A couple of months ago, I had a call from a British TV producer, looking for a farmer she could interview about sweet corn. After asking some additional questions, I found out the producer wanted to talk to a ‘large scale’ sweet corn farmer, and visit him or her during harvest in October or November to pick up footage of him or her taking corn out, then visit a plant to watch it canned.

A couple of problems with this:

  • Sweet corn production isn’t exactly large scale here in Illinois; and
  • Sweet corn is harvested in July and August. By October or November, sweet corn is long gone.

I realized the producer was confused about corn production here in Illinois and explained to her that the corn she’s seen in footage is actually field corn used for animal feed and ethanol, and sometimes, food production in the form of packaged foods. Field corn is taken out in October or November, sometimes even September if the weather cooperates, and is hauled back to the farm or the elevator to be sold, not to a plant to be canned for human consumption.

I explained to her that field corn is left until mid- to late-fall so it can dry in the field and is then harvested by combine. The combine picks the corn, stalk and all, then separates the stalk from the ear, and the corn kernels from the cob, right there in the field.

The farmer who owns the field across from our house has been busy picking corn this week. He harvests and then off loads to a waiting semi truck, which then hauls the grain back to his farm for more drying or storage, or to a local elevator to be sold.

The farmer who owns the field across from our house has been busy picking corn this week. He harvests and then off loads to a waiting semi truck, which then hauls the grain back to his farm for more drying or storage, or to a local elevator to be sold.

H has been super interested in the goings-on lately. She loves running into the yard, looking and the "bombine" and watching them harvest the fields around our house.

H has been super interested in the goings-on lately. She loves running into the yard, looking and the “bombine” and watching them harvest the fields around our house. Unfortunately, last night, the “bombine” was out working. But she was equally happy to look at the “big tacker,” too.

She was amazed and thought they may be interested in covering that, too, but would let me know later for sure.

I hung up the phone and smiled a little at the misconception, and then spent my day toying with a British accent in my head because, obviously, I would sound better as a British version of myself.

But then I realized, she might not be the only one who doesn’t realize there’s a difference between sweet corn and field corn. And she might not be the only one who didn’t realize that all of the picking and shucking and everything else happens right there in the field.

Did you know that? No? Well, then check out this video from HowStuffWorks. It does an excellent job of explaining how a combine works and how much ground can be harvested using a modern combine.

The only caveat to this video is that it’s a couple of years old. Near the end, the announcer mentions that corn prices are near record highs, however, that isn’t the case this year. In fact, corn prices have dipped pretty significantly, causing many farmers to put a hold on purchases like combines and other machinery.

Want more information on harvest, how farmers make decisions, what corn is used for or anything else? Let me know if the comments. I would be happy to answer any questions I can — or find a farmer to answer your questions! You can also follow the #harvest15 hashtag on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to find real-time pictures and information from farmers themselves!

I found this on Facebook and have been thinking about it over the last couple of days.

I talk often about GMOs and organic foods here on the blog. I mean, they are a pretty hot topic these days. As for myself, I find it pretty easy to support conventionally-raised foods and GM products because I’ve done my research and believe that’s the best choice for my family.

But I also try my darndest to allow for others’ choices as well. In other words, if you whole-heartedly believe in the power of organics and non-GMO foods, it’s your right to spend your money on those products and choose them for your family.

We may not agree, but that’s okay.

Where I stumble is when I come across articles like this one that, without sources or background information, passively condemn one production type over another. Or, worse yet, include information that’s just plain incorrect.

The article mentioned above, from Eco Child’s Play, is touting the benefits of the first school lunch program to go 100 percent organic and GMO-free.

My first thought was, “Okay. Not my choice, or what I would want for my kid, but okay.”

Then I saw this:


All ingredients are organic, with absolutely no exceptions.

To be certified organic, a farmer must avoid using anything that might harm air, water or soil, including synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organic food puts human health first, and supports farmers and businesses that do the same.”

Specifically, “Organic food puts human health first, and supports farmers and businesses that do the same.”

I know lots of farmers. Farmers who raise corn and soybeans, pigs, beef cattle, dairy cattle and more. Some of them are organic and some of them aren’t. All of them put human health first because all of them are feeding their own families the products they raise.

Make no mistake, organic farming isn’t farming without chemicals. It’s farming with chemicals specifically approved for organic production. And those chemicals can be just as dangerous as chemicals used in conventionally-raised crops. The key to raising food safe for human consumption isn’t necessarily organic or conventional, it’s the knowledge and care each individual farmers uses in raising that food.

Corn Soybeans

A little farther down, I saw this:


 A commitment to using only ingredients that are not genetically modified. We believe The Conscious Kitchen is the only 100% organic/non-GMO school food program in the country.

GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have yet to be deemed safe for humans or the environment, yet they are ubiquitous in today’s food. In the United States, companies are not required to label items that contain GMOs.

*Indicates a no-exceptions rule”

Honestly, this statement is the one that really got to me and it got to me because it’s just plain wrong.

Google GMOs and it’s an argument you’ll see again and again, despite the fact that study after study has proven that isn’t the case. Every time, the “study” backing the proof that GMOs are dangerous comes from a non-peer-reviewed journal, was authored by someone close to anti-GMO organizations, or has been retracted.

In fact, more than 2,000 studies (real ones that have been done by independent researchers and published in peer-reviewed journals) have documented that biotechnology doesn’t pose a threat to human health and GMO foods are as safe or safer than conventional or organic foods.

The most recent was published a year ago. This study, which takes into account animals fed GMO crops like many others, is based on 29 years of livestock productivity and health data from both before and after the introduction of GMO crops.

Nebraska 13

I’ll give you two guesses as to what they found out, but you’ll only need one. GM feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. From Forbes writer Jon Entine who reviewed the study:

“The field data represented more than 100 billion animals covering a period before 1996 when animal feed was 100% non-GMO, and after its introduction when it jumped to 90% and more. The documentation included the records of animals examined pre and post mortem, as ill cattle cannot be approved for meat.

What did they find? That GM feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed. There was no indication of any unusual trends in the health of animals since 1996 when GMO crops were first harvested. Considering the size of the dataset, it can reasonably be said that the debate over the impact of GE feed on animal health is closed: there is zero extraordinary impact.”

As for the rest of the Eco Child’s Play article’s assertion that, because of these foods, disciplinary actions are down, I can’t comment because, well, I’m not a scientist. Personally, I don’t think it’s because they’re feeding the kids organic, non-GMO foods. I think it’s because they’re feeding kids fresh foods, prepared in house, and bringing students and teachers together in an atmosphere that is conducive to communication and cooperation.

After all, that’s what food, of any kind, has a tendency to do; bring us to the table to talk and enjoy each other’s company.

It’s time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up – buckle up!

  • Let’s kick things off this week with this awesome campaign, featured on BuzzFeed, which features women in agriculture taking ownership of their roles on the farm. And you thought farm women just cooked the meals or kept the books!
  • This, from Illinois Corn, which is oh so true. Ever wondered why that farmer you invited to your fall wedding didn’t come? Here’s your answer. Farm Decisions
  • This article, from 247Sports.com, which answers the question on everyone’s (okay, probably just Steelers fans) minds: How will Ben Roethlisberger rehab after his injury?
  • This fun fact, found on Facebook. Since my brother-in-law is from Morton, it’s something I already knew, but did you? Pretty cool, right?Morton Pumpkins
  • Finally, check out this awesome post from Holly Spangler over at Prairie Farmer. Farmer or not, you’ll get something out of her 10 short lessons for life.

And, as a bonus, this article, which talks about the first school district in the U.S. to go completely organic and non-GMO. Take a look at it, with a critical eye, and let me know what you think. I have a few issues with some of the rhetoric, which we’ll discuss tomorrow.

Time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up — albeit, two days late. Apparently, when I was working on this Thursday, I forgot to schedule the post to go up on Friday. Because I’m awesome.

Oh well, better late than never, right?

  • We’ll kick things off with the big news in Illinois this week — news that has us aggies pretty upset. You see, farmers tend to feel pretty underrepresented and, for the first time, it felt like we had a guy in our corner. Then, all of the sudden, we didn’t. For more info, check out stories herehere, here and here.
  • This, because it seems to fit nicely with the political happenings from this week. farming is easy
  • This story, from Forbes Magazine, which I thought was pretty interesting. There’s been a crusade against GMOs as of late. Folks are out to get them out of every single food they eat — or at least get them labeled. Personally, I’m just fine with GMOs in my food. They’ve been proven safe in study after study, but that’s just my personal choice. But did you know that GMOs aren’t just in food?
  • And speaking of GMOs, this story about a popular spice company going organic and GMO-free by 2016. Again, if you’re all for the organic, non-GMO movement, I that’s your choice. But here’s something to keep in mind as you’re buying organic, non-GMO labeled spices: those spices have always been non-GMO because GMO varieties of those plants don’t exist.
  • This, because it’s awesome. success
  • And this, from the Washington Post, about the tyranny of olive oil! But seriously, am I the only one who really isn’t crazy about the taste of olive oil? I would much rather stick with butter. The fact that I grew up with dairy cattle probably has something to do with that, too. :)

Another week down and that means it’s time for another edition of the Weekly Round Up.

Remember that time I wrote about magazines using scare tactics in headlines to draw in readers?

Oh yeah, that happened yesterday.

How fortuitous, because we’re about to get lesson no. 2 in scare tactics and headlines. See CNN’s latest exhibit, “Restaurant report card grades on antibiotics in meat supply.”

Seems pretty straightforward, no? Only, it isn’t because there aren’t any antibiotics in the meat supply.


Seriously. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

In fact, it’s against the law for any meat with antibiotic residue to enter the food supply, per very strict and thorough FDA guidelines and review processes.

Those guidelines stipulate that farmers must keep records regarding which animals have been given antibiotics, when they were given the antibiotics, what types of drugs were given and the dosage.

Nebraska 5

All of those records are kept to ensure that the withdrawal time for any given drug is followed, meaning that no animal may enter the supply chain before any administered antibiotics have fully left the animals system. In other words, if there aren’t any antibiotics in the animals’ systems while they’re alive, there certainly aren’t any there when they’re slaughtered.


Read a little farther down and and you’ll pick up on the fact that, in an effort to promote the importance of avoiding antibiotic resistance, the report card is actually grading restaurants on their policies regarding how and why antibiotics should be administered to food animals while they’re in production.

The FDA has been examining the same thing for the last several years, working with farmers and veterinarians to decrease the amount of therapeutic antibiotics given to food animals, working toward antibiotics being used primarily in treating or preventing diseases in animals. All of this in order to ensure the further efficacy of the antibiotics we humans use.

Unfortunately, when you read between the lines, the article, or the at the very least, the folks behind the report, seems to allege that all antibiotic use in food animals is problematic. In fact, report authors Friends of the Earth and others gave the restaurants who have pledged to source only animals that are raised without antibiotics the highest grades. And, just like the headline, they’re off base.

The fact of the matter is, farmers do use antibiotics — they have to for the well-being and comfort of their animals.

Let’s say you have a kid at home who is sick. Before that sickness progresses to something worse, your doctor prescribes an antibiotic. After leaving the doctor’s office, your first stop is likely the drugstore, getting that prescription filled because, as a parent myself, I know there’s nothing worse than seeing your kid sick and miserable.

The same is true for farmers who are dealing with sick animals. Just as we don’t want our children to suffer, they don’t want their animals to suffer during sickness or, worse yet, allow that sickness to progress to something worse. That’s why farmers work closely with veterinarians to ensure they’re using the appropriate drugs at the appropriate times and the appropriate dosages to nurse those animals back to health.

Most importantly, farmers are working hard to reduce the development antibiotic resistance by working with veterinarians, continuing to phase out the use of antibiotics for growth promotion (again, per FDA requirements), and treating animal diseases with antibiotics that aren’t commonly used when treating human diseases.

Honestly, there’s nothing wrong in asking questions of farmers and the food procurement system about how and why antibiotics are used. Consumers have every right to know how their food is raised and why farmers do what they do. But when farmers tell you how and why they’re using antibiotics, listen! It’s not just because they’re out to make a buck, it’s because they care about their livestock and their quality of life.

And, like you, they care about the availability of effective antibiotics for all of the Earth’s creatures, humans included.

Scare Tactics

Eating Well magazine is really rather benign. There is lots of good information, but it isn’t a threat to anyone, and certainly wouldn’t use scare tactics to bully readers. Or would it?

But, actually, that’s what The Top GMO Foods and How to Avoid Them is — a scare tactic.

I say that because, the article, on the whole, isn’t that bad. The scariest part is the headline itself.

Call me crazy, but after reading the article with the most unbiased eye I can muster, the reasoning behind of the use of GMOs in the description of each food seems pretty, well, reasonable. I would hope that consumers with no background in agriculture reading it find the reasoning makes sense, too.

if you haven’t had the time to read it, here’s the gist: Farmers have been using GMOs for nearly 30 years, and today, close to half of all U.S. cropland is planted with GMO crops. However, very few of the whole foods we eat are GMO varieties.

The article covered summer squash and zucchini, papayas, sweet corn, potatoes and apples, all of which have GMO varieties available. In the instance of summer squash and zucchini, papayas and sweet corn, Eating Well says GMO varieties are grown to combat diseases or pests which would have previously wiped out the crops.

In the case of sweet corn, Eating Well says,

“A minor amount of GMO sweet corn is grown in the U.S. and sold as fresh ears; a high percentage of Canadian sweet corn is GMO. Traits that have been developed are herbicide and earworm (insect) resistance.”

Am I wrong in thinking that explanation makes a lot of sense? Why grow safe food that’s going to be eaten by pests when you can grow safe food that’s not going to be eaten by pests? I mean, this just doesn’t look appealing to me:

Despite the logic Eating Well employs when talking about the benefits of GMOs, it lays out a headline sure to reel in anyone who is dead-set against GMOs, and even folks who are simply curious about GMOs. Unfortunately, a headline like that has the ability to sway the curious.


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