Yes on North Dakota Measure 3

Did you know that America’s farmers and ranchers produce 16 percent of the total world food production on just 10 percent of the world’s land?

Agriculture and related industries provide jobs for more than 21 million Americans. That’s 15 percent of the total U.S. workforce.

In 1940, each U.S. farmer annually fed approximately 19 people in the U.S. and abroad. In 1960, each farmer feed about 46 people. In 1980, 115. In 2000, 139. Today, each U.S. farmer feeds approximately 154 people here and abroad. And they are doing it with fewer inputs, and on fewer acres.

Farming and agriculture is the backbone of our country, but more importantly, it’s the number one industry in North Dakota. Long after the oil boom has come and gone, farming will still be growing our economy and providing for our state and our country.

 

Waiting his turn…his dad is in the tractor, his grandpa is in the combine. Is his future in jeopardy?

 

Measure 3 is a constitutional amendment that will ensure that out-of-state interests and activist groups will not be able to pass ballot initiatives that would jeopardize our heritage of agriculture. This measure would protect the way of life that has made North Dakota a great state and a great place to raise a family.

But there are misconceptions about what this measure is about, and we’d like to clear those up. This measure is NOT about farming systems, it doesn’t pit organic versus conventional or large versus small. This measure would ensure that if you wanted to use GPS and auto steer in your tractor, that would be allowed. You would be allowed to raise livestock of your choosing without worrying that some out-of-state feel-good group is going to tell you that your buildings or fences are abusive to the animal. You would also be allowed to make your own individual seed and chemincal choices on your farm, including heirlooms, biotechnology, organic or conventional. A law could not be passed determining what is right for all farms in North Dakota, those decisions would be left to each farm to make.

The measure is NOT about removing local control. It would not limit local zoning ordinances, nor would it remove the power from local and state governments for regulations.

Measure 3 IS about allowing farmer’s markets and other niche consumer activities to continue to grow and prosper, it’s about giving people choices and protecting our past, present and future. The constitutional amendment is intentionally broad enough to stand the test of time, yet focused enough to protect what North Dakota holds dear.

For those that would question whether regulations would still be allowed, we give you an example of another constitutional right. We have the right to bear arms, but with that right also comes limitations, responsibilities and regulations. The same is true for agriculture.

We just want the right to farm, without risk of having someone else from out of state taking that right away.

Our kids aren’t as fat as you think

Whoa. That’s quite the title for a blog post, isn’t it? Here are some other versions I tossed around, “How to make research fit your agenda,” “Misleading the public: Our way or the highway,” “It’s only a few percentage points…who’s gonna notice?”

So, what’s my point? I’ve been reading and researching the 81 pages of the new school lunch guidelines. I’ve read the comments left, I’ve read the “White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity” report. I’ve started to have dreams regarding statistics…and I hated statistics in college. Hated.

What did I learn? I learned that although the powers that be keep using the number “1 in 3” as the percentage of obese kids in our country, well, that number isn’t right. In fact, we’re off by quite a ways. How far? Try about 14%, give or take.

Everywhere you look, you’ll read the statistic that 1 in 3 children are obese. In my mind, that means roughly 33.33%. Again, I wasn’t a math major, so if I’m wrong, please correct me. (And no, I don’t mean just take it out a few more decimal places. 😉 ) What if I tell you that the number is actually closer to 19%? Would that matter?

Well, that’s the truth.

This is percentage of high school students obese, according to the CDC.

Here, read the CDC’s stats directly from their page: “The percentage of children aged  6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 20% in 2008. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 18% over the same period.” (The number in the White House report bounces between 17% and 19.6%, depending on which graph you want to look at.)

So how can they get away with it? Simple. It’s a matter of word choice. In the above report, the next line reads, “In 2008, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.” It goes on to explain that “overweight” is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obese is defined as having excess body fat.

So, when someone is making a statement, or a report, or a news conference, it’s just more newsworthy if you drop the “overweight” part off and leave it as “obese.” But the two terms are not interchangeable. There are so many factors that can weigh in on a child’s weight, not just activity level and diet. What about injuries? What about stress? What about extending health issues?

What causes an overweight child? Here are a few examples: Imagine a high school student, very active, with an injury that requires months of rehab. They continue to eat as they’re used to, but realize they need to make some diet adjustments once they start noticing a few pounds being added on. The pounds drop again once activity is resumed.

Or what about a teenage girl, just transitioning into her cycle. Weight fluctuates greatly, revolved around hormones and other things that occur as the body makes great changes. Same is true for boys as they hit puberty.

No, an overweight child is nothing to scoff at, but it’s also not something to legislate for…it’s a natural occurrence in the life cycle.

But obesity, well, obesity is a little different. And although we do need to take steps to make improvements, the majority of the differences need to be made at home. And that’s not a place where legislation reaches…at least, not yet.

By law, we are not required to buy fruit. By law, we are not prohibited from purchasing soda. By law, we are not limited to the number of times pizza can be served as a meal.

As parents, we need to make the right decisions for our children, that includes after the bell rings.

If we truly want to drop the obesity rate in our children, we can’t expect cuts to the school lunch program to be the smoking gun. School lunch was never the root of the problem.

But we also can’t go around making changes, touting stats and bending the information to fit our goals. Some may not take the time to read the fine print, but when you get caught using misleading numbers, I start to question the rest of your agenda as well.

I applaud the new fruits and increased use of vegetables in our school lunches, I love the new recipes and new twists on the old-standby’s. Yet calorie caps and protein limits will not succeed to achieve a goal that’s been misquoted in the first place.

Can we work together to make real change?

Starting the day right

With the changes made to the school lunch program, our school lunch menu now offers cereal, toast, juice and milk for breakfast. No meat/meat alternative protein source.

So I stumbled across a recipe that will make our mornings start off on a great note, and will hopefully help tide my kids over until lunch. It was simple, easy and best-of-all, a great breakfast option.

Check it out:

Baked Eggs

First, I started off with a muffin tin, cooking spray, and eggs.

Muffin tin, eggs and cooking spray.

Spray down your muffin tin, crack an egg in each spot.

I added a little salt and pepper, so that I controlled the amount they used!

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes (until done).

Voila! Done!

Let them cool (or eat right away!), slide out of the pan, place in freezer bags and pop them in the freezer.

I put 4 in a bag, 2 for Scooter, 1 for Big Bro and 1 for EJ.

I can now grab a bag, microwave it for 30-45 seconds, throw it on an English muffin, serve with a slice of toast or just simply let them eat as is. Simple, easy and a great source of protein in the morning…and we all know how important breakfast is, right?

Well, at least most of us.

School Lunch and Obesity: Part 2

Over the weekend I shared my thoughts on the school lunch issue. For those that may not know what I’m referring to, the USDA has put into place guidelines that school must follow in order to qualify for funding through the free and reduced-price meals program. Those guidelines include:

So, where is my problem? My first response was an emotional one. I don’t believe some of the guidelines are fair and they definitely don’t take into consideration the different needs and requirements for different students. We don’t expect our children to all learn the same, so why do we expect them to eat the same?

First of all, let’s look at the meat/meat alternative issue. I have yet to meet anyone that has ever dealt with nutrition/weight loss issues that has not learned the importance of protein in your diet. According to dietary guidelines and a discussion with a dietician, my 105-pound, 5′ 1″ 8-year-old needs about 58 grams of protein per day. To clarify, “From the ages of 4 to 6, he needs 0.5 g per lb., decreasing to 0.45 g per pound between 7 and 14 years of age. Depending on his weight and daily calorie intake during these years, he may need to consume between 7 and 15 percent of his total calories as protein.” Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/519852-what-percentage-of-protein-do-children-need-each-day/#ixzz26vHPnKoF

He will receive roughly 14 grams through the school. (There are approximately 7 grams of protein per ounce of meat, and the school lunch will serve 1.5-2 oz.) That’s a lot to make up in the course of his meals at home.

And that’s not the only catch with protein. Animal protein and plant-based protein are two different things. For the essential amino acids, animal protein is a “complete” protein, meaning that it provides all that you need. Plant-based protein is “incomplete”, needing two to make one complete protein. It’s not a difference in how the body breaks it down, just how it’s used. If you aren’t using animal proteins, you just need more to get your essential amino acids. (Sound complicated? It is. Which is why I can’t even begin to understand why we would try to make this a one-size-fits-all type of diet. Our bodies don’t work that way.)

Let’s look at the calorie requirements. According to Mayo Clinic (and we work closely with a team of dietitians from Mayo through George’s disorder), children Scooter’s age require 1,200 to 2,000 calories per day, depending on growth and activity level. I would guess that would be plenty sufficient for EJ, since he’s 5 and on the smaller side of the scale. But it won’t touch Scooter’s needs. Not even close.

The requirements for increased vegetable choices, lower sodium intake, etc. Yay! I’m all for those types of changes. Let’s offer our children more, expand their palates, show them how great a well-balanced meal can be! Yes, yes and yes! I will be one of the biggest supporters of these types of changes…but the rest, well, the rest leaves me hungry for more information. And leaves my children just plain hungry.

There are a few comments that were left that I would like to respond to here. The first is the remark that I have the option to pack a lunch for my child, if I feel that the school lunch is inadequate in any way. And although that is true, I shouldn’t have to resort to those types of measures daily, just so that my child is fed enough to make it through the day.

But let’s say that I DID pack my son’s lunch each day. How does that make things better for the child that doesn’t have a parent at home to pack a lunch, or the funds to purchase an extra serving. Shouldn’t we be protecting those that cannot protect themselves? Isn’t that the purpose of living in this country that we call home? Should I just sit back and let things take its course because I’m fortunate enough to be able to provide whatever meal my children request at school? Is that the right attitude?

Second of all, a comment was made about children needing to pick up the proper eating habits at a young age, so those habits can continue on into adulthood. And I agree 100%. Expand our children’s minds, give them more options, require that fruits/vegetables and other foods are consumed before offering seconds. I’m all for any/all of those types of changes. Serve my child beets, different types of greens, oranges, etc. Please!

I grew up in a house where food was not always plentiful. There wasn’t an open-cupboard policy and we sometimes relied on other means to put food on the table, whether it be hunting and butchering our own, garden staples, foodstamps or commodities. My mother canned all sorts of things, including sausage and chicken. We would butcher as many as 500 chickens in the fall, partly to fill our pantry and partly to sell to others. (It’s part of the reason that I still, to this day, cannot handle raw chicken. Seriously.)

My children do not know what it’s like to not have the option of more food. And I think that it helps in the long run. They do not stuff themselves because they don’t know when the next good meal will be. They know that when they are hungry they can eat, and so they eat a reasonable amount and they eat sensibly. But I know they are the exception, not the rule.

Are there improvements I can make when it comes to meals and choices for my children? Certainly. And I’m working on them regularly. Yet having my children come home hungry enough that they are willing to grab whatever is nearest and stuff themselves with it? Well, that doesn’t seem like the right lesson to teach. I’m just grateful that I’m here to intervene.

But what about those that aren’t so fortunate?

If you check out my first blog post in this series, the bottom has links from people that have weighed in on this issue. It’s important, not just for our children, but for their futures as well. Any other comments/questions? I will continue to write about/address these issues as we work through these changes as a family. I’d love to hear your take.

Picking corn

After weeks of waiting, our sweet corn is finally ready to enjoy…and enjoy it we have!

My littlest helper, George.

EJ is a big fan of sweet corn, too!

After my last post on sweet corn, I received some interesting suggestions as to what we could do with our farm…namely, someone thought it would be best if our farm were to burn down. That wasn’t very nice, now was it?

A good friend of mine found this video clip, and I think it does an amazing job of explaining the exact science behind GMO’s, as opposed to random modifications that are made in plant breeding all the time. (And trust me, I would never consider the Huffington Post as a credible news source, ever…but this one surprised me!)

Scientist’s take on GMO

Every time I think about our sweet corn, this is the image in my head, not a Mr. Yuck sticker:

This little one is excited for some sweet corn…and I’m excited about the possibilities!

Thankful Thursday – Technology

Technology. Some treat it as the downfall of our civilization, some treat it as the answer to everything. Me? I see it for what it is…a gift that can be used in many wonderful ways.

We recently planted a plot of sweet corn. What does that have to do with technology? Well, this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill Grandpa’s sweet corn. This is Bt sweet corn developed by Monsanto.

Our sweet corn seed bag from Monsanto…and I can’t wait to harvest this crop!

Now, I say “developed” because the seed itself is just a simple corn seed, it’s the traits of the corn that makes it special. This corn is more resistant to bugs, which makes it less likely that we’ll need to use pesticides on it. The corn is also hardy to herbicides, meaning that we can use the same chemical that millions of homes use everyday when needed to kill the weeds in the field, limiting the competition to the plant and improving the corn yields. That means more corn with less cost, less trips up and down the field, and less soil disturbance. The fewer times we have to disturb the soil, the better our soil health is, and the less we lose to erosion. A win-win.

This sweet corn is a great new product, but the technology is nothing new. Modifying traits in seeds has been going on for decades. Need examples? How about burpless cucumbers? (Burpless cucumbers are seedless…but without seeds, how are there more?) Oils made from seeds that are healthier? Seedless grapes, navel oranges…the list could go on. Biotechnology is a mainstay of food production throughout the world. With it, we can develop plants that can grow in less favorable conditions, produce better tasting crops and can be developed for certain health-care concerns. And that’s where my hope comes in…

It’s not just the sweet corn that has me thankful today. It’s the possibilities that this corn presents.

Our son, George, has a metabolic disorder that limits his ability to break down proteins. To sum it up in a very short statement, he can’t have meat, dairy, pastas, etc. His diet is limited to 12-13 grams of protein per day. The rest of his essential amino acids comes from here:

This is George’s formula…it stinks to high heaven and I have to hide it in different foods and stuff, but it’s what he needs. And that’s all that matters.

Yes, George is still on formula. And he’ll be on this special formula for the rest of his life. I’m thankful for this can, because without it, I’m not sure what we would have done, or what would have happened. But I don’t need to worry about that.

So what does this can of formula and a cob of corn have in common?

Imagine: if we can make a cob of corn that is resistant to bugs and herbicides, maybe we could eventually make a version of meat that has limited protein in it. Maybe we could make a dairy product that George could drink (and I’m not talking coconut beverage or soy substitute). Maybe we could make a pizza, complete with cheese and toppings, that would be easy and tasty for him to enjoy.

No, this cob of corn is not just a simple treat for my family to enjoy in a few months. It’s not just a soil-saving, resource-saving, farm-friendly crop…it’s a sign of what we can do when we take the time to investigate and do some research.

George, enjoying some yummy sweet corn!

I know what research did for us in the past. I see him every morning, waking up with an amazing smile and a great zest for life. It’s where the research leads us in the future that has me excited…and I hope, for George’s sake, that nothing stands in the way.

I am thankful that Monsanto provided us with the sweet corn seed, but please remember that the thoughts, ideas and opinions are my own…as well as those cute photos of my boys. Thank you!

Some Sweet Sweet Corn

My family is a big fan of sweet corn. Big fan. The only issue has been the amount of time and work that it takes (which I will admit, has mostly fallen on the shoulders of my father-in-law).

Imagine my excitement when a late-night Facebook conversation turned into an offer to test an acre of sweet corn? And not just any sweet corn…but sweet corn that could be planted with our field corn, without having to worry about killing it? I was beside myself with joy!

Now, if you haven’t put two and two together yet, this isn’t your regular sweet corn. It’s Round Up Ready sweet corn that’s been developed by Monsanto. (Wow, I was able to say Monsanto without thunder booming, clouds rolling and some menacing creature showing up.)

Now, that last comment was just me being funny. I have no problem with Monsanto, or any other seed development company. And no, I’m not on the payroll. I’m just simply a mother of four working on new ways to feed my children. Monsanto is just one of the companies that we purchase seed from, and they have no say in what we plant, where we plant it, or other management-type decisions that Boss Man makes.

So what about biotechnology? Aren’t I afraid of the unknowns? The simple answer is…well, simply no. Advancements are how we were able to increase food production, while we decrease our carbon footprint, lower soil erosion and improve our environment overall.

Every where I look, I see where technology (especially biotechnology) has made improvements in our world. Need some examples? How about burpless cucumbers? Seedless cottonwoods? Tomatoes that don’t soften after harvest?

I have no problem with any of these things.

So, in this instance, the sweet corn that we planted has a trait built in, that will help it stand up to insects, and makes it possible for the plant to survive if treated with herbicides (those are chemicals that we sometimes use to eliminate weeds in our fields). Now, before you get ahead of me, let me tell you that we have no desire to spray our corn with herbicides, unless we have to…and sometimes that happens.

Our fields were treated right before planting, so the weeds out there presently should die soon. We won’t have to reapply any herbicide until later in the year, and only if we have a weed issue. (Trust me, we don’t apply chemicals unless we have to…and that’s after a discussion with our crop consultant AND checking out each field ourselves.)

So, here we are, sweet corn in the ground, waiting for some rain and excited to see where the year takes us!

This is the sweet corn we planted!

Getting ready, making sure equal amounts of seed are in each.

Going in the ground!

Look at those rows! Love it! See the residue left from last year’s crop? And the weeds that are there should be dying in the next day or so.

I’d like to thank Monsanto for providing us the opportunity to test out a new product (Obsession II). Although the sweet corn seed was provided to us, the thoughts and photos are my own.