As you may have noticed by the waves of amber grain disappearing from farm fields, corn and soybean harvest is rolling in full force. For farmers, harvest brings the culmination of a full year’s worth of work and then some in planning, selecting, planting & caring for their crops.
For this week’s Friday Five, I though maybe we should take a look at five things harvest means on the farm:
- Long hours & hard work! Harvest is a time-sensitive task and when it’s time to go, farmers are usually in the fields from sun-up to sundown or longer as long as a) the weather’s fit b) the crop conditions are right and c) the equipment cooperates. If you have friends or family who farm, you may notice they completely disappear from social events for a couple of months in the fall, as described by this chart from Illinois Corn Growers.
- Meals in the Fields: Farmers may not stop for lunch or dinner during harvest (see above), so meals are often delivered to the fields. Take a look at some creative and delicious ways farm families stay fed during harvest with ‘How to Feed a Farmer’ posted on the Watch Us Grow blog and ‘Field Meals to Go’ from Katie Pratt’s Rural Route 2 Blog.
- Technology & equipment: Today’s family farmers harvest data, not just crops. Sophisticated computer and GPS technology give farmers a wealth of information to make decisions and adjustments for next year. Take a closer look inside a combine with these photos from the blog Daddy’s tractor and get a glimpse of the bits and bytes of precision farm data in this article from Business Insider. Or if you want to watch harvest in real time, check out this opportunity to watch it on Periscope!
- Danger: Farming is a dangerous occupation and harvest carries many hazards. Big machinery with lots of moving parts, dry corn stalks that can catch fire from a spark and even fatigue from the long hours can lead to accidents. Do your part to help keep farmers (and yourself) safe! Slow down & pass with caution when you meet equipment on the road. Check out this advice from blogger Celeste Harned for more tips to stay safe.
- Helping Hands: Farmers are a close-knit community. Every year I see at least one story about farmers coming together to harvest crops for a neighbor in need. This week I saw three: One right here in McLean County, one near Champaign and another over by Galva, Illinois.
To see more, search & follow #harvest15 on Facebook or Twitter.
What does harvest mean to you?
We’ve probably all done it. Forgotten something in the back of the refrigerator and then had to deal with the stinky, rotten or moldy consequences.
As Americans we’re also pretty bad at throwing away ‘good’ food, too – items that would be safe to eat but end up in the garbage can for whatever reason. In fact, the USDA estimates we throw away 133 billion pounds of edible food every year at a cost of $370 per person.
Food waste has environmental costs, too – both in terms of wasted production and emissions from food waste in landfills. To get a grip on the food garbage problem and ways to combat it, take a look at our fresh picked tidbits for this week’s Friday Five:
- For starters, ‘Let’s Talk Trash’ from USDA helps put the problem in perspective with a few numbers & pictures. The 90 billion pounds depicted here is a little less than the 133 billion reported elsewhere, but that may be because it can be difficult to get an accurate count (see #3)
- Last week, USDA & EPA announced plans to cut food waste 50% by 2030, as reported by the Washington Times.
- For a deeper look at the food waste numbers and the challenge of tackling the problem, check out this article from Wall Street Journal.
- Perhaps the U.S. needs to takes some cues from Denmark, which is leading the way in reducing food waste, as reported by NPR’s The Salt.
- And for a few ways to get you started in curbing food waste in your own kitchen, check out these 10 Tips to use food you might consider tossing, also from NPR’s The Salt.
What can you do to reduce food waste?
When it comes to food, many of us (myself included) have a tendency to take for granted all the choices we have available and the convenience of easily accessible ingredients.
Here’s a few tidbits fresh picked for this week’s Friday five that help highlight some of the marvels of our modern food system and some areas that you might not think about:
- What does it really take to make a sandwich from scratch? Try 6 months and $1,500! Check out this video series from How to Make Everything for a look at one man’s quest to grow and source the raw ingredients for a sandwich truly made from scratch.
- Transportation is an essential part of our food system, but not one most of us think about very often. Take a look at a few of the folks who haul food for a living in this article from NPR’s The Salt.
- Have you seen headlines about recently about a shortage of eggs? Or perhaps pumpkins? While things like avian flu and weather can cause supply issues (and maybe price increases), check out this perspective about how most of the ‘shortages’ we see in the United States tend to be overplayed, in an article from TIME.
- On the flip side, there are real differences in the cost of food in different areas of the country. A report on food costs called Map the Meal Gap 2015 from Feeding America shows differences in meal costs correlates with low-income and food-insecure families, as reported on MarketWatch.
- Even in today’s era of mechanized and computerized agriculture equipment, many fruit and vegetable crops are still harvested by hand. Here’s a look at a few of the more labor intensive crops in this article, also from NPR’s The Salt.
To meet some of the farmers who grow your food, check out www.watchusgrow.org
What do you appreciate most about your food supply?
Looking for the perfect pumpkin for your front step? Or maybe some mums to fill out your fall flower bed? Central Illinois has plenty to offer!
After all, when it comes to pumpkins – Illinois is the cream of the crop! Illinois farmers grow 80-85% of the world’s supply of processing pumpkins (used to make canned pumpkin puree & pie filling) and the majority of those are grown right here in the central part of the state.
Check out a few upcoming opportunities to visit the country, experience a little taste of agriculture and maybe pick up a pumpkin:
- Explore local farm history with the 2015 McLean County Barn Tour Sat., Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring interesting barns, antique farm equipment and more. The self-guided tour and begins at the Chenoa United Methodist Church and is sponsored by McLean County Barn Keepers.
- Rader Family Farms opens this weekend (Sept. 12). Located just west of Normal (look for the pumpkin topped silo), Rader’s offers plenty of pumpkins, a corn maze, kid-friendly activities, food & special events throughout the season.
- Also this weekend, you can head south for the Route 10 Farm Crawl Sun., Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with activities at Mariah’s Mums & More, Timberview Alpaca Farm & Wagon Wheel Pumpkin Farm near Clinton, Illinois.
- For more pumpkin treats and festival fun, head to the Pumpkin Capital of the World for the Morton Pumpkin Festival Sept. 16-19, 2015. Sample the savory and the sweet with everything from pumpkin chili to pumpkin donuts & ice cream.
- And if apples are what you’re after, check out Country Mist Apple Farm near Heyworth, Curtis Orchard near Champaign or Tanner’s Orchard north of Peoria.
Just remember when you venture out into the country, watch out for farm equipment! Harvest is just beginning for corn & soybeans, so be alert for slow moving vehicles on the roads. Slow down, pass with caution & be safe!
What are your favorite ways to celebrate Fall?
Bacon lovers rejoice! The object of your meat affection could be about to get even better. If you want a side of eggs with your bacon, however; it might cost you a little bit more – at least for the time being.
Here’s look at those stories plus a few other breakfast related tidbits fresh picked for this week’s Friday Five:
- What’s shakin’ bacon? Researchers at Kansas State University are looking at ways to improve the bacon flavor we love to savor and improve the shelf life of this marvelous meat treat, as reported by Feedstuffs newspaper. By the way, tomorrow is International Bacon Day. So fry up a few strips to celebrate!
- Are you scrambling to adjust your breakfast menu since eggs are more expensive? It’s the lingering effects of a deadly flu virus that devastated a large number of chickens (don’t worry it’s not a virus that humans can get). But you may be dishing out more per dozen for awhile, especially after the big breakfast announcement that hit the news this week, as CBS News reports.
- Like cheddar cheese on your eggs? Find out what makes cheddar cheese orange in this post from a Michigan dairy farmer on the Food Dialogues website.
- How about some fruit salad on the side? Be sure to thank plant breeders for your selection, as today’s fruit varieties are thanks to their efforts over hundreds of years. Check out this fun quiz to test your skills at matching modern fruits (and a few vegetables) with their plant ancestors.
- Like milk on your cereal? Share the love. For every share of this ‘Strength in Numbers’ image on with #milkdrive during the month of September the Great American Milk Drive will donate one gallon of milk to Feeding America food banks. Click here to share on Facebook or Twitter.
What’s your favorite breakfast food?
Did you know that yesterday (Aug. 27) was #NationalBurgerDay? Thank you, social media for the heads up.
Coincidentally, there’s also a headline grabbing story floating around this week about the safety of ground beef. Let’s take a better look:
- From Food Insights, here’s a few facts and myths to explore about the safety of ground beef. Bottom line: bacteria doesn’t care where your beef came from – wash your hands & cook it to the right temperature (160 degrees)!
- For another perspective, check out this article from High Plains Journal. The good news: almost all of the bacteria found in the “study” was not the kind that cause serious foodbourne illnesses
- Reading past the headlines is important, especially when it comes to blurbs about scientific studies, as pointed out in this LA Times article.
- And here’s an article from Business Insider that looks at some potential problems with the ground beef safety “study”.
- For some tips on ways to safely store, handle, thaw & cook beef check here.
What’s your favorite way to eat a hamburger?
When it comes to food labeling, it seems like there’s a war of words happening…and it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with safety or nutrition.
Here’s a few nuggets on labeling from this week’s news:
- Would Almond “Milk” by any other name still taste as sweet? A class action lawsuit in California may determine the fate of the name for this dairy alternative, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.
- For the skinny on a second milk tale fresh from Florida, check out this story about whether skim milk without added vitamins can be labeled “milk” from the Washington Post.
- If a blueberry can’t be grown from a GMO (genetically modified organism) seed why label it GMO free? This story from the Wall Street Journal looks at why some farmers and food companies are paying the price for labels even when their product isn’t one of the eight crops with commercially available GMO seeds currently on the market.
- For another look at the marketing motivation for GMO food labels, check out this story from NPR’s The Salt about the “health halo” driving some companies to label.
- And when it comes to gluten free food labels, check out this perspective about how the gluten free fad may negatively affect those with celiac’s disease who truly need to eat gluten free, also from the Wall Street Journal.
For more on food labeling and answers from experts, check out www.bestfoodfacts.org
When you shop what do you look for on the food label?