Texas Agriculture March 3, 2017 : Page 6

Farmers plow new ground By Julie Tomascik Editor A short drive to the outskirts of town can lead to a whole new world. Highways and paved roads turn to gravel, lined with fields full of wheat, corn, soybeans and more. But there’s a disconnect between the farmer growing those crops and the consumer buying the food in the grocery store. It’s led to the foodie movement, cre-ating a unique culture that celebrates niche markets, like local, non-GMO and organic. It’s a conversation many in modern agriculture haven’t been a part of un-til now. Bell County farmers and ranchers pulled a seat up at the table during the Mother Earth News Fair in Belton last month, reaching out to consumers and building relationships. “We decided this was the perfect place for us to come talk about the ag-riculture we are all a part of. Not to say anything is better or worse, but to tell them we all do a good job,” said Richard Cortese, a farmer and Bell County Farm Bureau board member. Families from near and far stopped by Texas Farm Bureau’s Mobile Learning Barn. They asked questions and learned more about issues facing agriculture. A conversation starter? An antique corn sheller that’s been in Robert Fleming’s family for generations. “That’s a great attention-getter,” said Fleming, who farms and ranches in Bell County and serves as the Bell County Farm Bureau vice president. “It brings back a lot of memories from older generations, as well as creates a lot of hands-on activity and excite-ment for the kids. It’s a great tool for creating discussion.” Kids and adults took their turn cranking the grinder and shelling the corn. It led to conversations about mod-ern agriculture—the use of technol-ogy, more advanced equipment, how Bell County farmers share their story with consumers farms work today and the role agri-culture plays off the farm. “We talked about how important agriculture is, whether it’s about jobs we’re creating or what we’re produc-ing and how many people we are feed-ing,” Cortese said. “There are people who have questions, and we tell them we do a good job with the environment and we are an important economic part of this country.” The economics of farming led to conversations about biotechnology. And Julee Neathery didn’t shy away from her opinions. Neathery, who refers to herself as a financial naturalist from Fort Worth, teaches people about money in a natu-ral, non-traditional way. She stopped by the Mobile Learn-ing Barn and talked with Fleming about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And she learned that farm-ers have a choice in the seeds they plant. Neathery thought the government dictated what seeds farmers could plant. “I asked him if his corn is GMO, and he said ‘yes.’ Now I wasn’t aware, and asked, ‘Did you have the choice to plant GMO or non-GMO?’ and he said ‘yes,’” Neathery recalled of her conver-sation with Fleming, who was the first farmer she had met. And while Fleming shared infor-mation on GMOs and why he plants them, her beliefs didn’t change. “I politely disagreed with him,” Neathery said, adding that she didn’t believe GMOs were beneficial for the environment. But it was a conversation and an interaction that both involved were able to learn from. “It was a very good conversation to help educate myself about what peo-ple think about agriculture,” Fleming said. Fleming, Cortese and several oth-er Bell County Farm Bureau board members also talked about their fam-ilies, sustainability, the time they in-vest in their operations and the issues agriculture faces. “The people here are small produc-ers, but they have the same issues as any producer who belongs to Farm Bureau,” said Fleming, who refer-enced eminent domain, water, private property rights and overregulation. The event in Belton was one of six that Mother Earth News hosts throughout the year. Mother Earth News is the largest and longest-run-ning publication about self-sufficient lifestyles. Fairgoers could attend more than 150 hands-on workshops that covered organic gardening, food preparation and preservation, natural health, homesteading, small-scale livestock and other related topics. “Bringing the fair to Belton makes perfect sense for us, given Mother Earth News ’ large subscriber base is in the heart of Texas,” Andrew Per-kins, the fair’s director, said. And it was an opportunity for Bell County farmers to make modern ag-riculture more relatable to fairgoers who may not have a favorable view of agriculture. They were also able to learn from those right in their 6 M ARCH 3 , 2017

Farmers Plow New Ground

Julie Tomascik

Bell County farmers share their story with consumers

A short drive to the outskirts of town can lead to a whole new world. Highways and paved roads turn to gravel, lined with fields full of wheat, corn, soybeans and more.

But there’s a disconnect between the farmer growing those crops and the consumer buying the food in the grocery store.

It’s led to the foodie movement, creating a unique culture that celebrates niche markets, like local, non-GMO and organic.

It’s a conversation many in modern agriculture haven’t been a part of until now.

Bell County farmers and ranchers pulled a seat up at the table during the Mother Earth News Fair in Belton last month, reaching out to consumers and building relationships.

“We decided this was the perfect place for us to come talk about the agriculture we are all a part of. Not to say anything is better or worse, but to tell them we all do a good job,” said Richard Cortese, a farmer and Bell County Farm Bureau board member.

Families from near and far stopped by Texas Farm Bureau’s Mobile Learning Barn. They asked questions and learned more about issues facing agriculture.

A conversation starter? An antique corn sheller that’s been in Robert Fleming’s family for generations.

“That’s a great attention-getter,” said Fleming, who farms and ranches in Bell County and serves as the Bell County Farm Bureau vice president. “It brings back a lot of memories from older generations, as well as creates a lot of hands-on activity and excitement for the kids. It’s a great tool for creating discussion.”

Kids and adults took their turn cranking the grinder and shelling the corn.

It led to conversations about modern agriculture—the use of technology, more advanced equipment, how farms work today and the role agriculture plays off the farm.

“We talked about how important agriculture is, whether it’s about jobs we’re creating or what we’re producing and how many people we are feeding,” Cortese said. “There are people who have questions, and we tell them we do a good job with the environment and we are an important economic part of this country.”

The economics of farming led to conversations about biotechnology. And Julee Neathery didn’t shy away from her opinions.

Neathery, who refers to herself as a financial naturalist from Fort Worth, teaches people about money in a natural, non-traditional way.

She stopped by the Mobile Learning Barn and talked with Fleming about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And she learned that farmers have a choice in the seeds they plant.

Neathery thought the government dictated what seeds farmers could plant.

“I asked him if his corn is GMO, and he said ‘yes.’ Now I wasn’t aware, and asked, ‘Did you have the choice to plant GMO or non-GMO?’ and he said ‘yes,’” Neathery recalled of her conversation with Fleming, who was the first farmer she had met.

And while Fleming shared information on GMOs and why he plants them, her beliefs didn’t change.

“I politely disagreed with him,” Neathery said, adding that she didn’t believe GMOs were beneficial for the environment.

But it was a conversation and an interaction that both involved were able to learn from.

“It was a very good conversation to help educate myself about what people think about agriculture,” Fleming said.

Fleming, Cortese and several other Bell County Farm Bureau board members also talked about their families, sustainability, the time they invest in their operations and the issues agriculture faces.

“The people here are small producers, but they have the same issues as any producer who belongs to Farm Bureau,” said Fleming, who referenced eminent domain, water, private property rights and overregulation.

The event in Belton was one of six that Mother Earth News hosts throughout the year. Mother Earth News is the largest and longest-running publication about self-sufficient lifestyles.

Fairgoers could attend more than 150 hands-on workshops that covered organic gardening, food preparation and preservation, natural health, homesteading, small-scale livestock and other related topics.

“Bringing the fair to Belton makes perfect sense for us, given Mother Earth News’ large subscriber base is in the heart of Texas,” Andrew Perkins, the fair’s director, said.

And it was an opportunity for Bell County farmers to make modern agriculture more relatable to fairgoers who may not have a favorable view of agriculture. They were also able to learn from those right in their backyard and from other states like Arkansas, Missouri, Colorado, Michigan and more.

“People are getting so far removed from agriculture and they don’t realize how important agriculture is until the shelves at H-E-B are bare,” Fleming said. “I hope they take away the importance the production of food and fiber is for themselves and their future.”

And that there’s room for everybody.

“I know some of the booths here are non-GMO and things like that. And if people want to sell non-GMO feed, that’s fine,” Cortese said. “I just want everybody to recognize each other—the value they each bring to the industry,” Cortese said.

It was a weekend of conversations, relationships and outreach— the ingredients to cultivate a future with a better understanding of agriculture and food.

Read the full article at http://texasagriculture.texasfarmbureau.org/article/Farmers+Plow+New+Ground/2723116/388436/article.html.

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