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.
Do you have a question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Don’t forget to scroll down and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to get delicious recipes and local farm-to-table stories delivered to your inbox.
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.
We’re used to indulging in traditional dishes on Thanksgiving, like grandma’s pumpkin pie and Aunt Susan’s green bean casserole, but at Friendsgiving, anything goes. A low-key get together with your favorite buds is a great way to celebrate friendship and test drive new recipes.
Like you, South Dakota farm families will be celebrating friendship and family this season too, but Thanksgiving carries an extra special meaning for them because it also marks the close of soybean harvest. As they look back on another successful growing season and the careful planning it took to raise their crops sustainably, soybean farmers have much to be thankful for when they take their seat at the dinner table.
Whether you’re reflecting on an important season in your life, or are simply ready to celebrate, here are a few Friendsgiving tips to impress your host.
Decide on the Dish
While the host typically covers the turkey, it’s up to the guests to add some flare with side dishes. Talk with your host ahead of time to coordinate the menu. They’ll appreciate a balanced spread rather than 10 different types of potatoes. If they say it’s simply up to you, feel free to let your creativity soar with something unique. Whatever you decide, bring your own serving dish and leftover containers to keep the meal hassle-free.
Choose Shareable Sides
Appetizers and sharables make it easy to get a little taste of everything. If your dish is easy to grab, it’ll be hard to resist. Try bringing something bite-sized or splitting the dish into individual portions. Some of our favorites are deviled eggs, sweet potato bites and prosciutto cheese bites.
Consider Easy Alternatives
Maybe you’re a little challenged in the kitchen or just don’t have much time to spare before the party. That’s okay! A meat and cheese plate or specialty bread will always win over a hungry crew. Fresh veggies and fruit are also appreciated. When choosing produce, know that it was grown with your safety as the top priority. Buying organic may be your jam, but know that you don’t have to spend the extra money to provide nutritious snacks for your friends. Organic and conventional farming are more similar than you think, especially when it comes to nutrition and safety.
Bake With Fall Flavors
Bring the Party
Cooking not your thing? Be the friend who brings the good times with decks of cards or a fun party game to ignite conversation. Or consider supplying necessities like folding chairs, tables or decorations.
No matter what, be sure to thank your host for the hospitality. Toast your host during dinner with a few heartfelt words. If speaking isn’t your strong suit, bring a nice bottle of wine or write a thoughtful note. After all, giving thanks is what it’s all about.
If you’re hosting Friendsgiving for your crew, be sure to browse these holiday hosting tips from The Event Company’s Addie Graham-Kramer. We also have a recipe for maple glazed turkey that will have your guests cheering.
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.
You have probably heard it said, “Eat more fruits and vegetables.” Health experts agree increasing plant-based foods in your diet has important health benefits. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and soy protein sources have nutrients that help prevent heart disease, stroke and some cancers. In addition, making lower calorie foods like fruits and vegetables a larger portion of your diet may help you manage your weight.
With these positive benefits, we should be increasing our consumption of plant-based foods, but because of confusing messages about the safety of conventional and organic foods, studies show shoppers buy fewer fruits and vegetables.
As a dietitian, I encourage a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and protein sources like lean meats and soy protein. It’s concerning to me that fear may be keeping people from safe, affordable food. Because I am a family farmer, a dietitian and I also listen to scientists, I know we have a safe food supply. We should let facts, not fear, guide our food choices.
So, what are the facts?
Pesticide residues are not a safety concern in the U.S. food supply.
Both conventional and organic farmers rely on synthetic or natural pesticides as a tool to control pests and diseases on their crops, and these pesticides are regulated to ensure the safety of our food. They apply them very carefully and use just the right amount to protect crops. With all produce, follow the FDA recommendation and take this simple step: Just Wash It. You will be removing any dirt, bacteria and pesticide residue, if there is any, that may be on your produce.
A pesticide residue calculator found on the Alliance for Food and Farming website gives a great perspective on any concerns about pesticide residue you may have. It shows, for example, my grandson could consume 181 servings of strawberries in one day without any effect, even if the strawberries had the highest pesticide residue ever recorded for strawberries by the USDA. I want my grandson to benefit from the vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber and antioxidants in strawberries, and know I can safely share my favorite fruit with him.
The fact is the health benefit of increasing your fruit and vegetable intake should far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues. Fruits and vegetables can be consumed in any form to provide you with the nutrients you need: fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. The amount of fruits and vegetables you need daily depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity. However, aiming for half of your plate to contain fruits and vegetables is a great place to start.
Still concerned about potential pesticide residues? We’ve got tips on how to properly wash your produce. Be sure to leave any questions for Charlotte in the comments.
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.
Curious about how pesticides used on the farm translate to the grocery aisles? We recently talked with weed scientist Dr. David Shaw for answers to the top questions South Dakota soybean farmers are asked at Hungry for Truth events and online.
Dr. Shaw is a distinguished professor and vice president of research and economic development at Mississippi State University. He has served as president of the Weed Science Society of America and chair of a USDA task force that developed a report on herbicide resistance management. He’s also a father who enjoys cooking with his family and cheering on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Q: Will the pesticides used on the produce I buy harm me or my family?
A: There are a lot of regulatory and safety requirements that must be met before any pesticide can be used. The testing process is rigorous and designed to protect consumers first. Having looked at the science behind the approval process, I can say I have a great deal of confidence in the pesticide requirements from both the EPA and FDA. As a father looking out for my children, I want to be absolutely certain what I’m buying is safe.
Q: Isn’t it possible there are traces of pesticides on the produce I buy?
A: Just because a substance is detectable doesn’t necessarily mean it will cause any harm. The exposure limits that are set on pesticides are very conservative and are far lower than the levels that could actually put you in danger.
Have you ever looked into how much produce you’d have to eat to feel the effects of pesticides? Try this calculator. You might be surprised at the results.
Q: What are farmers doing today to reduce their use of pesticides in the fields?
A: Well, farmers use pesticides alongside other pest management practices like crop rotation, cover crops, promotion of beneficial insects and more. Each method is part of a toolkit to safely manage and grow healthy crops. Many farmers take a holistic approach to stopping pests.
Q: Is organic farming better when it comes to pesticide use?
A: I have no argument against organic production, and it does have its own niche. But to be able to produce both the quantity and quality of food necessary to feed our growing population, organic production alone is not enough. I’d encourage folks to go out and spend a bit of time on an organic farm to really understand all the challenges and limitations these farmers face. This means everything from managing insects to maintaining a staff large enough to provide all the hand-weeding required to eliminate pesticide use. It’s a lot of challenging work. To be able to feed all the people in our world, we really need farms of all sizes.
People also have a misconception that organic farmers do not use pesticides. They do, and just like synthetic pesticides, some of these organic pesticides can be toxic if not used correctly. The key with both organic and synthetic pesticides is to use the products correctly according to their labels and then no one’s health will be threatened.
Still have questions about pesticides and food safety? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll help you find an answer. Whether you’re wondering how much pesticides farmers apply to South Dakota staple crops like soybeans or if you should worry about eating fresh produce from the grocery store, Hungry for Truth strives to help get you the facts from local farmers who have your family’s health in mind.
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.
If one thing is true about South Dakotans, we love making memories outside with our families. One of our favorite places to visit in the fall is the Country Apple Orchard in Harrisburg. Kevin Kroger, general manager, knows exactly what that’s like since he’s been working at the orchard with his own family for 12 years.
“All of my eight children pitch in, even my youngest,” said Kevin. Kevin’s stepfather and grandmother are the primary owners, making it a true family affair.
“The first year was a little sticky, but every year it gets easier,” he said. “We learn more and get better. We know we are investing in success with 100 acres of prime South Dakota farmland.”
Running a farming business has been a trial-and-error process. Kevin’s family felt that firsthand when they began maintaining their trees. “We were hit with a hard frost right off the bat. It was hardly the optimal season to start with an orchard,” he chuckled. “We almost went without enough apples that season. Now we can’t grow enough of them!”
That’s great news for Americans everywhere, who eat an average of 55 pounds of apples annually. In addition to pruning their 4,500 trees, the Country Apple Orchard sprays their apples with linseed oil before they blossom to ensure a plentiful harvest of healthy apples for families to pick and enjoy.
“No one likes biting into an apple with insects in it,” Kevin said. “Like other farmers, we only spray pesticides when the apples need it.”
While the Kroger family doesn’t have a typical South Dakota farming background, Kevin did walk beans as a child. That means walking through soybean fields and picking weeds for Sioux Falls area farmers. It’s a chore many seasoned farmers remember, but is no longer needed on most farms thanks to technology.
“I was exposed to hard work in the older days of farming, and I didn’t think I wanted anything to do with it,” Kevin said. “Now, with technology, it’s so much easier and much more enjoyable.”
Today’s farmers use different types of technology, including GPS, drones and computer-generated soil maps to grow healthy food more efficiently. Over the past 30 years, soybean farmers grew 46 percent more soybeans using 35 percent less energy thanks to technology and more sustainable farm practices.
Being more efficient means farm families might have a little extra time to enjoy an afternoon at the Country Apple Orchard. Kevin and family pack weekdays with school field trips and weekends with festivals. Even Santa takes a break from his work at the North Pole to stop by and say hi before the busy holiday season.
“In today’s world, it can be really hard to slow things down,” he said. “Here, families go on wagon rides, pick apples and pumpkins, and enjoy delicious local foods. Slowing down to take in the outdoors makes family time more memorable.”
Cooking together is another way to create memorable moments. Try out one of these recipes with your family this fall.
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.
Pesticide residues on your food can be a scary thought. Maybe the topic crossed your mind while making dinner or as you shopped the produce aisle in your grocery store. Pesticides are used to protect crops as they grow, but do they remain on plants after they leave the field? And, more importantly, should you worry about feeding your family those crops?
If you’ve spent time online reading lists like the Dirty Dozen, you may think your family’s health is at risk. The truth is crop protection products like herbicides and pesticides must meet safety standards before they can be used in the field. The farmers who use them are required to attend educational classes and become certified so they apply them in the right amount, at the right time and only when needed. They use precision technology to make sure their application is accurate. After all, they feed their families the same foods you do and want to make sure they’re safe for everyone.
So what is the right amount? Well that depends on the crop, product and pest problem, but the average farmer applies only about a coffee cup’s worth of pesticides per acre of crops. An acre is approximately the same size as a football field. Most of the spray that goes on the field is water. Any pesticide residues that may remain on plants in the field decrease considerably as crops are harvested, transported and exposed to light.
By the time food reaches the grocery store, it has gone through testing with the USDA to ensure it meets requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is safe to eat. Pesticide residues allowed on produce are so small they’re measured in parts per billion. In fact, the average child could consume 7,240 servings of carrots in one day without any effect, even if the carrots have the highest pesticide residue allowed by USDA.
Most fresh fruits and vegetables test below the threshold levels set by EPA, so you shouldn’t be worried about their safety. The best way to protect your family from unwanted residue, dirt or surface microbes is simply washing all fruits and vegetables before serving. This is also true for foods grown organically. Rinsing fruits and veggies is an easy task. For most foods, a quick water rinse should do the job. Thick-skinned produce such as carrots, potatoes and squash should be scrubbed. With leafy greens, toss the outer leaves.
Watch this video for a quick review.
You can also create your own produce wash by mixing one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with two cups of water in a spray bottle.
Have you ever calculated how much fruits or vegetables you’d have to eat to feel the effects of pesticides? Try this calculator. You might be surprised at the results. Learn more about how farmers responsibly use crop inputs like pesticides by reading these blogs:
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:
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.
The Thompson Farm in Colton, South Dakota, set the scene for the Farm-to-Fork Dinner where guests talked with farmers about how food makes its way from their farms to the table. They discussed topics like GMOs, pesticides, organic and conventional farming, sustainability and much more. Many guests shared that they left the experience feeling a stronger connection to the people who grow and raise their food.
What would you like to learn about farming? We would be happy to connect you with a local farmer or answer any of your food or farming questions. Just leave us a note in the comments section.
You can learn more about our Farm-to-Fork Dinner here.