Can We Eat Like Our Ancestors?

Can We Eat Like Our Ancestors?

Kelly Marshall is a busy farm mom who raises row crops and a garden near Maysville, Missouri.


Springtime is my favorite time of year. Partly because of the promise it holds on a farm, but mostly because it means I can get into my garden. Now that summer is here, my produce is growing!

Something about green and growing things takes me back to one of my earliest childhood memories of picking peas with my mom when I was only four years old. But gardening in my family dates back even further than my mother, back to my grandparents and even great-grandparents. From tomatoes and watermelon to strawberries and rhubarb, life lessons I learned in the garden sparked my love for growing food. Through the long hours of pulling weeds, watering plants and creating compost over the years, I have seen the changes in growing food from then to now, and I am so grateful to be farming with today’s technologies!


Thanks to the hard work of many dedicated researchers and farmers over time, I am able to grow modern foods like broccoli in my garden. Broccoli seems like one of those green veggies high in vitamin A that moms have forever been trying to get our kids to eat so they can grow to be healthy and strong. But surprisingly enough, broccoli has not always been a thing. It was actually engineered from a cabbage relative by our ancestors and was only introduced in the U.S. about a hundred years ago.

Without the work of our ancestors, plants like broccoli and others would have never existed. Though our kids might like us a little bit more at the dinner table, the rest of us wouldn’t be able to enjoy this tasty green if it weren’t for the evolution of food.

Broccoli is just one example of a plant that has been genetically modified over the years. Not only has the work of gardeners, farmers and scientists led us to enjoyment of new foods like broccoli, carrots and corn, it has also provided new traits that have really helped my garden and our farm. These traits help us manage pests, diseases and weeds more effectively.


As a farmer, my livelihood depends on the crops I produce. And thanks to improvements in genetics and the introduction of GMO traits, I can trust that my crops will grow to be drought-tolerant, hardy, high-yielding, resistant to pests and crop protection products, or maybe even a combination of all these things.

With all the pressure on modern farming technology and GMOs these days, you can bet we wouldn’t be using them on my farm unless we truly believed in what they offer. I am comfortable feeding these foods to my family knowing because of the thorough testing and review they go through before they’re brought to market or available for use on our farm.


Thinking back to the countless hours my grandfather spent tilling soil and chopping weeds makes me thankful for the opportunities we have now. I spend less time managing my modern produce that is free of weeds, pests and diseases and more time focusing on the healthy growth of my plants.

While I can enjoy past memories of gardening with my ancestors, I can also understand the hardships that both farmers and consumers faced around food production in the past. As a farmer, I am thankful for the technologies available for producing food today. And as a mom, I am thankful that these items allow me to put food on the table for my family every day. Today’s food options mean we are not eating or farming like our ancestors, and that is a good thing for all of us!


If you haven’t had first-hand experience with how food is raised on farms today, I know it can all be a bit confusing at times. As a farmer and a mom, I’m committed to sharing experiences from our garden and farm and helping find answers to your most pressing food and farming questions. Just leave your question in the comments section for me or one of our other CommonGround volunteers.


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