|I along with Rachel Heimerl (left) and Gretchen Mossbarger
(center) are three farm women volunteers representing Ohio.
CommonGroundTM website now answers consumer questions about farming and food
Contrary to popular belief, straightforward answers to your farming and food questions do exist. Now, consumers can find answers in one location as a result of www.FindOurCommonGround.com.
The website has transitioned from informing audiences about the CommonGround program to providing a resource for consumers on many of the most popular food and farming topics. As CommonGround sorts through the questions and some of the misconceptions consumers may have, the program’s volunteers will provide visitors with a combination of firsthand accounts of what happens on their farms and scientific research.
“I hope our website will make people aware of the fact there is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Jennifer Schmidt, a CommonGround volunteer and diversified farmer from Sudlersville, Md. “Not all farmers live near or have access to urban consumers like I do in the mid-Atlantic region. Our website is a great way for farm women from all over the country to connect with consumers and share our stories.”
The enhanced site will introduce visitors to farmer volunteers such as Schmidt, who also is a registered dietitian. It also streamlines its focus on the top eight issues consumers ask volunteers about food. Those issues include:
• Animal Welfare
• Corporate Farms
• Food Prices
• GMO Foods
CommonGround volunteers, like Bennett, Colo., farmer Danell Kalcevic, will dive into each issue by addressing consumer misconceptions related to their farm.
“For me, I want consumers to know that we (farmers) do not do things to harm anyone, and we eat the same food they do,” said Kalcevic, who raises a variety of crops, including wheat, millet, sunflowers, corn and cattle. “It is counterproductive to intentionally do things to the land, crops or animals we raise, and eventually sell or export, because that food ends up on our tables. I encourage consumers to check things out before spreading information that could be false.”
But sharing farmers’ personal stories serves as only one part of the equation. Making sure consumers understand the regulations farmers must follow is just as important, said CommonGround Volunteer, Renee Fordyce, who raises crops and cattle on her farm in Bethany, Mo.
“I am not a scientist, nor do I have a Ph.D., but I can speak from my personal experiences,” said Fordyce. “Sometimes all people want is a simple answer to address their concerns about food. If they want more meat to my answer, I feel comfortable directing them to CommonGround’s website because of the sound science we have to back up our experiences.”
From research to recipes, CommonGround volunteers hope to help visitors will find the answers to their important questions about food.
Have a question you want answered? CommonGround will not let it go unanswered. Find us online:
Twitter Hashtag: #CGConvo
CommonGround is a grassroots movement to foster conversation among women – on farms and in cities – about where our food comes from. The United Soybean Board (USB) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) developed CommonGround to give farm women the opportunity to engage with consumers using a wide range of activities. USB and NCGA provide support and a platform for the volunteers to tell their stories. The opinions and statements made by the volunteers are not necessarily representative of the policies and opinions of USB or NCGA
Our lives have been very full this past month. Looking back they have been very full this past year. Where does time go? Someone asked me if I got an extra hour every day to get everything done. I only wish that was the case. We fill our lives with things that will hopefully enrich our children’s lives and make a difference for their future. Raising animals is something that I enjoy and can teach our children almost every life lesson. A few weeks back we took the last batch of meat chickens for the year to get processed. Campbell and Parker are very aware that we raise the chickens for meat and they know that to have the best meat, we need to provide the best care. They help feed water and clean out the chicken pen. They are learning that animals are hard work, fun and tasty too.
I grew up in the country but we had a neighborhood of kids. Not an in-town neighborhood, but a neighborhood in the sense that we could get to each other by walking through fields. We would play all day, come in for food and head back out to play some more. I recently ran into one of my old neighborhood friends. We got to talking about food and what we do on our farm. She told me she was a vegetarian. I, of course, had to inquire more and ask why. We talked and I learned that she no longer ate meat because, while living on the East Coast she could not afford to buy meat that was organic, all natural or antibiotic free. She feels very strongly about keeping her body free of as many unnatural substances as possible. I saw this as an opportunity to talk about how we raise our meat chickens. She agreed to try our chicken and add some meat back into her diet. I was so excited and felt that we may have made a difference. She loved the chicken and it sounded like she had a really fun time preparing it for her family. I am not sure I will get her back to eating meat from the grocery store in the near future, but I hope to have given her a little more insight on how farmers raise food.
I am indeed a busy person, but these are the little things that make me even more excited about how I can contribute to agriculture. These are the types of stories that make me find time to blog.
Every day is food day. We should each be free to buy the food that best fits our values.
Access to abundant and affordable food, which comes from many different production methods, is necessary to ensure that millions of American families do not go to bed hungry.
Today’s food system works to address hunger and food insecurity, and to meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population.
Whether we choose food that is organic or vegan, prepackaged or fresh, locally grown or conventionally raised, from the supermarket or from the farmer’s market, we all want food that is safe, wholesome, raised in a responsible way, and meets our family’s needs.
The best food choices for one family may not be right for another. We should support the right to choose the food that fits our lifestyle and our family budget.
Supporting a diverse food supply, raised using a variety of farming methods, is vital to ensuring that we all have access to affordable food. If we limit our ability to produce the food we need, we will increase hunger and food insecurity.
We cannot save family farms or feed a rapidly expanding global population by limiting farming methods or returning to outdated technology.
Placing restrictions on the U.S. food system that limit the ability to produce the food we need will increase the cost of food and limit healthy, affordable food choices for all of us, including those who can least afford it.
Supporting today’s food system in order to produce the food we need using fewer resources is the ethical choice for people, animals and the planet.
Today, one farmer produces enough food in one year to feed 156 people.
If we relied on the food production systems of 1950, as some are suggesting, approximately 150 million people living in the U.S. today would be without food. That’s everyone in the 13 largest U.S. states, hungry.
I am currently in the AgriPower IV class through the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. This is a program that selects 20 individuals each year to participate and hone their leadership skills, learn more about the organization and politics. Over the next year I will spend 17 days with my classmates and staff from the Ohio Farm Bureau. At the end of September in Columbus, we met with many elected officials including state Auditor, Secretary of State, state legislators, Director of Agriculture and Governor Kasich. I am sure I have left someone out but it was an excellent opportunity to learn how our government works and how everything fits together.
After our formal meetings, we left Columbus and headed toward Raymond, OH to visit New Day Farms. This is a farm that houses laying hens and also has a processing facility for broken out eggs. It was a very large poultry facility to the eyes of most.
This farm was truly amazing. It had been nearly 10 years since I had toured a farm like this and I must say it was fascinating. We live in a society where people are very removed from the origins of their food. Children think their milk comes from the grocery store, eggs come from the refrigerator case and when you open the door it moos and clucks as an effort to help bridge the gap. When I was growing up I never realized how lucky I was to be raised on a farm. I often thought it was hard work and sometimes got tired of missing out on fun things with my friends because I was doing chores or working with animals.
After living in town for a few years after getting married, Matt and I realized just how lucky we were to grow up in rural America. While the town life was easier we knew we wanted to raise a family in the country. Our neighbors thought we were a bit strange when we would pull up in front of our house with a livestock trailer full of sheep. Our old neighbors who are now very dear friends asked us what we were doing with those sheep in town. We told them they were going in the backyard to mow and fertilize. We were clearly joking but they had concern in their eyes.
We raise layers on our farm and invite all of our friends to come see the hens that produce the eggs they purchase from us. Their children like to collect the eggs in a pretty basket. Our egg production is old fashioned and fun but not nearly as sophisticated, clean or efficient as New Day Farms and most poultry farms across the country.
Most uninformed consumers think big is bad! I as a small rural Ohio farmer am here to say Bigger is Better. My customers pay a premium for our natural antibiotic-free farm fresh eggs. New Day Farms feeds no antibiotics to their hens either. The hens have fresh water and food all the time on demand. I was most fascinated that the farm works with a poultry nutritionist who changes the hens’ diets to adjust for what their nutritional needs are week by week. When the hen lays an egg, is rolls onto a mini conveyor belt which heads straight to the processing end of the farm. All the manure is automatically dropped onto another belt system which dries and is discarded multiple times per week. Can you guess how many flies were in the barn? I did not see one fly the entire time I was there. It smelled a little like a chicken but no odor or smells of manure. The barn is temperature controlled for comfort and is on automatic light timers to ensure proper day and night schedules. Another fun fact about this large farm is that everything on the farm is composted. Even the egg shells are composted into lime which is sold locally. I would have loved to take photos but due to liability, which I understand, we were not allowed to take photos.
I would like to add that this farm takes great care to ensure a safe healthy animal and end product. I had to stay out of my own chicken barn for 72 hours prior to visiting and was in a full plastic coverall and hair net. After seeing this farm, I feel 100% safe buying eggs from the store and so glad we live in a country that values animal safety and consumer health.
The buy local movement is huge and I am fortunate to be a part of it. I love to buy local and I appreciate having this option. Do I always buy local? No, it is not always easy and frankly it sometimes costs more. Larger farms allow for a more cost effective food. Just because something is produced on a larger scale does not make it bad or change the nutritional content. Good, safe food, comes from well cared for birds whether they are on a large, or small, farm. Did you know that we are only 9 meals away from going hungry? Keep reading later this week as I will share more about hunger, food supply and Food Day coming up in one week. Every Day is Food Day to a Farmer.
The Christmas tree farm is an environmentalist’s dream. Not only do we have over 30,000 Christmas Trees we also have many acres of wetlands, CREP conservation areas and even a paw paw patch. We sell paw paws to a restaurant when in season and several private individuals. The going rate for paw paws is $10 per pound. The paw paw is a native fruit to Ohio. It is full of nutrients and even more nutritious than a banana. It is said that this fruit can help with stomach indigestion and digestion. It is a fleshy fruit and is only ripe for a very short period of time. It has lots of seeds inside.
Our natural paw paw patch is along our creek bed and is very wet most of the time. They spread through their root system and take over very easily. The tricky part of raising paw paws is that the animals love them just as much as people. When ripe, they fall from the trees, this is what the animals count on. We go out and shake the tree, when fruit falls it is almost ripe. The skin will be soft and turn a darker color as it ripens.
The taste is similar to a banana or a mango. Most either love it or could leave it. There are many recipes out there that are good and most say the less you heat or cook a paw paw the better. This is a delicate fruit that needs to be used within a short window or you will not like the results.
The Reese grandkids call Matt’s Dad “PaPa” and he takes great joy in harvesting the native crop with his grandchildren and even daughter-in-laws like me. We think the name PaPa’s Paw Paws is here to stay.
Pre Kids I used to think I was so busy. I cooked, baked and gardened away. I had time to try recipes to figure out which were better than others. Now that I have two children and I am chasing them around, who has time to try every recipe in the book to figure out which one tastes better? Not me, that’s for sure.
We all have our go to recipes that we know are tried and true. This Snicker Doodle recipe is one you all need to add to your recipe collections. Kids of all ages will love you for keeping these in your house or sharing them at the next cookout.
This recipe can be doubled and tripled and still turn out just perfect. I typically triple the batch or I can not keep the cookie jar full.
The dough freezes really well too. I form the dough into the balls roll them in cinnamon and sugar and freeze them on a cookie sheet until frozen. Then I place them in a freezer bag lined with wax paper. This is how I keep fresh baked cookies in the house nearly all the time. You just never know when someone will pop in and need a snack or when the kids arrive home from school and bring a few friends along.
By the way the uncooked dough (yes it does contain eggs) tastes really good too. I am that mom that allows her kids to lick the beaters…its part of the fun.
Click Here for the recipe.