Farm Food Facts

Marianne Smith Edge, Zack Andrade, 2019 Crop Yields

October 15, 2019 Episode 46
Farm Food Facts
Marianne Smith Edge, Zack Andrade, 2019 Crop Yields
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Marianne Smith Edge, Zack Andrade, 2019 Crop Yields
Oct 15, 2019 Episode 46
USFRA
Show Notes Transcript

Today's Thought Leader is Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RDN, LD, FADA, FAND, Founder and Principal, The AgriNutrition Edge, a consultancy committed to assisting food, health and agriculture organizations better understand and navigate the changing food and consumer environment. 

The Stories you NEED to Know:
•A pleasant surprise: Wheat growers are generally pleased with 2019 Crop. 
•Agronomists are saying 2019 shouldn’t impact 2020 decisions.
•In the future, data will drive more decisions than desire.

Our Farmer is Zack Andrade from Spinaca Farms



Speaker 1:
0:01
Farm food facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to form food facts for Wednesday, October 16th, 2019 I'm your host, Phil Linford. Today our thought leader is Maryann Smith edge and agriculture, NATO and a sixth generation farm owner living with the values and appreciation of the food farm connection. Since the day she was born and advancing science and nutrition thought leadership for her entire professional life. Marianne helps food and agriculture companies find their path through the changing and complicated consumer food environment and serves as a translator between the consumer and the food ag space, bringing understanding and insights to each entity. She's the founder of the aggregate
Speaker 2:
0:50
nutrition edge before that senior vice president of the nutrition and food safety communications and senior advisor science and consumer insights for the international food information council in Washington DC. Marianne is a former president of the Academy of nutrition and dietetics and serve two terms on the USDA national research extension, education economics advisory board, the advisory board to the secretary of agriculture. And later on in the program I'll chat with second generation farmer Zach Andretti about the current state of farming in California and what the future holds for him and his farm family. But first, Maryanne, welcome to farm food facts.
Speaker 3:
1:31
Well, thank you. And it's a pleasure to be able to speak with you today about some of my favorite subjects
Speaker 2:
1:36
like sustainability. So, you know, um, I, I did that tongue in cheek because I just read your blog posts sustainability more than a trend and you know, I can't agree with you more first, let me say that. But what I love that you write, you know, for a word that is so overly used, it's probably one of the most undefined, unclear and controversial terms that's out there. I'll adding the that's out there. Um, you're right, you're dead on. How do we fix this?
Speaker 3:
2:11
Uh, well, you know, I think, I think having conversations like this helps us to continue to communicate across the, uh, food value chain. What sustainability really is. Um, you know, when, as a, as a registered dietician, but starting to work with agriculture groups, Oh 10, 12 years ago and sustainability became more of a, uh, a point of, of a focal point for companies. Um, it made me think about, well, you know, in the ag community and especially as a multi-generation farmer, it's always been about sustainability, um, because we've always wanted to pass land down from one generation to the next. However, the communication, you know, what was an inherent value didn't really get, I think across the board and with some international policies that came about in, in 2010 really talking about sustainability. That has really heightened the conversation. Um, but the reality is, is that in the minds of a lot of consumers, you know, sustainability is really looked at more from a, from an environmental standpoint and not looking at it from a, from a whole economic, social wellbeing and environment, environmental aspect
Speaker 2:
3:32
and going beyond consumers. Uh, your blog post also included, um, some findings from a recent academic, um, Academy of nutrition and dietetics survey of registered dieticians like yourself. And what they found is the range of responses again reveals that what one person deems as a sustainable food or agriculture practice may not be online with others. So the same problem. We have all of this confusion. We have all these food companies, hopefully they've all called you to advise them on on what not to do. Uh, putting, you know, sustainability statements on their website, on their packaging. And if you go from brand to brand, it means something different.
Speaker 3:
4:18
It does. And first of all, I will say as you mentioned with some of the insights that have been collected from dieticians with the Academy of nutrition and dietetics is that some of the questions that I mentioned actually came from some of the consumers. But the reality is it's a full range of questions about eating local and seasonal products to really looking at the differences between conventional and organic production and whether or not eating more plant based versus animal. And many times some of my colleagues really do think that sustainability falls within, you know, only one type of farming or one type of food product that's being consumed rather than looking at the full basis. Also in in the blog I did mention the, some of the surveys that for the international food information council foundation when ask about, um, sustainability has always been important and especially, you know, while I was there we started asking the questions about sustainability and it obviously is, it falls under taste, price and convenience, but it definitely has been on the radar screen for several years.
Speaker 3:
5:34
But really when people ask what are the importance aspects, um, they see it more as reduction of pesticides or an affordable food supply and conservation of national natural habitats, which are definitely part of it. But I think the bigger picture of production, production efficiencies and even food waste are identified at a very low level. And when it comes to sustainability now, I think the conversation, even sometimes as, as you mentioned earlier in the conversation about being divisive, it's like sustainability is either plant our animal, it's either organic or conventional. And it doesn't really get down to thinking about what is already being done in the agriculture production area. And first and foremost, one of the major ways that we all could work on sustainable food systems is really looking at the whole food waste issue itself.
Speaker 2:
6:30
[inaudible] and thinking about it holistically and sustainability. I can't think of a more holistic approach that's needed for anything than sustainability. Um, I want to ask you how you reconcile the two parts of your brain. So you've got the farmer brain and you've got the scientist RD brain, and when you see a lot of this stuff that comes out, I've, I can only imagine that it drives you nuts because you've got both sides of it that you know and you're very few and far between. I don't know of another farmer, um, who's also a registered dietician. So you know, how, how do you reconcile with some of these things? I can only imagine you, you want to pick up the phone, call them and say what's a matter with you or send them a nasty email.
Speaker 3:
7:25
Perhaps. That's why I started writing blogs to, to really help, hopefully, uh, provide some background in. So to your point, uh, yeah, sometimes I, it does drive me a little crazy you would say and uh, but I also, I also feel fortunate that, you know, I have actual, um, practical on the farm experience, um, that helps reconcile and provide the insight, uh, to looking at these issues and then having working with consumers as well. Yeah. I also find though that sometimes just because you've grown up on a farm, colleagues and consumers then think that rather than being informed or somewhat biased and, and don't want to see where there's been, um, challenges. And you know, I think, I think in that case I can, I can be very honest on both sides is that we've in the agricultural community, uh, we've done some very positive things on sustainability, but we've also learned that we need to do better.
Speaker 3:
8:33
And what I think is interesting is my father was doing no till, uh, cropping when you know, and now they're just talking about it as if it's a new innovation. And he was, he was doing it back in, in the 70s and early eighties. The good news is that practice was actually developed in Kentucky and started. So perhaps that's why we were doing some of it before, um, before it became the norm. But in that case, I think, you know, I can look at both sides, hopefully provide some understanding and especially, you know, when talking to ag groups, um, understand where consumers and dieticians are coming from. But at the same time provide that insight when talking to registered dieticians and, and consumers. I think we, you know, the, the reality is, as I always tell folks, you know, we can't, it can't be sustainable if it's not economically viable.
Speaker 3:
9:31
And you know, at the end of the day, no one wants to grow food in a way that's not going to be advantageous for the good of the whole. I do think I would, culture is the community is constantly looking and needs to look at, you know, what we produce and how it affects the overall food supply. And I think that's probably where some of the complaints have come from consumers and nutritional professionals over the years is thinking that sometimes what food is produced, it's only going to be produced for animal feed and not really looking at human feed. And so we really have to kind of look at a lot of those issues and look at some of our ClearPass going on.
Speaker 2:
10:15
You write in this fabulous blog posts, sustainability more than a trend. You should check it out. It's on the agri nutrition edge. Perhaps sustainability is best summarized in a 2016 Huffington post article by Lance Hosey who's an architect and I quote, sustainability isn't a trend, it's an ethic and it can never become unfashionable even if it's language does the challenge for those of us who champion. The idea is to continue to find new ways and new words to inspire change. Well said. Marianne, thanks so much for joining us today on farm food facts
Speaker 3:
10:54
and thank you very much Phil. It's a pleasure and and know that to be sustainable we all have to work together to find ways to move forward where we do preserve the land, the food and do it the economically
Speaker 4:
11:14
[inaudible]
Speaker 1:
11:16
and now the news you need to know a pleasant surprise. Wheat growers are generally pleased with the 2019 crop. Despite weather concerns, wheat yields turned out good and problems were not as widespread as people felt. Many fields average yields of more than 80 bushels per acre. Phil seaman who manages the sea HS grain elevator and shipping in Illinois did note that the harvest was two to three weeks late with some growers not finishing until mid July, but semen said overall the quality was better than we thought it would be. It might just be a tad late, but not anything like last year. Overall, the test weights were pretty good. Semen also noted that there were some isolated cases in which wheat was rejected by Millers due to low falling numbers, a quality indicator that affects cooking traits, and although things turned out well for wheat growers, for many producers, the 2019 planting season didn't go as expected.
Speaker 1:
12:15
However, agronomists are saying the 2019 shouldn't impact 2020 decisions over the months of may and June in climate. Weather caused many acres across the Midwest to be left so and unplanted which in turn caused farmers to alter their 2019 seed choices. Jeremy miner technical agronomist with Krueger seeds said he worked with farmers who were starting to get antsy and early may and wanted to move to some shorter season varieties for corn and soybeans. However, he advised most to wait before making significant changes to their plans. Kroger's agronomists were discouraging farmers from making a shift from 110 day corn to a shorter variety citing that fields may not be properly prepared and it would significantly altered their timeline potentially affecting yield. However, towards the end of may, they did start to suggest some changes in corn hybrids and advised that soybean maturity choices were generally safe until mid June, but even considering the volatile planting season we experienced this year, farmers looking ahead to 2020 shouldn't overreact.
Speaker 1:
13:23
What we go through this year shouldn't affect how we make decisions for 2020 or 2021 going forward said Chris colo, a territory agronomist in central Illinois in 2017 and 2018 some guys had the best soybeans they ever had. This is dose of a reality check, but I don't think that should drive us into making decisions that impact next year. Call stated that agriculture has a short memory. Farmers build plans off what just happened instead of taking what he calls a more holistic approach, he suggested farmers make future plans based on a multi year history to get a clearer picture of the conditions that could occur over the next few growing seasons and for our final news tidbit of the day in the future, data will drive more decisions than desire. Dr Robin Metcalf, a previous guest here on our farm food facts podcast and author of the book food roots growing bananas in Iceland and other tales from the logistics of eating recently set for an interview with salon magazine discussing the future of food and food sourcing. In the interview, Metcalf says that our food systems are turning away from local food movements as supply chains become increasingly optimized, technological advances create opportunities for innovations that can get better food to more people in an increasingly urbanized world, but that means data may drive more decisions than consumer.
Speaker 2:
14:53
Now we're going to hit to the form. Zack Andrade was born and raised in the Salinas Valley of California. Father from the ag industry, mother from a family of dairy farmers. Zach's love for agriculture and the people that work hours, the ethics and the communal generosity runs deep. Zach, welcome to farm food facts. Thank you Phil. I want to continue a conversation that we, we started not here on the podcast but in person a few weeks ago talking about sustainability. You know, sustainability is talked about a lot and it means a lot of things to a lot of different farmers. What does sustainability mean to you? You know, we, we get that question asked
Speaker 5:
15:34
to us quite a bit. It usually comes after, you know, how many acres do you farm? And so it's becoming more and more of the, the litmus test on whether or not you are a quote unquote good farmer. And so it's not really one of those answers that I could, could ever really come up with or the same one, same one twice. And so, um, I really started looking internally, um, about what it meant for us. And you know, for us it's really about the preservation of health and preservation of health really starts with yourself and uh, your family, your colleagues, your employees, making sure that they are living the healthiest lifestyle possible in giving them a platform, uh, in a work environment that promotes a healthy lifestyle so they can take that too. Our vendors, our customers, and, and it truly have an all around healthy environment.
Speaker 5:
16:37
We take that to the field in making sure that our farms as well as the farms that we work with are putting more back into the fields and they're taking out during harvest. Uh, we take that same idea on how we run our equipment, making sure we're not abusing our equipment to the point where, you know, we're having to replace it early or, um, or breaking down and us not being able to farm the crops appropriately. And, and lastly, it really, it's about profit because without profit, all of the things that we've talked about about maintaining equipment and in our environment and the health of our ourself and our family employees, it's all for not because you're not going to be around long enough to, to see all that come to fruition. So the profit part of it, certainly a very important component.
Speaker 2:
17:25
So Zach, let's go back to what you just said. Uh, putting back in the earth more than you take out from it. Go into a little bit more depth on that. How are you doing that and, and what are you putting back in?
Speaker 5:
17:37
So every crop has a required amount of nutrition that it needs to come to a full harvest. And the way that we monitor that as we're always looking at it like a bank account, you always want to put more back in then you're taken out. So prior to planting, we test our soils for all the macro and micronutrients that are available for the crop that we're about to plant. So we take what's in the bank plus what the crop needs plus a little bit more just in case. Um, that crop runs through some heavy stress period, whether it's cold or he, we want to make sure that it doesn't just have just enough, but it has a little bit more and then any residual gets banked back into, into the ground. And so as you plant crops and harvest crops and get ready to plant the next crop, you again, you take that soil sample and, and you analyze it to make sure that what you say you're doing in what the crop says it needs is truly what it needs. [inaudible] and adjust from there.
Speaker 2:
18:44
So your customer base is international, you're in the fresh market, you're in frozen foods, you're in the functional foods markets. What are you hearing from these customers? What are they looking for for their customers, for their end users as well as what are they looking for from farmers?
Speaker 5:
19:05
Authenticity, authenticity, and the fact that, you know, you're doing what you say you're doing, you're supposed to be doing. Um, they want to know that the product has been farmed and harvested and handled and processed and sold without any adulteration. Uh, that, that's been the, the biggest key takeaway the last couple of years and really even more so in the functional foods industry, um, because it goes through that many more processes before it hits the shelf.
Speaker 2:
19:38
So what are the problems for a farmer to, to do that? To be as authentic as possible is to be as transparent as possible.
Speaker 5:
19:47
I don't think [inaudible] it's a problem for the farmers to do. I think it's a matter of being proactive in the fact that you're talking about all the good that you're doing and, and putting on your marketing hat to make sure that, um, you know, if there's something in the marketplace that may have had a recall, um, or, or potential disturbance, you know, you're letting people know that's not us. We're not part of that because we've been doing this or we've been doing that. You know, we have all our audits for food safety. We have all our audits for certification. So everything that we're putting on the shelf that has the certification stamps on them is truly what's being done. So when, when you look at being a farmer, so you're in the field, you have to worry about making a profit. Now you have to,
Speaker 2:
20:38
don't worry about being a marketing genius, um, with, with all that, is it harder than ever before to be a farmer?
Speaker 5:
20:45
I do. I, I do think it's than ever before. I think we're under the microscope more now than ever. Um, because of the dissemination of information is so quick, you know, if there is a, an outbreak, um, all of that goes on social media and you know, a couple of seconds or a couple of minutes and broadcast throughout potentially the world, um, where before you had to rely on the five o'clock news or the newspaper, just a, a much slower way to get your information. And so that heightens your awareness. Um, it makes it that much more stressful, um, on the, on the grower and the harvester to make sure that they don't miss a beat because they'll be punished quicker than they've ever been punished before.
Speaker 2:
21:34
So you're a second generation farmer. Um, what about your kids? What do you tell your kids? Do you want them to go into farming?
Speaker 5:
21:44
Um, you know, I want my kids to explore things that interest them. If that's farming or any other aspect of agriculture, it may be I'm on the buying side for a supermarket or functional foods facility. If food is in their heart, like it's in their blood, um, then yes, absolutely. But if not, that's okay too. Cause there's a lot of amazing industries out there.
Speaker 2:
22:09
So after sustainability the probably what makes the headlines the most is 40% of all food is wasted. Talk to me about waste. What are you doing on the farm? What are you seeing? What are you hearing from your customers as it relates to what is now hopefully a change being made in, in the way that we waste food?
Speaker 5:
22:36
Well I think waste typically the way people can, that waste is always looking in arrears. So what do we do after the product is already on its way to the landfill as opposed to focusing on the front end going, how can we plant four knowing that this acre of crop that we take off, only a portion of it will be fit for the fresh market and only a portion of it will be fit for the frozen food market and only a portion of it will be fit for the functional foods market. You know, five years ago this functional foods market or access to it here in the U S really wasn't around. And so that was one more tool that was off the table to combat waste. But I think really you have to look at it from the front end on a utility. Um,
Speaker 5:
23:31
as far as far as focusing on what's the total utility that we can get out of this acre as opposed to what do we do with it when the fresh market doesn't want it. Because I really feel that that's the focus with a lot of the companies that are doing wrong misfits and the ugly foods, you know, they're trying to shove something that classically doesn't appeal into the fresh market, into the fresh market. And I think it's very confusing and I don't think it's going to be a sustainable as being able to take something on the front and planning for the fact that it's not going to meet fresh market quality and have an opportunity to move it into the frozen foods. Because you've spent time marketing to the frozen foods industry and you've spent time marketing to the functional foods industry. Because if it's already just about to get distant, that's not the time to start marketing to these other athletes.
Speaker 2:
24:22
So Zack, how do you determine what to grow? I mean, I think if we were talking five years ago, you'd probably tell me, you know, you're going to grow some kale that was going through the roof. How do you determine what, what you're gonna grow with, what market there is for what you grow? You know, it, it still comes from
Speaker 5:
24:45
consumers' tastes and preferences and those get relayed to us by our customers on these different segments that say [inaudible] can you grow this or will you grow that? And we take that in and we do a few things with it. We run it through a few of our tests. One is, is it the right crop on the right ground at the right time of year?
Speaker 2:
25:05
Well that if that
Speaker 5:
25:06
checks off, then we go to, can I take this crop in the event that is not fresh market, um, appropriate? Can I move it into three or four other markets to where I can guarantee that all be making a profit back to the ranch, even if it's a potentially smaller one and not just going to crop. That's what we really look for when we decide on if we're going to grow something or not.
Speaker 2:
25:33
And Zach, last question. What do you think for all us farmers is the number one issue problem, um, that farmers are facing today?
Speaker 5:
25:46
I'd say the number one issue farmers are facing today, his lack of desire in younger generations to get out and do the farming, to actually be in the production of ag. Um, because it's extremely tough business. Sometimes it's not very rewarding financially. Um, so, so you really have to look deep in your heart and know that you're getting into production ag for more than just a financial, um, pay off. And that I think is, is difficult for a lot of, um, instinct gratification, uh, generations coming up. So I think, uh, I think that's the biggest issue facing farmers.
Speaker 2:
26:33
Zach, thanks so much for joining us today on farm food facts. It really appreciate your insights.
Speaker 5:
26:38
Absolutely, Phil, thanks for having me.
Speaker 2:
26:41
More information on all things, food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit food dialogues.com under the programs and media tab and visit us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USF RA. Until next time.
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