| October 23, 2014

Amanda’s Farm & Food Roundup

AmandaDespite working their usual long hours, farmers in the Midwest are expected to take home a smaller paycheck after this season. While a record harvest dropped crop prices, inputs like seed, fertilizer and pesticide expenses rose, combining to make double trouble for farmers looking to receive a decent return on their investments. Studies show that they’re losing $225 per acre of corn and $100 per acre of soybeans. The price gap is likely to be bridged by farm subsidies, using taxpayer dollars to make up the margin and put a Band-Aid over the larger issues. The author, Tom Philpott, suggests that farmers look at organic crop production and diversifying to grow other crops and raise animals, which command stronger prices for farmers.

For one day each year in Illinois, man replaces machine in the race to harvest corn. Last weekend, farmers took part in the 34th annual Illinois State Corn Husking Competition, a tradition that originally grew to popularity during the Great Depression when everyone picked their own corn by hand. Today, machines can harvest 12 rows of corn at a time and 200,000 pounds per hour. Conversely, skilled farmers can pick about 4,500 pounds of corn by hand each hour. The competition brings farmers of all ages out to try the old fashioned method for a day.

Even as heat waves across the country die down, forecasts don’t predict a wetter winter for the West Coast. 60 percent of California is currently experiencing exceptional drought – the worst possible ranking according to a NOAA report. The northern coast may see more rain, but the central valley is likely to remain dry another season.

When you look at a soda, you could start thinking in minutes on the treadmill rather than calories and ounces in the bottle. Recently, Johns Hopkins conducted a study by placing signs in convenience stores in Baltimore that tell shoppers how long they would have to walk or run to burn off calories consumed in sugary drinks. So far, the signage has caught the attention of adolescents, as the average amount of calories per drink purchased by teens dropped by 203 to 179. The average beverage size also dropped by 37 percent once customers learned of the workout routine their sugary indulgence would merit. So far, these numbers are small changes, but they are significant beginning steps to show that with education, buyers lean toward healthier choices.

A beautiful photo series in the Washington Post shows a day in the life of a 94-year-old farmer in Weston, Missouri. "It’s altogether a different situation," Charles Bradley says of farming as he reflects on the past. "There were many farms up and down the road, but now it’s operated by one fella who has 2,000 to 3,000 acres. Back in the old days, if we had 200 acres we had a lot of ground."

The next time you’re watching primetime TV, you just might get a break from Coke ads and see some fresh produce on screen instead. This week, the first TV ad from Whole Foods Market aired nationally as an effort for the chain to rebrand itself under the slogan “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store.” Showcasing farmers at work and eye-catching landscapes, the campaign focuses on promoting values in food production, including the fair treatment of animals, farmers and the earth. The chain, which opened in 1980, has earned both ‘elitist’ and ‘pioneer’ as titles and is working to ditch the ‘Whole Foods – whole paycheck’ reputation while maintaining their status as leaders of the local and organic food movements.

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