Ask a farmer where food comes from

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What a beautiful late summer morning it is. As I sit to write this week’s column my mind is racing. My family and I were just at the Ohio State Fair exhibiting dairy cattle.

State Fair

While it is a lot of work, it is a great opportunity to showcase the foundation of Ohio’s economy, agriculture.

I will admit that some days the ignorance of people amazes and aggravates me. However, I remind myself and my boys, that this is our chance to tell the true story.

When people ask questions about our cattle or the industry or farming, in general, the door opens wide to let them hear the reality.

In a world dominated by social media, it doesn’t take long for theories and stories to spread, even when they are not true.

I had a middle-aged gentleman approach me because his son would like to get into farming. This is not something you hear every day from a non-farm person.

He asked many questions, and unfortunately, the financial picture I had to paint did not look well.

Dairy

I explained how milk price has not been great. Depending upon where you ship and how many bonuses you receive, you are probably getting roughly $18 for every 100 pounds of milk produced.

I made certain he realized that this is before any expenses have been taken out.

If a producer has a lot of overhead or is trying to start from scratch, they may not be able to weather the storm.

Unfortunately, most of the thousands of people lined out the door at the dairy building think dairy farmers make a lot more, as they wait to pay $2.25 for a 14-16 ounce bottle of milk, or roughly $5 for a milkshake or single dip ice cream cone.

Around the world

There are many problems. First of all, the American people are too removed from agriculture.

Sadly, a majority of adults don’t know where many of the products they buy come from.

Secondly, Americans have cheap food. They are wasteful and don’t care about quality or the process by which food is grown because they don’t pay what other countries do.

After traveling to other countries and hearing stories from other international travelers, the American people should be thankful.

Agriculture is the foundation of our economy both in Ohio and nationwide. Our soils are very fertile and farmers have done their best to incorporate practices that encourage more productivity.

Less than 2 percent of our population is generating enough product to feed our entire country and then some.

Interestingly enough, the farmer has been expected to produce more and to continue to feed our country with fewer and fewer farmers and less and less farm ground available.

Technology

Yet it is these advancements such as GMOs, sexed semen, GPS farm equipment, and robotic milkers to name a few that have caused farmers to be scrutinized the most.

Why? How else do you intend to feed a constantly growing population with farms being forced out of business right and left? I don’t see people lining up waiting to go into farming.

So, unless the world is ready to operate like the Amish and how the early Americans did — by growing your own food, milking your own cow and canning fruits and vegetables — advancements are a must in order to produce the volume of food we need to maintain a healthy, abundant, inexpensive food supply.

I also recently saw someone post on Facebook about how all of these additives and chemicals placed in our foods by farmers are killing us. I cannot begin to tell you on how many levels this disturbs me.

First of all, farmers are not putting chemicals into your food. Secondly, preservatives are added to many foods by manufacturers to increase the shelf life of the product.

This is done because this is what the consumer wants. It is driven by the market. These are not chemicals to kill you.

I also guarantee that most of the people that post things like this don’t even know what they are referring too, where the product came from, or how it was processed.

Educate yourself

We are so fortunate in this country. We are able to have an abundant, safe food supply.

Yes, I said safe. Travel to other countries and you will see why I say we have safe food.

Due to the availability of our food, it is also offered at a reasonable cost. In addition, we have several niche markets available to enhance our food desires.

My request is that consumers would become better educated on our agriculture industry and their food.

Instead of trying to find flaws and negatives in everything, perhaps if they began to see how fortunate they are and how productive our farmers are, large or small, they would embrace technology and help us continue to move forward and feed our ever-growing population without importing from other countries.

In closing, I would like to thank all of the fine people that stopped and asked questions during the state fair. I appreciate those that seek out information and make educated decisions.

I also respect their comments and concerns which in turn help us as producers to better meet the needs of the consumer.

Agriculture is vital to our country on so many levels. It is of utmost importance that we support the farmer and the advancements that allow us to provide for our families and hopefully many generations to come.

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Cathy Berg, Program Administrator for the Ashland Soil and Water Conservation District for 15 past years. Bachelor of Science Degree from The Ohio State University. Major in Agronomy with soils specialization and a minor in Natural Resources Management.

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