Archive for Mike Haley

Thankful for our food!

Ice cream, bacon cheeseburger, cheese & broccoli, donuts, corn on the cob… These are just a few things that come to mind when I think about food.  I often take for granted all the work that it takes just to allow me to enjoy these wonderful foods.  Yes that is correct, I work daily caring for our livestock and soil to provide some of the first steps in the process that ultimately leads to food on my plate three times each day and all too often I selfishly devour my meal without a thought of all the hard work that allowed me to eat that meal.

However, this is not always the case as sometimes I stop and think about all the ingredients on my plate and some of the hard workers who made sure that it was possible.  Thanksgiving is no exception, and that is why today on the eve of my Thanksgiving meal I will be giving FoodThanks.

This is no simple task as there are several individuals who often are forgotten in our food system.  When thinking about growing our food for thanksgiving of course we have to give Food Thanks to the farmer who cared for the turkey and ham or who grew the potatoes or Rice but this is just the beginning of my foods journey to my plate.  When I give FoodThanks what I often think about the many other hard working individuals who make my food and Thanksgiving meal possible as that starts long before the farm.

Farmers need tools in order to operate efficiently, as a farmer I am very thankful to those who provide materials to construction workers who help build barns for our livestock and those who invest in research and technology so we can have seeds that perform well for the specific soils on our farm in many different environments.

I often think about the Butchers who have mastered the art of processing the many animals on farms into cuts that are easy to cook and prepare for meals, the truck drivers that not only ship our goods from the fields but also work hard to safely move foods from processors to the grocery store where there are several other hard workers who deserve many thanks for our food!

I am still just brushing the surface of the many individuals of whom I can give FoodThanks to as many thanks can go to scientists, traders and most definitely Chefs!

In what ways are you thankful for your food?  Join in with several others from across the globe and help share your FoodThanks today on Facebook, with a tweet, or a pin and share blog posts about your favorite foods and other things you are thankful about over this year’s holiday season.

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Sustainabile Agriculture, What Does it Mean?

Almost everything we do in life must focus on sustainability in order to guarantee the possibilities of continuing those practices in the future. However lately it seems the term sustainability has become more of a buzz word that implies better, thus opening the doors for advertising and marketers to take advantage of certain elements of their products that seem more sustainable than their competitors.

Sustainability is not a buzz word for farmers, as in agriculture has always focused on producing food for our communities while caring the environment in which we live. History has proven that sustainability in any measure is a task that is hard to achieve.
As we talk about sustainable agriculture there are several key elements that seem to get left out of different perspectives. In order to better understand how farmers work to overcome social, political and environmental issues surrounding the sustainability of their farms its important we address all aspects of sustainability in our discussions around agriculture.

To start with here are some key areas around sustainable agriculture:

• Economic – In my mind economic sustainability has to be achieved on all sizes and shapes of farms. Farmers must be able to produce enough from their land to cover the cost of living for their families from year to year, if they fail to achieve this they have no opportunity to look at the other areas of sustainability.

• Animal Welfare/plant health – The health and well being of a farmers crops and livestock ultimately determine how successful he/she becomes. When farm animals are not properly cared for they can become ill, depressed or injured and can even die. Poorly managed crops will also suffer from increased pressure from competition for natures available nutrients. In essence lack of care of results in fewer products and/or damaged, unmarketable goods. To dig into this aspect of sustainability check out Marcus Hollmann points out in this article.

• Demand – Even if all other aspects of sustainability are achieved if there is not demand for ones goods the farmers, like any other business would ultimately fail and seek other avenues for revenue to support their family. Demand is always changing based off of price, nutrition, food safety or emotional issues that can easily change public perception. Farmers must always be looking for the future to determine what goods are demanded in the marketplace and what can sustainably supply their farm.

• Personal Fulfillment – Everyone seeks personal fulfillment in their life and careers. If one is not personally satisfied with their job they will quickly abandon it when a better opportunity arises. The same goes true for the opposite and several other components of sustainability can be trumped when personal fulfillment is achieved. For instance it is not uncommon for a farmer to take a part time job to supplement their income or in some cases even make up for losses from their farm activities.

• Environmental – Most farms have been operating for generations, this is only possible when farmers properly manage the scarce resources that are available to them with minimum impact to their environment. If a proper equilibrium is not maintained on a farm and the community in which it operates it ultimately will not be able to be sustainable in the future.

In an idealistic world all aspects of civilization would work in equilibrium with each other to balance the use of our resources. Unfortunately the world is not idealistic therefore we must continue to improve by doing more while using less of the finite resources available to us, in essence become more sustainable. Despite what some headlines may lead one to believe, agriculture as an industry has one of the best track records at improving its management of resources and continues to look for ways to improve.

All of these elements could easily be expanded on in detail and effect each individual farm uniquely. It’s interesting to me that all the factors intertwine with each other, and in several cases even contradict one another making true sustainability an even more complex task to accomplish.
What areas of agricultural sustainability are most important to your household or farm and should be prioritized over the other? This is a complex topic and surely deserves more discussion than a marketing slogan so I am interested in expanding the thoughts in this post with the discussion below.

Eatocracy: Forward-thinking farmers are preventing another Dust Bowl

Posted on Eatocracy

2012 farm drought could be worse

After a very wet spring in 2011 that delayed planting, the 2012 crop season looked promising as planting conditions were optimal. The outlook was refreshing as it meant few setbacks on the crop. However, the good conditions during planting quickly turned as our family waited and waited for moisture. Unfortunately, when the rains did arrive, they were few and far between.

This has turned into the worst drought our family has seen in generations. And more importantly, the drought this year is not isolated to my local community – our nation has not faced a drought this severe since the 1930s when the Dust Bowl completely devastated American agriculture. July temperatures reportedly broke records set during the Dust Bowl. During the 2012 crop year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated roughly half of all U.S. counties – 1,496 in 33 states – as disaster areas because of the drought.

Our current hot and dry conditions are unlike what our country has experienced for decades. And it’s true that it is significantly impacting farmers’ and ranchers’ livelihoods. It’s also true that for some types of food, the American people could feel it in our wallets in the coming months (or years), with the USDA predicting that consumers can expect to pay up to 4 percent more for groceries in 2013.

But the impact on consumers, overall food prices and the toll on our daily lives are minimal compared to the devastating hardship that Americans faced during the 1930s. This drought – while difficult for some farmers and ranchers who are suffering severe crop losses and faced with selling livestock they have been building for generations – may be only minor for most Americans. Why?

Read the full article on Eatocracy



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Will labeling GMO’s affect farmers?

Earlier this summer Jennifer Mo wrote an excellent guest post for Just Farmers sharing her thoughts on GMO labeling. I am excited that she has also invited me to offer my perspective on her blog thus got me thinking more about the topic of labeling foods that are derived from genetically engineered (GE) crops and the effects that proposition 37 in California will have on farmers like myself.

Please take a few minutes to read my thoughts in the excerpt below and click through to read through how I believe the initiative would effect farmers like me from across the country.


As a farmer who grows both GE corn and GE free corn, I often am asked how I feel about this labeling question.  I must admit while I lean towards no labeling, I also have mixed feelings as to whether or not this is the correct stance to take on the issue.  Rather than give my opinions, I want to share how this proposition would affect my farm.
There are several reasons why we plant genetically engineered crops on our farm.  In corn, we choose to plant a variety that was developed to resist insects naturally rather than having to use insecticides that are not as effective and can be very harmful to the handler (me) if a mistake is made when applying it.  Depending on the type of soil, history and current weather trends, we often decide that insects will not be a major issue in a field and plant a non GE variety allowing us to save money, if the trend holds true and we don’t have any issues with insects in that field.
A field of non GMO corn on our farm
A field of non GMO corn on our farm
Currently, when it is time to harvest, no measures are taken to completely segregate corn varieties that are GE as there is no premium to do so; we get paid the same price for both GE corn and non GE corn.  It’s hard to tell what would happen if Proposition 37 passed, but I am assuming that my mill would want me to find a way to separate my corn into batches of non GE as well as that that contains GE corn. In other words I would be expected to follow procedures of identity preservation (IP) of all the seed on my farm.
Sounds simple right?

Click here to finish reading


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Maintaining positive discussions when blogging

Today I am guest blogging for The AgChat Foundation about maintaining positive conversation in the comments section of your blog and what to do when things turn negative. 

When starting a blog there are many different things to consider. Past the nuts and bolts of the original design and strategy to relay information to your intended audience one thing often forgot is a strategy to create a positive and respectful conversation in the comments following the blog and what to do when they turn negative, or in some cases downright hostile.

The first step begins as you are writing the blog post, as the tone in which a post is written can set the stage for others to comment, either positively or negatively. If a post is written to talk with the readers and respect their opinions, instead of talking AT them, readers tend to think more critically about what was said. It encourages them to engage in positive and constructive conversations that remain respectful even when opinions on the subject can defer greatly.

Even when a very positive tone is taken there are often naysayers, trolls or haters that are still attracted to your blog. So what are some good and bad ways to respond to these comments?
First it’s important to read the comment that was left and try to understand where the reader is coming from. The biggest key to maintaining a professional and courteous dialogue with those who disagree is to remember that you are not engaging in a debate, but a conversation. Any attempt to engage in a positive dialogue can help turn the conversation to a more positive tone. In cases where it’s unclear where the commenter stands, simply asking more background information on their viewpoint can be a good start to the conversation. However, the reader may be overly passionate and have a sincere concern for the subject that is being discussed and is looking for a platform to voice their concerns. In this case it may be best to politely agree to disagree and move forward.

Often times the following mistakes are made, which only encourage more negativity that can lead to a stalemate and harsh criticism towards the writer and other commenters:

Read more or comment!