Editor’s note: The Farmer editor Paula Mohr gave presentations to Class X of the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership in Marshall, Minn., last December on communicating with the media and writing letters to print publications. The following letters, chosen for publication based on topic and/or statewide interest, were part of a class assignment and sent to Mohr for critique. More letters will be shared in a future website post.
Where does our food come from?
Where does our food come from? As an active farmer, this is an easy question to answer, considering that I have seen firsthand how and where our food is produced. This question gets a little harder to answer if you have never been involved with food production or had the opportunity to learn about it.
I have the opportunity to work as a substitute teacher in my local school, and I enjoy sitting with the students at lunch, talking about what we’re eating and where it came from. It is very concerning that some of these students think that milk is made in a store. They have no idea what ingredients are used in their hamburger bun, or how any of it got to their plates.
The thought that the odor of a nearby livestock farm has anything to do with the food on their plate doesn’t even remotely make sense to them. Keep in mind that I’m doing this in a small rural town in southwest Minnesota that is surrounded by agriculture. Consider how this might be in a metropolitan area, with no farms within 100 miles.
It’s obvious that we have a large disconnect with how our food is produced, where it comes from and how it ends up on our plates.
As a farmer who raises crops that are used for food production, I think it is immensely important that I do a better job of educating the consumers about where their food is coming from. It’s not their fault that they don’t understand, if they’ve never farmed or been educated about food production. There are many sources that people use to get information. However, the best source is from the people who actually produce crops, milk and protein.
If we as farmers don’t do a better job explaining what we do and the products we produce, someone else will explain food production for us, and it may not be entirely correct.
I strongly encourage everyone involved in farming and agriculture to get more engaged with our consumers and help everyone understand where our food comes from.
Reliable, affordable rural broadband access lacking
When most people think of Rochester, Minn., the first things that come to mind are Mayo Clinic and IBM, two companies on the leading edge of technology and research that are key employers in the region. The area surrounding Rochester is also one of the most productive agricultural regions of the state. Farmers in this area are quick to adopt new technologies, such as precision farming.
One of the issues this region faces is access to reliable and affordable high-speed internet access outside of major urban centers. I live less than 10 miles from Rochester, and my internet access options are limited. According to the Fixed Broadband Deployment page of the FCC [Federal Communications Commission], I should have seven choices of broadband providers, with up to 244 Mbps download speed (see bit.ly/fixedbdp). In reality, I only have one rural wireless-based provider option and pay $100 per month for ‟up to” 20 Mbps in download speed. I called my internet service provider to see if I could get their reported 244 Mbps package. A day later, the customer service representative responded that my home could get 30 Mbps if I paid $150 per month!
I work in the agriculture industry and have a home office. Reliability with my internet connection is variable, which makes participating in video conference calls and transferring large data files with clients hit or miss. This is especially an issue during spring planting and fall harvest, when file transfers between clients is especially time-sensitive.
Many rural residents in this area also would enjoy the option of working remotely for employers like Mayo Clinic, which encourages this practice. Remote working eases traffic congestion and other infrastructure bottlenecks, like parking, in Rochester. Remote working offers employees flexibility in balancing their professional and personal responsibilities, a fringe benefit that many companies use to retain and attract talent.
The FCC broadband reporting tool needs to be fixed. Looking at the maps online, it appears like we have choices in providers and speed in rural Minnesota ‑ and that is just not the case. Expanding rural broadband speed and reliability in rural Minnesota would reduce pressure on other infrastructures issues our state faces. If we want to attract new people to this area of the state, our broadband access needs to rival that of a college campus.
More information on shop choices
Dear Ms. Mohr:
I wish to provide some perspective from the younger generation of farmers regarding the recent article in your magazine, “Building a home base” (January 2019, page-4-5).
The author, Dan Lemke, did a fantastic job with the article.
I would have liked the article to go into more detail on what different designs the farmer was considering before he started building his new shop. It would have been helpful to show the layout of where the farmer is planning on putting his offices, bathroom ‑ and just general layout of what he plans to do with his shop.
This might have helped farmers with new ideas and provided them with their future building plans.
How safe are we on our farms in winter? Have there been some close calls with equipment? Can others see us working outside? With these long, dark winter days, it is a good time for us to check that all of our lights are working, and to wear reflective clothing for higher visibility.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer a lost-work-time injury.” This is a high number we can work to lower. Even if our equipment never leaves the farm yard this winter, there are still plenty of benefits to having our flashing lights working and wearing reflective clothing. Our family members and employees will be visible to us, and they will know to avoid the area where we are operating equipment.
I encourage each of us to head out to the shop to check that all of our lights and flashers are working, and to consider wearing some reflective clothing. We can reduce that CDC number of daily injuries, one farmer at a time. Small, meaningful changes made by each of us will continue to improve safety on all of our farms.
How do you increase safety on your farm? Share that tip with others. Every little thing that we do to make ourselves safer adds up.