Tag Archives: farm

Reader’s Choice ’12: What Organic Food Is and Is Not

Nothing ages me faster than calling my niece “Dr. Whetstine.” 

Jena Whetstine & Jessica Brotherton

Jena Whetstine (right) with sister Jessica Whetstine Brotherton at Jessica’s wedding

Professor Jena Whetstine has her Ph.D. in chemistry. My collegiate career, on the other hand, did not include one hour of chemistry. Does psychology still count as a science? 

Our family is exceedingly proud of this accomplished young woman, all her siblings, and cousins. She is, and they are, beautiful on the inside and out with the easy-going, never-met-a-stranger warmth and sense of humor my husband’s family exudes.

Jena picked this post because as a chemist she found it “very entertaining.” Humor wasn’t exactly what I was going for, but you never know with chemists.

Jena’s Reader’s Choice is: 

What Organic Food Is and Is Not

bell peppers

click to read What Organic Food Is and Is Not

readers choice

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Reader’s Choice ’12: Where’s the Beef?

Anna Petersen

Anna Petersen

Many of you met Anna Petersen (aka Chef Nusy) earlier this year when she requested I add her selection to the Reader’s Choice 2011 list

When I asked what her choice for 2012 would be, she was ready. “Having kids eat healthier is a great thing,” she said. “But trying to do it in a one-size-fits-all manner has never, ever worked.”

Law school is on the horizon for this fencer-immigrant-chef-student. Anna’s lobbying skills combined with her determination and common sense promise to make her one excellent attorney.

Anna’s Reader’s Choice is:

Where’s the Beef?

Where's the Beef?

click to read Where’s the Beef?

readers choice

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Reader’s Choice ’12: Moon Walk

Anne Burkholder and her husband Matt are the only two Dartmouth graduates who live in rural Nebraska. 

Anne Burkholder

Anne Burkholder

Anne and Matt have worked his family’s diversified farm for 15 years. He farms 5,000 acres of alfalfa and she is “boss lady” of a 3,000-head feedyard.

This past June, the Burkholder’s farm was featured in BusinessWeek, and earlier this month, Anne appeared on RFD-TV. Her blog Feedyard Foodie is a steady, intelligent voice in today’s turbulent conversations about animal welfare and ranching.

Anne carefully selected her Reader’s Choice post. “I love it because being alone with God and nature is my favorite thing to do,” she said. “It soothes the soul—centers your perspective—and lends itself to feelings of hope and promise.”

Oh, how I long for that this Christmas. Anne’s Reader’s Choice is: 

Moon Walk

in the field

click to read Moon Walk

readers choice

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Reader’s Choice ’12: Food Fright

Remember Ryan Goodman?

Ryan Goodman

Ryan Goodman

He’s the young cowboy we visited last March. He’s been quite busy since then. Besides full-time graduate school, Ryan’s been blogging his passion for agriculture on CNN’s food blog Eatocracy.

You read that right: C-N-N.

Ryan graciously agreed to take a moment out of his celebrity schedule to be in our little Reader’s Choice feature. Meanwhile, our friend Dairy Carrie let me hijack his blog as a Bandita. I’ve never been a Bandita before! 

See my surprise guest post today on Ryan’s blog Agriculture Proud. But first, Ryan’s Reader’s Choice is:

Food Fright

click to read Food Fright

click to read Food Fright

Reader's Choice 2012

 

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What Organic Food Is and Is Not

There’s a lot of confusion about organic food.

USDA-Organic Seal

USDA Organic Seal

As a mom and consumer, I know organic food garners a premium price. But I like to have choices. My family buys and eats food that looks and tastes good and that we can afford. That includes conventional, organic, biotech, heirloom, domestic, international, and farmer’s market fare.

So how is organic food defined? The USDA sets the standards for foods labeled USDA Organic through the National Organic Program, established by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

Food that meets these standards can display the USDA Organic seal:

Organic crops. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.
 
Organic livestock. The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.
 
Organic multi-ingredient foods. The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.
 

Seems straightforward. Why does confusion about organic food persist?

That brings us to what organic food is not:

bell peppers

peppers

Organic food is not more nutritious. This week’s Stanford University study concluded organic food is not healthier than conventional food. This isn’t really new information. Last year Scientific American reported 50 years of research comparisons have shown there are no health differences between organic and conventional food.

Organic food is not pesticide-free. Organic farms may use approved pesticides and fungicides derived from natural sources rather than synthetics to protect crops from insects and disease. Scientific American reported organic pesticides may be worse than those used in conventional farming. Organic food also tends to have more pathogens like E. coli and Salmonella than conventional food. It’s important to note the Stanford researchers found the pesticide levels of all food generally fell within the allowable safety limits.

Organic food is not better for the environment. According to Scientific American, organic farming requires more land to produce the same amount of food as conventional farming. If we were to switch to 100 percent organic farming today, we would have to clear another 20 percent of the ice-free land on earth to make up the difference in production.

Organic food is not necessarily local or fair-trade. Go Green Online reported the average organic food travels 1,200 miles before it reaches the consumer. And organic food may still be produced using illegal migrant workers receiving unfair wages in harsh working conditions.

My family buys and eats many different kinds of food; I’m not advocating one type of food over another. What I’m advocating is education and choice.

American blueberries

blueberries

We do ourselves a disservice when we pit organic against conventional or biotech, local against domestic or imported. There’s room at the table for all kinds of food to meet many different needs.

There’s freedom for us to learn and decide for ourselves what to eat.

You cause grass to grow for the livestock
and plants for people to use.
You allow them to produce food from the earth. Psalm 104:14 NLT

Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino. Wow.

 Do you buy organic, conventional, or both? Why?

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Where’s the Beef? New 2012 School Menus are Lean on Meat

Syndicated on BlogHer.com

This post was syndicated by BlogHer on October 12, 2012.

where's the beef

where’s the beef

 

As the school year begins, public school menus across America have been adjusted to align with new federal standards from the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

President and Mrs. Obama advocated for the passage of this act. It’s federal policy. To be reimbursed by the National School Lunch Program, schools must adhere to these rules.

The new federal standards are designed to promote healthier eating and reduce childhood obesity with choices based on food components rather than nutrients.

Translation: lots of fruits and veggies, not so much meat.

My friend Katie blogged about the new federal standards and why they don’t work for her family. Other women began blogging about the standards, too. They started a Facebook page called Sensible School Lunches to dialogue.

I pay taxes that support public schools and these programs. So do you. We pay regardless of whether or not we have children enrolled. The well-being of the children in a community is important to the community as a whole.

That makes us all stakeholders in this.

The new federal standards recommend children in kindergarten through fifth grade receive more than six cups of fruits and vegetables for lunch per week, but only eight to 10 ounces of meat or meat alternative for lunch per week.

You read that right. Per week.

That’s roughly two ounces of meat per lunch.

Two ounces of meat per lunch didn’t sound like much to me, but I wasn’t really sure. My son and I headed to our local market to find out.

Two ounces (.125 pounds) of raw ground beef is about one meatball. Enough for a small hamburger or a portion of spaghetti sauce. Not bad.

2 ounce meatball on scale

2 ounce meatball on scale

Consider the chicken leg. It’s overweight at .31 pounds (4.96 ounces).

chicken leg on scale

chicken leg weighs more than 2 ounces

Two slices of bacon is fine, but a two-slice limit wouldn’t go well at my house.

2 ounces of bacon

2 ounces = 2 slices of bacon

At another store, we determined one hotdog would pass.

ballpark beef franks

ballpark beef franks, 1 hotdog = 2 ounces

So would a package of lunch meat like this.

oscar meyer chicken

2 ounces of oscar mayer chicken

My son enjoyed our investigative reporting. But as I snapped photos of Oscar Mayer, I wondered what the menu changes meant in real life.

I consulted the USDA’s sample menus.

Will children really eat 1/4 cup of jicama and 1/4 of pepper strips as suggested for the Monday menu, assuming they know what jicama is? How about Tuesday’s suggested 1/2 cup of broccoli and 1/2 cup of cauliflower?

Who are these kids? We try at our dinner table. We really do, but it’s a win if the child ingests more than one green bean.

please do not climb on cow

please do not climb on cow

By the time Friday rolls around, the weekly allowance of meat on the sample menu has been depleted. Cheese pizza is the suggested fare. Why not front-load the week with this deficit and participate in Meatless Mondays?

I jest, but there are American ranchers who are not amused.

The new federal standards also prohibit whole milk or flavored milk, a fact highlighted in Joslyn Gray’s post Seriously? 15 Things Schools Have Banned So Far in 2012. By 2014, the only grains allowed will be whole grains.

Let’s say a child eats his veggie-rich lunch of jicama and peppers with two ounces of turkey and one cup of fat-free milk, but is still not hunger-free. How will that child perform in class?

What if that child’s only meal for the entire day is school lunch?

Sadly, this is the case for many students. The 2010 Hunger in Our Schools study concluded hunger remains a problem in the classroom with a large proportion of students relying on school meals. It’s the main reason some kids come to school.

cow statue at airport in vermont

cow statue at airport in vermont

The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act updates public school menus for the first time in 15 years. It’s a commendable start.

The emphasis on fruits, veggies, whole grains, and low-fat milk is terrific. Still there are questions that need to be addressed for these standards to succeed in real life.

Giving local schools more say in what works best in their communities with their students makes the most sense.

Local schools are also better equipped than the federal government to network with area farmers and ranchers to supply foods, another goal of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

There’s work to be done. Please contact your elected officials. Visit Sensible School Lunches to learn more and to dialogue. Bloggers, consider writing your story about this topic and sharing it there.

He always does what He says—
He defends the wronged,
He feeds the hungry. Psalm 146:7 The Message

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for. A link to the Wendy’s commercial that inspired this post’s title: Where’s the Beef?

What’s your take on the new menus?

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Milk Wars Becomes Top Post

The past week’s traffic boosted Milk Wars into first place as the most read post on everyday epistle.

beautiful calf in Milk Wars

beautiful, image from Troxel Dairy Farm, Indiana

Milk Wars unseated I Like My Bike to take the top spot. I Like My Bike was featured by WordPress on their Freshly Pressed page last August.

Milk Wars was first posted more than a year ago. Besides being our most read post, it’s also our most shared post with 528 Facebook shares and counting.

Apparently, the message still resonates.

I know that You can do all things;
no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2 NIV

10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman, a new favorite in my house: Let me be singing when the evening comes.

See what all the fuss is about in Milk Wars.

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