Farm Food Facts

Dr. Nick Goeser, Nancy Kavazanjian, Tinder for Cattle

February 26, 2019 Episode 16
Farm Food Facts
Dr. Nick Goeser, Nancy Kavazanjian, Tinder for Cattle
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Dr. Nick Goeser, Nancy Kavazanjian, Tinder for Cattle
Feb 26, 2019 Episode 16
USFRA
Our Thought Leader is Dr. Nick Goeser, Vice President, Sustainability Sciences and Strategy, USFRA.Food News of the Week:• Spinach may hold the Solution to the devastating Disease that’s harming Citrus Trees.• How (and where) will Farmers Grow our Food in the Future?• Urban Agriculture can Improve Food Security. • Next Trend: Probiotics for Plants • A Tinder-inspired app is helping Farmers match up potential Partners for their Cattle!Farmer of the Week: Nancy Kavazanjian, Soybean Farmer
Show Notes Transcript

Our Thought Leader is Dr. Nick Goeser, Vice President, Sustainability Sciences and Strategy, USFRA. 

Food News of the Week: 
• Spinach may hold the Solution to the devastating Disease that’s harming Citrus Trees.
• How (and where) will Farmers Grow our Food in the Future? 
• Urban Agriculture can Improve Food Security. 
• Next Trend: Probiotics for Plants 
• A Tinder-inspired app is helping Farmers match up potential Partners for their Cattle! 

Farmer of the Week: Nancy Kavazanjian, Soybean Farmer



Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm, Food, Facts: where every farmer, every acre, and every voice matter.
Phil Lempert:
0:09
This week, on Farm, Food, Facts, we introduce you to Dr. Nick Goeser, USFRA's, new Vice President of Sustainability and Strategy and give you a look at what exactly is being faced by soybean farmers across the nation later in the podcast. Welcome to the Farm, Food, Facts interactive podcast presented by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance for Wednesday, February 27th, 2018. Today is officially national strawberry day. Let's get started. Dr. Goeser, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.
Nick Goeser:
0:41
I appreciate the opportunity to be here, Phil.
Phil Lempert:
0:44
First of all, congratulations on your new position at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. Share with us what you see as USFRA's new Ecosystem Services Science Advisory Council and what is that all about?
Nick Goeser:
0:59
Yeah, this new advisory council is pretty exciting. We're looking to add capacity to USFRA, to to build out, to really help us all understand better what the science is telling us in terms of what are the opportunities for agriculture going forward.
Phil Lempert:
1:16
And I would think that in today's environment, with so much technology being added to the farm, that for your typical farmer, rancher, and retailer, this has got to be overwhelming. What can USFRA do to help translate that?
Nick Goeser:
1:32
What we can do at USFRA to help translate the technology to common sense and common understanding, we can work together with the scientists to help translate the understanding. We can understand "what is the carbon sequestration potential of our healthy soils" and put it in terms that maybe a farmer would understand through organic matter or nutrient cycling and fertility management, we can work to put it together that way. When we're working with the supply chain and downstream, we can also translate and scale it up. What does it look like when you have one farmer doing this, what does it look like when we have 10, 100, 1000 farmers utilizing practices to help improve environmental aspects?
Phil Lempert:
2:20
So, it's also really creating best practices so that other people in agriculture can learn.
Nick Goeser:
2:26
It is best practices, but we're really focused on outcomes. What are the economic, what are the community, and what are the environmental outcomes that we can share together, to have that conversation back and forth about what do we value and our production system? So, what do we value in our food, in the safety, security and nutrition of our food?
Phil Lempert:
2:47
So, I love the phrase Science to Sense Making that you and your team at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has coined. What's the premise for it and what does it mean?
Nick Goeser:
3:00
The premise for this is really starting from the understanding that all the science, all the research, and sustainability programs in the world are only as good as how well we connect to others and what they value as well. So, what we're hoping to do within this is connect and bridge gaps of understanding and learn together through the effort.
Phil Lempert:
3:24
So, based on your career - your long, well-establish career as an ag professional - how do farmers, ranchers, food makers currently speak of agricultural greenhouse gases, carbon, nitrogen oxide, methane, you know, all these other terms that for a retailer, for a consumer, and maybe even some farmers again, may seem overwhelming?
Nick Goeser:
3:47
Yeah, it varies. It varies when we're talking to an individual farmer, when we're talking to a grain aggregator, if we're talking to a retailer, it's going to vary considerably. But, at the farm level, if we're thinking about carbon, in a big way, we're talking about organic matter. Organic matters for nutrient cycling to approve nutrient utilization within that production system where you were talking about organic matter for water, holding capacity to help with water infiltration and the ability to hold the water for when the plant actually needs it. But then downstream, if we're working with a Walmart, a Cargill, a General Mills, when we're talking about carbon, it's putting it back in into the focus on carbon sequestration potential. What is the opportunity to sequester carbon in our agricultural soils? That might range a little bit, but we can look across different sourcing regions and areas of interest and put together those numbers, put together those opportunities to work together and realize that potential.
Phil Lempert:
4:52
In your new position, what do you want to achieve both for the farmers and ranchers, as well as across the entire supply chain?
Nick Goeser:
5:01
I'm interested in connecting the dots, bridging the gaps between the scientists, the farmers, the companies, and individuals, and non-agricultural society to help and understanding where we can go into the future. We have a great scientific base to understanding where agriculture contributes very positively to environmental, economic, and social outcomes for our society in general. And where I want to focus is translating that into common language so anybody off the street could understand where we're at, but also, we don't want to stop there. I want to go further and ask where can we go into the future? What are those opportunities? And the Science Advisory Council that's coming together can really help us out in that way. They can help point towards research gaps. Whereas working with others outside of the council, towards the supply chain, towards even people, even the non-agricultural public, we can all work together to come up with new questions to answer and those additional research questions to help answer any questions that we can't answer today to help move on and move us ahead. It's all about trying to advance and accelerate the pathways ahead.
Phil Lempert:
6:22
So Nick, I want to pick up on two words that I heard you said. One is opportunity, the next one is innovation. In your view, where's the best science based innovation coming from for our food system?
Nick Goeser:
6:35
The innovation pathways in our food production systems I think are coming down the line in our agricultural precision technologies. What I mean by that is the monitors on our combines, the sensors in our fields to measure greenhouse gas emissions, to measure water quality fluctuations, to measure nutrient cycling. The technologies have come a long way. And where I get, again, really excited is seeing the investments into the community to make it that much better. And where this is going is not only the sensors in the fields today, but tying those sensors to real time farm management. So a farmer can better understand their production systems and what they should be doing to improve productivity for economics on the farm, so that they can better utilize the investments in their inputs, to improve the environmental aspects - whether it's biodiversity and habitat for pollinators, or water quality improvements, or carbon, or organic matter improvements in their soil for asset value. There are a lot of investments in that agricultural technology space very related to precision agriculture that I'm very excited in.
Phil Lempert:
7:56
So Nick, I've met a lot of farmers. Scores of farmers as we've been doing Farm, Food, Facts. And one of the things, to build on what you just said, that I found fascinating is that one of our farmers were describing how that they can now - talk about precision agriculture - look at an inch of crop land and determine whether or not it needs water, or fertilizer, or what to do. So, when we look at this, and the technology moving so quickly and so in depth, what are you reading and what are you finding helpful in developing the solutions for us to farm in the future?
Nick Goeser:
8:40
I'm reading up and down publications from the broader technology space. So, what's happening with phone technology, what's happening with TV technology, computers, and who are those that are innovating in that space - whether it's a Google, Microsoft, or Samsung - what are they doing? And what I'm trying to trying to pull from that is ways we can utilize some of those investments in that space, in that arena for the agricultural technology. Like you mentioned, the ability to understand what's going on on an inch of soil; we can pull that up from our cell phone, but we have to be connected and we have to have the right applications, we have to have the right software and sensors. And those companies are the ones investing very heavily in into the latest technologies have sensors in the cell phones. And then tying in also to economics; we know the agricultural economy is in a very dire situation right now on many cases and it's to improve on production efficiencies and making sure that we have our farms operating year a year. We have just incredible financial leverage against farmers right now and, it's trying to work to maintain our farmers and farming well into the future.
Phil Lempert:
9:58
Well, Nick, thank you for your commitment and your support of farmers and ranches across our great nation. And again, welcome to USFRA.
Nick Goeser:
10:07
Thanks, Phil. I appreciate the opportunity to join in.
Phil Lempert:
10:14
And now, the food news. Spinach may hold the solution to the devastating disease that's harming citrus trees. Citrus greening disease, also referred to as HLB, is killing citrus trees and even destroying entire citrus groves at times. In fact, over 75% of Florida citrus trees are ailing from this disease. Scientists have been attempting to figure out a solution for a few years, but recently, researchers at Texas A&M discovered something that could help alleviate the issue of citrus greening, and it comes to us via the leafy green plant, spinach. What the researchers have found is that adding genes from spinach can create a more HLB-tolerant citrus tree. Two different genes from spinach are being utilized in the research. One gene offers tolerance, so that the modified citrus trees can significantly take longer to actually become infected and afflicted by the disease. And the citrus trees utilizing the second gene are actually showing complete resistance to greening in the preliminary trials. Scientists will continue to explore the possibility of breeding genetically-modified citrus trees that are resistant to the disease. And if these methods are approved, they just may save Florida citrus and citrus orchards across the U.S. What grocers need to know is citrus greening has been devastating to all forms of citrus in Florida, Texas and California, and has not only put at risk many of the citrus growers futures, but also allowed imports to increase their market share. As this new solution continues to be tested and eliminate citrus greening, it will be critical to our farming communities for both producers of juices and packers of whole citrus fruits to once again source domestically.
Phil Lempert:
12:01
And as the citrus industry adapts, so does the rest of agriculture. How and where will farmers grow our food in the future? Agri-Pulse is running a seven-part, in-depth editorial series on what food and farming will look like in the future, specifically the year 2040. And they're exploring the trends that are shaping production agriculture: the supply chain, food companies, and exporters. In the second part of the series, Agri-Pulse attempts to examine how and why there may be changes on the horizon when it comes to where food is produced. "Adapt or die" is an idiom that became popular in the 1970s, coined by Earl Butz, who was then agriculture secretary. Butz encouraged farmers to look for ways to become more efficient and responsive to market signals. And this idiom is still quite relevant for many in agriculture today. Ultimately, Agri-Pulse predicts that we can expect larger scale conventional farming by 2040, along with more diversification into new geographic areas, and more non-conventional approaches like soilless, urban farming. And supporters offer that urban agriculture is a gateway to the agriculture system, and that one reason USDA should encourage urban agriculture is that it can create a new pathway for young farmers to get into traditional agriculture. What grocers need to know is that ag methods continue to adapt and improve over time and as technology continues to play a larger role in farming. And we look to retailers to support these efforts and source from this next generation of farmers, along with their traditional sources.
Phil Lempert:
13:43
And there's one reason why we can expect to see more urban ag methods as years progress. Urban agriculture can improve food security. Research from Miguel Altieri, a Berkeley professor of agroecology, argues that sustainable urban ag can offer environmental, health, and social benefits. Urban farming has grown by over 30% in the U.S. over the past 30 years and Altieri's research shows that, if sustainable urban agriculture production increases, it could also improve food security and nutrition in low-income communities. However, cities will need to overcome barriers to urban agriculture. For instance, the lack of ecological horticulture skills in urban farmers and limited access to lands. The professor suggests that an ideal strategy for urban agriculture would be to pursue land reforms similar to that that's practiced in Cuba, where the government provides 30 acres to each farmer within a few miles around major cities to anyone interested in producing food. Between 10 and 20% of their harvest is donated to social service organizations including schools, hospitals, and senior centers. What grocers need to know is that city governments, local universities and non-government organizations can all do a great deal to strengthen food systems including creating agroecological training programs and policies for land and water access. An important step is to increase retailers' awareness about how urban farming can benefit their supermarkets.
Phil Lempert:
15:22
Up next, let's find out if adding a mix of fungi and bacteria to soil could help fight climate change. Next trend? Probiotics for plants. Across acres of orange groves in Florida, farmers are starting to add beneficial fungi and bacteria to the soil in an attempt to make the groves more productive, as well as helping the soil capture more carbon. And if the soil sucks up enough of that extra CO2, each acre can help offset greenhouse gas emissions. The over-application of chemical fertilizer over time has destroyed the microbial balance, so the time has come to add soil probiotics to help restore that balance. Locus Agriculture Solutions created this probiotic for the soil and the company plans to build local micro-breweries around the country to produce their probiotic, as it will help them customize and optimize for local conditions - soil type, crop temperature, a whole variety of things - and work with individual growers to understand just how to solve their specific issues. What grocers need to know is that for farmers, the immediate benefit of adding soil probiotics may simply be better yields and sales, but there also longterm benefits for the climate. And farmers could eventually even be paid in the form of carbon credits for making this change in their ag methods.
Phil Lempert:
16:46
And our final new story today just might get you in the moo'd for love. A Tinder inspired app is helping farmers match up potential partners for their cattle. These days, there's an app for nearly everything, including a Tinder for cows. The app, cleverly named Tudder - really - is a combination of the popular dating app Tinder and the word udder. The app allows farmers to swipe right on the cattle that they like the look of. Farmers are then directed to the Sell My Livestock website, where they can pursue more pictures and more data about the animals that caught their eye before deciding whether to make a purchase. The data includes information on things like milk yield, protein content, and calving potential. Tudder is the first ever matchmaking app for livestock, and it holds the potential to reduce transport stress for animals and may even begin to rival traditional markets. What grocers need to know is that while this app may sound like a cute novelty at first, it actually helps to connect farmers from all over the country, and having this livestock data at their fingertips facilitates ease of trade and can even help lower transport stress and costs for animals, and certainly will increase transparency as more retailers are demanding more information about where our foods come from.
Phil Lempert:
18:08
Now, it's time to head to the farm. Nancy Kavazanjian farms in the Beaver Dam, Wisconsin area with emphasis on building better soils in order to sustainably grow corn, soybeans, and wheat. Nancy, welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.
Nancy K.:
18:27
Thank you. It's great to be here.
Phil Lempert:
18:29
Now, with your involvement as chairwoman of U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance and the sustainability lead for the United Soybean Board, what's your perspective on just how agriculture is approaching sustainability overall in preparing for the 21st century?
Nancy K.:
18:46
Farmers have always been concerned about sustainability, but in the last, I would say four or five years, that awareness of the need to really emphasize environmental sustainability has certainly increased on the farm. We also know that sustainability is good for our business. So, with the tough business environment we have right now, the economics are really tough on the farm. We are looking for ways to be more sustainable, not just environmentally, but economically and socially.
Phil Lempert:
19:19
And I'm also sure that today there's a lot more consumers. I'm not saying that they understand what sustainability is, but they're using the word, they've heard the word. So, you're probably getting a lot more outreach from consumers questioning sustainability practices as well.
Nancy K.:
19:36
We know that consumers are people who eat our crops in and the food we grow and raise, and are concerned about sustainability. We know that and we know that the people who buy our crops, the marketers, the consumer package goods people, are concerned about sustainability because their customers are asking for it. So yes, absolutely. It's important for us to talk about sustainability and what we're doing on the farm to protect our habitat, our air, our water, and our soil
Phil Lempert:
20:06
And also, I'm seeing a lot more - oh, for lack of a better word - openness as it relates to these questions that are being asked by consumers, by retailers. I mean if everybody works together, if the farmer, the retailer, the distributor, the consumer all share accurate smart information, don't we all win?
Nancy K.:
20:31
Absolutely. And transparency is one of those words that even farmers have heard so often in the last couple of years. We know we need to open our farms and show that the things we're doing and have been doing are g,ood for everybody, because there a lot of people don't know what we're doing on the farm and that has been a disconnect. But farmers are trying really hard to breach that gap and tell consumers that we care as much about our soils and our water and our habitat, if not more than they do because we're in this for the long run. We're not in this to get in and out of farming. Farming is a generational occupation. We don't get in it to get rich quick and get out. We need to preserve our natural resources so that we have it for our good and for the good of the generations that come after us.
Phil Lempert:
21:25
Nancy, I love your farm motto: Our soil, Our strength. Where did that come from and how were you personally impacting the sustainable outcomes on your farm? To really do all the things that you talked about - improve air, water, soil, the habitat. But first, where did Our soil, Our strength come from?
Nancy K.:
21:48
Well, thanks for asking because all of a sudden soil is sexy and everybody wants to have healthy soils. But we actually took that motto back in 1980 when my husband and I started farming together because we're crop farmers in the middle of dairy country, and we wanted the dairy farmers to know that we were raising the feed that they are going to feed to their animals in a healthy way. And that we cared about the soil because it made healthy and good crops for us. So, it was our way of saying we care as crop farmers in the middle of dairy country about what we're doing. So, for the second part of your question, we've been no-tillers for over 30 years. Whenever we can we no-till all our crops. Once in a while we'll do some zone tillage where we use precision agriculture and do a little bit of tillage, but we use cover crops. We were really an innovator, one of the first one of the first people in the neighborhood to use cover crops. We're putting in grass strips so that we can stop the erosion where we have hills, and we are part of a watershed group as well that is helping to teach other farmers about the things we're doing. We also care about renewable fuels. We have a small wind turbine that generates electricity for our farm. We have a solar array that heats one of our buildings. And we're always very energy conscious; we've done a whole energy audit for our farm. So, we try to really be as energy efficient as we can.
Phil Lempert:
23:25
So, let's say I put you in a room with the CEO, the top management of a major supermarket chain. What are the messages that you want to get to that group of people?
Nancy K.:
23:38
You know, I think what frustrates us most and what I'd like to tell people, whether they're the grocery store or the packaging people, is that don't use food as a way to market. Be realistic about what labels you put on the food. We see food that is labeled. -just really, this is probably frustrates farmers more than anything - the way labels are used today to market and it can be very deceiving. So, let's be truthful about food. Let's appreciate the farmer. Let's realize a farmer is really working as hard as they can to be sustainable and to grow good crops and we're all in it together. So, let's not mislead the consumer and let's all work together.
Phil Lempert:
24:28
What's that double check for a retailer who wants some market food and wants to use all the slogans and everything else? Is it the opportunity for them to pick up the phone and call you as a farmer and say, "here's what I'm thinking about doing in my advertising. Here's what I'm thinking about doing on my packaging. Am I right? Should I be doing this?"
Nancy K.:
24:52
Wouldn't that be wonderful say to ask us? Because I think that's one of the major frustrations. We feel like we're left out of the conversation so often. And that's one of the things that U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance are working to do is to be more a part of that conversation. But, I know that we as farmers also have to do our part to reach out, tell our stories, talk to our people in our community, our rotary clubs, all our different groups in our communities. That's really important too. So, we've got to do our part.
Phil Lempert:
25:27
Well Nancy, thank you so much for joining us, being a leader. Much appreciated.
Nancy K.:
25:33
It's great talking with you. Thanks for asking.
Phil Lempert:
25:35
And thank you for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts. For more information on all things food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues.com under the Programs and Media tab and visit us on Facebook at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance Or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next week.
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