It may surprise you to find out, but I LOVE learning about farms. Farming is one of the oldest ways of life, and it's hugely important to society. (Remember history class? It takes a surplus of food to get to the art part of a culture!)
Last Friday I had the opportunity to tour three local farms with people from the Missouri Farm Bureau. Like I said, I love farms, so I was pumped!
As I looked around the farms and heard from the farmers and their families, I was astounded at how high-tech farming has become and all the science farmers incorporate in their work. I think a lot of us think of "Green Acres" or "Little House on the Prairie" when we think of farms, but that's not true for most of them today! I learned SO MUCH on this trip that I can't possibly post it all here!
In the earlier part of the 20th century, scientists were afraid the world would run out of food as the population grew. With their farming methods of the day, we would have had a food crisis by now. However, major advancements have been made to make farming more efficient, safer, and cheaper to provide us with affordable food.
To show how far farming has come and its importance in history, here are some farm facts from the 1940s:
In 1940, 18% of the American workforce is employed in farming. One farmer supplied an average of almost 11 people with food.
In 1940, 58% of farms had at least one car, 33% had electricity, and only 25% had a phone.
In 1941, the National Victory Garden program is launched in the United States. This initiative encouraged civilians to start their own gardens to allow more food to be sent to soldiers overseas. It was a big part of preventing food shortages during the war.
1942-1949: Food price regulation and rationing are in place. Victory gardens become an important way to supplement rationed food options. Women take the place of men in doing a lot of farm work while the men are at war. They get a taste of freedom from working outside the home, and their work is seen as a patriotic duty.
Facts found at this source.
As of 2012, only 1% of the American workforce works in farming, fishing, or forestry. Less than 2% of Americans live on farms. (source)
The average American farm is still family owned but has increased to 433 acres. (source)
|calves at the Samek dairy farm|
Nowadays, about 41% of the U.S. is farmland. We still export a lot of our food, and U.S. farmers produce 46% of the world’s soybeans, 41% of the world’s corn, 20.5% of the world’s cotton and 13% of the world’s wheat. (source)
Increased technology has made farmland more productive than ever. One farmer now supplies food for 144 people! (source)
|Mr. Drake, a row crop farmer|
Things I Learned About Farming
There is an increasingly large gap between farmers and consumers. It didn't used to be this way. Back in the day, nearly everyone had a family member that lived on a farm, or they lived on a farm already! Agricultural basic knowledge was commonplace. Nowadays, that just isn't true. Most Americans don't know why farmers do what they do or where their food comes from. I think it's important to bridge this gap to build trust between farmers and consumers and to create the healthiest, safest food for our communities.
The vast majority of farmers strive to produce good food using safe practices. Most of them live on the land they farm, drink the water from the wells beneath their fields, and eat the food they produce. They want safe food for their consumers and for their own families.
|Mr. Samek, the dairyman at Samek Farm, a multi-generational family farm|
There are very, very few farmers that don't care about their animals. Besides being a moral thing to do, taking proper care of animals and providing for their needs produces better food. (In fact, the tags you see on cows' ears are like cow Fit Bits! They track the cow's activity and health on a daily basis to ensure they are doing well. Farmers are very serious about the health of their animals.)
|Cribbs beef farm|
Farming technology is crazy advanced! There are combines that literally drive themselves, GPS systems in tractors, and fine-tuned machinery that makes farming hugely efficient. These technologies also allow farmers to use only as much water or chemical as is absolutely needed in a field, no more and no less. Agriculture is more precise and accurate than it has ever been.
|Yes, this is me on a combine. It was awesome.|
Technology and scientific advancement needs to be learned about, not feared. There's a lot of talk of GMOs, pesticides, and other chemicals these days. While it is important to be educated on these topics, I think we need to make more room for farmers to explain their processes before we freak out. A lot of GMOs allow farmers to use less chemicals. The row crop farmer we talked to, Trent, said they use less than a quart of many herbicides and pesticides on their land per acre; most of what you see being sprayed on a field is water. The dairy farmer explained how the hormones they use to help cows produce more milk are already present in cow's bodies; they aren't mutant-juice created in a lab, and there's no detectable difference in the milk. Take time to learn about these issues, but try to hear from a real farmer, too. The media can make things seem scary when, in reality, they aren't. Farmers and their families eat their produce, too; they aren't just faceless corporate farms trying to make a profit. Learn from them!
|Mr. Cribbs (in the green hat) teaching us the ways of beef farming|
Do any of you have ancestors that were farmers back in the day? What were your ideas of farmers and farming before this post? Have you ever gotten the chance to go to a farm or talk to a farmer about his work?
I learned far too much to include in this post, so if you have questions, feel free to ask! We can find answers together!
For more learning, check out these sites:
Growing a Nation: The Story of American Agriculture
1941 Agriculture Video
Missouri Farm Bureau website