About “Beyond the Rows”

Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Farmer Bloggers Making Their Voices Heard

Since today is agriculture day, we thought a great way to celebrate would be to highlight a few of the people who are actively sharing their ag stories online. There are a lot of voices sharing their personal story about agriculture, so we thought it may be good to highlight a few of them now and then, so our hope is this will become a series.

computer keyboardWith the number of voices, sadly we can’t highlight them all, but hopefully our readers will find it advantageous to discover blogs telling the story straight from the farm, ranch or science bench. The diversity of voices and stories is incredible. Through the posts we are showcasing today, you get a feel for the day-to-day routine of calving or the perspective of someone who has worked in biotech.

Kansas farmer and ag teacher Glenn Brunkow is a couple of weeks into calving season. Having new calves on the farm is an exciting time, but Glenn also shows what the days look like as we move through the weeks. For folks like me who didn’t grow up around livestock, it brings an all new understanding to the word chores!

The Truth About Calving Season

Calving season is entering its second week at our place. It is one of my favorite times of the year, kind of like Christmas each morning. Life is good, for now. However, it is not without its pitfalls and shortcomings. The progression from giddy excitement and wonderment to pain and suffering is something that evolves over about six weeks.

Week one, the alarm goes off at 5:30, you bound out of bed with a song in your heart and springs on your feet. Your clothes are laid out by the foot of the bed in anticipation of a great day. The supplies needed for greeting newborns into the world are carefully laid out and double checked the night before. Your chore clothes are hung by the back door, clean and crisp, your boots standing at attention next to them.

The brisk winter air greets you, putting a glow on your cheeks, the grass sparkles with frost. You find the first calf of the season nestled in a warm place being licked clean by his adoring angelic mother. You pause for a second taking in the wonderment of new life. Then you gently tag the calf with a bright shiny tag that matches his mother’s. Life is good. Continue Reading The Truth About Calving Season

Indiana corn, soybean and popcorn farmer Brian Scott saw some things floating around the net he wanted to give his opinion on. He talks Monsanto technology agreement that people frequently mislabel as a contract about seed.

I Occupy Our Food Supply Everyday

Today is the day. The Occupy movement is going to occupy the food supply. According to the occupiers and Farm Aid president Willie Nelson large corporations have too much control over our food. I won’t deny that there has been a lot of consolidation in the food and seed markets over the years, but that seems pretty common and big does not equal bad as some occupiers would have you think. Willie Nelson recently wrote “Occupy the Food System” for The Huffington Post. He ends his editorial piece by saying, “Our food system belongs in the hands of many family farmers, not under the control of a handful of corporations.”

As you may know I happen to be part of a family farm. I’m the 4th generation to work this land. I’ve seen a lot of posts online about how corporations control farms or farmers are slaves to “Big Ag.” People claim that we are beholden to them and have to sign unfair contracts to be privileged enough to use their seed. They’ll also claim that the contracts rope us into buying other inputs like pesticides and herbicides from the same company. We get a lot of our seed from big corporations like the “evil” Monsanto, and since Farm Aid seems to be jumping in with Occupy I wanted to know what they think about some of the genetically modified crops we grow on our farm. Continue reading I Occupy Our Food Supply Everyday | The Farmer’s Life.

Nebraska’s Dawn Caldwell writes about the way farmers and ranchers give back to their communities and how they find such great fulfillment by working in their communities.

Making sure there are food and clothes in the future…

I had no idea, nor had I even ever thought about those statistics before I saw the picture. Not to brag, but we cattle owners are a busy bunch! This made me think about the many, many people I know and how they choose to use their time. I have to say, I think rural people, in general, are very generous with their time, whether they have livestock or not. Guess what – we have to be. There aren’t that many of us in our neighborhoods to do stuff! Maybe that is why, for the most part, we are rather happy people. Oh, yes, there is the fresh air, wide open spaces, and on and on. But mostly, I think we live truly fulfilled lives. There is something about helping others out that just makes you feel good and have more energy to keep doing more.

The first part of the statement in that top picture, stating that nearly 1/2 of us volunteer with youth organizations is completely true to who we are. There is a broad, general knowledge that our youth hold the future of agriculture in their hands, hearts, and minds (all of you 4-H alums should catch a hint of the pledge in there). If we don’t stimulate the creativity, athletic ability and “cow-sense” in our young folks, we will be guilty of contributing to the ends of our means. And I don’t know about all of you, but I certainly want to be able to eat and have clothes to wear beyond my productive years, when someone else, hopefully our kids, have taken over the farming and ranching. Continue reading on Making sure there are food and clothes in the future… « Lady Of Ag.

A bit more on the scientific side of agriculture is where we usually find Steve Savage, who is a plant pathologist, who’s worked with agricultural technologies throughout his career. Since his perspective is a bit more technical, he tackles questions on a more in-depth, scientific basis both on his personal blog Applied Mythology and as a contributor to Biofortified. Recently Steve worked to explain how science fits with food.

What Should We Know About Foreign Genes In Our Food?

In a recent email exchange about the merits of mandatory “GMO labeling,” I was asked this question: “Why shouldn’t we be able to know what foreign genes are in our food?” It seems like a reasonable question to most people. After all, we are the customers; don’t we have a right to know what we want to know? The answer to that question is actually a lot more complicated than you might think. Let me explain.

What some people find “creepy” about the idea of “GMO crops” is that they contain genes from organisms other than the crop itself – hence the emotive term, foreign genes. Practical speaking, the novel genes in the commercial biotech crops grown around the world have come from either bacteria or viruses. To your average person, that might still sound creepy, but it needs to be put into perspective. Most people may not know it, but our diet is, and always has been loaded with foreign genes from bacteria and viruses and other living organisms (yeast, other fungi, nematodes, algae…). We don’t live in a sterile world. In fact there are a host of microbes whose natural role in the world is to grow in association with plants – including food crops. Except for the case of recently cooked food, these organisms tend to be alive and well when we eat them – genes and all. I’ll give a quick survey of the microbes which one finds on plants and whose foreign genes genes we regularly consume. Continue reading on What Should We Know About Foreign Genes In Our Food? « Biofortified.

Those are just a few of the things we’ve been reading in the ag blog space. Please let us know when you read or write something you think we should highlight in the future.

4 Responses to "Farmer Bloggers Making Their Voices Heard"

  1. I am glad to see farmers speak out. I have long held the belief that technology moves for a reason and that the majority of people are good people. The world and technology has to advance if we as the human species is to evolve. That is just the way it goes.

    I applaud our farmers! Keep up the good work!

    Reply
    • They are pretty fantastic Kat! And there are lots of them out there seeding fields and seeding blogs too! Farmers rock!

      Reply
  2. I think that the deeper probelm we’re about to have to face is intellectual property. Patents are essentially a form of artificial monopoly, and while some patent protection is probably beneficial, currently the protection is way too long. I think there should also be a way to force a company to issue a licence for a patent it holds for a reasonable fee, because in essence patents are supposed to reward the society, not the patent holder.The same goes, up to a point, for copyright, but patents are a much larger probelm you can’t copyright a type of joke or a specific simile, but you can sometimes patent a general concept.But what I mean is that the probelms with Monsanto’s GMO etc. aren’t really probelms with Monsanto, or with GMO, but rather they’re probelms with outdated, impractical laws.

    Reply
    • Hi Crysta, we believe that patents are necessary to support and protect the innovation that we and other companies develop. The USDA ERS states, “Intellectual property rights in agriculture—for example, patents and plant variety protection certificates—are frequently used to protect technological advances. These rights allow their owners to exclude competitors from ‘making, using, offering for sale, or selling’ an invention for a limited period of time.”

      Patents do have an expiration date; most expire within 20 years. At the end of that time period the patented technology is no longer be restricted and available to the general public. Glyphosate is an example of this. Now off patent, the major suppliers come from China.

      Monsanto actually does license our patented traits to many other companies, and we gave our drought tolerant technology royalty-free to all African seed companies for distribution to smallholder farmers in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa as a part of our public-private partnership called WEMA. (http://monsanto.info/1LiDA0R)

      Reply

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