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:
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.