Farm Food Facts

Fred Yoder, Addy Battel, Small Farm Drones

December 11, 2019 USFRA Episode 54
Farm Food Facts
Fred Yoder, Addy Battel, Small Farm Drones
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Fred Yoder, Addy Battel, Small Farm Drones
Dec 11, 2019 Episode 54
USFRA

Today's Thought Leader is Fred Yoder, Co-Chair for Solutions from the Land (SFL).

The Stories you NEED to know:
• Lessons learned from Leafy Greens
• Making Drones Work for Small Farmers
• Data Standardization is critical for driving efficiency into Food Supply Chains.

Our Farmer is Addy Battel, Data Standardization is critical for driving efficiency into Food Supply Chains.

Show Notes Transcript

Today's Thought Leader is Fred Yoder, Co-Chair for Solutions from the Land (SFL).

The Stories you NEED to know:
• Lessons learned from Leafy Greens
• Making Drones Work for Small Farmers
• Data Standardization is critical for driving efficiency into Food Supply Chains.

Our Farmer is Addy Battel, Data Standardization is critical for driving efficiency into Food Supply Chains.

Phil:

Farm Food Facts where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm Food Facts for December 11, 2019 I'm your host Phil Lempert. Remember to watch the new short film from USFRA, 30 Harvests, to see just how farmers provide a source of healthy food while addressing environmental concern for current and future generations. Go to U S farmers and ranchers.org to view this impactful and Hartville foam. Later in the podcast, we talk with 17 year old Addy Battel, a homeschooled high school senior from Cassidy, Michigan. She's the co founder and board member of a nationally recognized hunger relief organization meeting the need for our village. But first Fred Yoder, a fourth generation farmer who has lived in farm near plain city, Ohio for more than 40 years. Along with his wife Debbie and his two children. He grows corn, soybeans, and wheat on his farm of over 1800 acres.

Phil:

Fred has served as president of the national corn growers association as chairman of the NCG A's biotech working group, which helps to develop protocols to ensure that new emerging technologies could be used safely. On the farm while protecting other existing crop systems. He is the co-chair of the board of directors of solutions from the land, a nonprofit organization working with the global Alliance of climate smart agriculture, which enables developed and developing countries to ramp up global food production and distribution in a sustainable way and serves as chair of the North American climate smart agriculture Alliance. Today we're focused on the future and I can think of no one better to lead us on this journey than Fred. Fred, welcome to farm food facts.

Fred:

Well thank you. Thanks for having me.

Phil:

So I guess the hardest question to ask, look into your crystal ball. A few. Would you know, what does agriculture going to look like over the next five, 10 and 20 years?

Fred:

Well certainly we're going to have to look a little different than we do now and we're getting there. Farmers, whether they like to admit it or not, they've been adapting to climate change. The only they're calling it weather pattern changes. So you know, it's just the way you've got to find a way to talk about it. The weather in one way or another. Cause unfortunately, uh, we politicize this whole climate change and I think that's absolutely ridiculous. You know, farmers like to tout the sound science of biotechnology and, and other technologies, but they're very reluctant to talk about climate change since we've politicized it. But you talk about weather pattern changes, you talk about that the growing seasons that we've had the last couple of years and certainly things have changed. And so what we're going to have to do is we're going to have to figure out ways that not only do we make ourselves less risky to bad weather, but also to make our soils more relevant to build in the future and do better.

Fred:

So what we're trying to do is look at farmers and, and tell them that sometimes less is more so less tillage integrating with cover crops and things and maybe saving some soil. Well this it along art or nutrients, that's the way to go. Farmers respond to economic incentives and really we have to figure out a way that we can change our practices at the same time have an economic advantage. So that's the, that's really what I've been working on with farmers is to help them understand that new practices can make them money, but it can also the really, really big solutions to climate change.

Phil:

You know, Fred, I agree with your earlier statement about politics and climate change and that really getting in the way of of progress if you would. How can we, you know, Ryde climate change of the whole political issue or can we in fact even do that because I don't think that until we [inaudible] separate them out that we are going to get everybody to understand what the situation when it comes to weather is really creating for us.

Fred:

Well, one of the ways that we can do it is is there's a thing called climate smart agriculture and that should mean the same where regardless of what country you're in or what state you're in in the States here and climate smart agriculture is the way to get around read just instead of saying climate change climate smart agriculture really operates on three pillars and the first pillar is profitability and sustainable intensification and farmers respond to profitability. That's really the first really initial though definition of sustainability is. In other words, if you don't make money enough to pay your bills, then it's not sustainable.

Phil:

Exactly. You're out of business.

Fred:

The second pillar, it all about adaptation to changing weather patterns or climate change or whatever you want to call it, and ways to make your soils more resilient and risk management and that's really would make it soil is more resilient. It's all of that. The more organic matter you can provide it for your soils, the less you will be hurt by long periods of dry weather or even periods of wet weather because as we have considered it, well, scientists tell us that 25,000 gallons of extra capacity for your soils is available for just 1% of additional organic matter. So that means, and whether it'll hold 25,000 gallons more before the water goes off the surface, but that also means in dry weather that you have a reserve there that gets, you see those dry periods. Well, that's the fact that you have this residue on top of this.

Fred:

You're just like a big giant blanket on your soil and you'll keep from evaporating so much water when you have a severe Hedon and dry dies. So that's pillar two and then pillar three is reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration. But if you do number one and do number two or number three automatically happens. And that's how you get farmers to to finally come around and listen to a different way of doing it, provide them an economic incentive to change their way, show him some savings and nutrients that would ordinarily run off and interest the streams and rivers and get down in the Gulf of Mexico. Or you can show different way maybe with some bio diversity, another crop that they can raise. And also the number two is when you talk about soul resilience, that's where you bring in cover crops to keep something growing time.

Fred:

And then those cover crops will not be a quick return on investment. But over five to 10 years, we always got to figure out ways that we can make our, our farmers more resilient and handed to the next generation. And then if they do, when I'm on number one, number two, again, all of a sudden you realize that you have better water quality, you have better air quality and your, she questioned carbon in the soil. That's an ecosystem service. We were doing that we were helping the cause without even realizing it. Then I'll guarantee you'll have champions in the farming community out there as has really understanding and being a solution to climate change because that's just the question is all of the carbon that is available in the air that that sucks down on it and make it permanently available in the soil. The next crop,

Phil:

so Fred, I want to focus for a moment on the next generation. You have two kids that are working side by side with you.

Fred:

Nope.

Phil:

What are they going to have to focus on in the future? Certainly as as we look at being climate smart, that's one area, but what else are they going to have to be focused on?

Fred:

One of the things that we're always going to constantly have to get better at is utilizing technology and knowing what we're doing and getting certain outcomes by doing specific practices and and really understanding what we're doing is actually paying us way and actually having a good effect on things. Like for instance, my, my son is 34 years old, he's a millennial and he's, he thinks much different than me. I'm a trial and error guy and that's how we find that with something worse, he's all about looking at the data. The more data you have to look at an aggregate, the more answers you're going to get from what he's doing. And so he's looking at the scene in a much more objective way than maybe some older ones would do and he's also willing to try new things. So I'm really, really hopeful that the next generation will look at things a little different, different than us baby boomers.

Fred:

The newer ones are going to look at it and okay, what's what, how can we make money and how can we leave it in better shape and how do we manage that risk? That's out there with these changing weather patterns. And so he's going to look at maybe some, some more biodiversity, maybe explore some new crops that we haven't handed ration in the past. I mean we mainly concentrate on corn and soybeans today, but maybe there's some other crops that we need to be looking at. But the value of the cover crops that we put in between, uh, racing the corn and soybeans, that's a, we've learned really fast to how great that is for your soil because you know, we used, so you're right a lot for our cover crops and it basically just picks up all of those excess nutrients that we hadn't used on the [inaudible] previous crop and stores it in the plant itself.

Fred:

And then as it breaks down, it provides food for the next crop. We have to get more efficient, you know, cutter our fertilizer down and maybe utilize a little more, uh, microbes and things like that in the soil. Pay attention to more what's happening underneath the soil surface and then just what's happening on top. So it's a different perspective. The other thing you have to look at is technology and precision. We actually farm by the square foot today. We have our ability on our planner is it changes the rates of fertilizer and changes in the rates for the seed. And we can do all that stuff on the go. And every time we make a trip to the field, we have a map on it. So you lay those maps on each other. So you have to figure out, did this practice work better than the last practice?

Fred:

Do I need to do something over here? And so it's a much more scientific approach, but it's also a much more efficient approach as our margins get smaller and smaller because of unsure markets. The only way you're going to survive is to have to keep cutting costs. And you know, of course the reason I got in all of this is how did it, now we're, we're, we're to feed a nine and a half to 10 billion a world. And the only way we're going to do that on the same amount of land is just to do better job.

Phil:

So Fred, you're fourth generation. Uh, your son is fifth generation. I want to talk a little bit about that dynamic. I actually worked for my dad, my grandfather was a dairy farmer and worked for my dad for awhile and I actually joined an organization, I don't know if it still exists, but your son might be interested in it. It's called the SOVs sons of bosses. And what we found is when you're talking about technology, you're talking about the different language between the two generations. What are some helpful hints that you can offer other farmers both, you know, fifth generation and fourth generation farmers on how they can best communicate? Could I remember getting into battles with my dad? You know, where I would just say, why just send me to college if you're not going to listen to me, you know, and, and those kinds of situations. So what can you, what can you offer other farmers in a way to really listen to this next generation and learn from it? It doesn't mean everything that they're going to say is right or that everything you're going to say is right, but how can we better communicate to be able to lead agriculture into the future in a positive way?

Fred:

Well, you've touched on a real challenge and that is the difference between the way each generation thinks and approaches business proposition or a way to do something different. And one of the things that we really have to get over is the fact that I have to get over this as an older fellow, you know, my son's got lots of different ideas and my first inclination as well, you know, been there, done that, tried it, doesn't work. But on the other hand, I got to realize I've got to give him the freedom to think and to create and figure things out on their own. So I can't emphasize enough about the whole communication thing. You know what? When my father and I used to work together on it, you know, I went to that thing, especially during college times and getting out, I thought I'd do it all.

Fred:

And then after, after a while I realized that I didn't know what all and the longer I stayed in farming, the more I actually asked dad for his counsel and tried to consult with him before I did something. I got to learn this. There's a whole lot of knowledge and experience out there and wisdom. That's something I need to call on and now we went through that whole thing on our farm with my sons, gosh, we're, we're finally getting to them. My son's a lot more educated than I am, but he used to be tremendously good questions as we go through this. He actually asked my counsel more now, but it's all about communication and we went through [inaudible] when he first came back. Basically after he got his MBA and worked in the corporate world that he thought he knew them all, but he didn't know it all and neither did I and but yet I really learned to enjoy our dialogue and we take a specific issue and we talk about if the new idea, we'll try it on a very small acreage. If it's a really good idea, we'll try it on a much bigger thing that every farmer that's farming today should do something every year that's making him nervous or uncomfortable cause you never know how something that maybe doesn't work best the first year, then you'll find ways to tweak it, make it work better. The second year. That's how we got into cover crops and my son really pushed it and he was right. And so it gives, it comes back to that communication.

Phil:

Well Fred, thanks so much for joining us. You've got great insights and really helping lead us in the future, whether it's next generation or whether it's technology or science. So thank you for joining us today on Farm Food Facts.

Fred:

Well thanks for having me very much

Phil:

And now for the news, you need to know what are the lessons learned from leafy greens last year? G coli outbreaks and romaine lettuce show us the challenges for food safety programs, the outbreaks of E coli contamination that's sick and hundreds of people were linked to romaine lettuce and the recalls cost producers. Millions. FDA investigators found a strain will be Cola linked to illnesses in Yuma, Arizona in an irrigation canal that supplies several farms. Another outbreak was linked to California farms. The same e-coli strain was discovered in the sediment of a pond on a farm, but it had a different genetic fingerprint. Although the sources of the outbreak were found, many questions remain. For instance, how did the pathogen get into the water sources in the first place? This is important so we can ascertain how to prevent further problems. Growers can do everything right and still be at risk of a food safety crisis until the science of prevention is improved with new tools for detecting cases of food poisoning and fingerprinting pathogens, water testing remains a challenge because your irrigation water is tested for total coliform bacteria, not pathogens.

Phil:

It's quite complicated and expensive to seek all the barriers, potential pathogens under routine circumstances and regulators typically rely on a spike to indicate risks. However, the romaine outbreaks illustrate just how the existing simply don't catch everything. In order for the FDA to find the pathogen strain in an Arizona canal. It took much larger samples and use the high tech means of testing that is not financially feasible for growers and it's extremely difficult to trace accurately, especially in that final mile that goes to the consumer. A good trace back can significantly narrow the scope of concern, but more research is still needed into how contamination occurs. And another aspect of farming that could benefit from more research is drones and making drones work for small farmers, humans and even satellites have a tough time beating a Thrones eye for detail. In scanning. Farming systems from above unmanned aerial vehicles or UAV have gained ground quickly in agriculture over the last decade as part of precision agriculture, as they have the ability to fly under the clouds collecting and sending images in almost real time, they can also help farmers check the health of crops, track livestock plan fertilization, assess damages and map fields at high resolution.

Phil:

An increasing number of drones for agriculture are sold on every continent with several experts are questioning whether drones can really fulfill the needs of all the farmers across the world. The U S the UK and Australia have all increasingly embraced ag tech, but developing countries where farm sizes average about one Hector have been much slower adopters of this technology. Although the cost of running a basic agriculture drone has dropped by five times over the last five years. But drones can help small farms tackle soil loss by spotting degraded land needing restoration. Drone collected images can tell farmers where to fertilize or the spray pesticides or where their equipment has failed and drones could offer small farmers the advantage by facilitating early decision making, which allows them to spot issues sooner. Drones can also identify locations where one can make sustainable choices for the small holder, but small plots can still limit drones capabilities and monoculture systems are easier to assess with crops such as corn being highly suited for management via drones, so they're still working.

Phil:

Research necessary in making drones work well for small farmers in other tech related news, data standardization is critical for driving efficiency into food supply chains. Food supply chains struggle with a lack of visibility and transparency which extends from the farm to the fork. The main reason behind these issues is the way food is being sourced these days. Food sourcing is truly global with produce being ship, different areas of the world, Stockton supermarkets and moving through the hands of several stakeholders along the way. This brings complexity into managing logistics because stakeholders at different nodes of the value chain often have no visibility into the operations of the other parties who are involved. In turn. This motivates businesses look into blockchain, which can help standardize supply chain processes while also providing much needed transparency and visibility. Kevin auto is a senior director at [inaudible], U S which is the organization that standardizes blockchain frameworks for easy adoption within food supply chains.

Phil:

He said the following, as supply chains grow increasingly more global, you don't necessarily have that personal relationship with some of the trading partners in the supply chain that you may have had 10 or 15 years ago. So the idea that you can actually track and trace products through a global supply chain and ensure that you're shipping safe food to consumers becomes increasingly more of an acute problem. Auto also explains that the idea of linking supply chain trading partners together in a trustworthy environment through blockchain, it's essential because there has been an increase in the number of recalls and contamination issues in recent years, which threatens authenticity within food supply chains, he's contended that the real value behind blockchain is its possibilities, enabling more open data sharing and in creating an audit trail essentially. Although blockchain can bring in accountability, this technology still requires its core data to be populated and accurate at the start.

Phil:

Next 17 year old Addy Battel, six generation farmer and cofounder of meeting the need for our village. Addie, welcome to farm food facts.

Addy:

Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.

Phil:

So one thing I know from having met you at honor of the harvest and hearing you talk is you really look at youth empowerment as the key to effecting the world's biggest challenges. Tell me about that.

Addy:

Absolutely. That's the thing that I've kind of a common thread that I've tried to keep in everything I do as much as I can is that I hope to always be following my passions and doing everything that I can to solve the problems that I see. And I hope that by doing that I inspire other youth to do the same thing. And, and I hope I can continue on a path that allows me to really in a very hands on way empower other youth to do the same.

Phil:

So Addy, you're 17 you're a high school senior. Next year you're going to start Michigan state university for a degree in animal science. You're a sixth generation farmer with everything in front of you. Your whole life in front of you with all things happening in technology and so on. Why choose to be a sixth generation farmer? It's a hard life.

Addy:

Aye. I really see a future in agriculture. I think agriculture has always been the, um, sort of driving force of society. We need to eat. Our culture allows for a surplus of food and allowed humanity to really exam. And so I absolutely see, okay, the supporting agriculture through my career as supporting society.

Phil:

So let's talk about the climate. I hesitate to use the word climate change, but let's talk about the challenges that the weather that the climate is really creating for farmers these days. And what do you hope that you can do about that?

Addy:

Climate volatility stemming from climate change is causing lots of problems in Michigan. We still have corn in the ground right now with feet of snow on top of it. And that, that coupled with a wet spring and just, we're not, we're not doing well. And I see my role, you know, we're, we're beginning to discover agriculture potential for carbon sequestration through healthy soil. And I see my role as sharing that message, sharing with the farmers around me that by doing the things for your soil that we've known for generations, that's the right things to do. And by innovating and adopting new technologies that improve our healthy soils, we can begin to solve some of our greatest problems.

Phil:

You created a foundation, an organization called meeting the need for our village. Tell us about that.

Addy:

Sure. Meeting the need for our village began back in 2014 when my hometown is cast city became a food desert. So according to the USDA, that means for a rural area that we [inaudible] don't have a grocery store for 10 miles and [inaudible] for us it's closer to 20 miles. Actually we don't have a grocery store. And um, I was 12 years old at the time, so I didn't really get the full scope of, of all of the issues that, that lack of access to food had on my community. But I did know that I'm fortunate enough that my dinner table is always full of lots of meat, lots of who's right from the farm. And I saw that as an opportunity to get those things to my community. So that's what four of my friends and I started to do. We recognize that we were farm kids, we had Barnes, we had the ability to raise the animals and get them processed, of course by properly licensed processors and then donate them to food pantries in the area. And so that's what we've been doing for the last five years. And we've made about a $63,000 impact in the community and are working on gaining five Oh 1C3 nonprofit status right now.

Phil:

Terrific. Well, Addie, I think our future future of farming in the future of the world is in good hands with you. You've accomplished so much in just 17 years. I can't wait to see what you do in the next 17 years. And thanks for joining us today on Farm Food Facts.

Addy:

All right. Thank you so much.

Phil:

Thanks for listening to today's podcast episode. For more information on all things, food and agriculture, please visit us a us farmers and ranchers.org. Also be sure to look for us on Facebook at us farmers and ranchers or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.