When the days are short and temps are cold, flavorful warm drinks are not a want, but a need. This crockpot cider recipe pairs the comforting flavors of apple and caramel with warm spices like cinnamon to fill your mug with feel-good vibes. So grab a few apples and plug in the crockpot! It’s time to get cozy.
Fortunately, the apples you’re reaching for already have a pretty solid shelf-life, but a new variety is taking their long-lasting qualities even further. Arctic® apples are a new GMO variety with less than 10 percent of the enzymes that cause conventional apples to brown as they age. With these improved traits, Arctic apples don’t produce the unappealing discoloration that contributes to food waste. GMOs can do more than boost the lifespan of apples, though. They also help farmers be more sustainable in the field, provide improved nutritional content for crops like soybeans and even save lives through medicine.
But enough chit-chat. It’s time to give this cider a whirl. Find the full recipe below and watch the video to see the simple steps in action.
If you want another warm drink to try, check out this caramel pumpkin soy latte!
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.
If farming is like football, harvest is a soybean farmer’s championship game. They’ve clocked countless hours planning, preparing and nurturing their plants to provide nutritious food for South Dakota’s families. Now, it’s time to discover the results. Since farmers are always thinking ahead, and looking for ways to improve, it’s also a time for them to evaluate how their strategies worked and make even better plans for next year.
Last fall, we chatted with David and Miriam Iverson as they prepared for harvest on their farm in Brookings County. As combines began rolling this season, we checked back in with the family to see what updates they made and how they’ve paid off.
“We’ve had a really good growing season this year, and overall the crop looks really good,” said David. “When thinking about changes and improvements moving forward, we typically consider factors like the resources that will be needed, harvest costs and balancing the workload.”
For South Dakota soybean farmers, sustainability means doing the right thing for the environment and continuously improving the land for future generations. That’s why farmers evaluate their practices each season and make adjustments accordingly.
The Iversons made a few changes this year, such as increasing the amount of soybeans they planted and cutting back a bit on corn. They also decided to dabble in a new soybean variety and planted 300 acres of non-GMO high-oleic soybeans for the first time. High-oleic soybeans provide a source of vegetable oil for the food industry that is low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat and trans-fat-free.
Since they’re food-grade soybeans, the high-oleic variety is managed and harvested a little differently. Extra elbow grease is needed to clean out the combine, trucks, grain bins and augers before they’re harvested, and farmers have to use a slightly different crop protection strategy. However, their premium price is worth the extra effort. David said they’ve grown well on his farm so far and he may look to plant more next year.
The Iversons also use tools like soil sampling to determine which crop nutrients they’ll use for the next growing season.
“Once everything is harvested, I work with an agronomist to pull soil samples. We do this when we’re ready to rotate crops because the requirements vary for different plants,” explained David. “We send our samples to a lab, and they send back a full nutrient analysis so when a field is changing from soybeans to corn, we know exactly what that corn crop will need in the upcoming year.”
By working with experts to determine specific nutrient needs, David can be efficient with fertilizers and only apply exactly what is needed. Preserving crop and soil health is important for sustainable farming because it supports the longevity of the land, minimizes waste and maintains a healthy environment for future crops to flourish in coming seasons.
“Sustainability to me has a few different legs,” shared David. “One is maintaining soil health. There’s a lot of agronomy that goes into that aspect. There’s also the economic part of it. Improving the soil helps economically, and to be sustainable long term, you have to make decisions that financially benefit the farm.”
David’s family has passed their farm down for four generations and have achieved success through the changing times by implementing new techniques and best practices.
“The biggest aspect in recent years has been adding technology like autosteer and yield mapping,” said David. “That data helps us make better crop decisions and improve parts of the farm that are producing less.”
Today’s technology helps farmers interpret harvest and yield data of past years to grow safe and healthy food in the future. Whether reflecting on this year or planning for the next, harvest is special time for soybean farmers. Find out how another South Dakota farmer plans for the future by reading Matt Bainbridge’s story.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Music and agriculture are two of Moriah Gross’ great loves. Six years ago, her passions intertwined when she founded Pierre’s first youth orchestra and invited students and their families to her farm for a sunflower-themed photoshoot.
“What makes our orchestra truly unique is that we live in God’s country, and our county [Sully County] is the top sunflower producer in the U.S.,” said Moriah. “It made sense to combine the two in celebration of the beauty that surrounds us in the fields.”
Since then, it’s become an annual tradition. She decides on a marketing theme for the year, invites her students and their families out to the farm for the photoshoot, where the families also pick sweet corn. Moriah and her husband, Austin, a fourth-generation farmer from Onida, feel it’s a great opportunity to answer questions about food and farming.
“Conversations about how we grow food can happen 30 miles away or sitting next to someone at a baseball game. I always look forward to the opportunity,” explained Moriah.
Combines and Violins
Moriah grew up on a family ranch near Mankato, Kansas, growing milo, wheat and sunflowers, and raising Angus cattle. She spent summers with her family custom harvesting wheat for other farmers, traveling from Texas to the Canadian border. She learned how to drive a combine, grain cart and tractor. Her time in the cab and caring for cattle turned out to be helpful for her career as a musician.
“I remember singing with my mom in the combine to bluegrass and country western music,” said Moriah. “Later, my dad added a radio to the barn, so we listened to music during calving season.”
Moriah began playing the violin when she was 7 and joined the orchestra in middle school. By the time she graduated from college, she had mastered the violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar and piano. With all this experience and a love for wide open spaces, it just made sense to move to Pierre to start The Pierre Youth Orchestra, eventually becoming its executive director. What she didn’t plan on was meeting and marrying Austin.
“I never thought I’d be lucky enough to marry a farmer,” said Moriah. Since Austin’s family regularly opens the farm to youth and hunting groups, Moriah knew he’d welcome the orchestra with open arms.
Questions and Conversations
The annual orchestra photoshoot generates interesting questions about everything from how they grow crops to the equipment they use on the farm. Some families are surprised to find out that most of the sweet corn they grow is GMO.
“We still grow one traditional sweet corn variety for sentimental reasons, but the other five are GMOs,” explained Austin. “It’s fun to explain how each one has been carefully bred to enhance its color or flavor.” GMOs make up 94 percent of the soybean and 89 percent of the corn crops grown in the U.S. They also happen to be two of South Dakota’s top crops.
This year, the orchestra held its first community fundraiser at the Fort Pierre farmers market. Austin and Moriah donated 1,500 ears of sweet corn for the event. Naturally, shoppers asked about different types of sweet corn and if it’s organic.
“People think organic means the corn is healthier in some way. The truth is it doesn’t matter,” said Moriah. “The sweet corn we grow is nutritionally the same as organic and both are safe to eat.”
One day, she hopes to turn the photoshoot into a concert to bring more people to the Pierre and Onida communities to enjoy music on the farm. Until then, she and Austin continue planting seeds of knowledge whenever they can and watching them grow.
If you have questions for Moriah and Austin, share them in the comments below. Love reading stories about South Dakota farm families? Here’s one about Eunice who’s been growing crops and irises on her family farm for nearly 90 years.
Photos Courtesy of Grandpre Photography & Moriah Gross.
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.
GMOs continue to be a hotly debated topic, especially when it comes to the safety of the food we feed our families. While you may be undecided about GMOs, the scientific and medical communities have deemed them to be just as safe as non-GMO crops after more than 20 years of research and review. Even Bill Nye the Science Guy, who once questioned their environmental impact, has changed his position and is an advocate.
Many South Dakota farmers choose to plant GMO crops because of their advantages in the field, but the fact is GMOs benefit our lives in some pretty cool ways. Let’s examine a few of the facts.
GMOs Save Lives Through Medicine
The same technology used to create GMO crops in the 1990s started in the medical community in the 1970s. Scientists used genetic engineering to make biopharmaceutical drugs from bacteria. In fact, the very first GMO approved for use in 1982 was insulin, which is currently used by 1.25 million Americans today to manage type 1 diabetes. To date, genetic engineering has led to the development of more than 100 drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis, hemophilia and seizures.
GMOs Benefit Consumers
The fact is genetic modification has been happening in nature for centuries. The sweet potato is just one example of a new food created by its genes mixing with bacteria in the soil. It wasn’t until recently that scientists developed a way to precisely edit gene sequences to create apples that resist browning, soybeans with improved nutritional content and rice with increased beta carotene to help combat vitamin A deficiency. While South Dakota children get plenty of vitamin A, Golden Rice has the potential to save the lives of 1.15 million children annually around the world who suffer from the lack of this essential nutrient.
GMOs Help Protect Our Environment
GMO technology helps farmers improve on-farm practices to be more environmentally sustainable. According to a study by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, the use of biotechnology in soybeans, corn and cotton has decreased soil erosion by 93 percent, herbicide runoff by 70 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 326 million lbs. across the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Protecting the environment is important to everyone in South Dakota. We all need to work together to preserve it for the next generations.
GMOs Keep Produce on Our Shelves
Without GMO technology, we probably wouldn’t have papayas anymore. In 1992, papaya ringspot virus was discovered in the Puna district of Hawaii where 95 percent of the state’s papayas grew. Three years later, the crop was in a state of crisis and would’ve been wiped out on the island if scientists hadn’t bred disease resistance into the papayas. Yellow summer squash and zucchini are other foods that would be difficult to find in produce sections today if they hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand diseases. Scientists are also developing orange trees that resist citrus greening, plum trees that resist plum pox virus and potatoes that resist potato blight to keep these foods stocked on produce shelves.
Regardless of your thoughts on GMOs, what you feed your family is ultimately your choice. The most important part of a healthy diet is eating a blend of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins while limiting sugars and fats. Living a healthy lifestyle benefits everyone, and that is something we can all agree on.
Have a GMO-related question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Here are some resources you can use to learn more.
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:
We’ve talked at length about how to interpret the facts behind the many labels we find on our food. Many labels, like certified organic, are regulated by the FDA and USDA and have standards that farmers and food manufacturers need to follow in order to use the label. Some labels, however, are not regulated at all.
Marketers can use unregulated labeling terms at their own discretion, and some will add the latest buzzwords to packaging in order to attract customers. While these labels can be helpful on some food products, there are some instances where they mean nothing at all. Here are some food labels we’ve seen that made us say, “Hmm …”
Non-GMO grapes – Although technically accurate, there is no option to choose GMO grapes. The only GMO fruits grown in the U.S. are papayas, squash and apples, so all grapes are inherently non-GMO.
Gluten-free water – The gluten-free label is very important to many people who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, gluten is only found in cereal grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats so, on a food product like water, it’s not necessary.
Hormone-free chicken – If you see chicken, turkey or pork labeled “no added hormones” or “hormone-free,” it’s simply a marketing term. Hormone use is not allowed in any poultry or pork. No need to pay extra for that label because all chicken is guaranteed to be free of added hormones.
These examples serve as good reminders to look at what really matters when it comes to making decisions about food. Turn the packaging around and look at the Nutrition Facts panel to see if your food is healthy and nutritious. No matter what type of food you are looking for – GMO, non-GMO, organic, hormone-free – you can rest assured that all food in the grocery aisle is thoroughly tested and is safe.
Have you seen any labels in the grocery store that make you say, “Hmm …?” If you have questions about a label or a practice, you can always ask a farmer. Hungry for Truth is all about connecting South Dakotans to the farmers who grow their food, so leave a comment and we’ll connect you to a local farmer who can tell you all about what they do.
Read on for more about food labels:
Charlotte Rommereim is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and farmer from Alcester. Her family has been farming the same land since 1874. She says her family is the whole package because, “My husband and I grow the food, and then I advise people how to eat it in a healthy way.” We sat down with Charlotte to learn more about her career and how she connects food and farming every day.
HFT: Tell us a little bit about your career path.
Charlotte: I’m a registered dietitian. For the majority of my career, I have been a consultant dietitian for long-term care facilities and rural hospitals. I’ve also done some work in the local cancer clinic and with WIC.
HFT: What does a typical day as a dietitian look like for you?
Charlotte: I spend time interacting with the residents of the long-term care facility to make sure they get the best nutritional care possible. I also advise the food service operation. In the hospitals, I do the same work with patients, but on top of that I provide outpatient education. I teach patients who have diabetes, heart disease or any other diagnosis how to eat properly and take care of themselves.
At the end of the day, I come home and help on the farm where it’s needed. Much of the time, I help in the pig barn and manage the financials.
HFT: What’s the best part of your career?
Charlotte: I enjoy helping people eat healthy and well. I love helping someone find something new they’ve never tried or a healthy new way to prepare something. I also love helping people reach results. To be able to help someone lower their blood sugar or manage their weight through what they eat is very rewarding.
Lately, I also work with my fellow dietitians and food professionals to help them understand farming and where our food comes from. Coming from the farm, I love to share stories about how much care and attention we put into raising safe and healthy food. It’s important for all of us to remember that no matter what practices are used to raise food – organic, non-organic, GMO, non-GMO, etc. – it’s all safe and all equally healthy.
HFT: What motivated you to become a dietitian?
Charlotte: When I was a kid on the farm, I started cooking when I was very young. At 12 years old, my mom had an injury so I stepped in and became the full-time cook for all the people who worked on our farm in the summer. My mom would instruct me and I would prepare the noon meals for all eight people. I fell in love with cooking.
My uncle was a surgeon, and he encouraged me to pursue medicine, which was also an interest of mine. So the career path I chose was a combination of those two things I loved to do. Plus, it was a natural extension of my life growing up on the farm where we raised food.
HFT: What is your educational background?
Charlotte: To become a dietitian, you need a minimum of a four-year degree plus an experience like an internship. I received my degree in nutrition and food science at South Dakota State University, and then I took a national exam to become a registered dietitian. After college, my husband and I moved to the Alcester area to start farming with my dad. I was able to find work in the area as a consultant to long-term care facilities and small rural hospitals.
Have more questions for Charlotte or about being a registered dietitian? Leave them in the comments!
The following is a guest blog post from farmer Dawn Scheier. Dawn and her husband, Patrick, grow corn and soybeans in Salem. Patrick is the fourth generation of farmers in his family.
In our country, we are blessed with a plethora of choices when it comes to food. GMO, non-GMO, organic, non-organic, grass-fed, grain-fed, vegan, vegetarian: Whatever your preference, you can find it. The best part about all these choices is that no matter what you choose, you can rest assured it is a safe choice for you and your family.
To give you a good picture of just how harmless GMOs are, it helps to know what makes a food or crop genetically modified and what that means for us. The term “genetically modified organisms” doesn’t mean there are foreign organisms injected into your food. The “organism” refers to a cell. All food has cells, which are no longer living by the time they are harvested.
Genetic modification is basically a faster version of selective breeding, something farmers have done for centuries. Depending on the desired outcome, a gene is added to the crop from bacteria, a virus or a different variety of fruit or vegetable. That tiny change in the crop’s DNA results in huge positive results, like resistance to insects or non-browning apples or potatoes.
GMOs also have the potential to improve lives beyond non-browning apples. Golden Rice is a variety of rice genetically modified to increase levels of vitamin A. This variety has great implications for people in 122 countries affected by vitamin A deficiency, which can lead to blindness. Genetic modification also rescued a whole papaya crop from dying out. Twenty years ago, the papaya crop in Hawaii was almost wiped out due to ringspot virus until one scientist had an idea. He took a gene from one part of the virus and applied it to the papaya’s DNA, making it immune and saving the entire fruit population for Hawaiian farmers.
Over the years, farmers – myself included – have seen the benefits of growing GMO crops and have adopted them at rapid rates. Our family started planting them as soon as they became available 21 years ago. They make it easier to protect crops from the elements and predators like insects and weeds. They help us to use fewer resources like water or chemicals. As a farmer, I take my responsibility to grow safe, healthy food very seriously. As a mother, I am confident in the science that says GMO foods are a safe and nutritious choice for my family.
Hungry for Truth is a great local resource that focuses on the connection between food and farming in an unbiased way, supporting everyone’s right to choose the best options for themselves and their families. Better yet, you can reach out to a local farmer and talk to them about why they do what they do. Everybody eats food. Learning more about what goes on before it hits grocery shelves can help all of us make informed decisions and a better connection to the food on our plates.
Organic, natural, non-GMO and free range are just some of the terms we commonly see on our food packaging. It can be hard to keep track of all the different food-related terms. Hungry for Truth has put together an easy-to-use guide with definitions of some commonly used terms.
The USDA regulates some of these labels, and each has its own unique set of criteria. However, it’s also important to know that some terms are not regulated or officially defined.
While this guide can be a valuable resource to help make informed decisions at the grocery store, the best advice is not to get too hung up on terms on the front of the package. Instead, flip it over and check out the nutritional facts panel. That’s where the most important information lives. Check out Understanding Nutrition Facts to learn more.
Feel free to share this graphic with your friends to help them understand food labels too. Have you seen any confusing terms that aren’t defined here? Comment below, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.
You may have heard the news that five major food companies announced plans to label their products that contain GMO ingredients to comply with a Vermont law going into effect on July 1. We have the answers to your most frequently asked questions here.
What are GMOs?
GMO crops are plants that were bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics, like resistance to insects or the ability to grow with less water. Farmers have planted GMO crops for at least 20 years, and people and animals have consumed food from GMO crops all that time.
How did we get here?
In May 2014, the governor of Vermont signed a bill into law that requires foods produced with genetic engineering to be labeled as such, going into effect July 1, 2016. Maine and Connecticut also passed similar bills, but those won’t go into effect until more states pass labeling laws.
The U.S. House of Representatives then passed a bill in July 2015 that created a national system for labeling that would override any state labeling laws. The bipartisan bill was intended to ease the confusion of potentially different labeling standards for every state, creating a cohesive system across the U.S.
The bill was sent to the Senate where, after plenty of debate, it failed with a vote of 48-49. Now some say there isn’t much chance a bill will be passed before Vermont’s law goes into effect.
Why didn’t the Senate’s vote pass?
Debate ensued about whether the national labeling law should be voluntary or mandatory and how those labels should appear on packaging. Some said a standard icon – like the USDA organic label – should be created, while others suggested something like a QR code that consumers could scan to find the information about their food. Ultimately, a compromise was not reached before voting.
Which companies have committed to GMO labeling?
Major food companies including Campbell, ConAgra, General Mills, Kellogg and Mars have all announced plans to label products that contain ingredients produced through genetic modification. All these companies are against the Vermont law, but say they have no choice but to follow it.
In a recent NPR interview, Jeff Harmening, executive vice president of General Mills, said, “We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers. Consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products.”
What does this mean for me?
In the next few weeks, you’ll likely see GMO labels on some of your food. At Hungry for Truth, we support choice and think it’s important to be informed about food choices.
Remember, the Food and Drug Administration has never required GMO labels in the past because years of research and testing have shown there is no nutritional or safety difference between ingredients from GMO crops and those that have been raised by conventional methods.
As an initiative from the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council, Hungry for Truth cannot legally take a stance on GMO labeling laws. However, Hungry for Truth supports choice. Knowing that foods produced with or without GMO ingredients are equally safe and nutritious means you can rest assured that whatever choice you make will be the right one for you and your family.
- Grocery Manufacturers Association Position on GMOs
- General Mills: We Need a National Solution for GMO Labeling
- Food & Drug Administration Guide to GMO Food Safety
Have other questions about GMOs? Leave them in the comments.
A trip to the grocery store today can be confusing. Natural, organic, hormone-free, grass-fed: All these labels can get overwhelming. How do you know you’re buying the healthiest food for your family?
We asked local South Dakota dietician Charlotte Rommereim, RD how to keep all those labels straight. Her best advice? Look on the back of the packaging because that’s where all the nutrition information lives. The rest is just marketing.
This past spring, we wrote about Bill Nye the Science Guy and how he changed his mind about GMOs. As someone who was previously against GMO foods and crops, he spent some time with scientists to learn more. After his experience in the lab, he found that the science showed GMOs are safe and even beneficial to food production and the environment.
Mark Lynas, a well-respected British writer and environmentalist, joined his ranks a couple years ago. After spending years as an anti-GMO activist, Lynas looked into the science of GMOs and changed his mind. He is now speaking out against GMO cultivation bans in Europe.
In a recent New York Times article, Lynas said that European bans on cultivating GMO crops “… expose the worrying reality of how far Europe has gone in setting itself against modern science.”
He explains that these European bans are not actually based in science, but in the fear that surrounds anti-GMO rhetoric. In fact, Scottish leadership said the decision was based on image and not science. He explains:
“A spokeswoman for Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party, admitted that the first minister’s science adviser had not been consulted because the decision ‘wasn’t based on scientific evidence.’ Instead, the priority was to protect the ‘clean, green image’ of the country’s produce, according to the secretary for rural affairs, food and environment.”
Lynas made his transition from anti- to pro-GMO in 2013 when he spoke to the Oxford Farming Conference at Oxford University and apologized for the years he spent campaigning against GMOs.
A case study that motivated Lynas to change his mind about the technology was the “saga of golden rice.” Nearly a quarter-million children die each year from a vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, especially those in South Asia. A new rice was developed using GMO technology that was enhanced with vitamin A. The anti-GMO movement developed a campaign to prevent the rice from ever being developed.
Even though we know GMOs are safe, we also support choice. We know our families, friends and neighbors need to make the best choices for themselves and their own families. Want to learn more about GMOs before making the decision for your family? We have gathered some resources to help you do just that:
- The Washington Post talks about what is and isn’t true about the rhetoric around GMOs.
- Forbes shares a look at how GMOs could help end hunger.
- Center for Food Integrity takes a deeper dive into what is driving the anti-GMO movement here in the United States.
- United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance has taken the time to get back to the basics about the technology and how it is used.
Learn more about GMOs by visiting our biotechnology page and check out our blog for the latest food and farming news. In the meantime, if you have a question for a South Dakota farmer, feel free to submit it to the Contact Us section of our website or leave us a comment.