Raising four boys on a 4,000-acre family farm isn’t for everyone, but it’s a lifestyle I’ve always wanted. Now that I’m living it, one of the things I look forward to most each year is our springtime hunt for the great “Idaho ditch weed” — wild asparagus. The boys love that. We’ll ride bikes, or take out the four-wheelers, and they can spend hours bouncing through the fields, racing to spot the little green spears and bring home dinner.
My own childhood was more conventional — a typical family three or four generations removed from our farming roots — but all my friends lived on dairy farms. And I fell in love. While they rolled their eyes and tried to get out of their chores, I would be begging to go out and be helpful on the farm. I was the one waking up from the sleepover at 4am to go milk cows.
As fun as that sounds, it was the people that drew me in — my friend’s parents, their grandparents, this whole really tight-knit community I wanted to be part of. And by the time my siblings went off to start “typical” careers, I was meeting my future husband — a fourth generation farmer — in an Ag Education program at Utah State. Even with my degree, that first summer on the farm with Cody was a whole new education… on pivots and gators, which crops need dry heat and which need humidity, what field corn is for (silage) vs. sweet corn (thrashing), and on and on.
But what really stood out was how different farming is from the images so many people have in their minds; how much misinformation is muddying opinions. Maybe the best example is GMOs, and all the confusion and fear around “unnatural” food.
The funny thing is, farming itself isn’t “natural”, organics included. If you stop farming the prairie, it returns to prairie. But how does that feed us? For that matter, every crop grown today has been modified and domesticated to grow bigger or provide more vitamins or need less water. GMOs aren’t some scary new ingredient, they’re just a more efficient and accurate way to do what we’ve always done: cultivate crop varieties with beneficial traits so our families can eat better.
Most of the concerns I hear about GMOs feel so far away from what I see my farm. I wish I could walk people through our fields and explain what a game-changer GMO Farming methods have been for us.
We saw increases in our yields, healthier soil, even the quality of our crops improved, partly because they weren’t being damaged by pesticide spraying all season. It was huge, something we couldn’t ignore as farmers or parents. Before GMO Farming, we had to stake signs around our farm for hours after spraying to make sure folks didn’t inhale any of those nasty chemicals — now we don’t even have signs. We don’t need them anymore.
But GMOs are still just one tool in our toolbox of sustainable farming techniques. Cody and I are stewards of our land not only because it’s our responsibility but, to be blunt, because we have no choice. We wouldn’t have a farm to run otherwise. It’s why modern farmers no longer grow the same crop over and over again and deplete the soil. We learned that from the dust bowl. We learned the value of cover crops, and of rotating your crops. Now, with GMOs, we’re farming smarter, and more sustainably, every day. I’m proud of that.
At the end of the day, there is nothing more important than my family — my kids, my husband, our health, our safety, our relationships with one another. Between the farm and the boys’ schedules, sitting down to eat together doesn’t always happen. But when it does, putting a meal on the table at dinnertime is the best part of my day. We eat, we talk. We go over the day’s problems and triumphs, what’s upcoming in our lives — baseball games or sleepovers or the next Lego set to be built.
And now, thanks to far fewer pesticide applications, Cody can get off the tractor earlier and we get to see him at the dinner table more often. And when spring brings the promise of wild asparagus, I don’t have to worry about the boys riding the four-wheeler too close to a freshly sprayed field. With GMO Farming, our whole ecosystem can flourish — the crops and good weeds, the wildflowers, our lovely “ditch weed” wild asparagus. And, of course, so can my boys.
This post is sponsored by A Fresh Look, a 501(c) (6) organization, whose mission is to provide trustworthy research-based info to consumers about the benefits of GMO Farming methods.