Why my hogs are on a healthcare plan
May 3rd, 2013
09:00 AM ET
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Chris Chinn is a family farmer in Missouri, and serves as a Face of Farming & Ranching for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. She previous wrote about the effects of the drought on her farm. Read more about her on her blog and follow her on Twitter @chrischinn.

On our farm, it’s normal for us to have entire groups of pigs that never have had any antibiotics when they go to market. Yes, you read that correctly. I know this is not what you see on the internet about how farmers use antibiotics. It seems everywhere you look, you can read or hear a very different story. I’m here to tell you this is a myth.

I like to explain our antibiotic use like this: our hogs do not carry health insurance and all medications are expensive. We cannot afford to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary to improve the quality of health for our animals. And we always use antibiotics under the guidance of our veterinarian. He decides what medication will be used when necessary and what dose will be used.
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Opinion: Blocking 'ag gag' laws may prolong abuse
April 25th, 2013
09:15 PM ET
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Mike Haley is a fifth generation farmer, raising corn and livestock on his Ohio family farm. Follow him on Twitter @FarmerHaley.

Editor's note: So-called "ag gag" bills proposed in states across the country would either require anyone who videotapes, photographs or records incidents of animal cruelty to turn over the evidence to authorities within 24-48 hours or prohibit the making of undercover videos, photographs and sound recordings on farms, depending on local legislation. Proponents say that these laws protect agriculture business. Opponents say they hinder free speech, food safety and animal and worker rights. One such law, HF 589, has already been signed into law in Iowa and makes it illegal for investigative journalists and activists to take jobs at animal facilities for the purpose of recording undercover footage.

Growing up on a farm, one of my biggest responsibilities was tending to the animals in our family’s care. At times livestock can be unpredictable in ways that are both amusing and frustrating, but much like a parent cares for their child, I cannot think of a moment that my top priority was not in the best interest of our animals and our land.

That is not saying that our livestock always respond in a positive manner to our practices. They are not capable of understanding how regular occurrences on the farm like vaccinations are for their benefit. I often wonder how others would respond if videos and pictures were shared out of context while I was caring for our animals.
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Opinion: What the 'ag gag' bills mean to my farm
April 19th, 2013
02:15 PM ET
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Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. Goodman is one of many farmers using social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at AgricultureProud.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

Editor's note: So-called "ag gag" bills proposed in states across the country would either require anyone who videotapes, photographs or records incidents of animal cruelty to turn over the evidence to authorities within 24-48 hours or prohibit the making of undercover videos, photographs and sound recordings on farms, depending on local legislation. Proponents say that these laws protect agriculture business. Opponents say they hinder free speech, food safety and animal and worker rights. One such law, HF 589, has already been signed into law in Iowa and makes it illegal for investigative journalists and activists to take jobs at animal facilities for the purpose of recording undercover footage.

There are several critics of bills being passed into law at the state-level across the country. These so-called “ag gag” bills are making news in publications like the New York Times. Op-eds with headlines “Open the Slaughterhouses” bring about much support, as seen in a Times reader's response “Silencing Witnesses to Animal Abuse.“

What does the threat of undercover video mean to me as a cattle producer or as an employee of a concentrated animal feeding operation (often called a CAFO)?
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Why women and kids should farm
April 3rd, 2013
01:45 PM ET
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Editor's note: The Southern Foodways Alliance delves deep in the history, tradition, heroes and plain old deliciousness of Southern food. Today's contributor, Emilie Dayan, writes a weekly SFA blog series called "Sustainable South" about food and the environment, nutrition, food access, food justice, agricultural issues and food politics.

To some, Bonita Conwell is a farmer. To others, a butcher. For rural Southern women and youth in agriculture, she is an advocate for economic and social justice. No matter how you frame her, Conwell is a tour de force in the Delta region of Mississippi, and her influence extends up the Mighty Mississippi to Chicago and westward to Houston, Texas.

Based in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, Conwell is the driving force behind Robert’s Meat Market. Built in 1985, the market found success in providing Mississippi-made meat products to Southerners living in Chicago. To the west, Conwell sells the greens of her sweet potato crops - a part of the root that is usually discarded - to an African market in Houston. SFA director John T. Edge is such a fan of Conwell's sweet potato greens that he included them on his list of the top ten dishes of 2012 for Garden & Gun magazine.
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Despite last year's drought, corn production is popping
March 20th, 2013
07:00 PM ET
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Editor's Note: Brian Scott farms with his father and grandfather on 2,300 acres of land in northwest Indiana. They grow corn, soybeans, popcorn and wheat. He blogs about it at The Farmer's Life.

The Dekalb seed company recently shared a poster on Facebook depicting the top corn yields of 1940 and it got the gears turning in my head. For many decades, corn growers at the local, state and national level have competed in yield contests to see who can grow the most corn per acre. Bragging rights are at stake (and sometimes cash and prizes), and the 1940 yield contest winner for my home state of Indiana harvested 94.81 bushels per acre.

What about that clicks in my ag-nerd brain? The fact that in 2012, hopefully the worst drought of my farming career, saw our farm garner an average corn yield of 94.7 bushels per acre. For all intents and purposes, that's equal to the best of the best in my great grandfather’s day.

The poster shows a 102.38 bushel average for contestants over 12 states. The U.S. averaged about 123 bushels per acre following the horrendous drought of 2012. By those numbers, today’s worst is better than yesteryear’s top dogs.
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March 19th, 2013
09:15 AM ET
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Ryan Goodman has been involved in agriculture all of his life, working on ranches across the country, as well as studying cattle nutrition and reproduction at the college levels. He works daily with farmers and ranchers, helping their voices become part of the national dialogues on food and agriculture topics. You can reach him on Twitter @AgProudRyan, as well as his personal blog, AgricultureProud.com.

Each weekday Eatocracy features a special food holiday. These can range from raw ingredients, regional specialties, or guilty pleasures that satisfy our sweet tooth. No matter where these foods come from, they have something in common – it all started on a farm.

March 25, 2014 is National Agriculture Day; one day we can set aside our differences and celebrate the diversity agriculture brings to the table. This encompasses not only farmers, but also everyone involved in growing, processing, transporting, and preparing our food for the table. The Agriculture Council of America organizes the event and support comes from numerous organizations across the agriculture and food spectrum.
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When the fields are frozen, there's still plenty of work to be done
February 11th, 2013
05:45 PM ET
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Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. Goodman is one of many farmers using social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at AgricultureProud.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

In the past several months, the Farmers with Issues series has featured the voices of several farmers and ranchers who try to reach out, connect, and share a window into the world of food production. Some great conversations have been launched and more than once, there have been comments implying that farmers take the winter months off.

Do farmers really have time off once the hay is in the barn and the crops are out of the fields? Personally, I take advantage of the longer dark hours to catch up on some of my favorite reading, but winter is not all rest and relaxation for farmers.

I asked a few farmers from across the country what they are up to as much of the country is hunkering down in the snow and cold.
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Opinion: Where are the female and minority farmers?
February 7th, 2013
02:15 PM ET
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Diana Prichard lives and works at the intersection of the alternative food movement and the reality of modern agriculture and believes that a finer-tuned food future is possible without all the in-fighting. She operates a small, niche pork operation; running a few hundred hogs per year in the heart of Michigan's farm country. You can follow her story at RighteousBacon.com, Twitter and Facebook.

I’ll never forget my first agriculture conference. I carefully selected the sessions I wanted to attend and made sure I arrived at the one and only panel dedicated to women in ag early. I picked a seat, pulled my favorite pen and a trusty notebook out of my bag and got ready for what I assumed would be an education-filled hour.

And I suppose, in hindsight, what followed was an education - just not in the way I’d expected.
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By the numbers, how has farming changed since 'So God Made a Farmer'?
February 5th, 2013
10:15 AM ET
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Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. Goodman is one of many farmers using social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at AgricultureProud.com or on Twitter and Facebook.

This week has been an exciting one for those discussing food and farming. Sunday's airing of RAM Truck's Super Bowl ad featuring the American farmer has had online communities buzzing about the images and characteristics that defined our farmers in 1978. Those traits and values still hold true today, despite what we often hear in mainstream media and reports from those who have a "beef" with modern farming.

Paul Harvey first recited "So God Made a Farmer" at the 1978 Future Farmers of America annual convention. A few things have changed in the three and a half decades since. My dad was in junior high (and still had a full head of hair). Since then, he has raised a few thousand cattle, has broken in a few new pickups, and harvested several crops of hay.

So how do things compare between 1978 and today?
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