Hungry for Truth’s annual Farm-to-Fork dinner is an opportunity for farmers and South Dakotans to gather around the table, share a meal and engage in conversations about how food is grown and raised. Our 2018 event took place at the Country Apple Orchard near Harrisburg, where more than 180 people came together to talk about topics such as environmental sustainability, pesticide use and food safety.
“The Farm-To-Fork dinner really brings the mission of the Hungry for Truth initiative to life. It’s a great way for us to personally share the truth about how we do things on our farms and honestly address questions or concerns,” said Vermillion farmer Jerry Schmitz. “Despite public perceptions, 98 percent of farms are still family owned in South Dakota, and we’re making more sustainable choices to ensure that tradition continues for generations to come.”
Let’s look at a few highlights from the evening, which included delicious local fare.
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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.
On July 8, South Dakota families stopped by the Hungry for Truth tent during Family Fest in Sioux Falls for fun family activities. Kids and parents beat the heat in the shade by playing with trucks and tractors in sandboxes, spinning the “ag” wheel of fortune for a chance to win a prize and climbing into a John Deere tractor compliments of Kibble Equipment.
More than once the horn honked and the hazard lights flashed thanks to curious fingers inside the tractor cab. One lucky mom even walked away with a new KitchenAid® mixer that was given away at the end of the day. South Dakota farmers, Josh and Kara Kayser and Jerry Schmitz spent time talking with attendees about what it’s like to grow healthy food on their farms.
“A few parents asked questions about hormones in meat and if they should worry about GMOs,” said Jerry. “I enjoyed hearing the kids answer the questions about where some of their favorite foods come from. Quite a few knew the two top crops grown in South Dakota are soybeans and corn!”
In South Dakota, we’re lucky that families have choices when it comes to the food they buy. Regardless of what you choose, it’s important to know that food you find at the grocery store is safe and nutritious. For example, food made from GMOs have been proven safe to eat, that the meat you buy in the grocery store is virtually hormone free and that farmers care about growing healthy food for your family.
Have questions about how your food is grown and raised? Leave them in the comments and a farmer will get back to you. In the meantime, take a few minutes to meet some South Dakota farmers who grow your food.
In honor of National Ag Day, we talked with local South Dakota farmers about what they love best about family farms. Did you know that 98 percent of farms in our state are family owned and operated? Your neighbors work hard to make sure the food they raise that ends up on your table is safe and healthy. Check out what they had to say about their favorite parts of farming as a family affair:
“For me, it’s such a privilege to watch my kids grow up on the farm. To see the excitement in their actions and expressions is priceless. My kids will be the sixth generation on our farm, and you can tell their passion for agriculture comes from within. There’s nothing more rewarding than teaching my children what has been passed down to me through the generations and see them grow to appreciate the land that provides for us.” – John Horter, farmer from Andover
“One of the things I love most about being part of a family farm is the interaction with the land and animals. I believe there are no more beautiful pictures than that of calves running in a green, flowing pasture; combines harvesting soybeans from the fields on a brisk, colorful fall day; or a litter of piglets simultaneously nursing from the sow. These “office views” are awe inspiring and make a day on the farm that much sweeter.” – Amanda Eben, livestock specialist who is active on her family farm near Rock Rapids, IA
“From the time our children could talk, they would watch out the window every morning and we would hear “Grandpa’s here!” as they ran out the door to greet him as though they hadn’t seen him in years. Though retired, he has always been protector, teacher, trainer, baby sitter, disciplinarian and confidant. No amount of money could buy that opportunity for our children. The family farm is the only institution I am aware of that can provide that opportunity and solid foundation for life.” – Jerry Schmitz, farmer from Vermillion
“What I enjoy about farming is being able to work alongside my husband every day with our kids playing around us. It’s what I love most about the life that we live.” – Morgan Kontz, farmer from Colman
“No amount of money could equal the pride I feel when my parents and grandparents tell me I’m doing a good job of managing our family farm. It’s a joy to work alongside all the generations of our family. We have so many memories that make me smile when I think about them, like laughing about lessons learned the hard way, our children talking to the animals, and me shouting, “Come boss!” to the cows as I bring them from the pasture to milk, just like my Grandpa. I love remembering the smile on his face as I gave it my first call, and wished he was here to see my kids and me doing the same thing today.” – Todd Hanten, farmer from Goodwin
“I love being a part of a farm passed down through four generations and working to pass it on to the fifth. The best part of it all is passing on my passion for farming to my children.” – Josh Kayser, farmer from Emery
Read more about family farms in South Dakota:
This week marks the 43rd annual National Agriculture Week, a celebration of agriculture’s contributions to the lives of everyday Americans. Today, more than ever, people are making connections between the food on their plates and the farm it came from, wanting to know more about how it was raised and what that means for their families, the environment and the economy.
According to 2015 research by the Center for Food Integrity, 70 percent of U.S. consumers are concerned about the rising cost of food; 62 percent are concerned about food safety; 53 percent are concerned about having enough food to feed the U.S.; and 47 percent are concerned about the humane treatment of farm animals.
What do South Dakotans care about when it comes to food and farming?
In an effort to facilitate genuine connections between South Dakotans and the farmers who grow their food, the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (SDSRPC) launched the Hungry for Truth initiative a little over a year ago. As part of the group’s goals to quantify the opinions of South Dakotans, SDSRPC leaders contracted with an independent global research organization, Aimpoint Research, to determine what concerns South Dakotans most about food and farming.
What Aimpoint found was enlightening. According to research conducted last spring, when thinking about agriculture, 47 percent of South Dakotans rank healthy food as most important; 21 percent say low-cost food is most important to them; 17 percent were most concerned about protection of the environment; and 10 percent place the most value on animal welfare.
When thinking about the food they eat and the things that concern them the most, 45 percent of South Dakotans cited use of pesticides and chemicals; 22 percent said use of antibiotics and hormones; and 18 percent said use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
“Overall, the concerns of South Dakotans seem on par with national concerns. Knowing this, we want to be there for South Dakotans to answer our neighbors’ questions about farming,” said Marc Reiner, farmer from Tripp and SDSRPC chairman. “That’s precisely why the South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council launched Hungry for Truth last year: To open up conversations about food and farming and, we hope, answer the questions our state’s residents have about where their food comes from.”
The Hungry for Truth initiative is to have open and honest conversations between farmers and fellow South Dakotans about food and farming.
Hungry for Truth launched in January 2015 and immediately began connecting with South Dakotans through events, social media and advertising.
“A little more than a year into the effort, the questions and resulting conversations have been extremely enlightening,” Reiner said. Several of the farmers behind Hungry for Truth cited their most memorable conversations.
The cost of organic foods
For Jerry Schmitz, Vermillion farmer and South Dakota Soybean Association president, a conversation with a young mother is one of his most memorable. Schmitz said the woman wanted to feed her kids organic food because she’d heard it was healthier, but that it was too expensive for her to afford. She asked Schmitz how she can make sure her kids are getting the healthiest food possible.
“A young mother approached me with this question, and I explained that all foods in our grocery stores, no matter the growing practice, are safe and healthy,” Schmitz said. “Organic really refers to the way a product is grown, not a product’s health or nutritional value. Whether food is raised organically or conventionally, they both offer the same nutritional value.” According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, organic and conventionally raised foods are equally nutritious.
GMOs – OMG?
According to John Horter, Andover farmer and South Dakota Soybean Association treasurer, everyone is buzzing about GMOs. He said that because most people don’t know exactly what biotechnology is, they are concerned about the safety of GMO foods and crops.
“Biotechnology is simply a more precise way of breeding crops. They are bred for desirable traits like resistance to insects or disease that help farmers like me produce crops with fewer inputs, like pesticides,” said Horter. “As far as their safety, we’ve been growing GMO crops for more than 20 years and not one health issue has ever been reported. On average, these crops go through 13 years of testing by the FDA, USDA and EPA before they are approved for farming. As a father and a fifth-generation farmer, knowing these facts makes me confident that what I’m growing is safe for me and my family.”
Back to the way things were
Schmitz has heard the call, especially from young people, to return to the way things used to be in farming: a small operation, no pesticides or big machinery, with a diversity of livestock and crops. Though this sounds idyllic, he explained that the technology farmers use today makes them more efficient and environmentally friendly than in the past.
“Our ancestors used a plow and cultivators to control weeds that rob moisture and nutrients from crops because that was their only option,” Schmitz said. “Today, science and technology offer farmers lots of different options to choose from, and it’s up to the farmer to choose the best practices based on the soil characteristics of each field they farm. One technology that’s had a huge impact on how I farm is GPS. GPS technology has done more than help give directions around town. Today, I use GPS to map fields into garden-sized plots for soil sampling and fertilization so that each small area receives the exact prescription of nutrients the plants require.”
In 2016, Hungry for Truth will continue the goal of connecting South Dakotans to the farm. Look for Hungry for Truth at the Sioux Empire Fair in August and the Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival in Rapid City this fall, or even on the big screen, with farm trivia before movies at your local theater.
“Year one was about creating awareness of the initiative,” said Schmitz. “We talked to so many South Dakotans. During year two, we’ll use what we heard about what is most important to the people of our state when it comes to food and farming, and dive even deeper into the issues. The great thing about Hungry for Truth is that, as farmers, we get to learn new things as well.”