operations are family owned and operated and provide cattle with everything they need to live happy lives. We care for our cattle in every type of weather and season! Our cattle (as well as nearly all cattle here in America) spend the first half of their lives on pasture grass as calves before they are transferred to our farm to be grown into healthy, strong, beef cattle! We eat our own homegrown beef all the time and would highly recommend it to anybody! While it would be nice to have all of our cattle on pasture grass for their entire lives, we treat the animals in our feedlot with the utmost respect, and you can read about what we do and why we do it in the following blog posts:

Read our full blog post on Animal Welfare

All I do is farm farm farm no matter what

Conservation on my mind i take care of what I got

So every time I see water erosion

I go build my terraces up!

So it runs there!

And it runs there!

And I practice no-till, no-till, no-till

Cause that’s just how I farm, farm, farm

Many people think farmers could care less about the environment. This could not be further from the truth! One of the ways farmers like us practice conservation is through no-till planting methods. No-till allows the farmer to keep residue on the soil, protecting it from water and wind erosion, and prevents catastrophes like the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s from happening.

Here are some of the cool benefits of no-till farming: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/newsletter/notill.htm

Another way farmers are helping the environment is by minimizing mono cropping. Most farmers today practice what is called crop rotation. In the old days of farming, the same crop was planted year after year, draining the soil of certain nutrients. Today, farmers plant different crops in different fields every year, which, like no-till, is much healthier for the soil.

A lot of people do not realize, however, that these extremely important conservation methods of no-till and crop rotation are what are responsible for things like herbicide and pesticide usage and genetically engineered plants. You see, no-till farming is impossible without a way to kill weeds and bugs, and herbicides, pesticides, and genetically engineered seeds help solve this problem! They also allow for easier crop rotations. Contrary to popular belief, however, farmers are as conservative as possible with these tools, as they are very expensive. Modern day GPS technology (as seen in the video) allows for precise application of sprays and fertilizers and genetically engineered seeds have been adapted so that fewer applications of the sprays must be administered. Another thing to remember is that the spray you see farmers putting on their crops usually consists of over 90% water, meaning the chemical application is very minimal. Of course, we realize that the concern is that chemical residue from the spray will make your food dangerous and that genetically engineered food is somehow bad for you. We strongly believe neither of these to be true (based on thousands of peer reviewed studies) as there have never been any traces of sickness resulting from any of these farming practices. In fact, we regularly eat our crops straight from the field! To keep this paragraph short, we hope that you can see that if we can trust our crops healthiness and environmental safety enough to consume them ourselves straight from the field, you should be able to as well. To further discuss these very controversial subjects, however, we will be devoting an entire blog post to them soon.

Read our full blog post on GMOs

Read our full blog post about pesticides

Billions of more people will be on this planet years from now

With farmland shrinking back each day, how we gonna feed ‘em, how?

Farmers use technology, and input less to produce more

Keeping carbon footprint down is what we use our methods for!

We all need to work together, to feed the human race

Sustainability to make the world a better place

In the battle against hunger, what will you use for armor?

Paul Harvey said it best, “So God Made a Farmer”

The population of the world will increase to more than 9 billion by the year 2050. Farmland is being taken away all over the place by cities, highways, and houses. We WILL be able to feed this population, but only if we as the population allow farmers to continue to use the technology (as mentioned in the previous paragraph) we are using! Farmers have drastically reduced inputs over the years, and yet have continued to produce more food each year. Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared to 1950. That’s crazy!

Check this page out: http://www.fb.org/index.php/index.php?action=newsroom.fastfacts

We also are trying to do our best to keep our carbon footprint down. Newer farm machinery releases less emissions, thousands of regulations have been put on farmers to make sure our practices are safe and environmentally friendly, and beef producers have made huge strides to improve sustainability: http://www.explorebeef.org/CMDocs/ExploreBeef/Environmental%20Sustainability%20of%20Beef%20Production%20Has%20Improved%20Considerably%20Over%20Last%2030%20Years.pdf

Many people believe that “organic farming” alone is sustainable. However, if you truly step back and take a look at the data, you will see that we need ALL types of farming and farmers to be able to be sustainable! We need to work together! Not fight about which is better or worse. The only way we could feed the world with only organic farming is if the majority of the population became farmers again, as organic farming does not work well on a large scale. (This would severely cut back on the advancement of society, as mentioned in the first part of the blog, and just simply isn’t going to happen unless you force people to become farmers)

Read our full blog post on Organic Farming and Conventional Farming

All I do is farm farm farm no matter what

Got people on mind I’m just tryna feed enough

So every time you step up to your next meal

Send a farmer thank you up!

Cuz we work hard!

So you stay fed!

Though this life can go down, up, down, up down

We still love to farm, farm, farm

And if you know the charm put your hands in the air

Make ‘em stay there!

In conclusion, I would just like to ask for you to put your food security trust in the hands of farmers. There are probably bad farmers out there, farmers who abuse their land, their animals, and are not viable stewards of what has been given them (I’ve certainly never met one, and I’ve met thousands of farmers when we visit places to speak). But those farmers are few and far in between and the agricultural community will do our best to help stop those terrible practices. If you don’t remember anything else from this blog, remember this: The absolute overwhelming majority of farmers in this world are real, wholesome, good-natured farm families who are “just trying to feed enough.” And they need your support! My challenge to the reader of this blog is to get to know your local farmers! Meet an organic producer and meet a conventional producer. Meet a large farmer and then a small farmer. Talk to them about what they do and why they do it! (If you want to visit our farm and talk to us, head to http://www.petersonfarmbros.com and click the farm tours tab!) I am sure you will find that 99% of farmers, whether big or small, are good people just like you and I who deserve thanks for what they are doing.

I am also challenging farmers everywhere to be transparent to consumers and people who know nothing about agriculture. It’s time we show people why we do what we do. We have nothing to hide! It’s time we start working together to feed the world! Stop the fighting and start uniting!

If you have any comments or questions about this blog, please head over to http://www.facebook.com/petersonfarmbros and post on our wall. We will do our best to reply to your comments in an honest, transparent way. But remember, questioning our methods is perfectly fine, as long as you are polite, respectful, and kind!