Ask A Farmer Video

Have you ever wondered who is growing your food and if it’s safe? At CommonGround, we help you find the answers.

Check out our latest video to see what happens when grocery store shoppers can push a button and talk to a real farmer.

What questions would you ask a farmer?


Callie Hendrickson

Thanks for taking the time to share the facts and stories with consumers. There is so much misinformation out there that one expectant mother begin to cry as we talked about how so many companies are using scare tactics to market their product. She said she was getting to the point she didn’t know what she should be eating during her pregnancy and if she would be able to feed her baby healthy safe foods. This is an American Mom! The U.S. has the safest and most affordable food supply in the world but because of all the misinformation out there, the consumer doesn’t recognize it and get to enjoy it. Your work will help consumers get the facts and base their decisions on good information. Thank You!

Joseph Heckman

Anonymous Commodity Farmer or Artisan Farmer with a Face, Who Is Your Farmer and Why?
Joseph Heckman, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
The resurgence of interest in local food systems follows from the failure of the industrial production and marketing system to satisfy hunger for traditional farm fresh foods. The seeds of the local food movement were sown long ago by organic farming pioneers. In the 1930’s, Dr. Weston A. Price described the physical degeneration he observed in peoples around the world when commercial foods displaced traditional diets. Renewed interest in the teachings of this nutritional pioneer is creating demand for whole unprocessed nutrient dense foods, especially meat, milk, and eggs, produced by animals on pasture. Around the same time as Price, Albert Howard was developing organic farming methods and declared “fresh food from fertile soil” a “birthright”. In 1942, J.I. Rodale predicted “One of these fine days the public is going to wake up and will pay for eggs, meat, vegetables, etc., according to how they were produced.” Demand for fresh organic food naturally favors local sourcing. Community supported agriculture, cow sharing/leasing arrangements, and private buying clubs are attempts by consumers to ensure personal food choice and survival of their local farmer. A heirloom economy of traditional foods, raw milk production and cheese making are the antithesis to industrial commodity farming. After hosting a University seminar series on raw milk and informed consumer choice, I fielded numerous inquiries about how to find the right farmer. Raw milk drinkers are discriminating about source and farmer reputation for cleanliness. Other questions concern animal breed, pasture, A2 milk, and organic certification. Food price is generally the least concern. People who are particular about what they eat are elevating artisan farmers to a professional status above the image of the average commodity farmer. Finally, the urban farming movement – keeping few chickens, a family cow or goat – marks the ultimate local food system.

Joan Ruskamp

Hi Joseph,

Thank you for joining us in the conversation about food. I would love to share a few thoughts I have about farming.

I live in Nebraska where our growing season lasts from May through September and if we are lucky we will have a late frost allowing plants to live into October. Where I farm we have clay soil with plenty of rainfall and hot, humid weather in the summer. Those conditions are great for growing corn, soybeans, alfalfa and other grains. There is a large area of our state that is very sandy and grows grass really well. Those areas also grow sugar beats and dry edible beans really well. Just in my own state we have learned over time how to work with the resources we’ve been blessed with to be sustainable over a long period of time.

I would like to share some statistics about how agriculture has changed over the past 100 years.
1920: Total population: 105,710,620; farm population: 31,614,269; farmers 27% of labor force; Number of farms: 6,454,000; average acres: 148
1930: Total population: 122,775,046; farm population: 30,455,350; farmers 21% of labor force; Number of farms: 6,295,000; average acres: 157; irrigated acres: 14,633,252
1940: Total population: 131,820,000; farm population: 30,840,000; farmers 18% of labor force; Number of farms: 6,102,000; average acres: 175; irrigated acres: 17,942,96
1950: Total population: 151,132,000; farm population: 25,058,000; farmers 12.2% of labor force; Number of farms: 5,388,000; average acres: 216; irrigated acres: 25,634,869
1960: Total population: 180,007,000; farm population: 15,635,000; farmers 8.3% of labor force; Number of farms: 3,711,000; average acres: 303; irrigated acres: 33,829,000
1970: Total population: 204,335,000; farm population: 9,712,000; farmers 4.6% of labor force; Number of farms: 2.780, 000; average acres: 390
1980: Total population: 227,020,000; farm population: 6,051,000; farmers 3.4% of labor force; Number of farms: 2,439,510; average acres: 426; irrigated acres: 50,350,000 (1978)
1990: Total population: 261,423,000; farm population: 2,987,552; farmers 2.6% of labor force; Number of farms: 2,143,150; average acres: 461; irrigated acres: 49,404,000 (1992)
2000: Estimated population 275,000,000 (no other figures I could factually confirm)
I think it’s very important to note the increase in population and the decrease in percent of those farming. I can remember hearing school board presidents encouraging youth to leave their family farms and get other jobs that paid better. I can also remember eating a lot of canned food in the winter as we didn’t have fresh fruits and vegetables like we do now.

Consumers have the wide variety of choices because we have found ways to offer them. I am so glad to see more people getting involved with raising their own food so they can understand the challenges of weed control and manure management.

My goal in sharing this post is to remind us that agriculture is an evolving process of making the best better. We utilize our natural resources and the whims of Mother Nature to make sure each of our farms can continue to feed future generations.

How blessed we are to say that there are currently two generations of people in the United States that have never known food shortages. Perhaps that blessing has become the source of another woe in that we waste 40% of the food that is produced. Now that is something to get excited about and make improvements towards!


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