Growing Food: The Truth, The Way, The Life…

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had the opportunity to expand my perspective by interacting with some new and wonderful people.  It is experiences like these that allow me to broaden my spectrum and think critically about my farm.

There

Understanding them is critical to providing quality and appropriate welfare…Being about to articulate all of the things that go into that understanding and care is even more challenging.

Have you ever tried to explain your life’s passion to someone that you have never met?  Can you greet strangers who share different food philosophies and find common ground and respect?  If you can, what results is a beautiful sharing of ideas and a cascade of personal growth.

Today, I would like to introduce all of you to John Suscovich of Connecticut.  In 2011, John and his wife Kate left their jobs in New York City and journeyed 5500 miles across the United States from NY to Seattle to San Diego on their bicycles in order to learn about family farms.

John and Kate...

John and Kate on their trek…

John followed his passion as he ventured across the United States gaining knowledge about farming, so that he could return to Connecticut and live out his dream.  John and Kate personify the American Way and I have so much respect for what they have done.

John, at work on a CSA...

John, at work on a CSA…

  • Many of you Feed Yard Foodie followers have a slow foods philosophy:  You grow some of your own food, try to locally source the food that you do not grow, and have reservations about modern food production systems.
  • Many of you are also curious about how a feed yard operates even though it is a modern food production system.
  • Each one of you gives of your precious time to try to understand the perspective of this cattle feed yard boss lady.

    You all motivate to always do my best...

    You all motivate to always do my best…

I want all of you to know how much that truly touches my heart.  I understand the leap of faith that each one of you has taken and I am humbly grateful.  Your quiet respect and interest gives me hope, and compels me to achieve excellence with every passing day.

I have to admit that he is ahead of me on this one--I've never ridden a bovine...

I have to admit that John is ahead of me on this one–I prefer my quarter horse!

John is currently building his own pasture-raised chicken and herb CSA farm.  At the same time, he is recording weekly podcasts about farming to help others to gain the needed knowledge to be able to begin a life in agriculture.  A couple of weeks ago, John asked me to participate in a podcast.

The slow foods CSA farmer meets the cattle feed yard boss lady…

It proved to be a meeting of minds, and an incredibly rewarding experience.  I hope that each of you will take an hour out of your busy lives to listen to John and I as we search for common ground and talk about what it takes to grow food. Click on the link below to go directly to the podcast.

http://www.farmmarketingsolutions.com/?powerpress_embed=552-podcast&powerpress_player=default

Or click on this link to see both the written introduction and the podcast.

http://www.farmmarketingsolutions.com/gfp-007-anne-burkholder-of-will-feed-traveling-outside-your-comfort-zone-to-gain-perspective-and-reduce-stress/

12 Comments

Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", Foodie Work!, General

12 responses to “Growing Food: The Truth, The Way, The Life…

  1. I really, really think we’re missing an important mark in all the confusion out there. Too many generations are growing up with grocery store lives, falling prey to the subject of the junk being put into food by the time they bring it home. Solid lines need to be drawn, to educate the public about just exactly where that’s happening. I think it would provide a LOT of healing and double the support from consumers. I think it could lead to a strong change in more of the price being put into the hands of the farmer/rancher – as it should be. If the middle man that adds the junk into all the food could be taken out of the purchasing power – folks would be more favorable to paying worthy prices directly to farmers/ranchers. Personally – I resent the fact that I am not allowed to go to any farm or ranch to purchase my food. Why should I be forced to buy groceries at a store – after all my food has been ‘ messed ‘ with ?? It’s the very reason why my husband and I have taken the direction we’re headed.

    • I think that you make a good point relative to food production: every American should have a choice as to what they purchase/cook/feed to themselves and their families. There is most certainly an “educational” component involved relative to “how is your food grown”, and I think that the current trend is toward more transparency.

      It is my opinion that (especially in regards to beef), federal inspection and shipping regulations play the largest role in reducing choices relative to food purchasing. The regulations are very cumbersome and make it incredibly difficult to have a unique and smaller scale farm that caters to a more personal market. If (as a farmer) you happen to live in an area that is fairly urban, then shipping becomes less of an issue–when you live in rural Nebraska it is a big hurdle!

      Thanks for sharing and reading–
      Anne

  2. I listened to your podcast, which was great to hear. I grew up in PA and got involved in AG through 4-H and showing cattle. As I sit here at school (Purdue) I had some questions the other day about why anybody would want to be a farmer. I really appreciate your post here because I see the take away message as anyone can be a part of AG and learn how their food is grown (especially through your blog). What would you say to kids who want to grow up and have nothing to do with farming not even realizing everything folks like you do?

    -Zach

    • Hi Zach,

      Thanks so much for reading and listening! It’s great to hear from you.

      When my husband left Nebraska for college in the North East, he had no intention of ever returning home to farm. His attitude changed sometime during college–quite honestly, as he matured as a person he realized all of the positives of living in rural America and developed a desire to work for himself. There are not very many farmers of our age group (we are 40ish) because the markets were terrible and everyone was loosing money when we decided to move back home. (There was no economic incentive to farm so farm kids were leaving and not returning.) There have been some rough years, but Matt and I have figured out how to be financially viable over the long run and we love the life that we have chosen.

      The big thing about farming is that it is hard work with long hours and you are not likely to get rich doing it. I believe that it takes a special type of person to make a life of farming–someone who is in love with the lifestyle, wants to work with their hands to use God’s natural resources to grow things, and who is committed in the long term and realizes that there will be enormous financial and weather related challenges along the way. A relatively newly added hurdle is the drastic increase in necessary capital required to farm. When we moved back in 1997, the cost or the cash needed to have a farm was significantly less than what it is today—everything just plain costs more. From input costs, to capital improvement costs, to management costs due to ever increasing federal regulations—the cost of doing business has risen astoundingly.

      As for folks that have no background in agriculture and also no desire to understand it–that makes for an incredibly complex problem. With less than 2% of the population involved in farming, that leaves a large number of people who are not educated about “where food comes from”. I feel as I though I can put the information of how I grow beef and care for cattle on the internet, but it is people’s choices as to whether or not they want to read it and educate themselves. There is an old adage which states: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” I have to accept that, even though it concerns me that the gap that exists between folks who grow food and folks who purchase it is getting so large that the entire picture of “where your food comes from” is easily distorted by special interest groups. This is a huge challenge—and one that we have to find a way to fix. Good farming practices are not sensational, and not likely to hit the front page of any popular news report. I don’t think that I have a good answer yet on how to fix this one, but I can tell you that I think about it a lot.

      Do you have any thoughts relative to this?

      Anne

      • Anne,

        I never thought of it like this. I was able to serve as the Pennsylvania Beef Ambassador this past year. Sadly, my term is coming to an end, but I have been working hard to continue to learn how to agvocate for the industry in the best way possible. It makes sense to think about it that way. Right now I am really struggling with consumers who complain about something they view as a problem in agriculture, but are not willing to even discuss or have the drive to learn more about their concerns (most of these are students here at school). One of the things I am trying to work on is a personal struggle of realizing that there is an immovable part of society and a movable middle, which is where we can make the most gains.

        -Zach

  3. Zach,

    It is a great experience for you to be the Beef Ambassador for the state this year–I am sure that you have learned many important “life skills”. One of the things that I learned pretty early on was that a conversation is always two sided. If it isn’t two sided, then it isn’t a conversation. If it isn’t a conversation, then there is no learning or interaction that leads to learning. Someone really smart told me one time, “Listen to understand, rather than to respond.” There is a nugget of gold in that advice and all of us could improve our lives if we could just do that one thing well—

    Quite honestly, that is why I am always so excited to do posts like this one. John and I had a great conversation and we learned from each other! We are different, yet we share many of the same ideals and goals. Visiting with each other and really listening to each other is what enables us to achieve personal growth.

    You are right that there is a segment of society that is “immovable” (there’s actually probably more than one!), but there are still a large number of people that want to understand and learn. I want to be one of those people– And, I want to reach out to people who share that desire with me. In order to do that, I have to go outside of my comfort zone. When John first contacted me, I was doubtful that he sincerely wanted to do a podcast with me (the manager of a cattle feed yard). I was so excited when I figured out that he genuinely respected me and wanted to visit. The beauty of social media is that we can connect when there is a desire, even when we live thousands of miles apart.

    Keep on learning and keep on listening—your savvy will continue to grow. Thank you so much for all of your efforts. You are the future of this industry that I love so much.

    Anne

  4. I think the connections that you are making are rich. I also believe in choices but in informed choices. It amazes me how many people don’t know where food does come from. It amazes me how many people make food claims without knowing food facts. It is called agri-culture for a reason and that is for the incredible sense of connection to the land and each other that comes from the work that you are doing.

    • Tammy,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. You are correct, there is a certain “culture” that exists amongst us farmers and can certainly bring us all together even though we may use different production practices. I truly love to hear about the different ways that farmers operate and are successful. It gives me ideas of different things that I can try.

      You are also correct that making “educated” food choices is important. One of the reasons that I created this site was to try and provide education relative to beef production to those folks that are interested in learning. I have been amazed at how much I have learned along the way from my readers.

      All the best,
      Anne

  5. i know that i have tried to explain agriculture and farming to people who dont get it and i have just given up with these people because they are set in ways not going to change…but i love telling people hey this where you food comes from and thank the farmers and ranchers who provide it. the people i work hard explain about are friends of cousins and it just make sad to think that this where our world heading more and more agruements and i want to be agriculture but it wont always be. i have a passion for agriculture and think it just requires more people knowing our story and feeling connected to where there food comes from. 🙂

    • It’s great to hear from you! I am glad to see that you signed up to follow the blog. I agree that it is really fun to share your own story of growing food. I love to talk about what I do everyday. It is in sharing that we learn from each other—and it is through respectful conversation that we move forward in a positive way.

      You never know what you will learn from someone who does not thing exactly the same way that you do!

      All the best,
      Anne

  6. I have always had a farmer’s heart but I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had my hands in the dirt, but there was nowhere to grow. When I met my fiance, I finally got to be a part of the farming world and my eyes were opened.
    I think so many people miss what goes on “behind the scenes” of retail grocery. Meat comes in a vacuum pack, ready to cook. Nobody questions it. And if you mention where it comes from, they practically turn green! It is hard to believe that we are so disconnected from our food.
    When I tell people that my fiance and I have beef cattle, they always ask, “Do you actually kill them?” and if we answer yes, the next question is inevitably, “How can you do that?” It just makes me wonder about where they think THEIR beef comes from, the beef factory?
    At any rate, it’s great to see someone like you speaking out for people like us. Thank you.

    • Hi Jackie,

      Thanks so much for reading and sending me a note! I love to hear from folks, and it is always great to know that I have touched someone’s life. You are blessed to be “marrying” into the beef industry–I love the life that my husband and I have made in Nebraska raising crops and cattle. It is a beautiful way to raise and family, and an emotionally rewarding career/lifestyle.

      You are correct, there is a huge disconnect between farmers who grow the food and then our customers who eat what we grow. It is a tremendous challenge for all of us, and I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to fix it. Interestingly, 20 years ago when I met my husband this disconnect was just beginning—people were beginning to not understand food production, but they still trusted farmers and the production system. Today, there is not only a lack of knowledge but there is also a lack of trust. I find this very disturbing and this is what inspired me to start my blog. I feel that it is my job to let people know how I care for cattle and raise beef–if they choose to read, Great! If they do not, then that is their choice. I pray that those of us that are farming and actively involved in food production will effectively rebuild trust with our customers, as that plays a key role in our future sustainability.

      I hope that you will continue to read and follow. Please feel free to send me thoughts and ideas relative to this important conversation!

      All the best,
      Anne

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