For Kevin Deinert, farming is all about family. The 30-year-old farmer grows 2,500 acres of soybeans, corn and alfalfa, and raises beef cattle alongside his dad and brother on their family farm in Mount Vernon.
“I went into agriculture because I wanted to keep up our family legacy,” Kevin said. “I now farm the land I was raised on and enjoy playing a small part in feeding and leading my community.”
Kevin was recently chosen to serve on the South Dakota Soybean Association board as part of a national young farmer-leader program. The group encourages young farmers to take on leadership roles in their communities while empowering them with the tools they need to have conversations about today’s farming practices with their neighbors.
One topic many people find interesting is how and why farmers use pesticides. Farmers use pesticides to protect against the weeds, insects or plant diseases that might threaten the safety and quality of their crop. Farmers like Kevin can leverage technology to understand exactly what pesticides to use in his fields and in what amounts.
“We’re not spraying more than we need. We formulate a specific recipe for each field and apply no more, no less,” he said. “Some people might not know that farmers have to be licensed to buy pesticides and must take classes to ensure they’re using the products correctly.”
Using pesticides correctly means using very little product. It takes about a coffee cup’s worth diluted in water to cover an entire acre, which is about the size of a football field. Many soybean farmers have also reduced their pesticide use by using seeds that are genetically modified to protect against harmful insects. GMO soybeans have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
The Deinerts also believe that taking care of the soil can help stop problems before they start. Kevin and his family practice no-till farming and use cover crops to enrich the soil and make sure they’re growing quality crops from the get-go.
“I farm with my brother and my dad. The decisions we make affect our family and community,” Kevin said. “So I hope people know that when we make decisions for our farm, we think about their families as well. We’re out there to do good for everyone and grow safe food that everyone can enjoy.”
For Kevin, a newlywed, being a good steward of the land is about much more than growing great food. Sustainability means continuously improving the land, leaving it better than it was when he found it.
“Farming is not just a year-to-year deal. We look many years down the road,” he said. “We’re trying to preserve our land for years to come so that we can pass it on to our children and their children after that.”
Curious about how farmers like Kevin safely apply pesticides? Get the scoop on plant protection from another South Dakota family farm.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
Farmer Matt Bainbridge tries to make each planting season better than the last. This means growing healthier crops, higher yields and improving his farm practices to take care of the environment for future generations. It’s a tall order, but he has technology and farm data on his side.
“On our farm, we have access to online data from farms across the country and track everything we do on our own land. It helps us be more efficient with seed, crop nutrients and pesticides. We can manage a large piece of land like it’s small,” said Matt.
While Matt and his family use several sustainable practices to grow crops and raise cattle, today he’s focused on planting.
“We plant about 150 acres in a day, driving at a speed of 5 miles per hour. It’s important we take our time to make sure it’s done perfectly. Planting and caring for crops is something we only get to do about 50 times in our lives. We want to get it right.”
Let’s explore the steps he uses to make each growing season more sustainable.
1. Review field data. The first step is looking at the data from the last harvest. Thanks to precision technology, Matt knows exactly how well crops grew in each field. He can tell which seeds did well, which ones didn’t and what factors may have contributed to the results. He uses this information to inform his seed selections for the next growing season.
2. Select high-performing seeds. Next, he chooses seeds he thinks will work best for his farm. Matt grows soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa and forage crops for cattle, which means planting a combination of GMO and non-GMO seeds. Matt chooses seeds based on the data from his own fields, what he’s seen growing in other fields around him and information he’s found online. He typically purchases seed in December.
3. Load field maps. As spring approaches, Matt works with a local expert to digitally map out each field. This helps him plant the right amount of seeds and apply the right amount of crop nutrients for optimal growth based on the soil type. Soils that are light and rocky get fewer seeds, while black, heavy soils receive more. The maps help the planter limit waste and improve efficiency.
4. Set up planter. Before heading out into the field, Matt makes sure the soil map software syncs with the GPS system guiding the planter. The software and hardware need to communicate so seeds are planted in straight rows with the right spacing at a precise depth.
5. Check seed placement and depth. Once he gets out into the field, Matt periodically checks to make sure everything is working properly. How? Good old-fashioned digging in the dirt. For the first few hours each day, he physically gets out of the planter and digs near the freshly planted seeds to ensure everything is happening as it should. Sometimes the way his grandparents did it is still the best.
Interested in learning more about precision technology? Read this blog that compares Fitbits and farming.
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.
Just like you have choices when it comes to the food you buy in the grocery store, farmers have choices when it comes to the seeds they plant. There’s a reason why many of today’s corn, soybean and even some apple farmers choose to plant genetically modified seeds. They help farmers grow food safely and efficiently.
No matter what farmers choose – GMO or non-GMO – you can feel good knowing the seeds farmers plant to grow your food are safe. Many also have a sustainable story to tell. Let’s explore the technology.
More than 90 percent of all soybeans are genetically modified for herbicide resistance. Herbicides are a type of chemical that protects the soybean plants from weeds. Herbicide-tolerant soybean seeds allow farmers to apply pesticides early in the growing season without damaging the plants. In case you’re wondering, farmers typically mix about one medium coffee cup’s worth of pesticide with water and mist across an acre of land, which is about the size of a football field.
This seed technology also helps keep the soil healthy by reducing the need for tillage. Tilling soil in a field or garden helps keep weeds at bay, but too much can damage the soil. Taking care of soil is an important part of managing a sustainable family farm.
Did you know approximately 45 percent of fruits and vegetables are tossed for damage on their way to the kitchen table? The technology in Arctic® apple seeds helps them resist browning and bruising, which can help us all cut down on food waste. While South Dakota farmers don’t plant these apple seeds yet, the technology is on its way to produce shelves near you.
It’s amazing to think that pre-sliced apples will look and taste yummy days after opening the bag. This is seed technology that brings sustainability from the farm to your table.
We all know the weather in South Dakota is unpredictable. Lack of rain may turn your lawn brown, but for family farmers it can severely damage whole fields of crops. That’s why some corn seeds have built in technology to grow with less water. By tolerating drought conditions, farmers can grow a healthy and safe corn crop that allows them to invest in more sustainable improvements for their farms.
Did you know so much sustainability existed in seeds? Be sure to share what you’ve learned around your dinner table. Find out more about why local farmers choose to plant GMO seeds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A new crop of farmers is growing in South Dakota. These millennials are leveraging data and adopting technology to make their operations more sustainable for the future. The great news is they aren’t the only ones going high-tech for the environment! Many South Dakota farm families use practices that protect natural resources while growing safe and healthy food.
Morgan Holler is a millennial farmer from Pierpont who’s the fifth generation to run the family farm with help from his wife, Heather, and their three daughters. For Morgan, implementing environmentally friendly farming practices means being a good neighbor and doing the right thing to feed his family and yours.
“My older daughters love riding in the tractor and the combine. I love seeing their eyes light up when they walk the fields they ‘planted’ and can’t help but stop and think about what it will be like to farm with them one day,” Morgan said. “That lays in my hands. If we don’t practice sustainable farming, we’re not only hurting the land but also ourselves.”
The 29-year-old South Dakota State University grad puts his agronomy degree to work every day. Morgan always looks for ways to use less pesticides, fertilizers and other products, while growing healthy soybeans and corn.
Technology is a big help. Morgan uses data to determine precisely where and when to apply pesticides, plant seeds and even the types of seeds to use. The technology in equipment like tractors and sprayers ensures it’s done in the right amounts so nothing is wasted. That’s important when you grow a lot of crops.
Another sustainable practice the Hollers have implemented is minimum tillage. After they harvest their crop, they leave the plant stalks in the field to help enrich the soil. This reduces soil erosion and keeps the soil healthy for years to come.
Though Morgan knows technology helps him take better care of the land, that message doesn’t always make it to grocery stores and dinner tables. He works with a young man who recently moved to South Dakota from California to learn about agriculture.
“He’s been full of questions, which I love. He said he never realized how much thought I put into each seed,” Morgan said. “It’s been fun showing him the technology we use to feed our friends and neighbors while taking care of the land.”
Morgan and other young farmers buck the stereotype of lazy, self-obsessed millennials.
“I love coming to work every day,” he said. “Feeding people is such a rewarding way to provide for my own family. I’m proud of that.”
Want to learn more about how farmers use technology? This Hungry for Truth blog explores how farmers use data to make their family farmers more earth friendly.
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.
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.
Walking through the aisles at your local grocery store, you may have wondered how many of the foods you eat contain GMOs. For as much as you hear about them online and in social media, you may have questioned if GMOs are safe. The quick answer is there are only 10 GMO crops approved and grown in the U.S. today, many with nearly 20 years of research proving they are safe to eat.
Let’s start with the basics: What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. The term refers to plants that have been bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics like disease resistance or drought tolerance.
Some benefits from GMO crops are easy to spot, such as healthier soybean oils for cooking, apples that don’t turn brown and potatoes that resist bruising. Others are less apparent, but help farmers grow food more sustainably. Since the introduction of GMO soybeans more than 20 years ago, farmers have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent.
The number of GMO crops is relatively small because they require a significant investment in research to ensure their safety. Each GM seed variety takes an average of $136 million and 13 years to bring to market. Learn more about the approval process here.
So which foods made the list? You may be surprised to learn that wheat, rice, milk and most fresh fruits and vegetables are not GMOs. Here’s what’s approved:
GMO corn was first planted in the mid-1990s as a way to use less pesticides. Today, about 89 percent of field corn in the U.S. is a GMO variety. While most of the corn is processed into feed for animals, it can become corn syrup and cornstarch, which are found in many foods you find at the grocery store.
GMO soybeans have been around just as long as corn and for many of the same reasons. Pest-resistant soybean seeds allow farmers to grow more and improve their productivity. In 2016, approximately 94 percent of the U.S. soybean crop was genetically modified. However, most soybeans are processed into animal feed.In the grocery store, soy can be found as vegetable oil used in mayonnaise, dressings, margarine, cookies, cakes and snack foods. High-oleic soybean oil used in some foods is high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and contains no trans fats. Tofu and edamame are produced from food-grade soybeans and are mostly non-GMO.
GMO cotton accounts for about 89 percent of the total U.S. cotton crop. Its main benefit is the ability to protect itself from a pest called the cotton bollworm. Most cotton is used for textiles and clothing, but a small portion is processed into cottonseed oil for food use.
About 90 percent of the U.S. canola crop is genetically modified. Canola oil is used in cooking.
Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the U.S. Farmers feed it to beef cattle and dairy cows. Milk, butter, cheese, beef and many more foods come from these animals, but like other types of animal feed, alfalfa doesn’t affect the foods that end up on grocery store shelves. Alfalfa’s genetic modification protects it from the herbicides sprayed during the growing season.
About 55 percent of the U.S. sugar supply comes from sugar beets and approximately 95 percent are grown from GMO seeds that help protect them from diseases. A high percentage of this crop is grown near South Dakota in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota.
The GMO papaya was originally designed to protect the crop from ringspot virus, which nearly wiped out the entire crop until the creation of a GMO variety. Today, 75 percent of Hawaii’s crop is genetically protected from the disease.
Squash and Zucchini
GMO varieties of these delicious garden vegetables were developed in the mid-1990s to defend against the cucumber mosaic virus, zucchini yellow mosaic virus and watermelon mosaic virus. Though the actual acres grown in the U.S. are small, the yellow straightneck, yellow crookneck and green zucchini squash are genetically modified.
The Arctic apple by Okanagan Specialty Fruits™ is the newest GM food set to arrive at select stores in 2017. It took 20 years to bring the flavor and freshness of these non-browning, golden apples to produce aisles. Learn more about their journey to harvest by watching this video.
Innate potatoes were developed with consumers in mind. These GM varieties resist bruising and black spots, reducing the potential for post-harvest potato waste by up to 400 million pounds per year. Innate potatoes are also healthier than regular potatoes. They are also better for the environment because they’re grown using 20 percent less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Continue learning about GMOs and their safety by checking out these resources:
How much do you know about GMOs? Take the quiz.
Are GM foods safe to eat?
Read this study “Will GMOs Hurt My Body?” from Harvard University, which features research from South Dakota State University: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/will-gmos-hurt-my-body/
Have questions about GMO labeling?
It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and green is everywhere. He may not be Irish, but that doesn’t stop local farmer, Jeff Thompson, from going green on Saint Patrick’s Day, or any other day for that matter. Sustainability is something he implements daily on his family farm near Colton.
“I farm some of the same land my grandfather purchased in 1877,” said Jeff. Thanks to advancements in research and technology, Jeff grows more food using less crop inputs than his grandparents.
It’s a trend that’s been on the rise as the family farm has changed hands through the generations and one Jeff plans to continue. Focusing on growing food in a sustainable way means someday he can pass the family business to his nephew who is just starting to get involved.
What are some of the ways Jeff goes green? One of the basic practices is rotating corn and soybean crops to make sure the plants don’t deplete the soil of important nutrients. This is like what many gardeners do to keep their seedbeds healthy and productive. He also enriches the soil with manure from a nearby dairy.
Soil sampling is another important part of his sustainability plans. He uses the information to create digital maps of his fields, uploads them into his tractor’s precision technology system and then applies just the right amount of fertilizer needed to grow his crops. Similar technology in his planter and sprayer ensure he doesn’t waste seed or overspray.
“Today’s farming technology helps me use just the right amount of seed and crop inputs to reduce waste,” said Jeff. “My planter has row shutoffs so when I turn, it stops dropping seeds where I already planted. The same is true for my sprayer. It also has an automatic shutoff to keeps me from overlapping pesticide applications on the end rows.”
Like most farmers in South Dakota, Jeff plants seeds developed through biotechnology that are resistant to the pesticides he sprays. This way he kills the weeds while the seeds flourish. GMO seeds also require less water, meaning they can tolerate dry weather to reduce or eliminate irrigation.
Sometimes sustainability involves doing less.
Conservation tillage helped Jeff cut his fuel usage and protect his most valuable resource: the soil. While tillage helps to create a good seedbed for planting, too much can lead to soil erosion. In the fall, he leaves cornstalks and soybean stubble in his fields to prevent the land from washing or blowing away. By spring, he can either plant directly into the stalks or make one quick tillage pass before he plants. Doing less tillage helps him keep more soil in his fields and fuel in his tank.
He has also reduced his liquid petroleum usage by upgrading his corn dryer to an energy-efficient version. He uses the dryer in the fall to reduce moisture in his corn before storing or selling it. Since building it two years ago, he has cut his liquid petroleum use in half.
Jeff’s not alone. Today, 63 percent of U.S. farmers practice conservation tillage, up from 36 percent 20 years ago. According to a report released by Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, farmers have also reduced soil erosion over the past 30 years by 47 to 67 percent, and greenhouse gas emissions by 15 to 42 percent depending on the type of crop grown.
So, as you celebrate going green today, remember to tip your hat to farmers who are growing your food in a sustainable way every day.
Have questions for Jeff about his pesticide use or other sustainable farm practices? Leave them in the comments below. Learn more about how farmers go green during planting season by reading Paul’s story.
Even if you’ve heard a lot of talk about GMOs, you might still wonder why farmers choose to grow them and how they actually help crops. We have three examples showing how GMO technology helps farmers and all of us have a safe and healthy food supply.
Want to know more about the process of creating a GMO? Read all about it here. If you have any questions about why farmers use GMOs, be sure to leave them for us in the comments.
It’s the moment of truth in the grocery store. You’re trying to decide between organic or non-organic. The organic strawberries and chicken cost a couple dollars more, but you’ve heard that organic foods are better for you. Is it worth the extra money?
It’s important to understand what the term organic really means. Organic refers to how a product is grown, not its nutritional value. While farming techniques might vary, there’s no nutritional difference between organic and non-organic foods.
Another thing to keep in mind is that organic doesn’t necessarily equal local. If you want to buy local products, it’s important to know that “local” is not a regulated term and has no clear definition or guidelines. Organic foods don’t always come from places closer to home. You might be surprised at how little many foods in the grocery store travel to get to you, organic or not. Milk is a great example of that. You can see its farm-to-shelf journey here.
The USDA regulates the use of the organic label and outlines specific requirements farmers must meet in order to be certified as organic. Many conventional farmers also use these practices, but the big difference with organic comes from what you can’t do. Here’s the rundown on the main points of certified organic farming:
1. Preserving natural resources and biodiversity
Organic farmers add compost, animal manure and green manure to give the soil nutrients from natural sources in place of synthetic fertilizers. Soil conservation is also part of organic farming standards.
2. Supporting animal health and welfare
Organic farmers try to prevent disease with a healthy diet, a low-stress environment and plenty of exercise to build up strong immune systems in their animals. They may also use certain approved vaccinations and other preventative measures to try to prevent illness.
3. Providing animals access to the outdoors
Livestock on organic farms must have access to the outdoors, including shade shelter, clean drinking water and direct sunlight. Grazing animals, like cattle, sheep and goats, need to have access to pasture during the grazing season.
4. Using only approved materials
To be certified organic, farmers may not use most synthetic fertilizers for soil nutrition, or pesticides for controlling insects, weeds or diseases. Some approved products may be used, but many rely on the PAMS method: prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression.
5. No genetically modified ingredients
Organic farms may not plant GMO crops, and livestock may not have any feed that includes GM ingredients. Not sure if GMOs are something you should be worried about? You can get all the facts here.
6. Receiving annual on-site inspections
The application process for becoming certified organic is extensive. In fact, land must be in organic production for three years before it can be certified. USDA inspectors visit the farm each year for recertification.
7. Separating organic food from non-organic food
Organic crops can’t come in contact with unapproved substances, and the seeds and foods of organic and non-organic must not mix. All equipment used for non-organic products must be thoroughly washed each time before it’s used for organic products.
If organic farming practices are something you feel strongly about, then you’re probably comfortable paying more for organic foods. But if your decision is based on nutritional value and safety, there’s no need to pay extra.
According to dietitian and local farmer Charlotte Rommereim, RDN LN LD, “Both organic and conventionally raised foods adhere to standards from the USDA to ensure their safety. Studies show little to no difference in the nutritional content between organic and conventionally raised foods.”
When it comes to making healthier choices, “The goal for a healthy diet pattern is to increase the fruits and vegetables you consume,” said Charlotte. “The health benefits from adding fruits and vegetables to your diet outweigh any difference in the methods by which they were raised, and studies show it is negligible at best. So, increase fruit and vegetable consumption with what you can afford and know that the foods are safe and nutritious whether you buy organic or non-organic.”
Hungry for Truth supports choice. No matter what you pick up at the grocery stores here in South Dakota, you can feel confident it’s safe for you and your family. What questions do you have about how you can make healthy decisions for your family? Leave us a comment here or send us an email to get your answers.
Get more information about organic farming practices and sustainable farming:
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.
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.
Todd Hanten would put his wife, Monica’s, cooking up against anyone’s in a contest. She’s been honing her skills on their Goodwin, South Dakota farm for about 30 years.
“I’m pretty sure that’s why my employees continue to work here. They enjoy Monica’s cooking,” jokes Todd.
The Hantens both grew up on farms and developed strong ties to the land. In fact, Todd’s family has lived on the same farm for more than 100 years.
It’s obvious they love the lifestyle, which includes growing crops and caring for their 900-head of cattle. They encouraged their children, Brittany and Brock, to spend a few years working off the farm with the hope that someday they may return to continue the family legacy. It should also come as no surprise that they get asked questions about the food they grow and how they care for their animals.
They point out that it’s great to have so many choices when it comes to food. Despite operating a dairy for many years, Monica says she occasionally enjoys almond milk. However, she also understands how having so many choices, labels and terms on food packages can be overwhelming.
During trips to the store, Monica checks nutrition labels and seeks out foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar. She’s learned over the years that words like “natural” can make something seem premium or healthier, but that it contains no real value. “Hormone-free chicken” is another example. Hormone use is not allowed in poultry at all, so there’s no reason to pay extra for that label. She and Todd have also done their homework on GMOs and feel they are safe and healthy for people and animals.
“We choose to grow biotech crops because of the science in the seed,” explains Todd. “Seeds with these traits allow us to grow more food on the same amount of land in difficult weather conditions like drought. Many times, the traits help us grow crops in more sustainable ways, like using less products to control insects and weeds.”
The Hantens have seen the benefits firsthand. They know that, in addition to the agronomic value GMO crops offer farmers, there are also direct benefits for consumers, like soybeans with an increased nutritional profile or non-browning apples that last longer. They put food with genetically modified ingredients on their own kitchen table with pride.
Monica and Todd encourage people to ask questions and have conversations with farmers about how their food is grown. One great resource for those who live in South Dakota is the Hungry for Truth initiative and its website hungryfortruthsd.com. It features farmers and families who can help separate fact from fiction when it comes to food, animal care and farming.
“It’s an opportunity to learn more from real farmers,” explains Todd. “We enjoy having honest conversations about these topics because we all eat, we all care about our families, and we’re trying to do our best to make healthy choices when it comes to food.”
We’ve heard many different ideas about GMOs over the years. Some people think they’re some new creation made in a lab, and others say they’re made with chemicals and syringes. We’ve even heard the term “Frankenfood” used to describe GMOs. So just how are GMO crops developed? Read on for a step-by-step guide to the process.
Step One: Identify a Helpful Trait
Plants get directions from their DNA for growth and development. DNA is made up of thousands of genes, so first, researchers look for a gene that delivers a desired trait, like the ability to resist harmful pests. One of the first GMO crops approved for commercial use was made from a naturally occurring soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis. The gene produces a protein that kills European corn borer larva, a bug that poses a serious threat to corn plants.
Step Two: Find the Switch
Once they find the right gene, scientists choose specific “switches” or regulators so the genes are expressed in a way researchers want. Senthil says it’s like a lawn sprinkler system that is told when and where to turn on and off.
Step Three: Insert Gene Into Plant
After the switches have been identified, geneticists insert the gene into the plant, often using a machine called a gene gun. There are many methods researchers can use, but the goal is to transport the new gene and deliver it into the cell nucleus.
Step Four: Plant Growth
Once the traits have been inserted and the plant grows, the seeds it produces will contain the new genes. Those seeds are then planted and grown in a specialized greenhouse or in other controlled environments.
Step Five: Obtain Approval
If a new variety shows promise, the plant needs to get USDA, FDA and EPA approval before it can be grown commercially. On average, every GMO plant is tested for 13 years before it is approved for farmers to use. The approval process is rigorous and includes testing on birds, mammals, beneficial insects, fish, frogs and other organisms to ensure the crops are safe and have no adverse effects.
All scientific, peer-reviewed research by independent and government health organizations shows that GMOs are safe for people, animals and the environment, and that GMO foods are just as nutritious as their non-GMO counterparts. You can rest assured that whatever food choice you make, it will be a safe one for you and your family.
There you have it. No Frankenfoods, no syringes, no creations from the lab, just precision plant breeding. What questions do you have about GMOs? Leave them for us in the comments and check out these links for more information:
A new Hungry for Truth TV commercial hits the screen this week, and it’s all about GMOs and making sure kids get nutritious options.
The commercial features local farmer Bradee Pazour from Pukwana. “Now more than ever, moms are concerned about what they’re feeding their kids. As a farmer, I think it’s very important to share with others the safe and efficient practices we use in food production on our family farms.”
“Hungry for Truth supports choice,” said Marc Reiner, farmer from Tripp and volunteer for the initiative. “We believe everyone should have the choice of what to feed themselves and their families. Research shows GMOs are a safe and nutritious choice, and we want people to feel comfortable in that knowledge when they make decisions about food.”
Cited in the spot is a May 2016 report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that found no substantiated evidence of a difference in risks to human health between current commercially available GMO crops and conventionally bred crops, and no conclusive evidence of environmental problems tied to GMO crops.
Coming up on the blog, we’ll be interviewing Bradee, the star of the commercial. If you have questions for Bradee, write them comments and stay tuned to the blog to find your answers.