I believe that from the moment we learn we are going to be parents, we do the best we can to protect our growing babies, and that instinct never leaves us. Our first baby was born in January 2010 and I used to write on my blog about anything and everything in our daily life raising our first son. My blog was truly our online journal for the world to see. I continued to chronicle our life as we got pregnant and had our second baby in 2012, and this is when I really started to notice a shift in how many of my parent peers were concerned and cared about the food they were feeding their families.
As a city-girl-turned-farm-wife and mom, I have learned everything I have about food and farming from my 4th generation farmer husband, and from getting to know other farmers and experts in agriculture in social media. It worried me that so many moms didn't trust what farmers were doing and how they are raising their food with the amazing modern technology that they have available. I felt a calling to step in and become a part of the conversation.
I truly can't say I blame anyone for being skeptical; I get it. In Canada right now, less than 2% of the population are farmers. Canadians are also three generations or more removed from the farm — no wonder why there is such a disconnect from the farm and food in today's society. There is an increasing desire to be more connected to where our food comes from — and this is a very good thing! However, the problem I have found, is where people are connecting to get that information about food and farming. This is why I feel it's so important for farmers and their families to be a part of this conversation.
I'd like you to consider these points if you are skeptical about modern agriculture and the technologies used on farms today.
It sincerely breaks my heart and worries me at the same time when I see this sentiment shared. Not only that, but to take it to the next level and accuse farmers of poisoning food and using toxic chemicals to raise food is not only worrisome, but in my opinion disrespectful, and I'd like to explain why. Let's think about it in the simplest of terms: would it be in the best interest for the farmers of the world to purposefully grow what certain groups deem to be "poisonous" food, using "toxic" substances? If you were killing your customers, it would not make for very good business. People are living longer than ever and farmers are growing more food on less land than ever, this logic simply doesn't make sense to me.
If anyone is at the highest risk of being exposed to pesticides, chemicals, or anything else that consumers are fearful of, it's farmers and their families. Our house is surrounded by fields that are planted with fertilizers, planted with seeds that have seed treatments, sprayed with pesticides during the growing season, and we feel this is safe environment for our children to be raised in. We follow the safety guidelines set forth and don't let our kids run through a field that has just been sprayed either, just like how I don't let my kids into a bathroom that I have just cleaned with bleach and protect them from common household dangers — common sense.
We do not have secret plots to grow "non-poisonous" food for our own families — we eat the same food that you have access to. We eat fresh yellow field peas when they are ripe and I use wheat from our own crops to make flour for whole wheat buns, so we truly eat the food we grow on our farm.
Farmers have more than enough choices as to what crops they grow and who they purchase their seed and chemical fertilizer and pesticides from. No one can force a farmer to farm conventionally, organically or otherwise — they have the freedom to make those choices.
There are fewer farmers now than there ever have been, so those farmers have to produce more food than their ancestors ever did. We cannot produce more food with less farmers to grow it, without using technologies like GMO seeds and the use of pesticides, in my opinion. These are not necessarily be-all-end-all solutions, but they are a key tool in agricultural production that need to be understood and not feared and demonized by food activists. In 1900 a farmer produced enough food to feed 10 people, today the average farmer produces enough food to feed 120 people.
This is the message I want everyone to really let sink in. In 2014 Canada tied with Ireland for the safest food system in the entire world, and we are so very privileged to live in a country that offers us the safest food. This doesn't mean all the other countries are by default "unsafe," I just want my fellow Canadians to know how lucky we are to live in a country that produces extremely safe food. Yet there are groups of food activists that will do everything in their power to convince you of the opposite.
When anyone tries to prove any way is the best way to farm, then farmers get thrown under the bus and this creates tension and friction in the agriculture community. We can say with certainty that what we do on our farm is best for us, but that doesn't mean our neighbours, or anyone else for that matter, have it all wrong. I think diversity in farming is a great thing, and that different methods of raising food (conventional, organic, mixed operations, etc.) have a lot to learn from each other. If the end goal is to be sustainable and improve soil quality, why should one camp be better than the other? We can work together, bring ideas together, and learn from each other to continually improve.
The fact of the matter is, that whether you want to eat a strict organic, non-GMO and as 'natural' diet as possible I respect that. You have that option and that privilege in this country, whereas so many impoverished countries in the world do not have access to safe and affordable foods like we do. I have always been pro-food choice, however I feel where the problem lies, is when you make others feel bad about their food choices and spread misinformation about those choices. This is food-shaming, and it needs to stop.
Unfortunately this is the foundation of the anti-GMO marketing movement — targeting people by making them feel guilty about their perfectly safe food choices. They do this by spreading fear and misinformation about the way that conventional food is raised; unfortunately this is a multi-billion dollar movement, it's not the grassroots movement many believe it to be. I encourage you to be a savvy consumer and know what to look for on labels and what they mean to you. If you see watermelons advertised as "GMO Free" does that mean anything to you? What about hormone-free chicken? Don't end up paying more money just for the label, dig deeper!
I want everybody to be confident in their food choices, to stop the food-shaming, and know that the food you buy is safe and plentiful. If you ever have questions about food and farming — go straight to the proverbial horse's mouth and ask the people who grow and raise food, instead of self-proclaimed experts with no background or education in food or farming.