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TEENS: Behind the scenes of where food comes from

Avery Plote
Avery Plote

“Crunch!” goes the bacon, lettuce and tomato as you bite into your perfectly prepared BLT that you made for lunch. You smile as the flavors course through your mouth, touching every taste bud, stimulating your desire to gobble down the whole thing as quickly as possible.

We’ve probably all had some sort of situation like this; some of you probably did today. However, what we fail to think about, or we think we already know about, is where the bacon, lettuce and tomato on that sandwich came from.

Growing up on a production agriculture farm, I have deep roots in the opposite end of the person eating that sandwich. I help to produce the food that we enjoy on a daily basis. On my family’s farm, we raise yellow dent corn (the hard corn that you wouldn’t want to eat off the cob), soybeans, wheat and occasionally oats or forage crops, along with beef cattle.

My family has been farming for six generations in the United States, and like many farms around the country, our farm is a whole family (or should I say farm-ily) operation. My uncle, along with my brother and I, take care of the day-to-day work, such as feeding cattle, fixing machinery and keeping the farm up and running. My dad takes care of the financial aspects of the farm, as well as running a tractor when he needs to or acting as our grain or cattle trucker. My extended family, along with some of our neighbors, come and help out for a few big operations throughout the year, such as chopping silage (using a forage harvester to chop up the whole corn plant to feed to cattle). It’s been said that a farm is not a business, it is a lifestyle, and I couldn’t agree more.

However, in today’s modern society, many people look at big tractors and frown, thinking of how the days of the big red barns and friendly faces have been replaced with “factory farms.” But, according to the USDA in 2015, 97 percent of farms are family owned. The truth is, most farmers have embraced new technology, because that technology allows farmers to produce more food more efficiently and in a way that helps them preserve the land.

Farmers would never want to hurt what they raise, whether it be animals or crops, because that would only in turn hurt their bottom line (as well as their conscience). Farmers want to preserve the land and raise healthy plants and animals that can be used to feed people around the world. Modern agricultural technology allows this to happen and ranges from autosteer in the field to make perfect swaths every time, saving up to hundreds of gallons of fuel, to agricultural drone technology that flies over fields to analyze crop growth and field conditions. Agriculture is a constantly developing industry, and it is increasingly exciting to see what new technology will be developed next in order to produce more with less.

Lastly, I would like to touch on some food “buzzwords” that have been growing in popularity. We seem to have this notion practically forced upon us that "all-natural," "non-GMO" and "organic" are superior products to everything else. This simply isn’t the case.

All foods approved for GMO use have to go under years of testing to ensure their absolute safety, and there are only 10 crops (not including the three decorative ones) that have a GMO seed option.

It is quite sad to search "GMO" online to have pictures of a syringe in a plant pop up. With the same search, the top articles are from sources such as the Non-GMO Project, which has a goal to promote as much non-GMO use as possible.

Farmers grow these products and buy “regular” food because they know it is safe. You can buy whatever products you like, enjoy and desire, but I know I don’t want to pay extra for a food product that is of the same or lesser quality.

So now you’ve finished your BLT, drank your cool glass of water and sit there, pondering the questions of life. You decide that you need some more groceries, so you head to the store.

However, this time, you play the game a little differently.

Instead of picking the product that looks or sounds the best from the box, you pick the best product at the right price. You come home with a little more jangle in your pocket, and think of all the bodacious BLTs that are yet to be made, along with the farmers behind the scenes who make it possible.

• AVERY PLOTE is a senior at Leland High School. To contact him, email Assistant Editor Julie Barichello at jbarichello@shawmedia.com.

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