Farm Food Facts

The Carbon Neutral Pig

October 07, 2021 USFRA Episode 114
Farm Food Facts
The Carbon Neutral Pig
Show Notes Transcript

Today we go behind the scenes and talk with Marlowe Vaughn and USFRA Board Chair Anne Meis.  Marlowe Vaughan is the star of the USFRA produced short film, The Carbon Neutral Pig.  She is also a North Carolina pig farmer and is the Executive Director of the Feed the Dialogue NC with a true passion for educating consumers about agriculture and where their food comes from. Her enthusiasm, passion and knowledge of the pork industry earned her the Emerging Leader Award, previously known as the Pork All-American, an award also earned by her father, Bob Ivey in 1982.  As well as earning her the starring role in USFRA’s latest docudrama

Anne Meis is a farmer and Nebraska Soybean member in Elgin, Nebraska.  Anne, along with her husband Jim, run a family operation raising corn, soybeans, and alfalfa and cattle.  Over the past 32 years, they have had a continued focus on increasing soil health, conserving water, being good stewards of the land, and practicing quality animal care.  



Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2021 Honor The harvest . Welcome to Farm Food Facts. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Today, we've got a very special episode. It's focused on USFRA's latest Docu-drama, The Carbon Neutral Pig. This short film follows the real life journey of one of our guests, Marlowe Ivy Vaughn, who has taken over her dad's North Carolina pig farm and is working to make it carbon neutral. "Change has got to start somewhere" She says, and it becomes a key line as she encounters people online. And in our community that criticized pig farming as being harmful to the planet and telling her the changes needed, Marlowe sees her farm as a place where she can make positive change using science and experts to evolve and to improve the closed loop processes that her dad started in the 1980s and 1990s with pigs, soy and corn. She's currently working towards a methane capture system to power the farm. You can see the Carbon Neutral Pig on USfarmersandranchers.org. But today we go behind the scenes and talk with Marlo and USF are a board chair and me , and as a farmer and Nebraska soybean member in Elgin, Nebraska, along with her husband, Jim, they run a family operation, raising corn soybeans, alfalfa and cattle. Over the past 32 years, they've had a continued focus on increasing soil health, conserving water, being good stewards of the land and practicing quality animal care. Marlowe is a North Carolina pig farmer. And as the executive director of the Feed the Dialogue North Carolina, with a true passion for educating consumers about agriculture and where their food comes from her enthusiasm, passion and knowledge of the pork industry earned her, the emerging leader award previously known as the pork, all American and award, by the way that her father also earned in 1982, she also has earned the starring role in USFRAs, latest docu-drama. Anne and Marlowe, thank you for joining us today on Farm Food Facts.

Anne:

Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having us.

Marlowe:

Thanks for having me Phil.

Phil:

So Marlowe, what was it like to have your life story and work captured on the film for the entire world to say?

Speaker 2:

Um , honestly it was a very humbling experience. I was definitely honored to be selected as one of the farmers . Um, it's always a passion of mine to help educate people about our food system and where our food comes from. So , um, I definitely have a new respect for the film industry the after, after filming the movie,

Phil:

What, what was the biggest either challenge or surprise , um, that came to be while you were filming?

Marlowe:

Um, I think just how grueling , um, the process was going to be emotionally. I don't, I mean, I'm , I'm a hard worker, I'm a, I'm a farmer girl, so I'm , I'm used to , to pretty, pretty hard labor, but , um , just the grueling of the shots and , and changing the scenes and, and what they needed to kind of accomplish our goal. And honestly, even though the crew was a local crew , um , here from North Carolina is an urban area Raleigh, which is our state Capitol. It was very interesting. The questions that I got behind the scenes about basic agriculture as well. Um, so it was almost like we were learning together. Um, I was learning a little bit of their industry and they were learning a lot about mine.

Phil:

So what was the question that , that they asked you that really surprised you that maybe they didn't know beforehand?

Marlowe:

Um, we were shooting one day and this was when we were shooting out at the farm and one of the lighting guys came over and he goes, Hey, yo, what's wrong with that corn? Why does that last, that corn brown? And I thought, well, that's what we wanted to do. You know, it's , it's harvest season and we're, we're getting ready to, you know , pick the corn. Um, but you know, he's probably used to urban areas or sweet warm where it doesn't turn brown like that. So it was just kind of interesting to me that even though he's from North Carolina, he doesn't even realize, and, you know, the cycles that , that our red crops go through for harvest.

Phil:

And I think , um, it's what you and Anne , um, taken on as a responsibility , uh, to be able to educate people , um, where their food comes from. And, and , uh, first of all, congratulations as being part of the open opening ceremony at the UN producer conference. Um, it's the first time we've ever seen a farmer or rancher be part of that? What was that experience like for you?

Anne:

Well, it was pretty , um, you know, amazing and kind of, you know, like, wow, what a responsibility to speak for us agriculture in general, because it's so diverse. And, you know, there's so many different avenues of us agriculture, but I think it just highlights how important it is that we be on that global stage and bring our message to that global stage so that people understand that , um, you know, the advances in agriculture are benefiting all of us and making us more sustainable. So that's so important that we continue to be on that global stage

Phil:

When you're on that stage and talking behind the scenes , um, if you would, to, to the other people there , um, were there any surprises that you had that, you know, people were asking you questions and, you know, you're just saying, I really need to get this message out there. These people really don't.

Anne:

Well, I think it continues to surprise me and take me , uh , back out the , um, the movement out there, especially based in, in Europe that egg agroecology movement that really wants agriculture to go backwards in time and, you know, use methods that were used 50 years ago to produce the same amount of food that we need today. And that's just not going to happen. We have advances in all other industries and technology and those types of advances. And so here we are in agriculture, we have great advances in genetics. We have advances in how we're raising our livestock, which was highlighted in Marlowe's film. We have advances in crop protection, and if we're truly going to be sustainable and increase production while using less resources and preserve our natural resources and be more sustainable than what you really need to , um, utilize these , uh, egg and , you know, the advances in agriculture, whether that be in ag data, whether it be in science, genetics, all of those together will really get us all as a society, to the goal goals . We want to be using less resources while providing abundant , uh, sufficient food.

Phil:

So, and you said that, you know, people want us to go back to the way we were 50 years ago, is it because of the lack of knowledge, is it because of the misinformation that's out there? Um, that people just think that, you know , um, terrible things are happening to the planet. So if we go back 50 years , um , we can fix it.

Anne:

I think it's all of those things. I think it's misinformation and there's this ideological vision of the farmer, you know, in his bib overalls or her evolve , the chickens in the background. And that's just simply not going to feed our world. And there seems to be this kind of , um , you know, emotional connection. Well, if it's done organically, it's going to be better. Well, you know, that's , uh , that's one way to farm. Um, but there's other ways to farm also that are using less resources, but yet producing more food. So there's a lot of tools in the tool box in agriculture now. And , um, I think we can do a better job using those tools. So we've really got our job in front of us to educate the general public about these tools that we have in agriculture and how they really are a benefit to society. So again, that is why it's so important that we have this presence now , um, at the UN. So, you know, us FRA understands the importance of the us having that presence on a global stage w when we're at the UN and the sustainable development goals, discussion are happening, you know, it was a huge win for our CEO, Aaron Fitzgerald to be invited and be one of only 100 delegates worldwide to be at the pre food summit in Rome, in July. And then of course the other big win was when I was asked to be at the opening ceremonies, representing us agriculture at the food summit in September. So, you know, and now as a result of cadet collaborating that Erin works so hard and working with other farmer organizations throughout the world, the farmers actually have their own unique voice now at the UN where that wasn't true , um , a year ago. So I know that there's a lot of farmers out there that feel like these UN sustainable development goals are completely disconnected with what we do day to day on our farms, but we just have to realize that we need organizations like us to operate in places that matter right here, and the policies and the discussions that are happening at the UN will have long-term consequences on whether it be regulations or a general acceptance or rejection of these advances in agriculture. I've talked about. So really important that for their ,

Phil:

Uh, definitely, and, and empowerment and education is critical. And to that point, Marlowe both as an individual farmer and through feed the dialogue , what are some of the efforts that you've taken on to help tell the story?

Marlowe:

Um, yeah, there's a lot of efforts that we do I do on a personal level and definitely through my organization of be the dialogue, but it kind of goes back to Anne's point, you know, we've evolved over the past 50 years. My dad started raising hogs in the ground in 1979. We brought those , um , hogs and indoors , and we've been striving for the carbon neutral pigs since then. Um, you know, but , but during that time, you know, we didn't have accessibility to kind of platforms that we have now with social media to tell our ag story. And quite frankly, farmers were too busy for me. Um, so we re we've kind of been behind the eight ball of getting our story out there, but through, you know, obviously open dialogue and participating in it and , and, you know, the U S farmers and ranchers Alliance and, and doing farm tours and getting involved with social media and , and being with influencers and talking and having discussions with people that are talking about our food system is where we can get our story out.

Phil:

So Marlowe, if you had to pick one message that we really need to get out there to consumers, to retailers , uh, to the people at the UN just one message. What would that be?

Marlowe:

I think that 98% of the farms in the United States of America are family owned , um, and that size doesn't matter that we're all in it together, and that we are part of a food system. They couldn't operate without the other. So I think that is one of the, I think the term factory farm is the biggest misconception that I fight, especially on a livestock base , um, for, for ag.

Phil:

So describe to me , uh, what does a zero carbon pig look like?

Marlowe:

Um, for me, it's , it's been something that I've of goal that I've set years ago , um, that it was kind of set by my father when he started. It is as simple as the lighting that I have in my barns all the way to the covered lagoons, where we were capture the natural gas and turn that into a renewable gas. I think the zero carbon pig is something that I personally on my farm will strive to have accomplished. Um , and the next 30 harvest, you know, we, we talk about that as a mission for us farmers and ranchers. I think majority of farmers these days have been striving and I've always strived to do what's best for the environment,

Phil:

Talking about the environment, you know, every day consumers are seeing on TV and in social media and everywhere else about climate change about the fires in the Northwest part of the country. Um , the floods that are happening in Brazil that are destroying air, you know, coffee crops , uh , prices going up as a result of all these things. Um , how can the food and ag sector really come together to solve if you would , uh, climate problems and also get that message out there to consumers?

Speaker 2:

I think the most important , um, resources we have are our education and for people to understand that we are part of the solution and problem , not part of the problem. We talked about that , um, definitely some in the film that, that we have been striving and are , you know, I'm a fourth generation farmer and we will continue. And, and that's great sitting here talking to you and I, and that, and for the ag industry, you know, that means a lot, but what I'm looking for is the future and the past this form off to the next generation, which you can tell my daughter is very, you know, wants to continue the family legacy. So I think what is important for people to understand is that we are constantly improving and we are constantly using an advanced as that technology to improve our carbon footprint , uh, for farmers .

Marlowe:

And , and we're doing a good job and we can, we'll continue to do a job if long as we have access to the resources that we need to continue our mission. Um, but, but, but also believe that that agriculture has become , um, the catalyst or the whipping boy for , um, climate change. You know , I think that we have continuously always strive to improve, but there are people out there with alternative agendas that want to use agriculture as a weapon, or the reason for climate change. And that's all because of that. People were four or five or six years removed or generations removed from the form. Now they just don't know. So it's up to us to continue to get out there and get our voices heard and , and, and tell our act story. And that's one of the main reasons that I agreed to do this film.

Phil:

So Marlowe, before, before we let Anne, u m, chime in on, on climate change. U m, I can sense in your, in your voice, u m, and in your face that you're really angry, that there's a lot of people out there that are blaming, u h, farmers and ranches, u h, for climate change. And w w how do we fix that? I mean, do we have to get busloads of school kids, you know, to, to come to your farm, u m, a nd, and to see it and to touch it and t o, you know, touch the soil, u m, how do we, how do we change this behavior?

Marlowe:

I think it's all about , um, the narrative. I think that farmers and ranchers we need to get , um, and participate in and films like I did and start telling our act story. I mean, I think that's the biggest way that we can combat it, but it's also getting involved with the people that are making the political decisions that are involved in climate change, just like ans you know, and us farmers raisers participation in the food summit. I mean, we, farmers have got to have a seat at the table, and we have not had the seat, our seat at the table when we're talking about for fruit production, there's no farmers around to sell their , their story. So, and , and tool, we have the opportunity to have a seat at the table. Um, you know, we just have to keep on telling our farm story.

Phil:

So Anne, Climate change , uh , from a consumer standpoint, from a farmer standpoint , um, as , as Marlowe has said, you know , uh , we're getting a lot of blame. How do we change that?

Anne:

Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. And I would agree with everything that Marlo said that, you know, on our farms, we're on this path of continuous improvement, you know, whether it's in soil health, nutrient management, water management, how we care for livestock, but I kind of will put on my hat now as USF RA chair, because I've been in a lot of conversations . And it's really interesting. We have this huge push from society, you know, to solve for , for climate change. And now we're all eyes are on agriculture, and it is truly amazing that agriculture has the potential to sequester carbon and, you know, really be part of this solution. So what an amazing story we have to tell. And so I continually see though, this disconnect with farmers who are busy on their day to day operations, this is why we do what we do. You know, we understand what we're doing and kind of a pushback. They don't want to hear the dire , you know , um, alarms that are going off about climate change. But I think we all recognize, you know, it's really real. And what can agriculture do to be part of that solution is really what our organization is trying to do is bring that food and value chain together with the farmers so that we can have that common goal of combating , um , climate change. And there's a lot more that we know we can do on our farms. But I think one of the key things is unlocking some , um , financial mechanisms, whether it be cost sharing, where we can make some of these climate smart practice changes or whatever that mechanism is going to be. And I, I'm not just talking government mechanisms, but, you know, private sector mechanisms they're happening, they're in place. And , um, we just need to accelerate those. And hopefully us separate can be that place where these , um, people along the food and value chain come together and really work for those types of solutions that we're all looking for. Ones that make sense on our farms we'll work on our farms when we have to work out the practicality of it, but also have a real benefit to society. Those are the challenges in front of us.

Phil:

So Marlowe, let me go back to your daughter. Um, and , and that next generation of farmers and ranchers , uh, how do they acquire the knowledge base and the tools to have them succeed the way you have?

Marlowe:

I mean, for me personally, it's own form work experience. Um, it's a passion that you have, that's kind of bread from the beginning , um, and learning and seeing just like I watched my father grow , um, grow our form as he has for the past 30 years. I think continuing that kind of legacy is really important and instilling the same values that he did for me, for the land, for the animals , um, for, for, for our farms and passing that on , um, the same kind of love and care. And , and again, continuous approvement that, that , that I stand for and instilling those same principles in my daughter and son , I have a two year old son. He didn't get, he didn't get to be part of the film, but I have a two year old son too.

Phil:

So , um, look, your father has been very progressive. Um, we , we know that, but I'm sure that there's been times I worked for my dad. Um, I'm sure there's been times where you have gone to him and said, Hey, dad, you know, this is really what we want to embrace. Um , whether it's a new technology, whether it's a new way of doing things and your dad sat there and said, you know, I just don't want to do what we're doing is working. Um, have there been those instances and, and you know, how, how have you overcome them?

Marlowe:

Um, absolutely. You know, my dad's , uh , he, he's kind a , he's definitely very progressed to, but , um, he seen a lot of changes happen through in the North Carolina pork industry. So , um, I think it's been hard for him to see some of, almost like a , a circle of change coming back , um, to the way I think, and I think a lot of it has to do with, and then we talk about this a lot in the film is , um, you know, being transparent on social media and the repercussions of what that brings to the form . Um, but for the most part, he, he's pretty acceptable of, of, of moving forward and , and continuous change, but just like any other , um, parent daughter or father-daughter relationship , uh, he can get stubborn sometimes

Phil:

Is he on social media?

Speaker 2:

Uh, I think he's on LinkedIn, which , uh , which is very recent that he got on LinkedIn.

Phil:

So he's coming into social media kicking and screaming the whole way?

Marlowe:

Yes. And I think actually, you know, and we talked about this and some of the documentaries that we filmed after afterwards, I think he regrets, not being more vocal about telling our story and, and, and he didn't have the same platforms I do today, but I think one of the things that he wished that he had done , um, through, through his career is being more , um , vocal and telling the ag story.

Phil:

That's great. Um, so, and , you know, final, final comment as USF RA uh , Bboard Chair, what's the most important message that you want to get out there to our farmers, to our ranchers , um, to, you know, the general public, what's the one thing that you want to make sure that they understand?

Anne:

Well, US farmers and ranchers are caretakers and stewards of the vast majority of natural resources in this country. All that is an awesome privilege, but it's also a heavy responsibility. And as farmers and ranchers, we do not take that lightly. Um , as Marlowe alluded to, you know, we are always looking for the next generation and preserving the land and resources that have been entrusted to us. So as a society, let's embrace technologies and advances that will enable us to be better stewards of the soil, water, and natural resources. And together we can all work toward that resilient restorative agricultural system that produces the abundant, nutritious food, fiber, and clean energy that we want for our prosperous prosperous.

Phil:

Well, thank you both very much for number one, getting the messages out there, whether it's on film on the stage at the UN, and thank you for joining us on Farm Food Facts today.

Marlowe:

Thank you.

Anne:

Thank you very much.

Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers inaction would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2021 Honor The Harvest forum. Our Sapphire sponsors, Ernst and young, and the United soybean board. Our platinum sponsors the innovation center for US Dairy, Native American Agriculture Fund and Kincannon & Reed. Our silver sponsors Dairy West, Nebraska Soy, Cortez Agriscience, McDonald's, Cargill and PepsiCo. Our bronze sponsors, CoBank, Nutrien and Pollination. And our copper sponsors the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Culver's, The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and Hy-Vee Supermarkets. For more about all food and agriculture, please visit usfarmersandranchers.org. Also be sure to visit us on Facebook and Instagram @farmersandranchers as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn @USFRA. Until next time.