Reducing Food Waste – Talk About It. Be About It.

Food WasteFeeding a growing population has been on the minds of those of us growing food for decades. And as of late, it is something readily written about on our blogs and shared across our social media feeds.

Every day we are conversing about today’s farmers and how we are able to do so much more with less. We highlight how far farming has come since 1960 when an individual farmer could only feed 25.8 people. We talk about, and agvocate for, every new technology that helps us remain sustainable and “feed the 9”, and that’s great – it really is. But, we are missing an opportunity, and quite frankly, doing ourselves a disservice if we are not also addressing food waste as part of that discussion.

Food Waste

Food waste is a huge problem that has been allowed to run rampant for far too long now. In the United States alone we waste a staggering 40% of all food purchased. And yet, food waste is a topic that most remain relatively quiet about. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be more upset about the food we work so hard to grow being literally thrown in the garbage? Shouldn’t we be making more noise on the issue?

The answer is yes. We should be more upset, and we should be making more noise to draw attention to the insane amounts of food being wasted each year. One of the best ways to bring attention to something is to…

Talk About It

Literally, talk about it. Bring up food waste in your daily face-to-face conversations. Then take to your blog and/or your social media properties and talk about it some more. The following are both great ways to engage readers in a virtual conversation.

  • Start a series. Sure, you can publish the occasional post on food waste, but blogging in series is a great way to engage existing readers and gain new ones. I started the year off with a food waste series called Diary of a Recovering Food Waster. The series was one part shedding light on food waste and one part holding myself accountable to my own goals in reducing waste. In it, I shared my food wasting wins and fails, as well as tips and tricks to reducing waste.

Diary of a Recovering Food Waster has since been transformed into a new series – Food Saver Friday. The aim of the new series is to focus on answering reader questions and providing more actionable goals, tips, and tricks for reducing food waste.

The beauty of a series is flexibility. You can post on a weekly or monthly intervals. It can go on indefinitely, or it can have clear start and stop dates. You can write all the posts yourself, or you can take on guest writers. Regardless what you choose, one thing is certain, a blog series is an excellent way to talk about and draw attention to the issue at hand, which in this case is food waste.

  • Hashtag, hashtag, hashtag. Utilize the power of the hashtag by either creating your own, or jumping on an existing food waste related hashtag. For example, whenever I share anything from my Food Saver Friday series, or just a post about food waste on a Friday, I use #FoodSaverFriday (my original) and #WasteLess (one I jumped on by taking the challenge – see below).

Don’t stop with the mere act of hashtagging – amplify them. Engage your readers, and other bloggers, by inviting them to also share posts about food waste and how to reduce it, using the same hashtags.

Be About It

Because it is not enough to simply talk about reducing food waste, we also need to be about it – change our own habits so we can lead by example. If a new habit can be developed in just 21 days, then the Beef Checkoff’s 30 Day Food Waste Challenge is a great way to reform current habits and get started on the path to reduced food waste. The challenge offers simple solutions to common food wasting conundrums, as well as delicious recipe ideas. And the best part, besides the obvious – reducing food waste, is that sharing the knowledge gained by accepting the challenge is not only allowed, but also strongly encouraged.

If you are ready to be about it, click here to take the challenge and #WasteLess.

Every day we talk about sustainability and feeding the world, but imagine the impact we would have if we turned the conversation to food waste. Imagine the number of people we could feed and the resources we would save if we could get even a fraction of our readers to take heed and waste less. So, let’s talk about it, and be about it. Let’s reduce food waste to help feed the world.

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Terryn Drieling Terryn grew up on a small feedyard in northeast Nebraska. She went on to earn her Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln and participated in the UNL Feedyard Management Internship. The internship brought her to a large western Nebraska feedyard, where she worked as part of the animal health crew for more than 7 years. Terryn and her husband run a small herd of cows in partnership with her in-laws. But their day job is living and working on a large ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills, raising beef and bringing up their three kids. Terryn writes about their everyday ranch life on her blog Faith Family and Beef.

Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest.

Transparency in AgVocacy

“Eeuuu, Pee-U, What stinks?”

When I hear that from our visitors I know their romanticized view of farming is heading for a change.

“Why can’t the babies stay with their mothers? It seems so mean.”

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When I begin to share the benefits from feeding the calf with a measured amount, the safety from being stepped on, the freshly cleaned, sanitized stall that they will be watched and fed I can see their perception changing.

“Why aren’t your cows out in the fields?”

Yes, today is a nice day to be lollygagging in the open fields – at least until about noon when it will become stifling hot this time of year. Or, would you prefer in 90 degree weather to be in the shaded barn misted with water and cooled with fans?

A large percentage of people I speak with have their own vision of what my farm will look like when I tell them I am a dairy farmer.

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Some think I go out every morning with my apron on and throw some feed to a few chickens. While I collect the eggs, Farmer goes out to milk our two cows using a three legged stool. Then we all come in and have a huge breakfast made from the fresh eggs and bacon from the pig we butchered a few months ago. After breakfast, Farmer jumps on his tractor to do some field work while I’m in the kitchen canning tomatoes and baking bread. If only.

5At a store one day the clerk pointed out to my daughter-in-law a picture on the wall of a cow with horns. She mentioned that everyone was calling the cow Sally. “But, everyone knows that is a boy cow. Only boy cows have horns.”

My daughter-in-law politely answered “No, all cows have horns.”

The clerk adamantly replied, “No, only boys have horns everyone knows that!”

My daughter-in-law responded with “I live on a dairy farm and all calves have horns.”

The clerk just looked at her and turned away.

One of the occurrences that surprise me when we give tours is that many don’t realize or think through the fact that a cow has to give birth before she gives milk. That’s how it works with humans and once they hear that they think, “Oh yes I guess that’s how it would work.”

We met a gentleman the other day on a park bench and started up a conversation. He was sharing how good his health was for an older man. He mentioned that he was a vegetarian. I said to him “It looks like you’re doing a great job of eating a vegetarian diet correctly. Can I ask you why you chose not to eat meat?”

“Sure. I guess I just didn’t like the fact that my meat would come from those big factory farms that don’t take good care of their animals.”

“Have you ever been to a factory farm or know anyone who owns one?” I asked politely.

“No, not really, but I heard they don’t take care of the animals and I didn’t want to be part of that.”

6“Well, we just happen to be dairy farmers and our farm is big enough to be considered a CAFO – which many people call factory farms. We enlarged our farm to be able to support our three sons that were growing into the business.”

I went on to explain a few things and we invited him out to the farm. When we left, he had our phone number, my farm face book page and my blog information. He called the next day and asked if he could come to the farm with a couple of friends.

A few weeks ago I was handed a sample of cheese at the grocery store and the young lady gave her little speech about the cheese and added “It’s antibiotic free.”

Indian Trail Farm Milk Withhold

This is the chart of withdrawal time for medicines. As a farm we take extra time.

I told her how good the cheese was and the introduced myself as a dairy farmer and began to explain that all milk is antibiotic free. I revealed how our milk is tested at the dairy before it enters the system and that if it contained any antibiotics it would be dumped. I shared with her how our computer system and leg bands would set off alarms in the parlor if a cow that has been treated would enter. They are kept in separate pens. Also, I expressed our desire to care for our animals when sick and sometimes that means medication. Once they are well and the antibiotics are out of their system (which is directed by the company that produces the medication) they may come back into the regular milking parlor.

Overwhelmingly people are listening to the loudest voice when it comes to their food supply. And, usually the loudest voice is perpetuating fear in their message. Making decisions based on fear is not a good thing. And, who can blame you? As a mother I want to be sure my family is fed good, quality, safe food.Indian Trail Farm American FlagMy goal is to be the calm voice of information. I don’t carry signs and protest, or put out heart tugging commercials to get you to donate money to my cause. I basically open the doors to our farm and life through my blogging and face book page. We also physically open the doors to our farm for tours.11

I will show the awesome miracle of birth, the great improvements in the industry, the beautiful fields of corn and the painted country skies. You will also learn about the trials of farming in bad weather – too much rain, not enough rain, snow that caves in barn roofs and pests that devour crops. Along with the miracle of birth you will see the reality of death. It’s is never easy when you have to put an animal down or lose one after spending days trying to save her.10

And there will be poop! A lot of poop. Cows eat so therefore they poop. And poop has a unique odor that many people don’t appreciate. Too many people want to move out to the open fields– the fields that grow food for animals that poop that smell – with wrong expectations.Indian Trail Farm, Duck

The bottom line for agvocating? – My Farmer and sons work terribly hard. The hours are long and their bodies are paying the price. Lately the milk prices are so low it’s a challenge to figure out how to keep the wheels turning. When I see them covered in dust and dirt, falling asleep standing up and then read lies, condescending and twisted articles about what we are doing, I get emotionally upset. I become sad and frustrated that the people eating the food that my family is working so hard for are criticizing what we do. I get angry – you wanted transparency well there you have it. I get angry that we are not only working our tails off physically, now we have to work to explain the truth, to expose lies and soothe fears.

I was a big fan of show and tell at school. Now, I do show and tell on steroids and work to get the truth out to the people who need it the most. When I am sick I go to the doctor for help, not a celebrity or well-known athlete. I want a doctor who is educated, who practices on a daily basis. I encourage consumers to bring their questions here to AgChat or Ask the Farmers Facebook page where they have access to all types of farmers.

You can visit my page – A Farm Wife or my blog and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you.

The next time you have a bowl of cereal with milk or milk and cookies I hope you think of us here in West MI loving the life that helped produce your milk.

This is what we do for fun:

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Insta-Farm Accounts You Should Follow

1. Alison is a wife, mother, ag teacher and shares beautiful photos of their cattle.

Keeping a watchful eye on me! Can’t say as I blame them – I WAS sitting on the ground in THEIR pasture…

A photo posted by Alison McGrew (@amcgrew8342) on

2. Brian is a farmer that loves to share photos and videos of life on his family farm.

Another day at the office. #Monday #Work A photo posted by Brian Scott (@thefarmerslife) on

3. Darleen is a dairy farmer from Oregon. Follow along with her farm’s journey as they add robots to the farm!

4. Jenny is a Kansas farm girl sharing life on her first generation farm.

Storms are approaching. #wheatharvest16 #myksfarmlife #Ilovegluten #ksag #kswheat A photo posted by Jenny Burgess (@burgesshillfarms) on


5. Shelly is the daughter of a trucker from Oregon. Have you thanked a trucker today?

Papa taking the girls out. #Harvest2016 #WheatHarvest2016 #OrAg

A photo posted by Shelly Boshart Davis (@boshartdavisag) on

6. Marybeth is a large animal veterinarian. She shares great recipes and tackles many different topics surrounding food.

7. Jenny is an almond farmer from California. If you have any questions about almond production, she is your girl!

8. Melissa is an organic dairy farmer from Oregon. We think this photo speaks volumes to why you should follow her.


9. Tracy is a custom harvester. Kind of an important role in ag, don’t you think? We do!

Tonight’s sunset with @caserpie. No filters…who needs ‘em? #AAWH16 #HarvestHER #ColoradoSunsets @newhollandag

A photo posted by Tracy Zeorian (@newheatie) on

10. Wanda is a pig farmer from Southern Minnesota.

Women in #agriculture #internationalwomensday #farmher #farmlikeagirl #womeninag A photo posted by Wanda Patsche (@mnfarmliving) on


We loved highlighting these amazing agvocates. Make sure to follow along with the #AgChat Instagram as well!

There’s always news beginnings after every ending. #AgChat

A photo posted by AgChat Foundation (@agchatfoundation) on

How Do You Talk About GMOs?

As part of our “How do we talk about that?,” series, Elizabeth Held shares how she talks about GMOs.

President Barack Obama signed the new federal GMO labeling bill law recently, so GMOs are back in the news and so are myths about them. This makes it even more important than usual to talk with consumers about why farmers chose to grow GMOs.

soybeans-330248_1920While there are animal GMOs, this post will focus on plants.

Genetic modification is a sophisticated plant breeding technique that allows scientists to manipulate certain genes in order to improve the plant some way. GMOs are plants developed with this process. Some examples include virus resistant papayas and insect resistant corn.

This process actually affects fewer genes than traditional plant breeding techniques.

GMOs are completely safe for human and animal consumption. More than 1700 studies have shown GMOs are as safe for humans to be eaten as traditionally bred crops.

GMOs have increased yields and profits, while decreasing pesticide use. A 2014 study found “on average, GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22%, and increased farmer profits by 68%.”

GMOs help farmers make use of environmentally friendly practices. GMOs make it easier for farmers to practice conservation tillage, which helps keep carbon in the soil. Additionally, because insect-resistant crops require fewer pesticide sprays, farmers need less fuel for sprayers. According to PG economics, “In 2012, this was equivalent to removing 27 billion kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or equal to removing 11.9 million cars from the road for one year.”

GMOs and organic can coexist. Maryland farmer Jenny Schmidt writes, “Coexistence is an extremely manageable situation and happens more often than you are lead to believe by the media. We practiced organic, conventional, and biotech farming systems simultaneously for 7 years and continue to do specialty seed production which still requires the same level of management to ensure purity. That’s all coexistence is, management and planning.”

It is important farmers have access to all kinds of seeds. As Shannon Seifert said in previous “how do you talk about that” post, “ When we choose our seeds for the growing season, we have a wide variety of traits to choose from: height, grain yield, forage yield, digestibility, drought resistant, standablity, tolerance to insects, resistance to herbicides, etc.”

Do you grow GMOs? How do you talk about them with consumers?

Elizabeth Held is a director at the White House Writers Group, where she advises food and agriculture clients. 

I scream, You Scream, We all scream for Ice Cream

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By Jenna Kilgus

Earlier this month, I gave a tour of my farm to twenty pre-school aged children from a local day care. I asked them, “What’s your favorite dairy product.”

Unsurprisingly, I received an enthusiastic, loud and simultaneous answer: “ICE CREAM!!”

July is National Ice Cream Month. I love to celebrate and I’m guessing almost all Americans do to. Whether it’s chocolate, strawberry or vanilla, most people love ice cream.

It’s a favorite treat on my farm for two reasons. One, because it is cold and perfectly refreshing after a long day of baling hay, and two, because our farm has an ice cream machine!

The soft serve machines runs Monday through Saturday in our little on-farm country store. That’s right. My three kids have daily access to ice cream. They’re the most popular kids at school because their mom brings ICE CREAM to school for their birthday treats.

We started making soft serve ice cream mix on our dairy farm in 2009, when we took a leap of faith and built an on-farm milk-bottling creamery. We decided we needed to diversify our operations and increase our income in order to bring two more family members back to our family farm full time.

After traveling all over the Midwest, researching what draws consumers to country stores, quickly realized we needed two things: a viewing window where visitors could watch the milk bottling process, and something yummy for them to snack on while they watched, so we bought an ice cream machine.

Today in our creamery, fluid milk is our primary product, but we still make 10 gallons of ice cream mix per week. It doubles to 20 gallons in the hot summer months when our ice cream cone sales go up.

Our little soft serve machine gets a good cleaning once a week, and then we change the flavor. We always have vanilla, but also switch it up. We rotate between the old favorites – strawberry, chocolate, caramel – and throw in some new flavors: pina colada, egg nog, watermelon, root beer, and our customers’ current favorite, lemon. In total, we have more than 15 flavors of ice cream that we rotate between.

Looking out my kitchen window while washing up our supper dishes, I usually see a family or two, sitting on the front patio of our store, enjoying the fresh country air, and an ice cream cone. What can be more enjoyable than a trip to the county, visiting a farm, and getting a taste of what those hard working cows can produce!