Matt Rekeweg grew up on a farm in Allen County. Today he is U.S. industry relations leader for Dow AgroSciences, based in Indianapolis. Recently, his dad, Don, sent us the link to a blog Rekeweg penned about sustainability in modern agriculture. It nailed the topic so well I thought, “Man, I wish I had written that!”
So here is a guest column by Rekeweg pulled from the blog. Read the original post here.
FARM BOY SPEAKS OUT: The farm boy inside Matt Rekeweg led him to interesting observations about how society views agriculture today.
“Recently I had a surprising epiphany taking my daughter to school. It was a silent drive because my daughter was studying for a quiz using the school’s online study tools.
“It struck me that my kids have the latest, most up-to-date connectivity tools in their smartphones. They — and let’s be honest, their mother and I too — would never go back to flip phones, nor be without a phone at all times.
“When I get annoyingly nostalgic about the ol’ days, I’m not certain which my children find more alien — the party line that we shared with my grandparents or that we had a single rotary phone anchored to the desk.
“None of us can contemplate why we would ever go back to less useful communication technology. Yet my epiphany wasn’t about my kids’ phones; it was about the modern food system that I’ve worked in all my life.
“It was the recognition that, like my kids and our phones, I can’t understand why some individuals want to go back to less useful farming technology. Like my kids and old phones, these people have never used these farming technologies, but for some reason have a misguided, romantic image that it’s ‘better.’
“It’s like my late grandfather’s response to my question as a young kid about horses on the farm. Living near Amish communities, I saw horses and thought they were the coolest. I knew horses had once been part of the operation. So I asked, ‘Why no horses?’
“Grandpa politely but firmly set me straight: ‘It’s because they don’t work as well as the tractors we use now. We can’t afford to farm the way my father did.’
“In the years since, I’ve come to realize that our goals weren’t to spend time in fields or barns for the pleasure that I got from it as a young child. Rather, our purpose was to raise corn, soybeans and wheat, and produce pork, chicken and eggs.
“Using the most modern tools and the latest best farming practices enabled us to do that efficiently, safely and sustainably. We used better technology because it was better for accomplishing our farm’s goals — managing the land for abundant crops; keeping it sustainably viable for future generations; treating our livestock humanely; and raising strong, productive families.
“It boiled down to this: tractors, not horses; no-till farming, not plowing; herbicides, not side cultivation; biotechnology seeds; animal health products; and many other tools employed in a similar way.
“After dropping off my daughter at school, my radio stayed off. I wondered then — and still ponder now — if society wants agriculture to produce food in a way that uses less fossil fuels, protects beneficial insects, generates healthier soils, sequesters carbon and greenhouse gases, keeps our water clean and provides abundant nutritious food, then why in the world shouldn’t farmers use the most up-to-date tools to accomplish those goals?”