A group of ladies visited our family farm a few days ago. The suburban “Field Moms” from the Chicago, Illinois area didn’t know much about agriculture and had sensible questions about where their food comes from. They were fascinated by the equipment and technologies we use, and left with a new appreciation for how hard and carefully we work to grow safe and healthy crops.
I enjoy sharing what happens on our farm in Illinois. Our door is always open, whether you’re from Chicago, New York, London, or Beijing.
The “Field Moms” hoped to learn more about how we grow the food they feed their families: Do farmers have a choice about what they plant? How do we maintain the soil? Where do crops go after they’re harvested?
Many people are also curious about genetically modified crops. Are GMOs safe?
It’s an important question, and the people who buy the food we grow must be confident that it is safe, nutritious, and sustainable.
Unfortunately, not all of our customers have the opportunity to visit our farms. Lots of what we grow stays here in the United States, but plenty of it ships to customers far away, even on the other side of the world. China, for instance, is an important destination for our corn and soybeans.
I wish everyone could see our family farm, just like those Illinois “Field Moms” the other day.
The first thing visitors learn is that we take health and safety seriously. We do it for our customers but we also do it for ourselves. My wife and I are raising three children at home. Putting them at risk is the very last thing we would ever do.
We grow about 3,500 acres of genetically modified crops each summer—a mix of corn and soybeans. If these plants and the food they produce were dangerous, we’d stop growing them. We don’t want to hurt anybody, least of all our own kids.
Our children are around GM crops all the time. They play near our fields, dig in our dirt, and ride their bikes alongside our plants. They also help out with farm chores. Finally, they eat food made with GM ingredients: Just about every day, the crops we grow on our farm go into the food our family eats.
I’m happy to report that our kids enjoy good health.
For our family, farming isn’t just an ordinary job. It’s a calling that requires humility and stewardship. Our crops supply the basic human need to eat. We do everything we can to make them safe and plentiful. Moreover, our agriculture is sustainable, in both the economic and environmental senses of the word—and we plan to sustain our farm for a long time. My father and my uncles brought me into the family farm. One day, when my children are old enough, I’d like for them to have the same opportunity.
We need to sustain our farm in another way: through education.
Two or three generations ago, lots of people knew a lot about farming because they farmed themselves or lived near those who did. Today, however, our society has become so good at growing crops that a small number of us can produce a huge abundance of food for the rest. In the developing world, urbanization—people moving from the countryside to the city—is one of the most powerful forces of the 21st century.
Much of this is positive and involves a search for economic opportunity, but there can be a downside as well. The more people move away from farms, the more vulnerable they become to rumors and propaganda about food production.
Facts and truth are the best antidotes. I welcome anyone to come and visit my farm. Anybody who drops by our place will learn that when they consume GM ingredients that trace back to American farms like ours; they’re eating what we feed our own children—the same safe and healthy food.
Brian Kelley grows corn and soybeans on a family farm with his father and uncles near Normal, Illinois. Brian is a member of the TATT Global Farmer Network. www.truthabouttrade.org