By Charlyn Fargo
Farmers have a message for consumers: Food from a farm is not only safe, but great.
It’s a burning issue in the agriculture world – getting that message out that U.S. agriculture produces the best food in the world.
All over the country – on websites and in person – farmers are telling their stories. You can see hear it from dairy farmers on Midwestdairy.com. You can hear it from farmers nationwide at www.americasfarmers.com/meet-the-families or from Illinois farmers at www.watchusgrow.org.
Farmers are putting their pictures and the way they farm online to show they are real people, and their own families eat the food they produce.
The goal is to show that food from farms is the best you can find.
“I grew up on a family farm in southern Michigan,” said Michele Payn-Knoper, author of “No More Food Fight” and a speaker at a recent Retail Dietitian Business Alliance symposium in Nashville, Tenn., that I recently attended. “My family farm no longer exists – lost to a bankruptcy – but I’m still passionate and involved in agriculture.”
Charlotte Romereim, a farmer’s wife, former Home Ec teacher and registered dietitian from South Dakota, tells a similar story. She and her husband raise hogs from farrow to finish.
“My husband is raising food to feed people,” said Romereim. “I’m about teaching people to eat well. You don’t do what we do – day in, day out – unless you love animals. A farmer who raises livestock wants to care for them. We do that using the very best technology we have. The National Pork Board does all kinds of studies to find out what provides the most comfort for the animals we raise.”
South Dakota winters can be brutal. But their hogs don’t know that.
The Romereim’s keep their hogs in climate- controlled facilities. “To do anything but take great care of our hogs is self-defeating. The healthy, comfortable animals gives us the best return on our investment.”
Her family has been farming for the past 141 years.
“That’s the definition of sustainability,” she said. “Our farming practices are based on protecting the top soil. Sustainability means protecting the land for future generations. It’s not just about the environment; it’s about sustaining the family business.”
Over time, she’s seen a demand for leaner meat, with pork becoming 16 percent less fat and 27 percent less saturated fat since 1959.
She feels antibiotic use is misunderstood by most people.
“We use an antibiotic maybe one time for three days,” said Romereim. “They’re expensive, so it’s not something we’re going to overuse. As of January 2016, all antibiotics in food and water will have to have a veterinary oversight. Before that animal goes to market, it has to have a withdrawal time so there is no residue in the meat. You can be assured of that.”
She sees an increased need for transparency by farmers.
“We invite people to our farms – we are telling our story as loud as we can because farmers are only 1.5 percent of the population now. We want you to remember the people behind the plate.”