Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Post Election Thoughts & Ramblings

Election 2012 is (mostly) over.  Here is a list of random thoughts the day after:

I would suggest that:

Sooner or later, for better or worse, a country gets the gov't it desires or deserves.

If you want to spend time bashing the president and congress, fine.  However, make sure you spend as much more time praying for those elected officials.

The national debt is going nowhere anytime soon.  At least not down.

Uncertainty will remain in the markets, fuel prices, and with jobs.

War on women?  Seriously?  You've never been to a Muslim country have you?

Rush, Beck, Hannity etc. are about one third right, one third full of BS, and one third ego.

Dick Morris is a professional prognosticator.  How he is taken seriously baffles me.  After all, didn't he write a book called "Condi v Hillary"  

Those who claim to be ready to move to Canada or Switzerland haven't thought thru that statement very well.

If your church didn't preach the Gospel of Jesus but rather preached about the election prior to Tuesday, and preaches apocalypse post election, that's part of the problem.

For a Christian, if you don't hold to the sovereignty of God over all things, including elections, you are undeniably distraught today.  The question though is not why did this happen, but why am I not trusting God?

Mitt Romney is semi-conservative at best.  As long as the Republican party puts forth men who largely appeal to all white and uptight rich guys, don't be surprised at the results.  Church take notice.

America's demographics have changed.  This isn't 1950's America.  Those days are gone.  The Repubs need to take notice.  So does the church.

The sun still rose today.

Significant issues were glossed over or ignored during this campaign such as food production & security and environmental issues.  Meanwhile both parties toe the status quo of needing "more teachers, more cops, more military, more more more..."

All  the while liberties and freedoms continue to be stripped while drones fly over our own soil, cameras watch our every move, and gov't agencies make unconstitutional raids, searches, and seizures.  But hey, who wants to quibble with that when Big Bird is threatened. 

Don't forget, it was Bush who gave us the Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, and John Roberts.

15 trillion in debt and nuclear bombs doesn't make a country a superpower.  It often makes it a bully that's bad at math.

To think we are the lone superpower on Earth is naive.  

Paraphrasing Doug Wilson: The choices are (were) between Stage 4 and Stage 1 cancer.  Stage 1 cancer is better, but that doesn't mean I'd want to put that sign in my yard.  

Jesus is neither a Dem or a Repub.  To label him in such a way is blasphemy.  God Bless America is not his favorite song.  Too many Republicans for too long have elevated their platform to equal status of Holy Scripture.  As Tullian Tchividjian wrote:  Jesus + Nothing = Everything.  Or said another way, Jesus + Anything ruins everything.

Read more Carl Trueman, Kevin DeYoung, Russell Moore, Jonathan Pennington, Jay Sanders, Marty Duren.

Real hope and true change is found in Christ alone.  Not a political party.  That's a world I'd like to be united around.

What are your suggestions?

"...till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will." 
Daniel 4:25

Friday, August 17, 2012

Antibiotics & Our Future: A response

Recently I had the opportunity to respond to an article about antibiotic use in livestock that of all places, appeared on the Baptist Press website.  That article can be found here.

I wrote a response to said article, which can be read here or here.

There is an interesting discussion going on in evangelical (and other) circles on this and similar topics.  Creation Care, Christian Ecology and other semi-popular terms being used nowadays.  That's all fine and dandy,  I only wonder if our best and brightest leaders -- and no doubt these are rock solid, outstanding leaders for the cause of Christ -- are being subtly influenced by the writings of folks such as Wendell Berry and the makers of squiggly light bulbs.

The name of the game to me seems to be sustainability, and again, the reality is that we have a global population closing in on 7 billion.

And that's 7 billion mouths to feed.

Every day.

More than once a day if possible.

During droughts.

Berry et al, are intelligent people who bring good ideas and good challenges to the table, however I continue to contend that in order to feed and clothe a growing global population, all hands will need to be on deck and multiple approaches will need to be utilized that extend above and beyond political sloganeering which number as much or more than the number of items on a drive up menu.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Visiting Lana's family in Illinois this weekend, we had the opportunity to visit some of the Amish areas of the state.  In agricultural terms, can you say juxtaposition?

Old, Semi-Traditional

New, Modern

Best Time to Buy

Is one way better than the other?  Maybe, in some ways.  Maybe not.  

There certainly is something refreshing, even romantic, about a simpler way of life that is vacant of what us modern folks normally call distractions, grievances, nuisances, worries, and anxieties.  But at the same time, we enjoy modern amenities and daily pleasures such as air conditioning, electricity, internet, and global positioning systems.

Either way, I am reminded of a couple of verses from Scripture that all believers would do well to remember:

2e“Therefore I tell you, fdo not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?26 gLook at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. hAre you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his ispan of life?7 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, jeven Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, kO you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For lthe Gentiles seek after all these things, and myour heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But nseek first othe kingdom of God and his righteousness, pand all these things will be added to you.
34 q“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.    Matthew 6:25-34, ESV

     “Be still, and know that I am God.
vI will be exalted among the nations,
 I will be exalted in the earth!”   Psalms 46:10, ESV

Slow Moving Vehicle

Modern farm equipment is big, shiny, technologically advanced, expensive, and slow.

I was reminded of this a couple of days ago, when planting soybeans for someone else, I had to travel down a state highway (two of them actually) in order to get to the field.

During morning commute.

It's not that big of deal, but this one particular highway is a fairly hilly two lane highway with few opportunities to pass.

Cruising along in my John Deere tractor pulling a planter at a top speed of 26 mph, looking in my rear view mirrors I could see the cars lining up behind me.  What was I to do?

About the best one can do in situations like these is pull over as much as possible and slow down or stop if possible and let the cars go by.

Some farm machinery is big.  Really big.  At least compared to state and rural roads.  Keep in mind that even the newest and fastest equipment has a top speed of 30 mph, and between trying to dodge mailboxes set too close to the road, overhanging tree limbs, road signs, narrow bridges, road ditches, and people texting while driving, we do our best to get over as soon as we can.

Yes some equipment is about as wide as the road, and yes some machinery has big tires on it that would make even the reddest red neck yell "Get 'er done!" but, keep in mind we can't go any faster, and tractors and combines and spray rigs don't exactly maneuver like a lamborghini.

So if you see flashing lights and the SMV sign on the back of something that looks big and scary, keep in mind we don't much like being on the highway any more than you like being stuck behind us. And, keep in mind that as farm sizes grow while the number of farmers decreases, it's going to require us to get on the highway from time to time to get to our fields.

So save your middle finger and curse words (yes, we see some of you mouthing off at us) for something that actually matters--you know, something important like your sons opposing t-ball team--and try to remember that when you sit down and eat your 8th meal of the day you can be thankful that the worst part of your day may have been that you were delayed a few minutes while driving down the road.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


There's an old saying that goes something like this:  "Those who can do, those who can't teach, and those who can't teach are guidance counselors."  Might have made that last part up, but it works.

If you eat, you're involved in agriculture.  If you wear clothes, you're involved in agriculture.  If you drive a vehicle, you're involved in agriculture.  Each of us interacts with agriculture every single day, multiple times per day.

Agriculture it seems, is under constant assault from someone or something.  Animal rights activists, environmental activists, herbicide resistant weeds, rising fuel/labor/insurance/input costs, floods, droughts, regulations, taxes, and bureaucrats -- just to name a few.  Being an activist isn't a bad thing.  I'm an activist.  I'm just on the opposite side most of the time of those people and groups listed above.

Here's the rub though.  Less than 2% of the population is involved in production agriculture (the ones actually producing the stuff you eat, drink, and wear).  And, we're repeatedly told that by the year 2050 we will have to produce more food than we've had to in the past 10,000 years combined (or 5-6,000 if you hold to a really young Earth view).  The obvious question for me then becomes - 'How are we expected to remain efficient at doing our job when we are being handcuffed at every turn?'

The way I see it, agriculture is in a public relations battle, and is getting its butt kicked.  Part of the blame can be directed on basic ignorance of the issues.  Part of it can be directed to well funded organizations like HSUS or PETA with slick, pull at your heart strings ads.  But also, part of the blame needs to be directed at farmers themselves.

Farmers do what they do, because, well, they are good at it.  They do it because they love it.  And they do it because most other people can't.  What we're not always good at is engaging with the general public, public relations campaigns, or talking to the media.  The days of unengagement are over.  That ship has sailed, never to return.  Gone are the days of sitting around the local co-op or coffee shop talking amongst ourselves about prices, dirt, and the weather.  We still need to talk about these things, but the scope of our audience must broaden, else I doubt we, or much anyone else, will like the results.

I don't like complainers.  And I feel like I've done a fair amount of complaining in this post, so right now I'm not liking myself all that much.  Farmers aren't usually complainers--whiners maybe--but not complainers.  They have a can do attitude.  I mean seriously, what other profession drops a 100 grand into the ground (literally) and then prays for the right amount of sunshine and rain with the high hopes of recouping expenses and making a profit, in order to it all over again the next year at 150 grand?  Now that's an optimistic, prayer driven bunch of folks.

Decisions are going to be made.  Laws are going to be passed.  Debates are going to be held.  Where does American agriculture want to be?  We can engage, become involved, and share our side of the story, or we can let someone else tell it for us.  Farmers can point fingers, shift blame, and curse the government, but at the end of the day, who do we want telling our story?  A story will be told, just don't act surprised if it's one you don't like or agree with.  Where were you?  Why are you farmer, letting someone else tell it for you?

I've watched churches, schools, businesses, and governments deteriorate and weaken to the point of uselessness because limp wristed wimps failed to engage.  I understand the thought line of picking our battles.  I get that.  But it seems to me that food and food related issues isn't one of those secondary issues we toss aside for clueless nitwits to decide upon.  When the price of bread, milk, and eggs rises at the grocery store, or fuel rises at the pump, where has the farmer positioned himself in the discussion when the consumer or policymaker starts asking why?  Look, you may disagree with everything I've said.  That's fine.  But defeat me in the arena of ideas.  At least there we can have a discussion.

There's another old saying something like "Get off the bench (or out of the bleachers) and get in the game".  We have a sufficient number of armchair quarterbacks.  You know what I'm talking about.  People who like to sit on the couch at 4 in the afternoon still wearing their pajamas, screaming at Tom Brady to throw it, or something like that.

Are farmers going to get in the game?  Are we going to be engaged and proactive?  Or, will we sit by idly, even naively, ultimately rendering ourselves irrelevant in our own profession in the arena of thoughts and ideas?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Farm Quiz


You eat it, drink it, smoke it, wear it.  You drive with it, sleep on it, wipe with it.  You read, write, color, paint, buy stuff, cook, clean, and feed with it.  Agriculture touches almost every aspect of your life.  It's directly linked to over 24 million U.S. jobs, and indirectly linked to millions more.  Without it you would be cold, hungry, and naked.  If farmers went on strike globally, we wouldn't have to worry about whether or not the Iranians develop a nuclear bomb, Obama is reelected, or which Kardashian got arrested for DUI.  We'll all be dead. (Except for maybe Dwight Schrute, Bear Grylls, and those guys from Swamp People)  In other words, agriculture is kinda important.  Whether or not we realize it, we all have a vested interest in agriculture.  So, it stands to reason we ought to educate ourselves a bit on the topic.

Don't know much about American agriculture?  Don't feel bad, the vast majority of Americans don't, which isn't all that surprising as most people are 3 to 4 generations removed from the farm.  

For many, food comes from a store that has concrete floors, fluorescent lighting, cold aisles, and plays old Justin Timberlake music.  Clothes, on the other hand, come from another type of store, except it is usually carpeted, darker but warmer, and plays really loud Justin Timberlake music.  

I'm not usually a fan of quizzes, especially online quizzes, but I came across this one today and found it to be useful and helpful, particularly to those with little or no agriculture background.  Here's 10 questions, so take the quiz and test your knowledge.  

1.  How many farms in the U.S. are family owned/operated?
a) 98%
b) 75%
c) 30%
d) less than 10%

2.  A bale of cotton weighs 50 pounds?
a) True
b) False

3.  How many farms in the U.S. are headed up by women?
a) 500
b) 5,500
c) 25,000
d) 145,000

4.  U.S. farmers produce over 40% of the worlds corn.
a) True
b) False
c) what's corn

5.  Today, the average farmer produces enough food to feed 26 people.
a) True
b) False

6.  How much does one bushel of corn weigh?
a) 5 pounds
b) 16 pounds
c) 56 pounds
d) 50 pounds

7.  Most of the beans grown in the U.S. are green when harvested and can be consumed immediately.
a) True
b) False
c) Don't know, but they're good for the heart!

8.  Farmers use environmentally friendly practices that have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions.
a) True
b) False
c) Huh huh, you said gas

9.  What is conservation tillage?
a) When farmers leave residue from the previous crop lying in the field
b) When farmers take residue and put in into a compost pile
c) When farmers use animals instead of machinery to till the ground
d) None of the above

10.)  If U.S. farmers used crop production practices from the 1930's to produce the equivalent amount of corn as produced today, how many more acres of land would be needed?
a) 10,000 acres
b) 10 million acres
c) 490 million acres
d) No additional acres would be needed


1. A - 98% of farms are family owned and operated, coming in all shapes, sizes, and diversity.  It's just a plain myth that farms are run by multinational corporations.  I once heard someone say "I know who owns all the land, it's owned by those that put their signs out next to the road."  Signage has nothing to do with ownership or with who farms the land.  Every seed company (Pioneer, Asgrow, DeltaPine etc.) uses signage to promote their product.  Where's the most visible place to advertise?  Next to the road.  Other than a farmer, I doubt anybody else would care about signs next to the road.

2. B - False.  A bale of cotton weighs not 50, but 500 pounds.  That's enough cotton to produce over 200 pairs of jeans, 1,200 T-shirts, or 4,300 pairs of socks.

3. D - 145,000.  If you're like me, I'm wondering "Who are all these women operators."  But, I'm reminded that farms exist in all shapes and sizes, and not every farm will look like mine in Tennessee.  The number of women operating as head of an operation, along with African-American operators, are actually increasing.

4. True.  Depending on the year and the source, America's corn growers produce between 40-50% of the worlds corn.  That's more than China, India, Brazil, Mexico, and the European Union combined.

5. False.  That figure would have been true in 1960.  Today, the average farm produces food for 155 people.  The average farm in the U.S. is around 400 acres.  Our farm is close to 2,000 acres, which means we produce food for close to 800 people.  If you ate today, our farm may have had a direct hand in feeding you.  I'm proud of that.

6. C - 56 pounds.  The old way of weighing was the bushel basket.  You've probably seen one at a farmers market, or at your grandparents house if they have a garden.  It would take 56 pounds of corn to fill the bushel basket.  For soybeans, 60 pounds = 1 bushel.

7. False.  The majority of beans are a grey or brownish color, and considered dry when harvested.  After harvest, the grain is processed and used in millions of products.

8. True.  Though radical environmentalists would likely argue otherwise, according to the EPA in 2007, for example, farmers cut CO2 emissions by 14.2 kg.  That's equivalent to removing over 6 million cars from the road for a year.  Honestly, I have no idea how they measure this, or if that's even a reliable stat.  But, consider this.  How many cars, trucks, semi's, planes, trains, boats, buses, motorcycles, 4-wheelers, and lawnmowers are traveling around burning fossil fuels versus how many tractors or combines are driving around?  I'll take a wild guess here and say about a billion to one.  I don't really think tractors are a major source of CO2 emissions.  OK, but what about livestock and their flatulence.   Don't cows contribute to global warming?  Well, I'll go with Ron White on this one and say the solution is to eat the cows.

9. A - Leaving the residue from a previous crop.  This means the farmer is not using any tillage or reduced tillage in preparing his land for planting.  This also means reduced trips across field, fuel savings, time savings, an increase in organic matter, returning leftover nutrients from the old crop directly back into the soil, moisture savings, and erosion savings.

10. C - 490 million acres.  We would need that much additional land if we were still using the same techniques we did in the 1930's to produce what we produce today.  That's an area larger than Alaska.  Thanks to the hybrid, nitrogen fertilizer, and technology, we don't have to invade Canada for their land.

Here's a short video with some more food for thought and interesting tidbits you may not have thought about:

Think Agriculture is important?  Yea, me too.  So, the next time you see Yahoo post a story about useless college degrees, and 3 of the top 5 are agriculture related, you can laugh it off and think about how useless their writers journalism degree must have been in order to write wasted stories such as that.  Right up there with fashion design and basket weaving (also known as psychology).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Top 5's

While I was in grad school, I worked at a bookstore with some pretty awesome people.  In the absence of doing any real work such as hauling off empty boxes to the dumpster, making ridiculous phone calls which in reality was nothing but soliciting, or putting up for display Neil's favorite "struggling with gay thoughts" books, my friend Jay would get me, Keshia, Matt and whoever to name our Top 5 favorite ___________.

It was a fun game, discussion (argument) starter, and helped slow days go by quicker.  The winter is a slow season for me since we currently only grow row crops and don't handle any livestock.  So, to help pass the time, and for old times sake, here is a random list of some Top 5's, in no particular order, and maybe a few honorable mentions.

Top 5 Man Movies
These are movies that the ladies may like, but are for sure movies for dudes.  If your buddies walked in and caught you watching any of these, extra points for manliness.  Whereas, if your buddies come in and catch you watching Legally Blonde, they have automatic permission to use jiu jitsu on you.  
  • Snatch
  • Kill The Irishman
  • Boondock Saints
  • Inglorious Bastards
  • No Country for Old Men
Honorable Mention: Defiance, We Were Soldiers, Taken, Gone Baby Gone, American History X

Top 5 Shows Currently on TV
We don't watch a terrible amount of the boob tube, but these shows will most likely be DVR'd.
  • 30 Rock
  • House
  • Only in America w/ Larry The Cable Guy
  • Dirty Jobs
  • Swamp People
Honorable Mention: American Restoration, Deadliest Catch, Alaska State Troopers

Top 5 Comedy Shows of all time
  • 30 Rock
  • The Office (seasons 1-4)
  • Cheers
  • Arrested Development
  • The Cosby Show (until Elvin shows up)
Honorable Mention: Spongebob Squarepants, Wonder Years, Frasier

Top 5 Favorite Living Theologians
Very subjective, but these are folks I've either read, met, heard, or sat directly under their teaching.  Hopefully none of the single white guys that comment anonymously all over blogs won't see this list, lest I be cyber flogged for: a) having both a paedo & credo on the same list.  How dare I!, or b) not being "gospel centered" enough.
  • RC Sproul
  • Tim Keller
  • Kevin DeYoung
  • Jonathan Pennington
  • Brian Vickers
Honorable Mention: Dan Doriani, Doug Wilson, Ravi Zacharias, Al Mohler, Derek Thomas

Top 5 Movies of all time (so far)
This is different than man movies.  The lists could overlap, but if I'm stuck in a room and can only watch these 5 movies, this is what I'd want in my queue.
  • Good Will Hunting - It's a good car.  Got a good engine.
  • Shawshank Redemption - If I'm trapped, this is an inspirational breakout movie.
  • Almost Famous - Awesome soundtrack.
  • Inception - Perhaps my entrapment is all a dream.
  • Napoleon Dynamite - A little Rex Kwan Do training will help me fight my way out.
Honorable Mention: SlingBlade

Top 5 6 7  8 Books 
Books are incredible and can provide a wealth of knowledge, information, inspiration, and helpful instruction.  With so many genres it's impossible for me to list my favorite books, as different books have had special meaning, significance, or instruction at different points in my life.  But these are a few that if someone has never read, I would say are must reads.
  • Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot
  • A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
  • When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch
  • Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan
  • Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
  • Reason for God by Tim Keller
  • Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas
Honorable Mention: No Little People by Francis Schaeffer / Flyboys by James Bradley / Trellis & Vine by Colin Marshall / Moral Apologetics by Mark Coppenger / anything else by CS Lewis, Tim Keller, or Kevin DeYoung.

Top 5 Tractors
Since this is an ag blog, figured I better throw something ag related in.  Wouldn't want the sponsors getting worried.
  • John Deere
  • Case
  • Massey Ferguson
  • Caterpillar
  • John Deere (yea, I know already mentioned this one, but come on, how many tractor manufacturers are there?  Foreign ones don't count.  They use the metric system.  That's un-American!)

What's your Top 5?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Hawaii, Pineapples & Stereotypes

Our family had the privilege of traveling to the Hawaiian island of Oahu for a few days and in short it was awesome.  On the flight home I had plenty of time to think about what we had just experienced and wanted to share some of it here.

I.  Hawaii

In Hawaii, we experienced and/or saw several firsts:

  • Perhaps, but maybe not obvious, it was the first time to Hawaii for us.
  • It was the first time the girls have flown.
  • We ate at a Tony Romos for the first time.
  • First time we saw sea turtles, at least not in captivity.
  • And we saw firsthand for the first time what happens when a drunk passenger acts belligerent with the flight crew before takeoff.  Let's just say Carol Burnett would have been proud.  "And that's sky law."  Fans of 30 Rock will get it. 

While in Hawaii we stumbled across an Apple Store.  When you put an Apple Store in a place like Hawaii, I think you get a foretaste of heaven.  I'm pretty sure this is what Milton had in mind when he wrote his poem Paradise Regained, but don't quote me on that.

Driving around the island, there was a surprise around every turn in the road.  Gorgeous shorelines and powerful waves gave way to naturally rugged and beautiful mountain ranges only to give them back to the shorelines.  It was like a dance between the ocean and the mountains.  Lana remarked that CS Lewis must have visited Hawaii before he wrote Narnia.  I agree.

On a more somber note...Pearl Harbor.  A very solemn, even emotional experience.  I can't say anything that hasn't already been said a thousand times, but I was moved by this wartime prayer from Eleanor Roosevelt -
Dear Lord,
Lest I continue
My complacent way,
Help me to remember that somewhere,
Somehow out there
A man died for me today.
As long as there be war,
I then must
Ask and answer
Am I worth dying for?
Maybe it was the magnitude of the environment, but I found myself asking myself the same question.  I was reminded, thankfully, that God in his graciousness, justice, and mercy sent a substitute to those who repent and confess Jesus as Savior, you don't have to try and answer that question on your own (Mk. 1:15, 1 Cor. 15:1-4, Rom. 10:9-11, Jn. 3:16, et al).

II.  Pineapples

Hawaii is known for many things, but one thing you may not know is that it is a pretty major player in the production of pineapples, nuts (of the macadamia kind), and coffee.  I predominately write on here about topics related to agriculture, and for many people, when they think of ag, or big ag, it's those people in Iowa with all that corn or those guys down in Texas with all those cows and cotton.  Farms and farmers come in all shapes and sizes, and produce all types of products for consumption.  And, farmers are growing fruits & vegetables, nuts, and coffee as well.  We don't typically think about items such as pineapples or nuts around these parts because no one grows it around here--except for maybe parts of Florida and California.  Why do I bring this up?  While some may view importing food as a necessary evil or perhaps worse, I view it as a necessary reality.  Especially if we desire to eat and drink things that we are unable to produce here ourselves, such as pineapples and coffee.  So, the consumer is left with only a couple of options.  Move to a tropical environment and eat pineapple and coconut all day while sipping on coffee, or do without.  Certainly safeguards to ensure quality and safety should be in place to protect the consumer as realistically as possible.  However, we as Americans have the tendency to want and eat our cake at the same time.  So, we can either do without and complain, or do with and probably still complain.

III.  Stereotypes

Being a silly main lander having been influenced and informed by bad information about Hawaii, I was (partially) duped into believing these common myths about Hawaiians:

Myth 1
All Hawaiians wear Hawaiian shirts.
Nope.  Pretty much the only people that wear those shirts are tourists who look like their skin has never seen sunlight and a certain sect of Southern Baptist pastors.

Myth 2
All Hawaiians walk around doing the hula dance.
Wrong again.  Probably picked up this idea from that bad show called Hawaii Five-0 or it's more bad new version called Hawaii Five-0.  It's on CBS, what'd you expect?  Sure, you can see and participate in a hula dance, and it is used to teach visitors about the heritage of the islands, but I got the impression this it is often done to appease well funded tourists.

Myth 3
Hawaiian music consists of only the ukulele.
Nada.  The ukulele is a popular and important instrument in Hawaiian culture, but music on the island is as rich and diverse as anywhere.  Yes, the late Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole is a legend in Hawaii, but ever hear of an artist named Jack Johnson?

Myth 4
The hand sign/wave using your thumb and pinkie finger means hang loose.
Uh Uh No.  Locally that is known as the Shaka sign and what it actually means is something closer to a type of greeting or a way of saying thanks.

So if you ever plan on going to Hawaii, do a little research ahead of time that extends beyond Magnum P.I. episodes, and don't act like such a tourist, stereotyping everything into a category like, for example when people up north think every other guy in the south is called Bubba.  Ok, that was a bad example. At the same time, don't try and be Kelly Slater either.  Get out of the city, explore the island, stop at a roadside stand and buy something, and mingle with the locals.  When you go, go a little more Globe Trekker style and a little less double decker bus style.  Leave technology behind, and go off the grid a few days.  No email, no facebook, no TV, no returning phone calls or texting.  It was great.  Didn't miss it a bit.  I had no idea what Tebow had done or who won the New Hampshire primary, nor did I really care.  It takes a little more effort, but it'll be worth it.  If you get the opportunity to go, go.

Eddie would go.

Aloha and Mahalo.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Interview(s) with the Non-Farmer(s)

In my last post, I was interviewed by a non-farmer for my perspective on food and modern agriculture practices, among other things.  In this post, I had the opportunity to ask several non farm folks their thoughts on a variety of agriculture related topics.  The participants--both male and female, ranging in age from early 20's to 50's--live, work, and eat in various contexts ranging from South Alabama to Seattle, Washington.  As a producer, I am constantly interested in knowing if and what the general public thinks about food, farmers, agriculture, the environment, and how these forces relate to one another.  A very recent farm perspective survey commissioned by BASF questioned 1,800 farmers and 6,000 consumers from 6 countries - Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, India, and the United States on current agriculture related issues. (As an aside here, I've been to Germany, France, and India and have friends who have been to Brazil.  For India or Brazil to try and defend their environmental standards while complaining about US standards, well, that's about as nonsensical as when Limbaugh or Hannity try to defend dishonorable Republican behavior by saying "at least it's not as bad as" insert Democrats name here__________.  As if one set of actions/behaviors justifies another, but I digress.)  Some of the results were very encouraging, some predictable, some surprising, and some baffling.  So it goes with such a large and diverse group, each with its own competing interests.  For a rundown on the survey, check it out here:  

In my survey, I submitted 9 questions to each person, asking them to answer at least 5.  Following is each of my questions, and some of their responses in their own words.  For brevity's sake, I've selected 1-2 (sometimes more) responses to each question.  Many thanks to those who participated and helped make this post possible.  May the dialogues continue.

1.  Other than eating and wearing clothes, what is your involvement in farming/agriculture?
  • I drive by farms when traveling.  Sometimes I smell them.  Unfortunately, that is about it.  
  • I was raised with cows and cotton around our city. 
2.  In your mind, what constitutes a large or corporate farm?  Do you think family farms are being hurt by large or corporate farms?
  • I'd say a large/corporate farm is owned by a company rather than a family or group of families.  I absolutely think family farms are hurt by them.  They can hire cheaper labor b/c they have the means.  They can sell their produce or other goods at lower costs b/c they have more to offer.
  • Over 1,000 acres and no.
3.  How often, if ever, do you think about where your food comes from?  If so, where do you think your food comes from?  Who's producing it?
  • More often lately.  I have a friend who is very passionate about these sorts of questions, and she is part of a local CSA.  When I think about where the food that I get at the grocery store comes from, I think it is probably too difficult to figure out since there are so many steps in the process.
  • Honestly, I do not think about where it comes from.  I'm just glad it comes.
4.  Do you have any concerns/fears with food that is grown in or imported to the United States?  How do you know if it's grown in the US or somewhere else?
  • Yes.  My concerns revolve around the standards outside our country.  This is not to say that the US has the market cornered on agriculture but other farmers have told me that the inspection process for food that comes into our country is at best minimal.  Also, I'm concerned with what imports are doing to farmers in our country.  It's one thing to import fruits and vegetables that aren't naturally grown here in the US.  But I live 2 hours from what seems to be the watermelon producing capital of the south yet when I go to the store to buy a watermelon many of them are coming in from another country.  It makes no sense.
5.  Would you be willing to pay more (or perhaps less) for food if it was only grown in the US?  What if it meant giving up certain foods?  What percentage of your income do you think is spent on food?
  • I would be willing to pay more for food grown locally; I think.  I'm concerned less with it being from the US and more with how far it has to be transported to get to me.  We are trying to move in the direction of more local food without breaking the bank.  I'm not sure what percent of my income is spent on food, but I do know that if we ate out less, we could apply that money to buying better food to make at home.  That is what we are trying to do.
  • I'm all about supporting local business, or in this case, local farms.  However, I'm more about thriftiness.  So, I would definitely buy product from within the US if it was cheaper than other products.  I think about 15% of our income is spent on food.
  • No.  I like competition and variety due to free trade with other nations.  Maybe between 10-15% (income spent on food annually).
6.  When you hear terms like "organic" or "locally grown" or "green movement" what do you think?  Does/is any of it:  Taste better?  Fresher?  Safer?  More accessible?  Only seasonal?
  • Organic - perhaps avoid some of the chemicals and processing.  Locally grown - fresh, avoids processing.  Green movement - naive liberalism.
  • I think "organic" is overused to the point of meaninglessness.  I like the idea of locally grown, and don't really care about the green movement b/c it can just turn into a political argument that avoids the real issues.  I do tend to think local will mean more seasonal and fresher.  Safety and accessibility probably vary.
7.  Overall, do you think modern (conventional) agriculture is helping, hurting, or making no impact either way on the environment? (Think here - land/air/water quality, wildlife habitat etc.)
  • I'm assuming here but I can't picture a farmer shooting himself in the foot on this.  I haven't researched this enough but I would think a guy who makes his living from the land would be good to that land.  This has been the case with the farmers I have known.  I would imagine most of the problems come in when the federal gov't starts getting involved by telling farmers what they can and can't do.  To paraphrase Reagan, the scariest words an American, in this case a farmer, can hear are, "We're from the government.  We're here to help."
  • Hurting.  The problems of monoculture frankly scare me, as biodiversity declines and crops become more reliant upon pesticides.  I'm not incredibly well-versed on these problems, but I do think making farming answer entirely to a market capitalist economy that tries to drive prices as low as possible leads to problems in maintaining what is best for the environment long term.
8.  Other than me, do you know a farmer?  What's your impression of farmers?
  • Nope.  I think farmers are the hardest working people.  They bust their butts to take care of their land and crops to help their families as well as mine.
  • Yes, they are the most kind and reasonable people I've ever met...
  • Tons.  They're just like everybody else;  some are pretty cool, some are dorks.
  • ... I think farmers, especially those on small farms, are hard working people, and I would be proud for one of my sons to grow up to be one.
9.  Since much of the human diet is made up of animal product (beef, chicken, pork, dairy etc.) do you have any concerns with the animal food/milk industry?  Animal safety and welfare standards--diet, housing, vaccines, overall treatment of animals?  "Factory" farms?  Mass (or rapid) production of animals for food?  Food quality/safety?  Other?
  • This one is HUGE.  Yes, I have concerns about the animal food and milk industry.  It is a difficult issue, b/c you don't want to just remove all vaccines, etc. b/c then animals die.  But at the same time, we need to be careful about what gets into our foods.  And factory farms seems to me an excellent picture of how wrong our system has gone.  We now have chickens that grow so fast for food they can't even stand up, etc.  Show people factory farms, and they will begin to see how things can go wrong.  I'm all for killing and eating animals.  But if all we care about is cheap meat, then we end up supporting some pretty barbaric practices that aren't good for the workers and don't treat the animals like the creatures of God that they are.
  • As good stewards and compassionate people, we should avoid animal cruelty.  But animals are not people and we are mistaken to project human concerns on them.  They want food, shelter, and protection from predators.  I don't think they care about cages and crowded conditions.