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Monday, May 24, 2010

Ag on the Western Cape

“Goeie More” or Hello from South Africa! For the past 5 days I explored and adventured abroad in the Cape Town countryside learning about foreign agriculture and animal science. My first day in Cape Town I strolled the streets of Stellenbosch, did some shopping, wine tasting and visited a Hereford farm. Unlike the U.S., very few Angus were raised in this area. The farmers consider them too wild, therefore there are thousands of Herefords and indigenous breeds roaming the African plains. Lamb and wool production are also quite prevalent here. However, farmers don’t choose to produce only one of the commodities. They raise a breed called Dohne-Merino which is a dual-purpose breed for the production of high quality wool and meat.


 
Days 2-5 consisted of viewing Nguni cattle (pictured above), going on a springbok hunt, climbing Table Mountain and getting soaked by the waves on the shores of the Cape of Good Hope. All of these experiences have been priceless but being ]in Cape Town has also opened my eyes to the blessings we have as American citizens. I won’t ramble on and on but I will briefly summarize some disadvantages of being a farmer in South Africa:
  • South African farmers receive absolutely no subsidies – regardless of crop or specie produced. This aspect leaves them without a cushion and unprotected from volatile markets. 
  • On a good year South African farmers are able to produce almost enough food to feed their country. This is a country that is 2x the size of Texas but has only 12% arable land for crop production. They very rarely have any surplus to export unlike the United States which exports foodstuffs to almost every country in the world. 
  • The average rainfall in South Africa is only 492 mm (19.62 inches). However, parts of the Western Cape receive less than 10 inches per year. Compare that to an average rainfall of 17 inches in western KS and 40 inches in southeast Kansas and you have an idea of what South African farmers are dealing with. 
  • A new practice being put into place by the government is redistribution of farmland from large farms to inexperienced farmers to help them become productive members of the industry. This process is similar to eminent domain in the U.S. however, the land being redistributed (40% of each farm) is not being purchased at a fair price. This government action has caused several farmers to move to the northern countries of Africa or to sell their farms completely to avoid having 40% purchased for meager prices.
These are daily tribulations that farmers in South Africa must endure to feed their families and stay in business. It’s important to look at other agricultural situations so that we don’t lose sight of the fact that we are the most agriculturally productive country in the world.

 
Until next time
~Buzzard~

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Food, Inc. Follow Up


Last month I blogged about My Reactions to Food, Inc.. In a nutshell, I thought the movie was a clearly biased attempt to push a food agenda that portrayed farmers and ranchers in an unfair light in the process.

After Food, Inc. was played on Kansas Public TV earlier this month, a locally-produced round table titled “Taking Stock: Perspectives on Food Production in Kansas”, was aired to gain a Kansas perspective on the movie and issues it presented. Panelists included:

Josh Svaty, Kansas Secretary of Agriculture

Steve Baccus, president of the Kansas Farm Bureau

Dan Nagengast, director of the Kansas Rural Center

Mark Smith, president of the Kansas Livestock Association

Diana Endicott, coordinator of a cooperative called “Good Natured Family Farms”

John Carlin, former Kansas governor and visiting professor in the political science department at K-State.

The program is hosted by Kelly Lenz, Kansas Agriculture Network Farm Director, AM 580 WIBW radio. You can watch this YouTube video for a preview or follow the directions below to view the entire program.

Click here for the YouTube Video preview.

You can also view the entire program for free on iTunes. Go to the iTunes Store. Select iTunesU. Look under “Beyond Campus” for KTWU’s programs. Then select “Taking Stock.”

Enjoy!

Chelsea

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tailgate Lectures: A New Language


“Simbaws! C’mon cows, simbaws! Tera run down by the windmill around that drawl and round up that last mamma!”

Working the cows with my family is always a fun experience. First off, it is always a big production, everyone gets involved, and we always had bets placed on the new words that would fly out of Grandpa’s mouth. Nobody really knows what the word, “simbaws” means or how to spell it for that matter, but my brother and I have a pretty good idea of what the “drawl” in our south pasture is. My grandpa’s language was definitely one of a kind!

Now, there is another language in production agriculture that can be pretty hard for consumers to understand. Walking down the meat aisle at the grocery store got me to thinking about how people are expected to understand what this food language really means. At least our meat choices aren’t labeled with words like, “simbaws” but some of them don’t seem any better!

These are some common labels found on meat products that are recognized and defined by the USDA. There is an Agricultural Marketing Service department of the USDA and they take care of this language:

NATURAL:

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. The label must also explain the use of this label. For example, if the product does not include added color that is what must be stated in the label.

NO HORMONES:

The term "no hormones administered" may be approved for use on the label of beef products if sufficient documentation is provided to the Agency by the producer showing no hormones have been used in raising the animals. This label cannot be used on pork or poultry products because the use of hormones are not allowed with those two species.

KOSHER:

"Kosher" may be used only on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under Rabbinical supervision.

FREE RANGE or FREE ROAMING:

Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to an outside environment.

CHEMICAL FREE:

The term is not allowed to be used on a label.

ORGANIC:

This is a whole new blog topic! If you’d like to learn more about this program, please refer to these factsheets put out by the USDA. 


I would like to point out that while food is often placed in a category with these labels that explain different production practices, it does not change the nutritional value of the product. Organic beef is just as healthy as conventionally produced beef. Kosher poultry has no nutritional differences from free range poultry. If you ever have questions about food labels, the USDA is a great source of information.


 - Tera Rooney

Friday, May 7, 2010

Preserve the Locals

On a recent trip to Fort Collins, CO for a research trial, I stopped in to La Luz, a local restaurant specializing in fresh Mexican food with a kick.  While standing in line and trying to decide between fish or carnitas tacos (carnitas on corn tortillas won; they were fantabulous), I came across a flier for The 3/50 Project.  The 3/50 Project is striving to preserve locally owned restaurants and businesses, such as La Luz, by encouraging consumers to spend $50 at 3 independently owned businesses once a month.  A strong incentive to follow the program is that

 for every $100 spent locally, $68 goes back to the community in the form of taxes, payroll and other expenditures. This money helps keep local economies strong. 

 I come from the small town of Colony, KS that boasts one of the best restaurants in SEK - The Country Diner.  It's comforting to think that everytime I buy a pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and iced tea from "The Diner" I am helping strengthen the community's economy. 

I'm not suggesting that you completely swear off large chains, I'm merely suggesting that you contribute to the "Little Man" that may exist in your hometown.  Independently owned restaurants are often diamonds in the rough and hopefully they'll be around for many years to come.  If you're ever in SEK, I encourage you to drop into The Diner, sit a spell and enjoy the company and fare.

Until next time,
~Buzzard~

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Feliz Cinco De Mayo

Happy 5th of May! You may be thinking…now, what exactly does Cinco De Mayo have to do with food? Take a minute to learn a bit about the culture that surrounds this holiday. My hometown has a large population of primarily Spanish-speaking families, and I can tell you that the Mexican American culture revolves around the dinner table. From celebrations of birth, to Quinceanera’s, to traditional holidays it all comes down to a large spread of food, amazing company, and festive music.

Market researchers interested in the trends of the U.S. Food Industry have payed special attention to the influence that Hispanic American families have on the purchasing trends in the marketplace. With a growing Hispanic American population, over the past decade we have seen an increase in foods and products that are unique to this culture. Hispanic Americans are considered to include Spanish-speaking people of Spain, Mexico, Central and South America. Here are some interesting differences that the USDA has referenced in Hispanic American spending habits at the grocery store:

 

  • Since families are usually larger, food purchases are also higher.
  • Food plays a huge role in the culture of Hispanic Americans.
  • On average, more families prepare and serve home cooked meals more often when compared to other cultures.
  • A good appetite is associated with good health in Hispanic culture.
  • Fresh and authentic fruits, vegetables and products are highly sought after in the grocery store.
  • On average, Hispanic families consume 36 pounds of beans per capita, compared to 6 pounds consumed in non-Hispanic families.
  • Milk is not as commonly purchased.
  • Variety meat purchases increase in areas of high Hispanic populations. 
Enjoy the celebration today with your families. Find a new recipe to try, or hit up that authentic restaurant. Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

http://www.nal.usda.gov/outreach/HFood.html

Monday, May 3, 2010

Tailgate Lectures: Corn Farmin' Kids


When my brother and I were little I can remember our obsession with planting our own corn fields in May when dad set off in the tractor to sow his many acres. We wanted to grow our own corn on the cob to enjoy! We plotted out a square behind the barn and planted the little seeds we picked up off the ground outside the machine shed. We had to flag off our plots so that Grandpa wouldn't accidentally mow them over. He always taught us about picking a fertile piece of ground and remembering to water the plants each day. He taught us about conserving the land and being responsible with pesticides and herbicides. He taught us about our family history and how generations had planted the same piece of ground year after year. He should have taught us a little more about patience because it takes about 3 months for a corn plant to finally tassel and in little kid time - that is a century! When the plants would finally mature enough to produce an ear, you can imagine the built up excitement that my brother and I possessed. After shucking the first ear we were so thrilled about our end product and excited for our sweet, succulent corn on the cob.....we were absolutely thrilled, that is, until we realized it was field corn!

 So, what's the difference between field corn and sweet corn? 
  • Sweet corn is often sold in the produce aisle at the grocery store. 
  • It only accounts for about 5% of the corn grown in the U.S. 
  • It is bred for it's sweet taste. 
  • It is harvested in the milk stage when the kernels are soft. 
  • It is more susceptible to pests and stress. 
  • It often produces much lower yields. 
  • It is planted later than field corn when the ground is warmer.

  • Field corn is often used in animal feeds or processed further for human consumption.
  • It is bred for it's starch value. 
  • It is harvested in the hard and relatively dry kernel stage. 
  • It is much hardier, taller and has much wider leaves than sweet corn plants.
  • The seed kernels are much smoother. 
  • It is genetically dominant to sweet corn. This means that when a pollen from a field corn plant pollinates sweet corn, the kernel will always result in field corn. 
  • You can eat field corn, just like corn on the cob, but it is not preferred. 
For more information, and if you'd like to plant your own sweet corn plot this spring - contact your local Extension Office. Or you can visit this Extension.org!

Now I'm craving some roasting ears, 

Tera


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