Farmers & diet

LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin
edited August 2021 in Other News

It is not just about time. It is also about management and choices. Seeding & harvest is usually non-stop, but contrary to what these folks claim, you can still farm and eat well.

I wonder if farmers have got so far away from traditional farming (needing to farm more than they should be doing to try to pay spray & new equipment bills) that this is why poor choices are actually made. It really comes down to poor management which leads to further poor choices.


  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I agree that the support network, in the form of a wife, mother, or other family member, is essential to the farmer being able to eat healthy.

    Of course, this also applies to the long-hours urban professional. He may have more money to use on restaurants or other forms of outsourcing, but to consistently able to eat healthy, he needs to be able to come home to a home-cooked meal.

    It makes me angry to read about farmers, or farmers' spouses, needing to work another job off the farm to make ends meet. That's just wrong. Farming should be able to pay a living wage to those who practice it full time.

    I fear that all too many farmers have turned themselves into quasi-employees of big agribusiness forms, but getting none of the benefits of being an employee and all of the downside, such as lower earnings than business owners and lack of control over their own schedule.

    Hopefully we are seeing early signs of change.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2021

    I understand being so busy and long hours making you want to cut corners anywhere you can and that usually is eating, meal planning and nutrition get hit first. But a good farmer would never put junk oil or parts on his farm equipment so maybe a change of thought needs to happen. Make sure you feed the family well and enjoy your fresh farm produce. maybe one day where you partially cook and plan meals that go together fast?

    And yes, wives and often husbands have to have another job to make ends meet. But possibly changing thoughts there would help to. Many farmers use all the chemicals, large row planting to get expensive tractors through. Costs would go down if soil were not so depleted and chemicals cut back on or not used. That is a totally different plan than is being used in farming today. Most farm plans and help are set up for the big farmer.

    I live in a rust belt where most farms have shut down but I grew up near two farmers that actually made very good money. And they did not farm like the other neighbors.

    Farming is tough, hard and unpredictable but we need farms. Our area is suffering due to to much rain. They just released a article today where certain crops are starting to rot in fields.

    Maybe a local farm organization that helps farmers in certain areas of therir beusiness and farm stressing the importance of nutrition and time management? How to prepare for the unexpected. As our times change we need people who produce and are successful. Plus its a great life in so many ways.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie "Make sure you feed the family well and enjoy your fresh farm produce."

    Many farmers don't have any "farm fresh produce". They are growing industrial-sized cash crops. If you grow field corn", you can't eat it without running it through industrial processes like those that extract HFCS, or feeding it to animals and then eating the animals.

    The old model of the diversified farm was replaced by the CAFO and the monoculture of field corn and soybeans. Farming areas can now be food deserts!

    This is only beginning to change, and we have a long way to go.

  • JodieDownUnder
    JodieDownUnder Posts: 1,482 admin

    @LaurieLovesLearning A very interesting topic and article and so true. It is about choices, time management. Generally people get lazy and you can put whatever kind of spin on that you like but most go for the easy option. I firmly believe that nutrition should be on all school’s curriculum, without a doubt, country and city.

    There are definitely people out there who should NOT be farmers. Are not prepared to change the way they do things, or get more education to change the way they think. “ my father and his father before him have done it this way and that’s what I’m doing to” is a common saying.

    There are also farmers out there who embrace change, use more technology and are farmers for the future. There is certainly a push for growing healthier foods and crops, using less or no chemicals and consuming what they are selling to informed customers.

    In a traditional farming setup, the following has most likely occurred.

    Women have and are not held in the important high regard that they should. Mostly they have been the home makers, cooks, medicine women, milkers, gardeners etc. Then husband makes poor management choices and money is running low, then suggests that she should get a job in town to help with the farm economy, all of that family structure starts to fall apart and home cooking and growing food is a very large part of that. These are my observations from when I lived in a farming community.

  • AdrienneHew
    AdrienneHew Posts: 94 ✭✭✭
    edited August 2021

    I often lament this when I go to new farms. There always seems to be some highly processed junk in the fridge alongside the food they raise and sell to customers. I think it's important to recognize different categories of farmers. There are those who are stuck in the industrial trap and those for whom it's a labor of love.

    Back in NJ, there was a woman who was bragging that her son liked farming with grandpa because they just rode in the tractor eating snacks. Personally, I like to see farmers with dirt under their nails.... at least while at work.

    There is also the fact that even some farmers and health enthusiasts erroneously believe that "eating healthy" is boring or otherwise not as satisfying, so even if they do eat some of what they raise, they still rely on dubious pre-made mixes and sauces for "flavor". Even worse, some believe that anything in a package is more nutritionally balanced than food straight from the ground. No doubt our soils are largely depleted from bad practices over the years, but obviously most stuff off of supermarket shelves is little more than calories.

    As you all say, planning is important and not so hard to do in the age of InstantPots, VitaClays, shabbat settings on ovens etc. This all gives me ideas for blog content.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin

    I should add that if the feed corn is gmo, which the majority is, they have put something into it (I don't remember offhand...a bacteria?) that is meant to eat holes in the stomach/digestive system of the corn borer.

    There is a local farmer here who did snack on his corn from his field. He wound up in the hospital with a hole in his stomach. So, it isn't always advisable to eat right out of the field. He said that if it did that to him, he wasn't too sure that he wanted to keep feeding it to his cattle.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2021

    @VermontCathy My relatives in Georgia have a combination large crop, all industrial, and farm stand produce. Unfortunately to fit into the government programs all his crops are over sprayed, even farm stand. I don't get anything from his stand when I am there and his soil is ruined.

    @LaurieLovesLearning I pretty much stay away from all corn and only use heirloom seed if I do grow any and usually dent corn. And if you have a good corn you have to worry about cross pollination with other corn in the area. It one of those crops that seem to be ruined now-a-days

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie "To fit in the government programs..."

    Well, there's his mistake.

    I understand the temptation. The government programs are set up to push farmers into growing certain crops in certain ways. But once you decide to accept that money, you cannot make your own decisions any more, even when it causes your farm to fail.

    In the book _The Omnivore's Dilemma_ by Michael Pollan, the author interviews farmer George Naylor, who grows field corn industrial-style in Iowa. Naylor complains about how hard it is to make money growing corn, how his wife has to hold an office job to make ends meet, and so on.

    But when Pollan asks Naylor why he doesn't switch from corn to something else more profitable, he replies, "What am I going to grow here, broccoli? Lettuce? We've got a long-term investment in growing corn and soybeans; the [grain] elevator is the only buyer in town, and the elevator only pays me for corn and soybeans." No hint of looking to other customers in other markets, or figuring out what might be more profitable. Naylor doesn't want to do marketing or sales; he just wants to grown corn. And today, that's a recipe for failure.

    If you look at the farms today that are most profitable, they tend to be modest-sized and highly diversified, like Joel Salatin's Polyface Farm. They produce the crops that make the most money, not what the government urges them to grow. They sell as nearly direct to consumers as possible, whether through sales on the farm, farmer's markets, local restaurants, metropolitan buying clubs, and so forth. And they eschew government subsidies.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @VermontCathy Unfortunately several generations have been trained to sign up for the programs and automatically do it. I am totally against them myself but try to reason with a family that has done it for 50 plus years and it falls on death ears, especially if they make very good money.

    Many years ago they offered what they call a green and clean program here. Basically they offered to pay you not to farm. Many people jumped right on that band wagon even if thye never planned to farm. They contacted my mother and father and they wanted nothing to do with it, even if they had no intention of farming the land. My father, "Why take money for something you don't plan to do?" Later if you planned to sell ther land, most of that money had top be paid back.

    More farms like Joels would encourage people to take a chance and try a new idea or approach. Even very small urban farms are successful. Its just realizing you can try something new and succeed.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin

    @Monek Marie @VermontCathy One of the other issues is that the youth, still impressionable & right out of highschool, are trained by big ag in the colleges and taught their way of farming, complete with incentives like scholarships and the like. They graduate with "new knowledge" & technology that makes them dependent on these same companies in their style of farming.

    It is really crooked if you consider it.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin

    @Monek Marie @VermontCathy One of the other issues is that the youth, still impressionable & right out of highschool, are trained by big ag in the colleges and taught their way of farming, complete with incentives like scholarships and the like. They graduate with "new knowledge" & technology that makes them dependent on these same companies in their style of farming. It is really crooked if you consider it. It is self-perpetuating and it is hard to leave that indoctrination.

    Most farms now also operate on debt. Because its believed that you can't pass the land on to a child when there is "no money" in farming, many don't even bother to offer it to the children. The children often have no interest in the resulting overly stressful life & high debt that they saw anyway.

    So, that farmer continues to live his debt & stress filled life, planning to pay off that debt in the end by selling it all for a high price. They will either sell the land to the highest bidder but continue to live on the yardsite, or sell completely & move away.

    This is how it works here and we see it everywhere.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2021

    Sadly, I think the future of sustainable, profitable, small-scale farming in North America will not be found among the children of the previous generation of farmers, but a new generation who come into farming from non-traditional routes.

    They won't have degrees in ag. Instead, they'll be self-taught, and participate in groups like TGN.

    They won't look to the government or Big Ag to tell them how to farm. They will use organic, local, sustainable techniques along the lines of Rodale.

    They will be good at marketing and sales, not just growing crops.

    Many won't own much land, but will lease it.

    They will earn enough to make a living, but won't earn big money.

    I've seen some farms like this myself, so I know they exist. Most are much smaller than Polyface.

    Of course, Big Ag won't go away. I expect that eventually Big Ag will actually own a lot of farmland itself or hold it on long-term lease from absentee landlords, and the work will be done with underpaid low-skill labor. The farm managers in charge will have those ag degrees, but they'll be outright employees of large companies, and there won't be many of them. The parent companies will be outfits like Cargill or AGM.

    The day of the family-owned, profitable, independent farm that makes its living selling commodity crops grown with industrial techniques to Big Ag on land that the family owns is passing. I don't expect it to survive into the next generation.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,535 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Yes, this is what happened in our area. All ther farms are rotting in to the ground. And like you said, the younger wanna be farmers are taught the new way of farming, high cost, lower yield and debt. Its too easy to be lured into government programs, which really do not help.

    Its up to the brave (or smart) to show them a better way.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie The "smart" part doesn't get as much attention as it deserves.

    Joel Salatin has said, "Part of the problem is, you've got a lot of D students left on the farm today. The guidance counselors encouraged all the A students to leave home and go to college. There's been a tremendous brain drain in rural America."

    I believe we've reached the end of the "everybody must go to college" road. There aren't enough jobs out there that require a college education and pay enough to justify the ridiculously expensive price that a 4-year college degree now requires.

    This may actually benefit career paths like farming, where smart people who don't want a huge college debt to pay off by working at Starbucks consider other life paths instead. Modern management-intensive farming techniques are going to require more brains that the hypothetical "D" student brings to the table.

  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,354 admin

    If farmers "eat like crap" it is their own choosing. We ate like kings growing up on the farm! Of course, that requires intact families. Mothers and grandmothers cooking.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,505 admin

    Our immediate area doesn't easily fit into a large industrial agriculture. The land isn't flat enough and is heavily forested. But we do have some good sized family operated market gardens in the river valleys. And some pretty big ranches which are mostly open range. There are still cattle drives in the spring and fall, pushing them out to range and then bringing them back in to winter feeding pastures.

    That's not to say that some of them aren't using sprays, pesticides or herbicides. It is easy to be lured in by the promise of less labour intensive farming with fancy equipment.

    However, the idea that farmers are so overworked that they can't eat properly is indeed a matter of time management and personal choice. It is possible to choose good snack foods. The guy in the article who is eating Doritos and M&M's admits that it is mostly because of bad habits developed earlier in life. Its not just farmers that have bad habits. We must educate our children on nutrition and how to choose the right fuels for our bodies. Our education system is failing our children in that respect. One of my nieces (she was about 8 at the time) refused to eat a carrot from our garden, even after it had been washed, because it came from the dirt. She didn't know and hadn't been taught that grocery store carrots are grown in dirt. Same for pork. She didn't know that that bacon came from a pig.

    Its a vicious cycle. Big ag convinces farmers to industrialize so they can supply more product to the processors of crap food (mostly corn in the form of Doritos), and then tells them its OK to consume that crap food.

  • nicksamanda11
    nicksamanda11 Posts: 721 ✭✭✭✭

    I have noticed several farms i go to have all kinds of junk food laying around too. So weird.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    I can relate. Since I moved to a more rural area and took on so many more farming projects I feel like I’ve eaten more junk than ever before in my life. I have so much cooking to do, and I’m so tired! I started working part time, and my husband started buying frozen pizzas instead of learning to cook for our kids. It’s frustrating. I’m teaching my kids to bake bread and help with some of this, but it’s more challenging than I thought it would be, that’s for sure. It’s easy to eat a healthy organic diet when you live right by Whole Foods and have a city income. BUT- we are eating our eggs, our produce, and eventually we’ll find our groove again.

  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,920 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella "It’s easy to eat a healthy organic diet when you live right by Whole Foods and have a city income."

    I'm going to respectfully disagree with this on several counts.

    First, Whole Foods is unnecessary. You can get plenty of healthy food from other sources. In fact, you will probably end up eating more"organic" processed food if you shop Whole Foods regularly.

    Next, buying organic ingredients (raw vegetables, fruit, whole meats, etc.) and cooking meals from scratch should not be significantly more expensive than buying processed foods such as salty snacks, snack bars, salad premix, premade burger patties, and do forth. The key to keeping cost down is to buy your food ingredients as close as possible to what comes off the farm. Don't pay for convenience.

    Third, while buying organic when possible is a good goal, I eat plenty of conventionally grown vegetables and fruits. You can eat a relatively healthy diet based on raw conventionally grown vegetables, especially if you go organic for the few vegetables that carry the biggest pesticide load when grown conventionally, such as potatoes.

    If you're not already eating a mostly from-scratch home-cooked diet, worrying about organic is getting ahead of yourself and setting up unnecessary barriers to eating healthier.

    The real barriers to eating healthy in North America today are lack of cooking and food prep skills, lack of time because of longer working hours and the breakdown of the family organization that used to split tasks among multiple people in the household, and food deserts where it is difficult to purchase raw, unprocessed food ingredients.

    Consider that in many places in the world, the poor eat a healthy diet despite their lack of income.

    To overcome this in the developed world takes time, effort, prioritization, skills, and some discipline, and division of labor among the family.

    I certainly don't do a perfect job, and I make compromises that I should not, but it's a journey and every day is new.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    Ok I read that post right before breakfast and it motivated me tons. I cut up a homegrown melon, seasoned pork from our pigs to make breakfast sausage, fried up eggs from the guinea hens, and served fried slices of bottle gourd for the first time. So not a weight loss meal, but home cooked and healthy!

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin
    edited August 2021

    @Megan Venturella I beg to differ with your breakfast post...but in a good way. I believe it is a healthy & could be considered a weight loss meal. Let me explain briefly.

    You served homegrown. You didn't serve additive-laden processed food that your body has no idea how to deal with. Its easily digested being real food. It is also balanced.

    The key as well is to not pig out (I guess my pun may be accidentally intended, haha). A great rule of thumb is the first time you put down your fork, you are done. You don't have to keep eating because the taste is enticing. There is a very subtle "I'm done!" signal that a body gives and you know what/when it is if you pay attention.

    Cultures, such as the French, eat rich foods. The key is to keep portions smaller and eat just enough, not until you are stuffed to the gills (wherever that phrase comes from, lol) like North Americans have a habit of doing.

    So, you should not feel any guilt whatsoever. A job well done!

    I think that I need to stop by for breakfast sometime. 😋

    @VermontCathy We don't eat as organic as I would prefer either. Our current (no chemical except drift from farmers' fields) garden, especially in the current drought conditions, isn't producing as much as it is capable of and so we need to heavily supplement with store bought. Organic farmers market produce is priced way beyond what we can afford.

    Considering that farm chemicals are a foreign substance to the body, those will certainly contribute to an unhealthy body & will do damage in so many ways.

    Ideally, homegrown organic is best to mitigate the damage & promote healing & a healthy body & mind. But as you said, you do the best you can with what you have. You keep on this mindset, changing/improving as you can. You make your choices carefully and with purpose. It can be done if you determine for yourself that it is important.

    But, I am preaching to the choir. You have good advice above.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin

    @Megan Venturella I should also add that it is great that you are teaching your kids to cook/bake. One of my goals was to make sure our boys & girls alike could bake & cook pretty much everything from scratch before they left home. They know how to handle knives properly and know stove, oven & appliance safety. They also know how to tell what spices fit with what foods by smell. The oldest 2 can already cook & bake by taste, scent & "feel" and don't always need measuring tools.

    I have 2 that are fully capable and a third is well on his way. He even will create his own recipes or try from memory sometimes. The others are learning as they go & take the initiative sometimes on things like breakfast or a very simple meal.

    One question that I ask after a while is, "have you made this before?" If the answer is no or I don't think so, well, it's the perfect time to try it. Sometimes I ask if they have any ideas for a meal. They need to learn to think too. If we have very little to use, I encourage creativity & resourcefulness. They will need that skill in lean times.

    You will get them trained. It is a life skill so many don't have. Keep at it. Some days it will be helpful, other days it will be frustrating, but you know that in the end, you will have done your best by them.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    @LaurieLovesLearning Thanks for the encouragement! It’s easier to try to do it all instead of taking the time to watch my kids struggle through it, but I know that in the long term my kids need those skills. If we can’t cook it, what’s the point in growing it, right?

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    I can only imagine what a hassle it must be to get regular meals let alone healthy ones. During potato harvest season I often see the potato harvester tractors with lights on bringing in the harvest long after dark.

    By contrast, I have only worked on a local family owned and run apple farm as an apple packer. We worked pretty much regular office hours and we always got a lunch break, (with the benefit of an apple for snack) with the farmers blessing. Really nice place to work.

  • karenjanicki
    karenjanicki Posts: 947 ✭✭✭✭

    Unfortunately I think the majority of farmers are growing cash crops on industrial scales such as corn or soy. They aren't really focused on produce. They are also likely insanely busy and just like most people will grab what's quick and easy. When I was younger I worked at a donut factory. It was great at first but eventually I couldn't stand the sight or smell of them. Perhaps farmers feel the same way about the plants they grow day in and day out especially when they know they are spraying them with toxic pesticides.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,358 admin

    @karenjanicki Most farmers I know in my immediate area aren't growing edibles that you could eat from the fields. It's canola, malting barley (for fuel), soy, feed corn for silage, wheat. On occasion you may see oats or flax, but they don't bring in the cash like those other crops do. There are a few potato farms a 15 minute drive away where the land is more suited to it, and you need to drive even further to possibly see veggie crops of any sort. Those are not common.

    Most who farm conventionally are either convinced the sprays do no or little harm (especially the herbicides &, maybe pesticides might be harmful). It's either that or they feel that it is a necessary evil and they still have to use them to have a clean field or more of a yield (false, but what they are told).

    Usually, the owners are stressed and the workers are more stressed. They get the nastier jobs and longer hours.

    I don't know that the farmers get sick of the crops. Most crops just aren't readily edible.

    I knew two people who worked at a donut shop. One was a baker, the other a server/cashier. They said the same thing as you.