That seems to be where we are these days — at the intersection of science and emotion.

When it comes to the fork in the road where we have to choose between science and emotion, it seems as though most Americans are more comfortable following the emotional road.


According to a Jan. 29 NPR article, consumers like you and I view some of today’s most controversial scientific topics in a completely different way than do America’s top scientists. In fact, the two groups are on opposing ends when it comes to the safety of GMOs, climate change, human evolution, the use of animals in research and vaccines.

The report, published by Pew Research Center, was based on surveys of adults and, separately, a survey of scientists belonging to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Take, for example, the public’s view on GMOs. It’s no secret that the use of GMOs in food is a hot topic. But for scientists, it’s a non-topic.

According to the report, only 37 percent of the public viewed GM foods as safe to eat, while 88 percent of the scientists viewed GM foods as generally safe.

And here’s the remarkable part: 67 percent of the consumers surveyed acknowledged that they lacked a “clear understanding” of the health effects of GM crops.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics found that more than 80 percent of Americans support “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA” —about the same number as those who support mandatory labeling of GMO foods “produced with genetic engineering.”

Here’s the thing: almost all food contains DNA, just like every human contains DNA.

We’re at the intersection of science and emotion.


Most adults pick the road marked emotion and most scientists don’t. In other words, it’s the scientists who, according to George Mason University communications professor Edward Maibach, can draw from a larger scientific knowledge base. They are able to detach themselves from the issue and, without emotion, understand the risks versus the benefits.

And why is that? Why are we more comfortable siding with our hearts than our brains? Why do we rely more on intuition than on the cold, hard facts? Are scientific studies not accessible to consumers? Or are they accessible but not easily understood?

The situation isn’t helped by the fact that seemingly, for every study that proves a theory, there’s another study to dispute it. And one can’t discount the powerful role that being a parent plays. Deciding on everything about an infant’s or child’s environment is an awesome responsibility. As parents, there are no do-overs. We get only one chance to get it right.

In the end, maybe we need to do the impossible and take both roads and consider our feelings as well as the science behind an issue, too.

At your fingertips.

The information, that is. There’s so much of it and, with the internet, it’s all at your fingertips.

And today, consumers are itching to access all of that information at their fingertips — especially when it comes to their food.

And when it comes to information, in most cases, the best comes from the people who know the most. In other words, you want to hear it directly from the horse’s mouth.

With that in mind, here’s a list (certainly not a comprehensive one!) of social media and websites that can give you some great information about where your food comes from and the information comes, you guessed it, straight from the horse’s mouth.

  • Ask the Farmers – This Facebook page is home to farmers — a lot of them — who are there to answer any and every question you have about your food and how it’s raised. Pose a question, they’ll answer. It’s a good time.
  • Peterson Farm Bros – You might be familiar with these guys. They gained some popularity with their first parody video, “I’m Farming and I Grow It.” The brothers, from Kansas, post a lot of great information about livestock and grain farming and do it with a good dose of humor, too. Visit their Facebook page, website and YouTube Channel.
  • Mackinson Dairy Farm – This one, I’m kind of partial to. Mostly, because I know gal who runs things (and dishes out the awesome pictures and info), but also because it’s a dairy page, and if you’ve been hanging around here any time at all, you know I love all things dairy. Mary Mackinson does an excellent job of showing what day-to-day life is like on a dairy farm — and the lengths dairy farmers go to care for their animals.
  • Illinois Farm Families – I’ve mentioned Illinois Farm Families before, but everything good bears repeating. Information on all kinds of farming and food production from the farmers themselves and from urban moms who have toured Illinois farms. It’s pretty cool. In addition to their Facebook and Twitter pages, you can visit their website.
  • Dairy Carrie – Another dairy page, but a darn good one. Like Mackinson Dairy Farm, Carrie posts pictures and information about everyday life on a dairy farm. She’s a straight shooter and pretty darn funny, too. You can visit her blog here.
  • Keeping it Real: Through the Lens of a Farm Girl – Love photography? Then Erin Ehnle is your gal. She mixes farm photography with ag facts and the results are stunning. Plus, she’s got it all – website, Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest.
  • Rural Route 2: The Life and Times of an Illinois Farm Girl – Authored by Katie Pratt, this blog tackles everything, from farming to family, and does a good job of tackling agriculture misconceptions. Katie has been a farm girl since, well, forever, and loves talking about the rural lifestyle.
  • The Pinke Post – Unlike most folks on my list, I don’t personally know Katie Pinke, but I’ve visited her blog multiple times and one thing always keeps me coming back: she’s super down to earth. Funny tid bits and meaningful posts laced with all things ag always make it a good read.

These are just a few of my favorites. Do you have any? If so, post them in the comments.

Go, go, go.

If you’re not a resident of the Midwest, you might be unaware of the bitterly cold temperatures we’ve experienced in the last couple of days. Then again, you might not be, since it seems most of the country is experiencing the same crappy weather.

For most of us, that means staying inside with a good movie and a cup of coffee — or at the very least, working the day away in a nice warm office. Or, in my case, it means worrying about my pipes freezing at home while I’m working the day away in a nice warm office. But that’s not the case for everyone.


I know I’ve said it before, but it’s time to say it again. For farmers, 99° or -25° means the same thing: Go, go, go.

Snow or ice, wind or rain, unbearable humidity or unbelievably frigid temperatures, the work never stops and animals must always be fed.

Cheryl - cold weather

There’s always something to do, even if that means it takes 19 pieces of clothing to keep you warm while feeding the heifers. (Sorry, Aunt Cheryl. The picture was just too good. Plus your hat is cute.)

Farmers are committed. They’re committed to the well-being of their animals because they have to be.

So, thanks to my Aunt Cheryl and my mom and every other farmer out there who is bundling up right now to head out and take care of their animals. I owe you. We all do.

Photo courtesy of Ask the Farmers.

Photo courtesy of Ask the Farmers.

It’s you. You, as a consumer, are the last link in the chain.

Farmers do what they do because of you. They change the way they farm because of your questions, needs, concerns and requests. You’re the reason we do what we do.

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If you’ve learned anything reading this series, I hope it’s that farmers care about what you think and they care about their product. They care because they’re eating the same food your family is eating. And they care because you’re the one with the purchasing power.

So if there’s something you want, tell us. We’re working hard to listen. But remember, the listening needs to go both ways. Farmers love what they do and don’t want to jeopardize that. They’ve worked hard to harness technology and employ the latest in science, so when they say they’re working hard for you, listen.

And remember, if you have questions, ask. We’re only to happy to answer.

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Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.

For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:

Rita Frazer, who grew up on a small diversified farm in Jersey County, always had the makings to be a farm broadcaster. In addition to her experience raising corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle, hogs and chickens, Rita said she just loved everything about agriculture.

“I always had a love for agriculture and for farmers, in addition to a natural curiosity about everything, which, it turns out, is just what you need to be a farm broadcaster,” Rita said.

Today, Rita servers as the main anchor and reporter for the RFD Radio Network, including news, weather, market and talk show programming.

“My job is to provide coverage of Farm Bureau activities, people, farm news, events, and commodity group activities for distribution on radio stations serving Illinois,” Rita said. “I also feel a great responsibility to be a proponent for agriculture, and to help share agriculture’s story with the general public and consumers.”

Though Rita is no longer on the farm, she still tries to keep herself and her family connected to agriculture in any way she can. She currently lives with her husband, daughter and her husband’s grandmother just outside of Clinton, Ill., in DeWitt County, where her daughter just joined the local 4-H club in hopes that she can learn and grow and always have an agriculture connection in her life.

For her, the best part about her job is talking to farmers and helping them stay current on all the topics they need to be successful in the field and the barn.

“I believe an important part of my job is helping farmers stay current on agronomic research, legislative, economic and technological news that helps them be more efficient and effective as food providers,” Rita said. “I am proud to be able to tell consumers that U.S. farmers produce the safest food in the world. Farmers trust the food they produce enough to put it in their own mouths and to feed it to their own families.”

Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.

For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:

Janell Baum Thomas knew she wanted to be involved in agriculture from the start. Now an e-content editor for Penton Farm Progress, Janell’s experiences growing up on her family farm planted the seed, but her experience in 4-H and as an Illinois Association FFA State Officer made it a no-brainer.

“FFA gives you training in a lot of different career paths and because you do a lot of public speaking, it’s all very consumer-facing,” Janell said. “My experience in FFA helped me realize that there were a lot of opportunities in agriculture communications and being an agricultural writer was just one of them. Plus, I could work from home, and be closer to my family.”

Janell and Sheila

As an e-content editor, Janell writes national news for Farm Progress websites, and Farm Futures and Beef Producers websites. For Janell, working as an agricultural writer means she has the opportunity to help farmers make the best financial decisions for their individual operations.

“Farmers are constantly looking for the latest technology and information to help them properly market their crops,” Janell said. “We cover a lot of conservation topics and new technologies — basically, they’re looking for innovative ways of doing things that decrease inputs and the number of passes across fields. By writing for Farm Progress, I help farmers farm safely and efficiently. And when someone emails me and says an article I wrote was helpful, that’s extremely rewarding.”

In the end, Janell said it’s important for consumers to remember everyone relies on a safe food supply, including farmers.

“Farmers are consumers, too,” Janell said. “Everything that they are raising, they eat, too. And the land and animals are important to them because if they are good the land and animals, the land and animals will be good to them. They’re always looking for ways to do things better that’s why we have these ag magazines. As writers for the ag industry, we realize how important the food supply is to everyone and that’s part of what makes our job worth it. Making information available to farmers will ultimately help the consumer.”

Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.

For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! In honor of the holiday, I’m featuring a special family today — one that I’m especially thankful for.

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Today’s Faces Behind the Food are the DeMent family, dairy farmers from DeWitt County, and my grandma, grandpa, aunts and uncle.

My grandpa Don started DeMent’s Jerseys when he was seven years old after his grandma gave him a calf that was out of a Hereford bull. He traded that calf for Jersey and the rest is history. He started milking cows out of his parents’ garage and selling it for $.10 per quart. In 1947, he bought his first registered cow.

But my favorite story isn’t how he got started — it’s how he met his wife.


“Shirley had a cow that I just couldn’t beat in the show ring,” Don said. “I had to milk that old cow at night and she would beat me the next day when we would show, I never could beat her. They always accused me of marrying Shirley to get that cow. When we got married we brought her to our house and I always milked her by hand. She was a good cow. Even back then she was really good.”

DeMent’s Jerseys has always been a relatively small farm compared to some of the bigger farms out west, but it has always been a purebred farm, and family-run to boot. In fact, the DeMent family has showed at the Illinois State Fair consecutively since 1965. Don also was named Land of Lincoln Breeder of the Year in 2003.

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Today, DeMent’s Jerseys has changed from it’s original format of milking 25-30 cows and raising its own replacement heifers. Instead, my Uncle Ted and Aunt Cheryl, along with my Aunt Nancy, Ted’s sister, partner with the Kilgus dairy in Fairbury, Ill.

While Ted, Cheryl and Nancy still own the milk cows, the Kilgus family houses the cows and milks them to help supplement their direct-to-consumer milk sales. In return, my family grows all of our own and Kilgus’ heifers.

It’s a partnership that benefits everyone.

“The milk has more value up there because they bottle it and sell it on the farm,” Ted said. “And, with us having the young stock, it frees up more room for them to produce more milk up there. It lets us both be more specialized in our operations and ends up being a win-win for everyone.”

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After nearly 70 years in the dairy business, the DeMents have learned a thing or two about dairy production and what consumers are curious about.

“You know, it’s not a job that you can turn off — it’s a full time job, even in bad weather,” Cheryl said. “But we do it because we love it and we love the animals.”

“I know consumers have questions about a lot of things, but one of the things I get asked a lot is, ‘How do you eat all those dairy products?'” Cheryl added. “The important thing to remember is whole milk and butter always get bad reputations, but they have a place in a healthy lifestyle. They’re good for you, especially in a balanced diet.”

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Don’t forget to check out all the awesome blogs happening this month over at Prairie Farmer.

For the full Faces Behind Your Food Series, check out the links below:


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