This Saturday crowds will gather to wave signs and chant against one of the more frustrating and ridiculous conspiracies of our time – that Monsanto is out to take over the world.
March Against Monsanto rallies against everything that shares six degrees with Monsanto – GMOs (genetically modified organisms), the herbicide Round-up, corporate agriculture, factory farms, dairy, beef, chickens, fruits and veggies, grocery stores, – the list is quite long. Put a negative spin on anything ag related and MAM will blindly champion the cause.
Being a glass-half full kind of person, not to mention the obvious ‘my family farms for a living’ . . . I can’t grasp the tunnel vision with which MAM operates. They certainly are not problem-solvers. Problem-solvers would spend more time doing rather than shouting.
Farmers are problem-solvers, though. Maybe if the group would engage in respectful dialogue with farmers, it would discover farming is so much more than Monsanto. So. Much. More.
Farmers share a lot about the tools in their tool belt. Call them tools, pieces of a puzzle, drops in a bucket, slices of pizza, eggs in a dozen . . . how farmers raise a crop or care for livestock is as a diverse as their farms themselves. And often (gasp), Monsanto isn’t even in the mix.
Take our farm, for example.
This spring we planted genetically modified corn and soybeans from Wyffels Hybrids, Agri-Gold and Pioneer. We did not plant any Monsanto-branded hybrids or varieties this year (except for four rows of a gm-sweet corn we’ll freeze for winter and share with friends and family. I’ll write more about that later.) Why no Monsanto in our fields? Farmers have choices and our seed selection was the result of research, reading, and comparison of on-farm field data. Will we plant Monsanto seed next year? Maybe. That’s the great thing about choice. We get to make it.
Our crop protection plan includes the gm-crops that will be able to fight their own battles against insects. It also includes a variety of herbicides from DuPont, Bayer and BASF, and a soybean and corn insecticide from Sygenta. No Monsanto products. Why? Because farmers have choices! On our farm, we strive to follow best management practices, which for us, means switching up the hybrids and pesticides applied to our fields every year. It’s a way to keep the bugs, weeds and diseases guessing. Will we use Monsanto chemistry on our farm next year? Maybe.
Side note: The rage against the machine (i.e. Monsanto) mentality seems to ignore the fact that people work for companies. They work to make a living, build a career, for personal satisfaction, to contribute to a greater cause . . . When I say we purchase our seed and crop protection from various companies, we do that by meeting with a person. No Amazon orders. We talk. To a person. Face to face. Personal relationships are important to farmers.
People are another tool in our belt. We rely on the expertise of an agronomist (who I interned with while in college). We purchase our seed from a long-time neighbor, a fellow former 4-H member and the dad of one of my farm boy’s friends. We get Christmas cards from this people. Go to church with some. See them in town. Come down to the farm-level and you’ll find agribusiness equals people not faceless entities.
What other tools do we employ? Smart tractors process information about soil, moisture and previous year’s yields in order to determine how many seeds to plant in a specific square foot of a field. We use the same information to apply fertilizer and pesticides. The computer technology allows us to change application rates on the go, treating each individual section of the field instead of broadcasting over the whole thing.
Soil management includes decisions about cultivating, planting and harvesting with a goal of building soil’s organic matter. Water management means watching for erosion, planting and maintaining buffer strips along creeks and streams.
Tools involve financial planning, marketing crops, and managing relationships among family and farm partners.
When Saturday’s marchers take to the streets, farmers and ranchers will take to their fields and pastures raising the food to feed those that rant against them.
The business of, the livelihood of farming, is so much more than Monsanto.