Perspectives On...

THE 411 ON FARM CHEMICALS

Protecting our food – and what that means for our plates

In a perfect world no farmer would use any chemicals. But because there are insects, weeds and diseases, our crops need protection. So, farmers use different methods to combat those pests and there are tradeoffs with each choice.

Three different perspectives. Three different practices. A Chicago mom explores firsthand. And what that means to you.

Chemicals
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    "So, as I grow crops, my family’s health is the..."

    Andrew Bowman

    Farmer
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    "When I had a chance to talk to farmers about..."

    Genevieve O'Keefe

    Mom
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    "One of the best aspects of farming is taking both..."

    Paul Taylor

    Farmer
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    "There are no mechanical harvesters on our farm, only people..."

    Ruth Zeldenrust

    Farmer
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FEWER, SMARTER CHEMICALS = LESS IMPACT ON SOIL, WATER AND CROPS

My farm is roughly the size of 1,300 football fields. As I see it, I’m the steward of those acres. I’m doing my best to grow the most from these acres in a sustainable way. For me it’s all about growing high-quality products that feed my family and yours.
 
Standing in my way every day are weeds and pests that feed on my crops. For a farm my size and with the crops we grow, it’s not practical to keep up with the weeds or insects by hand. I use herbicides and insecticides to protect my crops, but only those that are proven safe and only in the smallest amount needed to be effective.
 
Some folks have misperceptions about chemical crop protectants. Here’s what I want you to know about my chemical use:
  • The only chemicals I use have been proven safe by the FDA, the USDA, and the EPA after rigorous testing.
  • Before applying chemicals, the applicator must be certified for proper use and application.
  • Today’s chemicals are precise, effective and leave virtually no residue on the soil, water or crop – that’s because they are designed to break down after they accomplish their job and become inactive.
  • That’s why I’m confident I can walk through a sprayed field just days or even 72 hours later, and the products I harvest are safe to eat.
I’m a farmer. But I’m also a father. So, as I grow crops, my family’s health is the standard I weigh everything against. If it’s not good enough for my wife and 3-year-old son, then it isn’t good enough to be on your table either.

Andrew Bowman Farmer

"So, as I grow crops, my family’s health is the standard I weigh everything against."

Andrew's Perspectives & Posts

Illinois Farmer Q&A: How is your farm different from your grandparent's? How is it the same?

Illinois Farmer Q&A: How is your farm different from your grandparent's? How is it the same?

You have questions about how the environment is cared for on farms, and Illinois farmers have those answers. We asked local farmers your questions about environmental stewardship so you can get your answers straight from the source. Let's talk about what's on your table.

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Let's Talk About Chemicals

Let's Talk About Chemicals

When I use agricultural chemicals, I’m using products that are approved by the FDA, the USDA, and EPA. I follow strict guidelines -- to the letter. I hope every homeowner treating their lawn reads the directions and follows them as closely as I do.

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Spring Brings New Life and Renewed Optimism

Spring Brings New Life and Renewed Optimism

This will be a special spring for us. As I envision what this season might hold, I now need to rig up a car seat into the buddy seat of our tractor. This will be the first year I farm as a father. The symbolism of planting seeds to bring a new season of life while holding new life in my arms at night has not been overlooked.

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Under 30, Over $1M in Debt

Under 30, Over $1M in Debt

Under 30 and over a million in debt isn't so bad; my riches aren't in an account.

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HI TECH CHEMICAL SPRAYING

When I had a chance to talk with farmers about how chemicals are used, I came away with a better understanding – less fear about my food:

  • Both conventional and organic farmers may use chemicals to get the highest yield possible.
  • Farmers are required to attend trainings and be certified to apply any chemical.
  • GPS technology allows farmers to spray precisely, where needed, depending on weed levels.
  • 95% of what they spray is water.

"When I had a chance to talk to farmers about chemicals - I came away with a better understanding."

Genevieve's Perspectives & Posts

Learning a Farmer's Language

Learning a Farmer's Language

A funny thing — the agricultural community has a language all its own, and it’s not unlike the rest of us when we get together with our own tribes.

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What do food labels really tell us?

What do food labels really tell us?

Labels still confuse me. Even with a master’s in Public Health, I’m befuddled.

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Where does your milk come from? Is it really local?

Where does your milk come from? Is it really local?

Have you ever wondered where your milk comes from?  Besides a cow, I mean. You can look up any of the dairy products in your fridge to find out what farm the milk came from!

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TRADEOFFS – GENETICALLY MODIFIED VS. MORE INSECTICIDE

Because most of the sweet corn grown is still non-GMO due to consumer demand, we have to, unfortunately, resort to putting more insecticides on those plants to protect them from certain insects:

  • Beetles will eat the silks off of the corn, which means that ear is unable to pollinate and leaves us with bare cobs.
  • Rootworms will lay their larvae on the stalks to feed off of the roots.
  • Earworms will get into the husk and eat the end of the cob.

Once we assess the impact that the pest is having on our crop, we may spray the corn with an insecticide to control the pests and protect the plant.

Paul Taylor Farmer

"One of the best aspects of farming is taking both full responsibility and full pride in whatever happens out in my fields."

Paul's Perspectives & Posts

Sweet Corn 101

Sweet Corn 101

The next time you open a can of whole kernel corn, take a moment to imagine how that sweet little pop of flavor from each kernel began life. It might very well have grown here, on my farm in North Central Illinois.

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TRADEOFFS – GENETICALLY MODIFIED VS. MORE INSECTICIDE

TRADEOFFS – GENETICALLY MODIFIED VS. MORE INSECTICIDE

Let’s face it: We all want the corn cob we’re biting into to look good. Because a GM variety of sweet corn hasn’t been commercially approved to contain a protein that would ward off these pests, we instead have to apply insecticides to control the pests.

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I HARDLY USE ANY CHEMICALS

My garden is what you would call "supersized," with 32 acres of fresh produce harvested from early summer to fall. We’re not certified organic, but use many of the same farming practices like crop rotation. And just because it’s marked organic, doesn’t mean pesticides aren’t used. Rest assured that everything we grow and sell is safe, high-quality, nutritious and most important: fresh from our fields.

  • For weeds, we cultivate (think of a garden hoe, but larger) and pull weeds by hand.
  • For bugs, I’d like for all my produce to be pesticide free. If I have to spot treat something, I label it and tell my customers. Like other farmers, I like to catch things early.
  • If I see white moths on the cabbage, a lifetime of experience tells me I have to get in there and get after them quickly because if I don’t, they lay eggs, eggs turn into worms and the worms poop. And no one wants to eat that, including me.
  • To kill the pests, I use Bt, an allowable pesticide for organic farms, and a naturally occurring bacterium that causes them to die after they ingest it. 

"There are no mechanical harvesters on our farm, only people who handpick our produce daily."

Ruth's Perspectives & Posts

It Could Only Be Fresher If You Picked It Yourself

It Could Only Be Fresher If You Picked It Yourself

We grow veggies, lots and lots of fresh veggies. Questions about what we grow and how we grow it have always been part of our conversations at the markets. But lately, we’re getting one question more than others: “Is this organic?”

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