Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2017, most Americans will be sitting down to a giant, delicious, and wholesome meal. They will be spending time with their loved ones and possibly developing a so called “turkey coma”. With all this food being consumed in one day, it makes me wonder if anyone ever thought of where and how Thanksgiving dinner got from the farm to their plates. Growing up on a family farm in northern Iowa I have always valued this time of the year the most because the holiday is focused on time with my family and homemade food. Being from the midwest our Thanksgiving dinners mainly consisted of turkey or ham, homemade bread, sweet corn, green beans, tater tot casserole, mashed and sweet potatoes, gravy, stuffing, grandma’s chili, and pumpkin pie. This has led me to do a little more digging on food’s journey from farm gate to dinner plate.
In agriculture today producers are increasingly being criticized about how to produce the commodities in their farming operation. With an increasing number of the population being under educated about how, where, and why farmers produce food. In a Thanksgiving dinner that includes meat for example, more and more people are opting for the labels on birds, beef, or swine marked “organic,” “cage free,” or “free range,” not really knowing that most of these food labels are part of the marketing strategy to get them to pay a higher price. The same goes with other produce in the dinner such as the potatoes, beans, bread, sweet corn, and pumpkin filling. Which raises the question, what about conventional modern farming practices and the people that use them? According to croplifeamerica.org, “More than 90 percent of farmers today embrace using the most innovative practices and growing techniques to produce enough food, fuel and fiber for a growing world while at the same time minimizing their environmental footprint.” and to me on a first hand basis that number seems to be increasing. Those farmers work hard too, the amount of work put into food and other resources is not your typical 9-5 job. According to agweb.com , A poll of 1600 famers in a Dec. 4 Farm Journal Pulse, “Around 75% of farmers report spending 10 hours or more a day on farm work.” Those hours add up quickly, that is why it is safe to say that farmers use their time efficiently to ensure that the commodity they are raising is taken care of with the crops and animals wellbeing in mind.
So back to your delicious dinner, where did it all come from? (For the sake of simplicity the food is going to be sourced 100% from the United States.)
Well, starting with your turkey it probably came from North Carolina or Minnesota, whom leads the nation in turkey production. Most people would be surprised that the state that grows the most pumpkins for pumpkin pie is Illinois. Then the ham is more than likely from Iowa or Illinois, the wheat from the bread could have come from any state but most likely North Dakota, Kansas and Montana. With those few examples a person can imagine how much goes into the food we eat.
With those statistics in mind I hope to sit down at the table this week and be thankful for all the things in agriculture that worked together to create the meal in front of me. I will also be thankful for the time I get to spend with my family because of that food. Thomas Jefferson once said, “Agriculture … is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals & happiness”, and so far this quote has held true to everyone that I know and love. With this it is my hope that consumers and producers will come to this conclusion as well. Then maybe we will agree on the future of agriculture, and everyone will have a happy Thanksgiving.
My name is Dakota Brouwer, I am an Iowa native and an Illinois transplant, growing up in both states. I study Agriculture Business with a Minor in Agronomy at Western Illinois University. I also have a passion for livestock growing up on a cattle operation and I grew up riding horses with my family. I appreciate your time reading my blog.