Today's Thought Leader is Michele Payn, author of Food Bullying: How to avoid buying BS.
The stories you need to know:
• There’s a New Produce Warehouse in Los Angeles that aims to Prevent millions of pounds of Food Waste.
• Rodale Institute Launches New Organic Research & Training Center in Georgia.
Our farmer is Jocelyn Schlichting Hicks, the 2019 Good Steward Recognition Award from the National Corn Growers Association
Farm, Food, Facts: where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter . Welcome to Farm, Food, Facts for Wednesday, August 28th, 2019. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Later in the podcast, we're going to talk with Jocelyn Schlichting Hicks, the 2019 Good Steward Recognition Award from the National Corn Growers Association. But first we chat with Michele Payne , author of Food Bullying: How to Avoid Buying BS. She's an international award winning author and brings common sense to the overly emotional food conversation and gets perspective from the cows in her front yard. So Michele, tell me, what are the life lessons you personally learned by growing up on a farm?Michele Payn:
Well, by growing up on a dairy farm, I certainly learned perseverance and work ethic and determination, which some people might call stubbornness. I believe farm kids unquestionably have the opportunity to practice all three of those, work extremely hard, and really learn a love and compassion for producing food.Phil Lempert:
So, the premise of Food Bullying is that one food should not be positioned as superior to another food. Why is that? And aren't some foods better than others?Michele Payn:
The premise of Food Bullying is really about removing choice. If choice is being removed either around the food plate or on the farm, it is bullying. And so, while some people may consider foods to be superior to another, I believe that choice ultimately is in the person purchasing the food. Phil, you may find that having a fine salmon is a superior food to my filet mignon or my hamburger, but in reality that's about choice and that's the choice that you're making, and unfortunately food bullying is leading to guilt and shaming and fear in food today, which I believe is negative to everyone who's involved in the food business.Phil Lempert:
But from a consumer standpoint, how can we get the consumer to recognize the the quality of food, the nutritional quality of certain foods over other foods?Michele Payn:
That's a great question, and what I always recommend is for people who are making eating choices to not rely on the labels and the claims that are on menus and packages and so forth, but go back to those with firsthand expertise. So, farmers as an example, are an excellent place to go if you really want to know how chemicals are used in raising your food, why there are hormones in your food, it's great to talk to a farmer. But also talk to a dietician . Those are the people that have the nutritional expertise. And I would beg you to please talk to a registered dietician/nutritionist rather than a gym nutritionist because those are the people that really do have the expertise, or certainly talk to those that have firsthand expertise in other areas of the food system. Because the reality is is that is where you're going to get the most reliable information.Phil Lempert:
So, you've written about four food standards. What are they and why are they important?Michele Payn:
The four food standards that I've written about in overcoming food bullying, are health, ethical, environmental, and social standards. It's really interesting. And being an author, and this is my third book, I've been thrilled to see it go to number one before it released in November. But, it's really interesting to sit down and write your own standards. And what I've learned through writing my standards is that choice is a predominant philosophy in my life. I firmly believe in choice around the plate, as I had said, but also on the farm. But likewise, I also believe that we have an ethical responsibility to provide nourishment for people around the world. And finally, one of my environmental standards is that I care deeply for both the environment and for animals, but I hold people in much higher regards and I will always choose what's best for people over what's best for animals and land because I don't believe that they're equitable.Phil Lempert:
So, you mentioned before that it's important for consumers to know farmers that produce their food. In fact, one of the facts in the book is 7 out of 10 Americans believe that it's important to know the farmers. What can we do to facilitate those conversations between farmers and consumers?Michele Payn:
Well, if you are a farmer, I would encourage you to take the opportunity to talk to people that are very different than you. And that can be done in person, if you have time. And it can be done online through a variety of social media channels. And one of the ways to have this conversation: just to share your own story, to talk about your family business values, whether you're farming 5,000 acres or 500 acres, because we all know that farm families hold many of the same values and it is those farm families that are defining the ethics of a farm, not the size of the business. So, whether you are on Instagram sharing a picture and providing context about why we do what we do, or if you're on Twitter and you're sharing some facts about what you're doing that day or if you're in the church parking lot and you're talking to someone who's not set foot on a farm, those are all really valuable activities. If you're a dietician, I would also encourage you- or a retailer, I would encourage you to get out on the farm, get your boots dirty so to speak, shake the hands of a real life farmer, because I bet you'll be really surprised with the people that you find. And finally, if you're a consumer, before your believe labele claims that I would consider to be BS - or bull speak as my book alludes to - I would encourage you to really understand what farm-raised means. If there's no meaningful or measurable value to it, then don't buy into it. And the best way to find some of that meaning is to talk to a farmer.Phil Lempert:
Well, Michele, great insight , congratulations on yet another book that's going to be so successful and thank you for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts. And now, for the stories you need to know. There's a new produce warehouse in Los Angeles that aims to prevent millions of pounds of food waste. Food Forward is a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating food waste in southern California and it's opening a new produce warehouse that will prevent millions of pounds of food waste and bring fresh food to people in need. Fresh Forward has rescued more than 77 million pounds of produce since the nonprofit was first founded back in 2009. And its new 6,000 square-foot warehouses is expected to save 50% more produce than it did previously, recovering about 33 million pounds annually by 2020. This will help California meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals by reducing gases generated by organic waste, since roughly a third of the 30 million tons of garbage that California sends to landfills every year are compostable organic materials, including produce. And from California. We go to Georgia. Rodale Institute launches a new organic research and training center in Georgia. The Rodale Institute plans to launch their Southeast Organic Center this fall. It will be a regional resource to help farmers adapt to environmental challenges unique to the southeast part of the U.S. The center will serve as a research and education hub focused on increasing the number of farms and acres in organic production; establishing a longterm research trial to determine changes in soil health, yields, economic models, and more in this unique climate and soil type; solving challenges for organic farmers in the region, including pest diseases, weed management; as well as training new farmers and increasing pathways to the market. A key partner of the Southeast Organic Center will be Serenbe, a wellness community that offers a unique opportunity for consumer education and community engagement. Steve Nygren, founder and CEO of Serenbe, said the following: "Rodale institute has been the progressive voice for organic farming since the 1940s, and we're delighted to join them with models and policy for saving farmland, training new farmers, and creating a path to ownership for those farms." Up next, Jocelyn Schlichting Hicks , who along with her family operates Prairie Farm Company, which raises more than 6,600 acres of potatoes, edible beans, corn, alfalfa, and winter rye. In addition to raising hogs and maintaining 600 acres of native forest and prairie lands. Now, she didn't start out as a farmer, but instead worked as a tax accountant for a decade for Fortune 100 companies in Minneapolis. She returned to the farm in 2016 to become a fourth-generation farmer in Rice, Minnesota. Jocelyn , first I want to congratulate you for being awarded the 2019 Good Steward Recognition Award from the National Corn Growers Association. It's quite an honor, especially with the challenges that I've heard your dad speak of due to the soil conditions you have on the farm.Jocelyn Hicks:
Thank you very much. Yeah, we're very proud of that award.Phil Lempert:
So, you rejoin the family farm a couple of years ago after a 10-year stint in tech. How are you using those skills to enhance your 6,600 acre plus farm?Jocelyn Hicks:
I did, and if I'm honest, I didn't think my work experience was going to be relevant when I decided to come back to the farm, so I'm very pleased to see that it has transferred. There's so much data collected on the farm now, I don't know if people always know that. And historically, nobody had our farm had the capacity to make sense of it. So, since coming back, I've been organizing this data so we can see the effects of granular decisions. Does another ounce of fertilizer increase our yield enough to pay for the fertilizer? Can a new cover crop technique, improve our soil organic matter? How can I eliminate a tractor pass? Things like that. And when I look at this data, I'm focused on sustainability, both economic and environmental. I'm trying to prove that every single input into the field creates value to the soil, crop, and the farm. And I'm looking for opportunities to reduce our inputs without sacrificing those values.Phil Lempert:
So, a very different way of looking then. I think it was your grandparents who started the farm.Jocelyn Hicks:
My great-grandmother actually started the farm. And since the beginning, I think they've always been very innovative and that's what has allowed us to farm successfully in this kind of strange soil type that's not always conducive to growing things.Phil Lempert:
So, I also understand you've been testing a wireless soil moisture probe for the past five years. Can you share how the test is going and what benefits you've already seen?Jocelyn Hicks:
Sure. So, we do a lot of trials across the ag industry on the farm, but we have several soil moisture probes that we've been trialing. Mostly, the moisture probes have proved that the management practices we've been using are accurate. We are really lucky to have an extremely experienced team managing our irrigation. We have three guys with over 30 years of experience. And farming's very hands on; they go out in the field every day and grab the soil and that's remaining their primary decision maker. But having the opportunity to test these soil moisture probes and prove that they come to the same conclusions our guys with 30 years of experience are coming to has been really important and it's going to allow me to trust the moisture probes in the coming years when these guys start to retire and I need to put less experienced employees into managing irrigation.Phil Lempert:
That makes sense. You have a wide variety of crops that you grow, but I think having seen your dad on video, I think his favorite crop is the rye that is actually being used to make whiskey.Jocelyn Hicks:
Yeah, that's hard to deny. I'm trying to talk them into potato vodka, but so far he's stuck on the whiskey.Phil Lempert:
Okay. I also had to chuckle when I heard you say that while you were growing up, no one on the farm or in your family ever used the word sustainability. You said it was just the right way to do things on the farm. Today, sustainability is the buzzword in the food supply chain. What would you like to tell grocery retailers about sustainability?Jocelyn Hicks:
I think retailers, and consumers, should know that we've got this. Farmers have been working with sustainable practices in mind for decades. We're ready to continue facing this challenge, head on. Farmers are adaptable, we're innovative, and we're really dedicated stewards of the land. Making the food supply chain more sustainable takes all of us. It's important that farmers, retailers and consumers continue to partner together to leverage all of our expertise and educate each other to change practices on the farm, standards, the suppliers requests, and the habits of consumers.Phil Lempert:
Well, Jocelyn, thanks so much for joining us today on Farm, Food, Facts and keep up the good work. And again, congratulations on the award. For more information on all things food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues .com under the Programs and Media tab and visit us on Facebook at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.