Tag Archives: crops

Hungry for Truth Pesticides and Food Safety

The Crop Protection and Food Safety Connection

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.

 

Hungry for Truth Pesticides and Food Safety Dr. David Shaw

 

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.

 

Hungry for Truth Pesticides and Food Safety

 

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.

 

Hungry for Truth Pesticides and Food Safety

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.

 

Hungry for Truth Pesticides and Food Safety Dr. David Shaw

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.

Hungry for Truth Crop Nutrients + Farm Sustainability

Fueling Your Food: How Farmers Sustainably Use Crop Nutrients To Grow Healthy Plants

If you’ve ever helped your kids with their science homework or cared for a plant, you might think that crops just need soil, water and sunlight to survive. While true, it turns out they really thrive with 17 essential elements. Three come from air and water, while the rest are absorbed through the soil.

That’s why fertilizers play such an essential role in farming. They provide the elements needed to grow healthy plants in the field. South Dakota farmers understand the balance and use technology to apply the nutrients in sustainable ways. Let’s explore three of the foundational elements, how they contribute to plant health and what technology farmers use to protect and improve the environment.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is considered the most important element for growing healthy plants. It’s essential to creating protein, helping plants grow and it accounts for 80 percent of the air we breathe. Nitrogen is a big contributor to making food nutritious.

Unlike corn and wheat, soybeans create their own nitrogen. Soybeans and other legume crops have a special ability to transfer nitrogen from the air to the soil. Just like you might use a probiotic to improve your digestion, soybeans work with bacteria in the soil to convert nitrogen into the fuel they need to grow. For crops that can’t create their own, farmers apply nitrogen fertilizer in the form of a liquid, solid or gas.

Phosphorous

This element helps plants use and store energy. It also aids in photosynthesis and contributes to normal development. The phosphorus used in most farm fertilizers comes from phosphate rock, but it can also come in a liquid form.

Potassium

Potassium helps plants resist diseases, activates enzymes and improves its overall quality. It also protects the crop in cold or dry weather and helps to build a strong root system. Potassium is typically applied as a solid.

Hungry for Truth Crop Nutrients + Farm Sustainability

Sustainable Applications

How do farmers know how much of which nutrients they need to use to grow corn, soybeans and other crops? Through the results of research conducted by scientists at universities and ag businesses. Many farmers work with local experts who help them take soil samples from their fields, analyze the results, recommend products and create digital soil maps.

Farmers load those maps into the software in their tractors and precisely apply the right mix of nutrients per crop, per acre. This helps them minimize waste and fuels a healthy growing season. It also means they’re making continuous improvements on their family farms to do what’s right for the environment. Leaving the land in better condition for future generations.

Who knew farmers had to pay so much attention to chemistry and the environment? Here’s a look at more farm technology that helps John Horter be sustainable in the field.

Farm Sustainability Hungry for Truth South Dakota

The Truth Behind Five Farm Sustainability Myths

Being environmentally friendly is an important part of today’s family farms. Thanks to advancements in technology, adoption of conservation tillage and other factors, more than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown sustainably. Most South Dakota families may not realize how much farmers focus on making improvements to care for the land and water, while growing healthy food, because it happens behind the scenes.

Think you know the truth about farms and sustainability? Test your knowledge below with five common myths and the truth behind them.

 

Myth: Farmers are becoming less sustainable.

Farm Sustainability Hungry for Truth South Dakota

TRUTH
Au contraire, farmers are becoming more sustainable. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance estimates soybean farmers today are growing nearly 50 percent more soybeans now than just 30 years ago with a third of the water and energy and just under half the land. They’ve also cut greenhouse gas production and soil loss by nearly half.

 

Myth: Only small, organic farms are sustainable.

Farm Sustainability Hungry for Truth South Dakota

TRUTH
When it comes to sustainability, size really doesn’t matter. It’s all about making smart choices for the land and water. For example, the tillage that some organic and conventional farmers do to avoid using pesticides and create a good seedbed can disrupt soil health. Reducing tillage is something family farms of all sizes and practices can do to be more environmentally-friendly.

 

Myth: GMOs are not sustainable.

Farm Sustainability Hungry for Truth South Dakota

TRUTH
GMO seeds allow farmers to grow safe crops that are more resistant to certain pests, diseases and environmental conditions than plants grown from traditional seeds. Because GMO crops are better at defending themselves, farmers can use fewer pesticides. The American Council on Science and Health estimates GMO soybeans have helped reduce pesticide use by 37 percent.

 

Myth: Pesticides are not sustainable.

Farm Sustainability Hungry for Truth South Dakota

TRUTH
Pesticides are used by many farmers, organic and conventional alike. When used responsibly, they help protect crops from devastating pests. South Dakota soybean farmers must be educated and certified to mix and apply pesticides. They also use technology and equipment to ensure they’re using just the right amount to get the job done.

 

Myth: Sustainability is about choosing the environment over people.

TRUTH
Sustainability is all about making the right environmental choices now so families continue to enjoy safe and healthy food in the future. It’s choosing the environment and people. For South Dakota farmers, families are the key reason to protect the land and water for the future.

So how did your knowledge stack up against the facts? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Continue learning how South Dakota farmers go green by reading this story about a farmer near Colton.

hungry for truth sd South Dakota farming agriculture gmo non gmo recipes easy chicken kabobs tasty family activities outdoor family activities outdoor movie night how to

How to Host an Outdoor Movie Night + Greek Chicken Kabobs

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.

Hungry for Truth Outdoor Movie Night

 

Easy Essentials

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.

Sunset Savvy

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.

Snack Stylishly  

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.

Movie Magic

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.

Print Recipe
Greek Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs
hungry for truth sd South Dakota farming agriculture gmo non gmo recipes easy chicken kabobs tasty family activities outdoor family activities outdoor movie night how to
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
The kabobs
  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1 Red Onion chopped into large pieces
  • 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
  • kabob skewers
The marinade
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 4 tbsp fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
Course Main Dish
Servings
Ingredients
The kabobs
  • 4 large chicken breasts
  • 1 Red Onion chopped into large pieces
  • 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes
  • kabob skewers
The marinade
  • 3 lemons
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 4 tbsp fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
hungry for truth sd South Dakota farming agriculture gmo non gmo recipes easy chicken kabobs tasty family activities outdoor family activities outdoor movie night how to
Instructions
  1. Cut lemons in half and squeeze juice into medium-sized container.
  2. Mix in olive oil, fresh dill, oregano and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Cube chicken breasts into large chunks for kabobs.
  4. Marinate chicken in lemon and olive oil mixture overnight or for 6-8 hours prior to serving.
  5. If using wooden kabob sticks, soak in water for about one hour prior to assembling kabobs.
  6. Assemble kabobs alternating between chicken, onion and tomatoes.
  7. Grill on medium heat until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
  8. Flip kabobs halfway through grilling. Roughly 4-6 minutes per side. Enjoy!

This Local Farmer and Mom is an On-Screen Star

You may have recently seen soccer moms discussing GMO foods on your TV screen as part of Hungry for Truth’s latest commercial. While two of those moms are actors, one is a local celebrity, South Dakota farmer Bradee Pazour. She found out about the commercial through an old-fashioned casting call and a couple weeks later found herself on set. We sat down with the newest star of the small screen to find out more about her life and what it was like behind the scenes.
Bradee and her family pose in front of a tractor.

HFT: Tell us about you and your farm.

Bradee: I grew up on a farm south of Chamberlain. I always say I was blessed to be a farmer’s daughter, farmer’s wife and now a farmer and farm mom. I married my husband, Joel, in 2010 and moved to his family’s farm south of Pukwana. There we farm alongside his family, growing soybeans, corn and wheat, while raising a cow-calf herd and managing a feedlot operation.

HFT: How did you find out about the opportunity to star in the commercial?

Bradee: My mother-in-law found a blog post for auditions for female farmers across South Dakota and encouraged me to audition. I filled out the form and, a few days later, had a call back. They had me record myself saying a few lines. A couple weeks later, I received a call saying I was their pick.

HFT: As a mom and a farmer, why do you feel it’s important for South Dakotans to know more about where their food comes from?

Bradee: I am concerned about the quality and safety of the food we serve our children, just like any other mom. That’s why, on our farm, we raise our crops and livestock in a safe and sustainable way. I think it’s important that everyone knows our story as farmers. I hope that I can personally help answer any questions South Dakotans have about food and farming.

Because of the great world we live in, we have so many choices when we go to the grocery store. GMO ingredients are just as safe and nutritious as non-GMO ingredients, and I think that’s important for other moms to know. As a farmer and a mom, I want to open up that conversation with people so they’re confident in the choices they make.

HFT: What advice would you give other South Dakota moms who want to learn more about their food?

Bradee: The Hungry for Truth initiative is an awesome program. It has so much information. Follow Hungry for Truth on social media for the latest updates. I would also point them to the website where they can ask questions of real farmers like me and explore everything from food safety and GMOs to pesticides and sustainability.

You can check out Bradee’s commercial here.

Have questions for Bradee about her experiences shooting the commercial? Leave them in the comments.

The Story of Soybean Harvest

This time of year, the leaves are changing and the weather is cooling. It’s time to visit a pumpkin patch, make Halloween plans and break out the cool-weather clothing. For farmers, this time of year holds a different meaning: It’s harvest time. While many of us see the equipment in the fields and know that crops are done growing for the season, there is much more that goes into soybean harvest than just driving a combine across a field. John Horter is a father of two and a farmer from Andover. He grows corn and soybeans, and raises beef cattle. We caught up with him to find out everything that goes into the soybean’s journey from field to plate.

John’s son Dane is a young farmer-in-training. He loves to share the latest “crop reports” from their farm. Here he is with a crop report on soybean harvest.

The machines you see out in the fields are likely combines, which farmers like John use to harvest their crops. How does John know his soybeans are ready to harvest? First, farmers watch their fields. For South Dakota farmers, this usual starts in mid- to late September. Check out our soybean growth infographic for more information.

“We monitor the fields very closely,” said John. “We watch for visual signs. The leaves will turn from green to brown and start to drop. Once we think they are close, we take moisture samples. We’re looking for 13.5 percent moisture or less before we can harvest.”

John and his family walk around their local farm.

John, his two kids and his wife on their family farm.

John with his daughter.

Weather is Key
Dry weather is imperative to a successful harvest. If the plants are too wet, the seeds won’t be able to separate from the pods; and if the ground is too wet, equipment could get stuck in the field. Weather is a major factor in the timing of planting and the health of soybeans throughout the growing season. John said this year, Mother Nature worked in his favor.

“We are in the northwest part of the state where we had warmer, drier weather so harvest was ahead of schedule. It went very well because we didn’t have weather delays.”

The impact of weather makes a big difference in harvest conditions for farms in different regions of the state. Southern South Dakota had a lot of rain this year, which delayed planting in the spring, so their harvest began later.

The Horter family holds hands on a walk through their farm.

John and Dane discuss the latest crop report.

Dane on his family's farm.

The Art of Harvest
“Once soybeans show the visual signs of being ready for harvest and moisture levels are dry enough, we head out to the fields with our combine to start taking the crop out of the field,” said John. “The combine has the capability to be flexible as it goes over the ground. It’s pretty neat technology that guides the part of the combine that does the harvesting along the contours of the ground, cutting off the plants. Next, it’s fed into the big drum in the combine that separates grain from the pods with sieves that shake the pods away from the seeds. Those seeds are what we end up harvesting.”

“Even though the weather was very dry in our region during the growing season and we had some hail, we still found very good yields,” he said. “I attribute that to modern genetics and our GMO crops being able to more efficiently use moisture even in adverse conditions.”

When John is done harvesting, he will prepare his fields for next year’s crop and take care of other areas of his farm for the winter months. He’ll use the what he learned from this past season to plan for next year.

Dane

Dane adventures about his farm.

Dane plays on his family's farm.

“As we harvest, we have a lot of monitors that show us how our crop did. We always think about how to improve and do things more efficiently next year,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure we use as few inputs as possible to grow a healthy crop.”

John and South Dakota farmers like him work hard to grow healthy crops. So next time you break out your jacket and head to the pumpkin patch, remember that farmers are breaking out their combines to start the process of turning their crops into the nutritious ingredients that make up the great food on our plates.

Do you have questions for John about soybean harvest or what he’s up to this time of year? Leave them in the comments.

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How Precision Agriculture is Like Pokemon Go

Precision agriculture is a way of farming relying on maps, data and technology to precisely manage farms with increased efficiency. Many farmers have adopted precision farming methods on their farms, and the technology is growing and evolving constantly. To learn more about precision ag, we met with Craig Converse, who operates a seed sales business, and raises soybeans, corn and cattle on his farm in Arlington. He told us the ins and outs of the technology, which had us thinking about the latest gaming fad that has everyone walking around glued to their phones. You guessed it: Pokemon Go.

“Precision agriculture is all about fine-tuning the way we farm,” said Craig. “We’re farming on a smaller scale within the field and applying seed, fertilizer and pesticides specifically to the areas that need it. By doing that, you’re maximizing the potential of the land you farm.”

Think of the fertilizer and seeds like Pokeballs: They’re the tools you need to meet your goals in the game. Farmers use their tools to grow strong and healthy crops.

Craig smiles from the cab of his tractor.

Mapping Out a Plan
Like Pokemon Go, farmers start with a map. In this case, a soil map that tells them the types of soil in their fields. These different soil types have different potential as far as how well crops will grow. They can also use a yield map, which gives them data from the previous years so they can see which parts of the field are going to perform the best. From there, they convert the yield map into a planting prescription map. This will show them which parts of the field won’t do so well, which is where they can apply less seed.

“Traditionally, farmers would look at an entire field in order to make decisions about how much fertilizer and pesticides to use and how much seed to plant,” said Craig. “However, today we know that saying one whole field is all the same may not be the case. If we know one area of a field will give us higher yields, we will maximize our inputs there. If we know one part of a field traditionally doesn’t grow crops as well, we won’t use our resources there. We’re being smart about what we’re doing and what we’re applying.”

Automatic Everything
In Pokemon Go, layers of information show you where to go to find Pokemon, where the Pokestops are and the location of the nearest Pokemon gym. GPS transmits information to your phone, which you then use to guide you where you need to go.

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Craig utilizes precision technology to farm with accuracy and efficiency.

Farmers can create a prescription map on their computer. They can transfer that map to their tractor, which follows the GPS and automatically changes the seeding or fertilizer rate to match what the program prescribed.

“It’s a completely automatic process,” said Craig. “Many tractors also have auto steer technology that drives the tractor precisely in straight lines so you don’t overlap.” This is similar to the paths Pokemon Go players take when searching for Pokestops. “On planters, because the computer knows exactly where it is, the seed will automatically stop if it runs into areas that were already applied so you’re not wasting seeds or resources.” Just like the game already knows where you’ve been and what you’ve collected.

Gotta Catch’em All
Craig says precision agriculture technology is advancing just like the rest of the world. Think about how much more advanced today’s games are compared to Super Mario Brothers and Donkey Kong. Today, Craig uses an iPad in the tractor to record yield data and another computer controls the planter. That’s two computers, plus GPS on the tractor and auto steer.

Craig uses an iPad to track data and help him farm with precision.

“What we do is look at the soil types and historic data for the field and decide where to use our inputs,” he explained. “For example, if you have an area of your corn field where you’ve only ever seen a maximum yield of 150 bushels per acre, and the rest of the field usually gets 200 bushels per acre, you don’t want to apply the same rate of fertilizer on the whole field aiming to get 200 bushels per acre. That would mean you would lose 50 bushels per acre of fertilizer on something you know isn’t going to pan out and the costs associated with it. Every day, we’re striving to be more sustainable and smarter smart with our resources.”

Just like you wouldn’t want to waste your Pokeballs on a Pidgey when you know there’s a Snorlax nearby.

Craig says the technology is constantly changing and improving.

Craig drives a tractor through is field.

“There’s a lot of research that hasn’t hit the farm yet. It’s a fast-changing environment right now, just like everything else. It takes some time to adapt, but we know what’s out there, and we’re figuring out the best way to use it so we can improve our yields and protect our land.”

What’s the next Pokemon Go that will take over every phone around you? Maybe it will be rooted in the same technology as the next agricultural innovation.

Cool Chemistries: Protecting Lawns and Fields

As the owner of Mosquito Squad of Eastern South Dakota in Aberdeen, Greg Tople knows a thing or two about lawn protection. His company sprays commercial properties and lawns to protect against mosquitos, wood ticks, flies, crickets, spiders, you name it. As a farmer, Greg also knows how to protect his farm fields from pests like aphids, beetles, mites and worms. You might be surprised to find out that the two aren’t very different at all. We met with Greg to find out more about what he does.

HFT: Tell us about your farm.

Greg: I’ve been farming for 21 years with my dad. We grow soybeans and corn on our farm in Pierpont, South Dakota. I also sell seed in Pierpont and own a business called Precision Ag Solutions in Aberdeen where we help farmers manage their businesses.

HFT: It sounds like you wear many hats in your career. What made you decide to go into the insect control business?

Greg: I wanted to diversify my business. I have employees who help us on the farm, and this was a way to keep their plates full all summer. Plus, as a farmer, I know about the safety measures and chemistries behind the products, so it would be an easy learning curve to take on.

HFT: One questions we’ve received through Hungry for Truth asks if chemicals used in farming are no longer used on lawns. Is this true?

Greg: It’s not. Some states may have restrictions about where products can be applied, for instance near bodies of water, but there are no restrictions about banning products from lawn or urban use specifically. Just like for weed control, we use very similar products to protect against insects on lawns as we do on our soybean and corn fields. These products use the same chemistries, but just have different names. Some have different formulations for lawns versus farms, but they use the same mode of action to control pests. Mode of action is a term for how an insecticide or other pesticide works at the cellular level. So when these products are applied to lawns or fields, the same cellular process happens to control pests.

HFT: What would you say to people who wonder about the difference between lawn and farm products?

Greg: I think the main thing to realize is that these products are not much different from each other. When I buy insecticides or herbicides for my farm, local lawn care people pull up and buy the same things we do, and vice versa. The products just have different names. They are labeled for use on lawns and in town. As farmers, we could take the same chemicals and spray them on our acres as well.

Both types of products have safety instructions to follow. For my farming and lawn businesses, I need to go through training to receive certification to apply chemicals. When safe practices are followed and products are applied according to the label, they are safe and keep our lawns and crops free of harmful pests.

You can find out more here:

The Lowdown on Pesticides and Fertilizers
Protecting Plants: From Field to Garden
• South Dakota Soybean Department of Agriculture: Pesticide Program

How do you control insects in your lawn or garden? Let us know in the comments.

Soybean Growth

Soybeans are one of the biggest crops in South Dakota, accounting for about 30 percent of the crops grown in the state. Those soybeans are used in food products, animal feed, oils, plastics and much more. Ever wonder how they get from seeds in the ground to harvested crops?

Earlier this spring, you probably saw tractors riding across empty fields, planting crops for the year. Soybeans are typically planted in May. At this time of year (early August), almost all soybeans in the field have bloomed. You likely can’t see it from the road, but up close you’ll see each soybean plant has little purple flowers on them to aid in reproduction. After flowers have bloomed, the plants will set pods, fill them with seeds and develop to maturity. They will be harvested in October and processed into anything from sports turf to tofu, animal feed to biodiesel.

How a soybean grows through the seasons.

 

How do you use soybeans in your everyday life? Leave a comment to let us know. Learn more about soybeans and their many uses here.

GMOs 101: What You Need To Know

With all the buzz about GMOs, it seems like they are everywhere, but did you know you’d actually only find eight GMO crops currently commercially available in the United States?

Alfalfa, canola, corn, cotton, papaya, soybeans, squash and sugar beets are all commercially grown in the U.S. Of those, papaya and squash are the only two whole foods you’ll find in the store today. Others can be found as an ingredient in different products.

Regardless of whether a food is a GMO or non-GMO, you can rest assured your choice is safe and nutritious. In fact, a new report that reviewed more than 900 independent articles and research studies about GMOs just reconfirmed their safety.

What you need to know about GMOs

Want to learn more about GMOs? Check out these additional sources:

Looking for an easy way to learn more about other hot topics in food and farming? Check out our other helpful infographics:

Lowdown on Pesticides and Fertilizers

A lot of consideration goes into applying pesticides and fertilizers in the safest, most effective way possible, both in your garden and on a farm field. Farmers carefully plan out which product to use and when, where and how much to apply. Concerns are often raised about pesticide residues on food. However, understanding how these products are used can help you trust the safety of your food. This understanding can even be helpful when making decisions in your own garden.

An explanation of the things farmers consider when applying pesticides.

Up to 40 percent of the world’s crops are lost every year because of weeds, pests and diseases. Without pesticides, food crops could be damaged and yields could be severely reduced, which would send food prices soaring. That’s why farmers carefully apply herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and other products to their crops. Greater supply ensures your grocery bill stays affordable.

To help plants grow best, farmers and gardeners alike apply fertilizers at optimal times throughout the growing season. Applying fertilizer at the early stages of growth is beneficial because it can determine the success of the plant. When soil nutrient levels are low, some farmers may choose to add fertilizer or apply it in the fall to prepare the soil for spring planting.

Fertilizers allow crops to absorb extra nutrients that help improve plant health and yields. To help your garden flourish, you may also choose to utilize a pesticide or fertilizer product. Just make sure you follow safety guidelines for storage and application.

Wondering how to safely and effectively use pesticides and fertilizers in your garden? Leave us your questions below.

Learn more about pesticides and fertilizers:
• Environmental Protection Agency: Pesticides
• SDSU Extension: Vegetable Gardening In South Dakota
• South Dakota Department of Agriculture: Pesticide Program
• University of Florida: Vegetable Gardening: Applying Fertilizer

Protecting Plants: From Field to Garden

You approach your garden very similarly to how farmers approach their fields in terms of growing healthy plants and keeping pests at bay. Pesticides are helpful tools that allow farmers to grow crops more effectively by protecting them from harmful weeds, insects and diseases, just as they do in your backyard garden.

Crabgrass, quackgrass, morning glory and lambsquarters are just a few weeds you might encounter in your garden. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is a great source to learn what weeds might be taking over your garden. These same issues are on the minds of farmers. Similar weeds and pests are present in farmers’ fields, which is why pesticides are so helpful.

Which pests are the biggest concern in your garden? How do you deal with them? Comment below with your story and let us know. Be sure to share this information with all your gardening friends.

Agriculture: A Lifelong Passion for Local Advocate

Having grown up on a family farm outside Sioux Falls, Amanda Eben has always loved sharing her experiences with agriculture. Today, as a stepmom she gets a lot of questions from fellow moms about modern farming and how it affects our food. She is passionate about farming and wants to help others make the connection from the farm to the grocery aisle.

“Farmers do many things differently today than they did in past generations,” Eben said. “When I was younger, we fed our pigs in dirt lots and in wooden A-frames outside. Today, we use a larger enclosed building that allows our animals to be kept safe from diseases and predators, and allows us to monitor their environment to keep them comfortable and happy.”

Eben, who lives with her husband and stepson in northwest Iowa, wants to share these changes, especially with other moms. That’s why she decided to join CommonGround, a grassroots organization that works to bridge the gap between women who purchase food and the women who grow it.

“Through different media events and activities, a group of farm women will get together to have honest conversations with women who are on the consuming side,” Eben explained. “We share what we do and why we do it and try to be as transparent as possible.”

Eben sees opportunities to talk about agriculture in every day life as well. “I try to have these conversations with anyone I can,” she said. “Whether I’m on a plane or in the grocery store, wherever I have the opportunity. Everybody eats, so everyone should be able to connect with their food.”

Most recently, Eben has lent her support to the Hungry for Truth initiative. She is one of eight farmers featured on the Hungry for Truth website with videos answering some of consumers’ most frequently asked questions.

“The Hungry for Truth website brings you across the table from real farmers,” Eben said. “It feels like you’re really there in person, having a conversation. I think oftentimes people think they can’t ask farmers about what they do, but we love talking about how we care for our crops and animals.”

New Report Supports GMO Safety

On May 17, 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine published a new report called Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. The report reviewed more than 900 independent articles and research studies about GMOs. Chances are you haven’t had the chance to read through the entire 400-page report, so we broke down exactly what you need to know.

What did the study find?
The mission was to take an objective look at the information around GMO crops and food today. The report examined human health, economic, social and environmental effects. Here’s what they found:

• Currently available GMO crops do not impact human health concerns and critical diseases.
• GMOs are not linked to any negative environmental effects.
• GMO crops yield better because of increased built-in weed and insect resistance. This also means they are a more economical and environmentally conscious option, which is a huge win for farmers and consumers.
• Areas with GMO crops also exhibit increased insect diversity.
• When farmers switched to GMO crops, herbicide use declined initially, but those decreases weren’t sustained over time.
• The committee expects increased pest resistance and more effective nutrient usage in future GMO crops.

What does this mean for me?
This report confirms that food made from GMO ingredients is safe for you to eat and farmers to grow. GMO crops have been grown in the U.S. for more than 20 years and have been rigorously tested, so you can rest assured these crops are just as safe and nutritious as conventional crops.

In fact, 97 percent of soybeans and corn grown in South Dakota are GMOs.

Hungry for Truth supports choice and allowing consumers the ability to buy a variety of products at the grocery store, as well as farmers’ choice of what to plant in their fields.

Interested in learning more?
Check out these additional sources to ensure you know the facts about GMOs.

• Hungry for Truth: How do GMOs Affect the Food I Eat?
• Hungry for Truth: The GMO Approval Process.
• U.S. Food and Drug Administration: Food from Genetically Engineered Plants.
• World Health Organization: Frequently Asked Questions on Genetically Modified Foods.

How do GMOs affect the food I eat?

Do you have concerns about GMO foods? There’s a lot of misinformation out there about which foods are healthy. We asked Charlotte, a local registered dietician, how biotechnology – the process by which GMO plants are bred – affects the food we eat.

Charlotte explained she has feels safe and confident serving her family food produced from biotechnology. The technology only affects the way the food is grown and has no impact on the taste, nutrition or safety of that food. So whether it’s GMO or non-GMO food, you get an equally safe and nutritious product.

GMO foods are regulated by three federal agencies: the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These federal agencies would not allow a crop into the marketplace unless it was safe. GMO crops have been regulated and monitored for more than 20 years, so you can rest assured that biotech crops are a safe option for farmers to grow and for you to include as part of a healthy diet.

More on GMOs:

Have questions for Charlotte or other farmers about GMOs? Leave them below.

Finding the Similarities Between Gardening and Field Crops

Many of us are taking advantage of the last few warm days of the year, and getting our hands dirty in our own backyards. You may be surprised, but gardening shares a lot of similarities to raising field crops.

Even though the growing season is typically from spring to fall, gardeners and farmers alike understand that raising healthy food is really a year-long process. Much like a gardener spends time preparing and planning for things like which variety of tomatoes to plant, a farmer is doing the same with their crops throughout the year. When they’re not planting or harvesting, farmers are researching what seed technology will perform best in their soils and what products will help their crops succeed.

South Dakota family farmer Morgan and her husband, Jason, raise corn, soybeans, alfalfa and beef cattle. Morgan started her own garden in the spring of 2009 when she realized she could produce a bountiful harvest throughout the summer while spending less at the grocery store.

Morgan’s garden is impressive; filled with green beans, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, peppers, celery, lettuce, cucumbers and watermelon. She has more than enough for her family, so she shares her harvest with friends and neighbors. Morgan also uses canning and freezing practices to keep her food ready to eat all year long.

“Just like farmers, gardeners need to provide lots of tender loving care to their crops and soil. Practices like tilling, applying fertilizer and spraying for weeds keeps all crops healthy,” Morgan said.

Morgan incorporates pesticides into her gardening practices to control weeds, diseases and insects, which can be devastating to a backyard garden or a cornfield alike.

“One misunderstanding that I frequently hear is that farmers spray as much pesticides on crops as possible,” Morgan said. “That’s not true. Pesticides are regulated by the USDA, and they’re expensive. Using pesticides in my garden helps make my job easier and helps my plants reach their full potential.”

Gardening allows growers to not only grow their own healthy produce, but for many it is a way to relieve stress, improve mood and get blood moving. For those who might not have a lot of space to grow a huge garden, there are endless options to start small with houseplants or by planting container gardens.

“I find a lot of happiness in growing a garden by simply being able to enjoy what we’ve grown at the end of the day and pass along healthy produce to my family and friends,” Morgan said.

Read more about Morgan and her stories as a first-generation farm wife here.