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My daughter Beth has a whiteboard in her room. Every night before she goes to bed, I write a phrase with the letter “B” on it. It’s a fun routine we do that’s meant to encourage her and end the night on a positive note. Recently before an important cross country meet, I wrote the phrase, “Don’t stop “B” lieving”.
How many of us in agriculture need to take those words to heart? Sometimes it would be easier to stop believing. Poor weather, low yielding crops, employees that don’t have our animals’ best interests at heart and organizations that want to demonize agriculture can get the best of us some days. At times it feels like the world is against agriculture. For a group of people that feeds the world, it would easy to stop caring, to stop believing in the positive aspects of agriculture.
But that’s not who we are. Despite challenges, we believe there will be another spring, another fall and another crop. Despite those who say we mistreat our animals, we believe that protecting them from the elements and each other provides the best care and welfare. For those consumers that may not understand what we do, we believe that by telling our story, we can make a difference.
We provide safe, healthy, and affordable food not just for a nation, but for the world. As pork producers each pound of pork we produce uses 41% less water than 40 years ago. We’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 35% at the same time.
Steve Perry had it right. Don’t Stop Believing.
Most pigs are green. I know what you’re thinking. You’ve seen white, black, red and even blue-butt pigs, but green pigs?? No such thing. Okay, so when I say green I’m not referring to the color, but the sustainability of pork production and how well it fits with the crops we grow.
Right now we’re busy planting corn and beans. Much of the reason we’ll have a good yield is because of the fertility of the soil. The hog manure we apply to the soil has a major impact on fertility. We test the manure for nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus. We also test our soil for those same nutrients. Where the soil is low in nutrients, we apply more manure to increase the fertility and the yield. This allows us to get the right balance of nutrients. In the past without testing there was a greater chance of over applying or under applying the manure, which is wasteful.
A popular subject is carbon footprint. Whether you are a consumer, producer or manufacturer, reducing your carbon footprint is important. Through the Pork Checkoff producers funded research efforts that measured and identified the overall carbon footprint involved with pork production. I’m happy to say the production system we use, with deep pits has the lowest GHG emissions. Why is that? Our facilities help our pigs grow more efficiently, which means they use less feed. The deep pits and manure application systems we have allow us to capture the most nutrients for the crops and reduce our need for commercial fertilizer. Today’s as farmers we produce 50% more pork with the same GHG emissions. That’s being responsible.
Most people I talk to don’t realize what a productive and efficient cycle pigs and crops create. While you may not actually see green pigs on our farm, you can feel good knowing every day we’re trying to do the best we can to be responsible to our neighbors and our environment.
After getting off to a very wet start, the fields dried out surprisingly well and now harvest is in full swing. Except for a few small wet spots, bean harvest is complete. Yields haven’t been totaled, but appear to be better than expected. Dale has started to harvest corn. The quality seems good and he was happy to have fresh corn for the pigs, which they always seem to eat better.
This is an exciting time of year as there is lots of activity with tractors, wagons, trucks and combines. Six months ago tiny seeds were planted. The ground has been fertilized, cultivated and watered. The combination of sunshine and good weather along with the hopes and prayers of many farmers has culminated in what they glean from the fields today. It not only takes science, skill and technology, but a little good luck to get a great harvest.
I listen to the drone of tractors going late into the night. Fall harvest means long hours. Farmers take advantage of the good weather while they can. Everyone has a job to do, even if it’s just making lunch for the workers. Growing food for people and animals is an important job.