Farm Food Facts

Christine Daugherty, Jenna Madsen, Generational Farm Transition

April 30, 2019 Episode 22
Farm Food Facts
Christine Daugherty, Jenna Madsen, Generational Farm Transition
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Christine Daugherty, Jenna Madsen, Generational Farm Transition
Apr 30, 2019 Episode 22
Jenna Madsen, Christine Daugherty
Phil Lempert Interviews Christine Daugherty from Pepsico and Jenna Madsen from History's American Farm.
Show Notes Transcript

Our Thought Leader is Christine Daugherty, Vice President of Global Sustainable Agriculture and Responsible Sourcing at PepsiCo.

The Stories You Need To Know:

  • Managing Soil (and soil fertility) after Flooding
  • The Hollowing Out of Mid-Sized U.S. Farms
  • Transitioning a Farm from one Generation to the Next is now Trickier than Ever
  • A Smartphone App that allows Farmers to Control where their Cows Graze

Today’s farmer comes from one of the farm families featured on The American Farm on History.  Jenna Madsen, of Sunderland Farms is the daughter of patriarch Scott Sunderland – her husband Brett and their 4 kids are struggling with drought conditions and a downturn in turkey consumption.



Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm, Food, Facts: where every farmer, every acre, and every voice matter. Welcome to the Farm, Food, Facts interactive podcast presented by the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, for Wednesday, May 1st, 2019. I'm your host, Phil Lempert.
Phil Lempert:
0:21
The story of growing our foods goes well beyond the products that we see on supermarket shelves. That's the end product that retailers display and sell and consumers buy and consume. What most don't realize is just how involved many of today's best known brands are from the time farmers plant their crops and how they work behind the scenes to help farmers succeed. Today, we're going to find out just how complicated, thorough and important this relationship between brand and farmer really is. We'll also hear about one farm family's struggle as both Mother Nature and consumer demand has changed their future. Our thought leader today is Christine Daugherty, Vice President of Global Sustainable Agriculture and Responsible Sourcing at PepsiCo. Christine drives PepsiCo short term approach and long-term strategic direction for their crop science and sustainable agriculture agenda. She is focused on external relationships for search management and internal alignment and execution across various departments including R&D, global procurement, and operations. Today's farmer comes from one of those farm families featured on The American Farm on HISTORY, the series that spent a year with five farmer families to tell the real story of what's happening on today's farms - the joys and the sorrows. Jenna Madsen of Sunderland farms is the daughter of patriarch Scott Sunderland. Her husband, Brett, and their four kids are struggling with drought conditions and a downturn in turkey consumption. She will tell us their story, what it was like working on The American Farm, and what's next for their family.
Phil Lempert:
2:05
But first, with me is Christine Daugherty, Vice President of Global Sustainable Agriculture and Responsible Sourcing, at PepsiCo. Christine, you bring an exceptional background to a very holistic view of agriculture to PepsiCo and to the industry. You know, your education includes a Ph.D. in life sciences and a Juris Doctorate, which is the highest law degree achievable; that really makes you the perfect person to lead PepsiCo's sustainable agriculture agenda. As one of the leading global brands, I would expect that most people don't think of PepsiCo as a company so involved in agriculture. Tell us what the facts are and this connection between PepsiCo, yourself, and farmers.
Christine:
2:47
Thank you, Phil. Really enjoy the opportunity to speak with you today. And you're correct, most people don't think of PepsiCo as an agricultural company but we are. We have over 30 crops that we source from over 40 countries and we're engaged with millions of agricultural workers across the globe. In fact, in the U.S. alone, we spend over $2 billion on agriculture, and source over 6 million metric tons of ag products for those products that you may enjoy, such as potatoes for our Frito-Lays snacks, oats for Quaker Oats, and oranges for Tropicana Orange Juice.
Phil Lempert:
3:36
I've read a bit about your background and about what PepsiCo is doing. What can you tell us about the sustainable farming program? What are its goals from an environmental, social, and economic point of view?
Christine:
3:52
PepsiCo has what we call the sustainable farming program. And that's a global program where we are engaged directly with our farmers to source those crops that I mentioned: potatoes, oats, whole corn, and oranges. And our program is a comprehensive program that essentially covers the three pillars of sustainability. Most people are familiar with environmental, social, and economic pillars. And our program really drives to promote responsible agricultural practices, improve crop yields, improve farmer livelihood, and reduce our resource use. So let me give you some examples on each one of the pillars. The environmental pillar is where we engage with our farmers to optimize fertilizer use, reduce the amount of energy that's needed to farm, have really good water stewardship practices, and focus - which is very important now - on soil health. The social pillar: how do we make sure that the workers are using appropriate practices? The health and safety of the farm workers are really important, making sure they have proper working conditions. And then the third pillar, economic. Does that farm have a farm business plan? Do they know how to produce the products efficiently and get them to the market? And so this holistic program, the sustainable farming program of PepsiCo, is really working with our supply chain to build a more sustainable food system.
Phil Lempert:
5:48
And I would also think, especially when you point out the economic and the farm plan, as you get into these, these other countries, where you might have a small, very rural farmer, they probably don't even know what a farm plan is.
Christine:
6:05
That's exactly right. The diversity of our farm profile varies widely. We have highly sophisticated farms in the U.S. and in the European Union all the way down to small-holders where they have a small portion of land, maybe manual labor, farm animals that help on the agricultural plot. So to engage with them on basic farming practices is very critical.
Phil Lempert:
6:38
I remember a few years ago was a brilliant ad campaign where you actually put potato farmers' photos and names on billboards around the country for those farmers that supplied you with potatoes for Lays and, and you know, your other brands. I thought that was fabulous. What are some of the ways that you help farmers through the PepsiCo global ecosystem?
Christine:
7:08
Two key factors are collaboration and openness. So, as we work to build a global ecosystem with all of our farmers all over the world, we want to make sure that we're sharing best practices with each other. So for example, we can go in and provide training to farmers - could be field agronomy, fertilizer use, how to recognize when your plants have a disease and how do you treat them - and then providing new technology to the farmers. Precision agriculture is a wide area that we're very excited with. How do we use technology to make sure we're reducing the amount of fertilizer or agro-protectants, and provide the best practices for that farmer? In addition, PepsiCo - we have our own genetic breeding program where we are developing new varieties of potatoes that could be heat tolerant, disease tolerant, to make sure that we're providing resource efficient varieties that are economically attractive to the farmer. And then finally, how do we use data? We know we have data all over, and agriculture is no different. Providing accurate, timely information to the farmer that's relevant to them so that they can make sure their practices are spot-on for the growing conditions and produce the best products for us.
Phil Lempert:
8:56
One of your passions is PepsiCo's women in agriculture program. I also read that, globally, women represent 43 percent of ag labor in developing countries. That's good news, correct?
Christine:
9:10
Well, good news that we do have 43 percent, but we really need to increase that. And so, as you know, in many parts of the world, much of the agricultural work that women carry out sometimes is without proper training, key farming inputs like the business plan, many times they have no land rights and unfortunately, oftentimes they're not paid. And so from our perspective, we think that agriculture has the ability to bring up an excel women in a platform, that they can really increase those numbers. So let me tell you just a little bit about what PepsiCo is doing in order to have women become a greater part of our agricultural platform. So, this year we are engaging with NGOs or not-for-profit organizations like US AID industry peers to support female farmers or female suppliers and to better understand the barriers that women in agriculture face. Recently, you may have noticed that our foundation, the PepsiCo Foundation, in collaboration with CARE, provided an $18 million investment through a program called She Feeds the World. We're trying to tackle gender equality in agriculture.
Phil Lempert:
10:58
That's fabulous, for a company like PepsiCo to make that kind of commitment, really leads the industry and hopefully forces other brands - other major brands - to do similar things. And I think having that leadership is wonderful. Christine, what's the one thing that you really would like grocery retailers, as well as the news media, to understand about the relationship between PepsiCo and farmers?
Christine:
11:30
I'm extremely proud of the progress that PepsiCo has already made in driving change in our agricultural supply chain. But as we just talked about, there's so much more to be done and we have a lot to learn. Our vision at PepsiCo is to be a leader in building a more sustainable food system. Farmers around the world have what it takes to be at this heart of the transformation, and at PepsiCo, we will be here championing them.
Phil Lempert:
12:03
That's great. Well Christine, thanks so much for joining us on Farm, Food, Facts today. And now for the stories you need to know.
Phil Lempert:
12:13
Managing soil and soil fertility after flooding. A few weeks ago on Farm, Food, Facts, we reported on just how the ag community has experienced incredibly hard times from Mother Nature. Between the bomb cyclone winter storm and the farm belt floods, farmers and ranchers have been hit hard by the major flooding that occurred in the Midwest. So what are the next step for these farmers as they transition into spring? Flooding events bring a plethora of challenges that must be addressed in order to prepare fields for planting and to ensure soil nutrient levels are sufficient enough to optimize crop yield. During flooding, fields experienced varying amounts of erosion, sediment deposition, and crop residue accumulation. And to avoid soil compactation, it's vital to let the soil drain and dry out sufficiently before working in the soil or attempting to remove large debris from the fields. Flooding can also significantly change the level of available nutrients in the soil. This occurs because 1) soil that's lost from erosion can take valuable nutrients and organic matter with it 2) deposition of sediments from flooding can often increase the levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, silicon and potassium in the soil 3) water soluble nutrients such as nitrate, nitrogen and potassium can be leached past the crops rooting depth and potentially into the groundwater 4) nitrogen and water saturated soils can be converted into gas forms with a process of dentrofication and lost to the atmosphere. And lastly, available phosphorus can be reduced due to the flooding, decreasing the populations of microorganisms that are responsible for promoting phosphorus availability. What grocers need to know is, work with your farmers and producers to fully understand what, if any conditions, will be having an effect on the produce that you sell in your stores. Be sure to communicate correctly to shoppers that the reason for these changes, where they be cosmetic or nutritional, is a result of Mother Nature and there's no reason for concern.
Phil Lempert:
14:23
And extreme weather is just one of the many challenges modern farmers are facing, but there's also this: the hollowing out of mid-sized U.S. farms Bloomberg recently published an economics piece, which reports that the number of U.S. farms that are either very big or very small grew during a period when agriculture incomes fell 22 percent, putting pressure on mid-sized growers, whose debt skyrocketed. And the last census showed that a number of farms that have two thousand acres of land or more increased by 27 percent in 2012 from 1982 levels. Conversely, operations with between 500 and 99 acres dropped by about 30 percent. But the little guys, largely part-time growers or those farming for leisure or fun, rose as well. Farms between just 10 and 49 acres climbed 31 percent. However, mid-size farms have slowly disappeared as they either consolidate and grow to retain profits or shrink and specialize in niche products like organic crops and heritage-bred livestock. What grocers need to know is that Dan Sumner, an ag professor at the University of California, Davis says the consumers have benefited from farm consolidation with low prices for food and offer more options like being able to choose between organic and non-organics. And while census data can be quite helpful in determining challenges that farmers are facing, there's some struggles that farmers face that aren't always quite so obvious.
Phil Lempert:
16:06
Transitioning a farm from one generation to the next is now trickier than ever. As family structures and farms themselves become more complicated, farm transitions and land transfers are among the hardest conversations that farm families face, according to The New Food Economy. Along with the sheer value of land and equipment comes an inheritance of big financial implications, which means that the farm transition can become too complicated for farmers to handle on their own. Some states like Michigan are beginning to provide agriculture extension specialists, who can help families create farm transition plans, while others are moving towards offering classes on land transition to farmers and aspiring farmers as Nebraska, Vermont, and Arkansas now do. What grocers need to know is, get to know your farmers. Some retailers like Wegmans and Walmart for example, work closely with their farmers to ensure that their source of supply remains consistent, and in some cases, even offer financial assistance and advice. It's a relationship that keeps those shelves stocked.
Phil Lempert:
17:13
And although transitioning farm from one generation to the next can be tough, the actual farming practices don't have to be! Evolving technology continues to offer new, innovative ways to help farms run more smoothly. For example, now there's a smartphone app that allows farmers to control just where their cows are grazing. San Diego-based startup Vence wants to bring farming into the 21st century. The company makes a device and accompanying software that allows farmers to control their animals' behavior remotely and it could have huge implications for agriculture and for the planet. Livestock will often cluster in certain areas of a field while leaving other regions alone. That causes some sections to be overgrazed, which makes the grass and soil there less healthy over time. The neglected areas suffer and the unhealthy grass hurts a farmer's bottom line. Farmers have typically combated this problem using a method called rotational grazing that entails building several fenced in paddocks between where they can alternate their livestock, thereby giving the grass in each area time to grow back before it's time to eat again. However, Vence founder and CEO Frank Wooten studied research on Pavolvian training from MIT and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and he came up with an electronic collar that can be placed on animals like cattle, sheep, goats, and bison. It contains a GPS and magnetometer, and if the animal goes somewhere it shouldn't, the collar emits a buzzing noise and vibration to discourage cattle from wandering any further. Farmers have the option of creating their own rotational schedule or letting Vence's series of algorithms do the work. The entire system can be controlled from a phone, tablet, or other device. Startup charge is just between $15 and $25 per collar annually, depending on the amount of livestock. But the effects of Vence's technology could go well beyond agriculture and into sustainability. For example, one acre of grass absorbs up to three tons of carbon every year, but when it's dead or unhealthy, it loses much or all of that ability. However, with improved grazing techniques, the world could potentially sequester an additional 16.3 gigatons of carbon - nearly three years worth of total U.S. emissions - over the next 30 years. Combine that with the fact that there are more than 3 billion grass grazing livestock on the world's farms and it could mean a whole lot of interest in Vence's smart-farming product. What grocers need to know is, not only does the smart-farming method help ease a farmer's day-to-day practice, but it could also be a way to keep grass and fields healthier and absorbing more detrimental carbon; a win for both agriculture and sustainability.
Phil Lempert:
20:08
You're not going to believe who we have on. So last week, we talked to one of the producers of The American Farm on HISTORY. So this week, we're really going to get into it and we're going to find out what went on behind the scenes. Jenna Madsen is with us from the Sunderland family farm in Chester, Utah. Welcome to Farm, Food, Facts.
Jenna Madsen:
20:31
Hi. Thanks for having me.
Phil Lempert:
20:33
So Jenna, now you're a big shot TV star, so does that mean that you know you're going to leave the farm?
Jenna Madsen:
20:42
Definitely not. The farm in my life forever and I'm here to stay on it.
Phil Lempert:
20:48
So you're the third generation. Your grandfather started the farm with his three sons and now, what's interesting, is your dad is about ready to turn the farm over to you and your husband Brett. Am I correct? Yeah, we're trying to get in a position where we will hopefully be able to take over the farm.
Jenna Madsen:
21:08
So when you say hopefully, what does that mean? I mean, is it a financial situation? Is it just that farming today is so tough and so delicate because of Mother Nature and banks and everything else? Why just hopefully?
Jenna Madsen:
21:24
Yeah, I mean it's all of those things. Mostly financial aid, because the farm right now can only support one person. The Chester farm where we want to live and grow everything, it can only support one person. And the turkey farm is what's supporting us, and so we're trying to find a way to make it so that we could have enough income to where we can start making payments to my dad while also paying us a wage.
Phil Lempert:
21:54
So, when I read a lot about the plight of the American farmer, I constantly see where the average farmer, I think, is losing $5,000 a year, has to get a second job to maintain the farm. That's hard for me to really grapple with, because when I look at the episode from The American Farm that you've got 14,000 chicks that are going to turn into 44 pound turkeys, you raise alfalfa hay, you've got beef cattle, you've also got a few sheep and pigs and goats and pumpkins and all this. So, you know, it's really a much more complicated business than I think the average viewer who's watching on HISTORY can imagine.
Jenna Madsen:
22:47
It seems like all of the extra money you get on the farm just has to go back into the farm. Equipment breaks down, or something happens that you weren't anticipating and you have to make up for it in another way. And so, there's so much expense when it comes to a farm, and it's crazy because a farm is usually supporting one or two families. The expenses on a farm can be almost a million dollars. So it's just a huge amount of money that this farm has to make in order to just pay for itself. And then, when you're trying to buy something on top of that, when you want to pay yourself a wage and pay an employee a wage, it sometimes seems impossible, to be honest.
Phil Lempert:
23:37
And it's gotta be heartbreaking, especially since, you know, third generation, and what happens if you can't get the money and you can't pull it off? And also, when we take a look at the past few years in farming, first with the California drought, then you look at the storms this year in the Southeast, you look at what's going on in the Midwest right now. Mother Nature has not been very kind to farmers.
Jenna Madsen:
24:06
Right, and we are so dependent on Mother Nature and we're just at her mercy, and you just never know from year to year. One year we can have a record-breaking drought and the next year there's flooding. You just never know what you're going to come up against.
Phil Lempert:
24:22
And when we look at turkeys - frankly, sales of turkey in general has been going down across the nation. So you've got that input to deal with as well.
Jenna Madsen:
24:36
Yeah, last year was tough, the market was down and we were just hanging on hoping that the market would turn around.
Phil Lempert:
24:43
So, you know, I want to go back to the show, The American Farm. I loved the scene where you got 14,000 two-ounce chicks delivered, and you and your four kids and your dad and everybody and Brett, are there trying to get all these chicks into those little areas, those little penned off areas without stepping on them. It almost looked like a comedy.
Jenna Madsen:
25:16
Yeah. Sometimes it feels that way because you have so many moving parts and you are on a time crunch. And so, because we don't have them blocked off into pens. We just-
Phil Lempert:
25:28
Yeah, I saw like little wood things. Not a pen, but-
Jenna Madsen:
25:31
We have feed lines that run down under of the barns so the tractor can drive through, but there's nothing stopping them from just walking under the feed line and walking right up to the tractor. The tractor has to constantly keep moving to keep away from the chicks, and they are just running after it like their life depends on it. So, we're just in a mad rush to get those, get the crates that they came in back onto the trailer, and get out of there.
Phil Lempert:
26:00
Obviously it was TV, so there was some editing involved, but how long did it take to get these 14,000 chicks from their space on the truck into the barn and then you guys get out of the barn. What's that period of time?
Jenna Madsen:
26:20
Okay, so it's about 30 minutes from the time the truck pulls up and we unload the chicks. And then we spread the crates, turn the tractor around, dump the crates, and put them back onto the tractor and get out of the barn.
Phil Lempert:
26:35
So 30 minutes for 14,000 of them. Wow
Jenna Madsen:
26:38
Yes, we should do that in under 30 minutes.
Phil Lempert:
26:41
So Jenna, I'm assuming that this was the first time you ever did anything like a TV show, right?
Jenna Madsen:
26:47
Yes, this is our big TV debut. And it's awesome that it's a show about farmers. I love it.
Phil Lempert:
26:54
So talk to me about the process ofthe producers coming to you, obviously interviewing you, and also - when you're talking about next generation passing and economics - there's a lot of heartstrings being pulled here. Why did you do it? Why did you want to share what's going on in your family, and financially, with the world?
Jenna Madsen:
27:18
I really feel passionately about farmers contributing their stories to the rest of the world. It's something I've been trained on for the past ten years. I joined the Farm Bureau Federation, and they always talk about how we need more positive influence on agriculture and it has to come from the farmers. When I got this email saying they were doing a show about farming, I felt like it was really important. And our farm has a lot going on and we have a lot of issues that I know a lot of other farmers are facing, and maybe we're a good fit. So I emailed the casting department and they said they would like to Skype interview us. And then they called us and said, "Hey, good news, you made our top five, we're gonna come out to your farm and shoot some scenes and some stuff that you have going on." So, these people from LA showed up at our farm and I got really nervous. I was just like, "Oh, I invited cameras to our farm and I opened up this huge can of worms." But they became like family and we really loved working with them, we still love working with them. And it's feeling like it's doing what I wanted to do. It's real, it's a real story, but it's also just showing how it is. And I feel like being real is going to impact agriculture as a whole.
Phil Lempert:
29:23
Let's talk about your kids, first of all. What was it like for them to be on TV and be part of this whole process?
Jenna Madsen:
29:25
They’re just now really understanding it. We kept saying, “We’re going to be filmed, we’re going to be on TV.” And they were just like, “Yeah, there’s cameras here a lot, but we don’t see ourselves on TV.” So now that it’s actually airing, they’re a little more exciting about it. They’re like, “Oh, this is actually kind of cool.”
Phil Lempert:
29:43
And what about your dad? I would imagine that this was a hard sell for you to go to your dad and say, "Hey, you know, I want to open up our family, our family business to the world." What was his reaction?
Phil Lempert:
30:01
My dad is very smart, and he thinks about everything, but he’s also very open and he thinks very positively. So, he was also aware of the risks and I’m sure he was a little nervous. But I think he could see why I wanted to do it and that, in the end, it could be an opportunity for us. And so, once he got past the initial “I don’t know, I don’t know about cameras on a farm,” then he was totally behind it.
Phil Lempert:
30:31
So if there was one experience that you had with The American Farm that was outstanding, that you thought was fabulous, what would that be?
Jenna Madsen:
30:43
Just having them there, and seeing our farms through their eyes for the first time, that was really cool because I could really see what people understand, what they don't understand, what misinformation they have coming in to looking at a farm. And that's what I really liked about it. I liked being able to see firsthand what sharing your farming experience can do and can change somebody's view on farming.
Phil Lempert:
31:13
And the next question, if you had to re-do anything that you looked at, "Oh my God, why did I say that? Why did I do that?" What would that be?
Jenna Madsen:
31:25
Oh Gosh. There's probably way too many, and each week will be like, "Oh, please don't show anything embarrassing." Oh, you know what? I do know. I fell and it's in one of the promo videos and so I know they're going to show it, but I was trying to get a pig back into the pen and you can see my clumsiness very clearly because I just totally face plant and roll and, you know, I go down hard, and it's not very flattering.
Phil Lempert:
31:55
Well Jenna, thanks so much for sharing your story. Thank you for being on The American Farm . Thank you for supporting U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance and I can't wait to watch all the episodes.
Jenna Madsen:
32:17
Okay. Thank you so much for having me.
Phil Lempert:
32:19
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 food dialogues.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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