On this last day of 2009, let's step back and think about where our food actually comes from.
You live in town on a small plot of land and you usually go to the store to buy your weekly supply of groceries. You find all kinds of excellent food items on the shelves and in the coolers, so your big decision is what kind should I buy or what brand is best.
You don't have to worry that the shelves are empty and you won't be able to buy enough to feed your family.
With all these choices and an abundant supply of things to buy, why should you be interested in the corn and soybean harvest in our area? Or across the nation?
Let's take a look at that question.
While a bit later than usual, corn harvest in our area moved along fairly well this fall. Wet October weather caused delays in maturing the crop and muddy fields for harvest. Then some nice November weather allowed farmers to get into the fields to harvest their crop, along with the rest of their soybeans.
Corn yields were exceptionally good for the most part. Reports of 200 or more bushels from an acre have not been unusual. One farmer said he had just under 250 bushels per acre.
Back in the 1950s and early 60s, yields of 50 to 70 bushels were considered good. So you see, we have come a long way with productivity on local farms as well as those across the nation.
That increased productivity is the main reason you can go to the store and find an abundance if healthy food items at reasonable cost.
We have been able to reach today's yield levels in corn and other crops, as well as in livestock production, by the use of modern technology along with hard work by farmers.
Technology has been in the areas of seed improvement, careful use of crop protectants, using only fertilizers that are needed along with huge improvements in farm machinery and equipment.
Increases in livestock productivity have come about through improved feeding, genetics and health care of the animals.
With rare exceptions, our livestock is better cared for today than at any time in our history. Livestock housing has changed dramatically and livestock and poultry are healthier and more productive than in the past.
More meat, milk and eggs from an acre of land are indications that farmers are great stewards of the animals and land.
Since you may live in town and have never been on one of today's farms, you may not realize what goes into running an up-to-date farm. Yes, they are larger than 50 or 60 years ago, but there are still all-family farms in our area. Across the nation, we have fewer than 5 percent that are really corporate farms.
Family farms are larger because today's technology has allowed one person to farm many more acres or take care of a lot more livestock. And because of low farm prices, farmers have had to get larger in order to make a reasonable living for the family.
In so many ways, government policies have been geared to low food prices. Policies have been set that encourage more farm production to be sure we don't have a food shortage in this country. Hungry people would be the quickest way for politicians to get voted out of office.
We need to start 2010 by doing a better job of telling consumers about today's modern agriculture and our safe, affordable food supply. We want to avoid a food shortage in the future!
Parker is an independent agricultural writer and works with the local Farm Bureau Board.