There are a lot of choices when it comes to food in South Dakota grocery stores and farmers markets. “Low fat,” “gluten free” and “non-GMO” are just a few of the labels companies add to packaging to stand out and appeal to your dietary preferences. While they may be helpful, these labels can also lead people to wonder about the safety and health of foods without labeling claims.
“Organic” is a great example of this because foods grown using organic and conventional practices are equally safe and nutritious, but organic foods receive a little extra attention. That’s because organic farmers go through a certification process that requires them to use some different practices. However, you may be surprised to know that conventional and organic farmers are more alike than you think.
In the past, we’ve explored ways organic farming is different than conventional, so today we’re looking at some of the top similarities.
Families own and operate 97 percent of the farms in South Dakota. There are approximately 31,000 farms in the state and about 103 are certified organic. Whether they use organic or conventional methods, there’s almost always a family behind the food you eat.
Conventional and organic farmers can both use pesticides to control harmful insects. The difference is that organic farmers can’t use most synthetic substances, while conventional farmers can use any type of pesticide deemed safe by the USDA. No matter what they use, by the time the food reaches grocery store shelves, it’s safe to eat. In fact, a woman could eat 850 servings of apples in a day with no effects from pesticides. See for yourself.
Farmers who use conventional and organic methods seek ways to improve their farm practices each year to protect the land for future generations. Environmentally friendly practices like crop rotation, no-till farming and cover crops protect and preserve the land, and aid in improving soil quality. Composting and applying animal manure also fertilize the ground.
Organic and conventional farmers who raise animals care about their safety and want to keep them healthy and comfortable. They protect them by providing shelter in barns, making sure they have access to water and feeding them a healthy diet of soybeans, corn and vitamins. Soybeans – grown organically or conventionally – are a favorite protein-packed meal for pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows in South Dakota. Farmers work with veterinarians to treat sick animals. Though organic farmers cannot use antibiotics to treat them like conventional farmers, they can use some vaccines and pain medications.
Foods raised organically and conventionally must meet safety standards set by the USDA. South Dakota farmers grow and raise foods that are healthy for your family and theirs. The methods may be different, but safety is a top priority for all family farmers.
The next time you’re in the grocery store trying to decide between the organic and conventionally raised strawberries, you can feel confident you’re making a safe and healthy choice no matter which carton you pick. Keep growing your food-shopping knowledge by reading about meaningless food labels and if paying a little more for organic is worth it.
Curious about how pesticides used on the farm translate to the grocery aisles? We recently talked with weed scientist Dr. David Shaw for answers to the top questions South Dakota soybean farmers are asked at Hungry for Truth events and online.
Dr. Shaw is a distinguished professor and vice president of research and economic development at Mississippi State University. He has served as president of the Weed Science Society of America and chair of a USDA task force that developed a report on herbicide resistance management. He’s also a father who enjoys cooking with his family and cheering on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Q: Will the pesticides used on the produce I buy harm me or my family?
A: There are a lot of regulatory and safety requirements that must be met before any pesticide can be used. The testing process is rigorous and designed to protect consumers first. Having looked at the science behind the approval process, I can say I have a great deal of confidence in the pesticide requirements from both the EPA and FDA. As a father looking out for my children, I want to be absolutely certain what I’m buying is safe.
Q: Isn’t it possible there are traces of pesticides on the produce I buy?
A: Just because a substance is detectable doesn’t necessarily mean it will cause any harm. The exposure limits that are set on pesticides are very conservative and are far lower than the levels that could actually put you in danger.
Have you ever looked into how much produce you’d have to eat to feel the effects of pesticides? Try this calculator. You might be surprised at the results.
Q: What are farmers doing today to reduce their use of pesticides in the fields?
A: Well, farmers use pesticides alongside other pest management practices like crop rotation, cover crops, promotion of beneficial insects and more. Each method is part of a toolkit to safely manage and grow healthy crops. Many farmers take a holistic approach to stopping pests.
Q: Is organic farming better when it comes to pesticide use?
A: I have no argument against organic production, and it does have its own niche. But to be able to produce both the quantity and quality of food necessary to feed our growing population, organic production alone is not enough. I’d encourage folks to go out and spend a bit of time on an organic farm to really understand all the challenges and limitations these farmers face. This means everything from managing insects to maintaining a staff large enough to provide all the hand-weeding required to eliminate pesticide use. It’s a lot of challenging work. To be able to feed all the people in our world, we really need farms of all sizes.
People also have a misconception that organic farmers do not use pesticides. They do, and just like synthetic pesticides, some of these organic pesticides can be toxic if not used correctly. The key with both organic and synthetic pesticides is to use the products correctly according to their labels and then no one’s health will be threatened.
Still have questions about pesticides and food safety? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll help you find an answer. Whether you’re wondering how much pesticides farmers apply to South Dakota staple crops like soybeans or if you should worry about eating fresh produce from the grocery store, Hungry for Truth strives to help get you the facts from local farmers who have your family’s health in mind.
There’s no doubt that many South Dakota families have questions about how their food is grown and raised. They know what it looks like on grocery store shelves, but aren’t necessarily familiar with where it came from and want to know more. Kirsten Gjesdal, owner of Carrot Seed Kitchen, has witnessed the disconnect firsthand when visitors to her store thought an ornamental pepper plant was a carrot plant.
“I received the plant as a gift from a friend, who put a carrot seed card into the plant to honor the name of the store,” she said. “I am shocked to see how many people ask if that is actually how carrots grow.”
The Carrot Seed Connection
Hungry for Truth helps facilitate genuine connections between South Dakotans and farmers who grow our food, and Kirsten also shares that same passion. She opened Carrot Seed Kitchen two years ago to help people in Brookings connect with what they eat through quality kitchenware. She spent the previous two years working as an event planner and was tired of sitting at a desk planning meals for corporate functions.
“I wanted to be involved in the community, working one-on-one with cooks and foodies,” Kirsten explained. “I started off selling cooking items, but always dreamed of expanding one day to include food,” she said. “I just wasn’t sure how to do it.”
Food And Farmers
After introducing the “Follow Your Food” event series to help customers learn more about how local food is grown and raised, she realized just how passionate the people of Brookings were about connecting with the farmers.
“Our pizza night event was a crowd favorite. Everyone made their own pizza and chatted with the farmers about what it takes to grow produce,” Kirsten said. She enjoys learning about what happens on today’s farms and sharing that experience with others in the community.
When she attended our Farm-to-Fork Dinner in June, it was the first time she’d been on a farm with animals. She learned about cow comfort and how they eat a healthy, balanced diet including soybean meal, silage and corn. She also had the opportunity to ask the farmers directly about the processes on their farms.
“It’s so nice to meet the real, actual farmers who raise the animals. They were so open to talking about what they do and why they do it,” said Kirsten. “Many people don’t think about the connection crops like soybeans have with the food we eat. I had no idea South Dakota farmers harvest about 250 million bushels of soybeans each year! Those soybeans go on to feed chickens that lay eggs, cows that give us milk and cheese and of course bacon and pork chops from pigs.”
Expanding the Kitchen
When the opportunity came to buy the space next door and expand Carrot Seed Kitchen to include local foods, she jumped at it. Now the store includes a large area featuring milk, cheeses, butter and ice cream from Stensland Family Farms, as well as local meats and produce from the Dakota Fresh Food Hub.
She’s already planning for further growth to support other small businesses by adding an incubator kitchen and opening it up to entrepreneurs who need extra cooking space and a place to sell their products. Kirsten hopes Carrot Seed Kitchen can help others succeed.
“I needed something I could really be proud of that adds value to my life and the lives of others,” she said. “I’m so lucky. I get to help people connect with their food and learn more about where it comes from through my store.”
Create a farm-to-fork journey in your kitchen by reading these farm stories and making their favorite recipes:
Hungry for Truth and local farmers hosted more than 60 women business owners from the Sioux Falls community at Prairie Berry East Bank in September for an elegant evening filled with food and conversations. Guests were invited to Sip + Savor beverages from Miner Brewing Co. and Prairie Berry as well as craft beer infused creations such as Miner Brewing Mac and Cheese and cupcakes from Oh My Cupcakes!
Farmers Morgan Kontz and Jerry Schmitz welcomed everyone and shared stories about their farms, including plans for soybean harvest. Morgan explained how family farms of all sizes contribute to the local food supply and use practices to ensure safe and healthy choices for families.
“Buying food from local farmers is a great way to support our community,” said Morgan. “Sometimes you’re buying local and you don’t even know it. The beef from my farm is sold in grocery stores, but it doesn’t have a local label.”
Farmers Jeff Thompson and Dawn Scheier also mingled with guests, answering questions about everything from the safety of GMOs and pesticides, to the truth behind food labels and even the surprising connection between South Dakota soybeans and Whole Foods.
“Prairie Aquatech in Brookings sources soybean meal to create its fish food from South Dakota Soybean Processors in St. Lawrence,” Jeff said. “The fish food is sold to a fish farm in Wisconsin that raises trout for Whole Foods. It’s an unexpected farm-to-fork connection that was fun to share with our guests.”
Hungry for Truth hosts gatherings like these to help South Dakotans better understand how food is grown and raised on local farms. You can bring the flavor of Sip + Savor to your kitchen with this recipe for Miner Beer Mac and Cheese. We suggest using Dimock Dairy cheese. Get the scoop on how it’s made by reading this. Then let us know how this recipe turns out in the comments below.
You may be surprised to know that the farmers you see on Hungry for Truth billboards along South Dakota roads aren’t models. They’re real local farmers. Some have farmed their whole lives and others recently discovered a love of the land. All of them are committed to growing safe and healthy food for your family.
We thought we’d take you behind the scenes to learn more about the farms behind those friendly faces and why they’re involved with Hungry for Truth.
Morgan and Jason Kontz
Though she was not a farmer, Morgan met Jason online through farmersonly.com when she was a student at Purdue University in Indiana and he was farming in Colman, South Dakota. After getting to know each other through phone calls and online chats, they finally met in the summer of 2008. Morgan had car trouble on the drive out so she arrived later than expected. Within minutes of meeting Jason for the first time, she also met most of his family at a reunion.
That might’ve scared off some women, but not Morgan. She loved his family and the wide-open spaces for adventure on his farm. Soon, she transferred to South Dakota State University and one year after that first in-person date, they married. Today, they have two children who all work together to grow food on the farm.
“Until I moved to the farm, I had no idea just how much effort goes into making sure the food we grow and the practices we use on the farm are safe,” said Morgan who also blogs about her experiences. “Being involved in Hungry for Truth gives me the opportunity to talk with other moms about how we make safety a top priority for our kids and theirs.”
John and Dane Horter
John and Dane Horter are a father/son duo who enjoy growing food for South Dakota families near Andover. Dane may be young, but he already knows and loves the ins and outs of farm life. He feeds cows and helps during calving. He rides along in the tractor during planting and in the combine during harvest. He’s even become a budding newscaster, giving crop reports from the field, sharing what he’s learned about the safety of GMO seeds, the latest farm technology and how to care for animals from his dad.
It may seem like a lot of responsibility, but that’s part of being the sixth generation to continue the family legacy. Learning from the past and improving practices for the future are important for feeding their friends and neighbors.
“Hungry for Truth is a way for me to share our farm story,” said John. “Farming today looks much different than when my grandpa farmed, and it’s going to change even more by the time Dane grows up. We want South Dakotans to know how food is grown and raised, and that we make choices every day to become more sustainable so all of our families have a bright future.”
Monica and Mike McCranie
Monica McCranie is another city gal who moved from Denver, Colorado to South Dakota to build a life on the farm with her husband Mike. For more than 30 years, they’ve worked side by side in Claremont to grow soybeans, corn and raise two sons. They are also well-traveled and love learning about agricultural practices in different parts of the world. All this experience translates into confidence in the grocery store when Monica selects foods to feed their family. Understanding labels is key.
“As a consumer and a mom, I understand how confusing it is to look at a label and understand what it does and doesn’t mean,” Monica said. “What is important to know is that, no matter what the label says, whether that food was grown conventionally or organically, whether it’s a GMO or not, it has the same nutritional value.”
Monica and Mike believe there’s a lot of great information to share about food labels and what they mean to help moms make the right choices for their families. Hungry for Truth is one way they can reach across the table and have those conversations.
Get to know more about the farmers who grow and raise your food by reading these stories. Or if you have a question for any of our farmers, let us know.
If one thing is true about South Dakotans, we love making memories outside with our families. One of our favorite places to visit in the fall is the Country Apple Orchard in Harrisburg. Kevin Kroger, general manager, knows exactly what that’s like since he’s been working at the orchard with his own family for 12 years.
“All of my eight children pitch in, even my youngest,” said Kevin. Kevin’s stepfather and grandmother are the primary owners, making it a true family affair.
“The first year was a little sticky, but every year it gets easier,” he said. “We learn more and get better. We know we are investing in success with 100 acres of prime South Dakota farmland.”
Running a farming business has been a trial-and-error process. Kevin’s family felt that firsthand when they began maintaining their trees. “We were hit with a hard frost right off the bat. It was hardly the optimal season to start with an orchard,” he chuckled. “We almost went without enough apples that season. Now we can’t grow enough of them!”
That’s great news for Americans everywhere, who eat an average of 55 pounds of apples annually. In addition to pruning their 4,500 trees, the Country Apple Orchard sprays their apples with linseed oil before they blossom to ensure a plentiful harvest of healthy apples for families to pick and enjoy.
“No one likes biting into an apple with insects in it,” Kevin said. “Like other farmers, we only spray pesticides when the apples need it.”
While the Kroger family doesn’t have a typical South Dakota farming background, Kevin did walk beans as a child. That means walking through soybean fields and picking weeds for Sioux Falls area farmers. It’s a chore many seasoned farmers remember, but is no longer needed on most farms thanks to technology.
“I was exposed to hard work in the older days of farming, and I didn’t think I wanted anything to do with it,” Kevin said. “Now, with technology, it’s so much easier and much more enjoyable.”
Today’s farmers use different types of technology, including GPS, drones and computer-generated soil maps to grow healthy food more efficiently. Over the past 30 years, soybean farmers grew 46 percent more soybeans using 35 percent less energy thanks to technology and more sustainable farm practices.
Being more efficient means farm families might have a little extra time to enjoy an afternoon at the Country Apple Orchard. Kevin and family pack weekdays with school field trips and weekends with festivals. Even Santa takes a break from his work at the North Pole to stop by and say hi before the busy holiday season.
“In today’s world, it can be really hard to slow things down,” he said. “Here, families go on wagon rides, pick apples and pumpkins, and enjoy delicious local foods. Slowing down to take in the outdoors makes family time more memorable.”
Cooking together is another way to create memorable moments. Try out one of these recipes with your family this fall.
Whether it’s date night at the theater or a cozy family night on the couch, movies have a way of bringing us together. When it’s warm in South Dakota, it can be fun to take the movie magic outdoors and gather under the stars. Here are our tips for planning a night that’s sure to please family and friends.
A projector, audio speakers and computer are essential technology. A free projector might be tough to track down, but they are available at most rental companies and easy to purchase. Need a portable screen? No worries. Just hang a white sheet or painter’s drop cloth. You could also skip it and project onto the side of a building if it’s clean and light colored. Don’t forget extension cords.
Pay attention to sunset and plan your festivities accordingly. You want to start the movie when it’s dark, so this could be 9 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., depending on the time of year. Starting later gives you time to host dinner and play yard games. Starting early may mean you can squeeze in two movies; family-friendly first for the kiddos and then one for the adults after they go to bed.
Comfy and Cozy
Keep your audience comfy by providing blankets and pillows for lounging or ask them to bring their own. Hang bistro lights to set the mood, segment food from the theater seating and make sure your guests can see where they’re going. Set out mosquito repellent spray and fire up citronella candles to protect your guests against bugs and other pests.
The best part of any movie night is the food. Snack stylishly by creating a buffet table out of pallets or cement blocks and plywood. Cover with a cute tablecloth and add a flower centerpiece for a touch of greenery.
When it comes to the menu, keep it simple. Finger foods like kabobs or meats and cheeses paired with crackers work well for flexible dining. A popcorn bar with butter and assorted toppings transforms the traditional snack into a bold, salty or tangy mix. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, a selection of classic movie candies or toasty s’mores are two of our favorites. In fact, we have the perfect recipe for campfire ice cream s’mores.
No matter what’s on the menu, South Dakota soybean farmers have you covered. Pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys love to eat protein-packed soybeans as part of a balanced diet. Healthy animals mean you’re serving up quality milk, eggs, cheese and meats for your guests.
Select your movie based on your guest list. The classics or a comedy are always a great bet. Depending on who’s there, it might be “Grease,” “8 Seconds” or “The Goonies.” When it comes to kids, you can’t go wrong with anything Pixar or Disney. “Jurassic Park” or “Jaws” might be fun if you’re feeling adventurous, but watch out. Your backyard may never feel the same again.
Now that you have the basics for hosting an outdoor movie night, it’s time to get the invites out and start planning the menu. Here’s a recipe for Green Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs that’s sure to please. See our recipes for more ideas.