Choosing the food we feed our family is an inherently emotional choice. This is a choice that is often clouded with mass amounts of readily available information on the internet, which is often unreliable, filled with falsehoods or small kernels of truth taken out of context, or inaccurate. As a farmer this is disappointing. As a consumer this is disappointing. As a mom this is disappointing. As a human this is disappointing. So I want to tell you a story. My story. My food choices story.
As a member of the human race I have varying personality traits just like everyone else. I understand that food choices are a fairly emotional part of our human psyche. I also understand that humans are prone to varying fears, often irrational.
For myself, I am petrified of snakes. Garter snakes, bull snakes, rubber boas, or rattlesnake – it does not matter. I am petrified of them all. I am irrationally afraid that I will be bitten by a rattlesnake even though I have had zero close encounters with them in my life. I am also a nervous flier, even though I am a frequent flier and well aware that it is safer than driving a car. Irrational fear.
Intellectually I am a researcher and a life long learner, but I am terrible at both math and science. I am unable to look at a study and tell you if it is scientifically sound, if it is robust, if the conclusions it draws are repeatable. Unfortunately in today’s world of shoddy science being proliferated on the internet, questionable “studies’ being spread wide and far by groups like the Environmental Working Group put people like myself at risk of developing an irrational fear of something like food, production agriculture.
Luckily I am aware of this and involved in agriculture, so I am able to surround myself with individuals and organizations that provide analysis, counter information, and robust studies. I also work hard to improve my skills and analytical abilities in those two areas. The body of evidence supports the safety of our food supply and I am comfortable with this. Unfortunately not everything has the same experiences and still maintain certain fears about the safety of our food. Hopefully the rest of my story, and the other stories my fellow farmers, mothers, fathers, and humans tell will help to mitigate some of those fears.
This role is certainly the most important role of my life. I am lucky enough to be the mother of two beautiful farm boys. Two boys that I want to protect, to ensure they have the best opportunities we can afford them, to ensure they have every opportunity to be successful in life. Raising tiny humans is not easy and “mom guilt” abounds. This “mom guilt” and a desire to ensure EVERY decision we make for our children is the correct one exposes mom’s to an unbelievable amount of information. Unfortunately in the age of the internet, often this information is not reliable, written to ensure website clicks, and/or entirely based on false premises and fear-mongering.
It is incredibly difficult and time consuming to wade through pages of information, solicited and unsolicited advice, news reports, and other treasure troves of information to find reliable guidance. Our gut instinct as mothers is to protect our children at all costs. We are hardwired to provide for them – and this means choosing their food for them. We want to know that the food we provide for our family is safe, healthy, and fulfilling.
Luckily, one of the things I have never worried about, is the safety of our food supply. I am comfortable walking through our fields with my kids and I do not think twice about the safety of our food supply. This is not a naive position, it is simply one that is comfortable with our food production system, regulatory bodies, and the robust nature of the research behind all food products. When I visit the grocery store, especially as a mother, I am comfortable with all products: conventional, organic, or products derived from Genetically Modified material, as well as products produced both inside and outside of the United States.
I am a farmer by profession, raised in this lifestyle, and pursuing it into adulthood. I am familiar with many of the ins and outs of production agriculture, particularly when it comes to wheat. I also am well aware that this is a complex issue and agriculture varies from area to area, state to state, region to region, and country to country. But one thing I do not doubt, across the globe, including my many friends and contacts across the globe strive to produce high quality food and fiber for not only ourselves but also our customer across the globe.
We understand as farmers that we have a responsibility to raise the highest quality of food and fiber we possibly can. For the most part (corn used for ethanol for example being an exception) is utilized for human or animal consumption. We know that we are responsible for raising someone’s food, for providing the raw materials that will eventually become someone’s dinner. We know that on any given day we can buy the fruits of our labor in the grocery store. This is not a responsibility we take lightly.
I also hope to be a source of information for consumers, a voice of reassurance. I certainly cannot explain every facet of agriculture, but I can promise to point you in the right direction, connect you with other farmers, and provide all the information I possibly can.
As a farmer, I occupy a small minority of the population with that job title, but as a consumer – I am no different than the other 98% of the population. I am experienced in the agricultural community, but my knowledge of how some of my favorite foods are produced is minimal at best. I have never toured a hog farm, never seen where they raise avocados, could not tell you the first thing about raising a banana, and my experience with pineapples is limited to touring the Dole Plantation “tourist trap” on Oahu. I have written about this before (linked here) but it is an important part of the equation.
As I walk through the grocery store either with my two kids or alone, I pick out our food, and I am lucky enough that I do not ever think about things like chemical residue. I pick food out based on our favorites, my recipe list, and quality. I occasionally wonder how something is produced, look to see where it was produced if a Country of Origin label is available, or read the nutrition label. I am lucky to be comfortable with the safety of our food supply and I have full confidence in the person who raised that product, or persons.
Fear-mongering, half truths, and outright lies about agriculture and food production abound. This, combined with the understandable emotional connection we have to our food can complicate how we talk about complex subjects. My hope in shedding light on how I approach food, how I approach the responsibilities I have as I raise some of the world’s food supply, and most importantly my role as a mother, will ease some of the fears surrounding food choice. I also hope, more than anything, that the various connections I can make through my role as a mother, consumer, and human allow me to be a resource for anyone with questions about food production. I hope this role allows me to ease fears that may linger about food choices, how we grow food, and to unravel complex issues. My only request, is that before you share an article of questionable quality, before you allow it to cause you to doubt our food supply, that you will reach out to someone involved in agriculture or food production – more than one of them if you can – ensuring we have open dialogue between consumer and agriculture is essential to us all.
If you spend any time on social media or reading the news, it has been hard to miss a “sensational” new report from the Environmental Working Group. This report alleges that several popular foods have been found to have small traces of glyphosate residue. These residues are well, well below the maximum residual limit (MRL) set by the FDA and other agencies around the globe.
My gut instinct is to tell you the science behind MRLs, the reason we use crop protection tools such as glyphosate, and that regulatory agencies, independent labs, universities, and private companies have all worked to ensure the MRLs are set well within safe limits, and that our food supply is one of the safest in the world. My gut instinct to to tell you that the Environmental Working Group aims to end all production agriculture and is a notoriously unreliable source of information. That is my gut reaction, but I also know it is wildly ineffective for most people, food choices are emotional. So instead I told you a different story. I told you my story, and how my roles as a farmer, mother, and consumer intersect to guide my choices. My hope is my story helps provide context, reassurance, and more importantly gives you someone who is approachable and someone who can help answer some of your questions about food and food production.