According to the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, today’s consumers are three to four generations removed from the farm.
Sarah Wilson, North Dakota farmer, explained that this fact is a highly impactful reason in why she “ag-vocates.”
“I visit about six classrooms a year to teach children about agriculture,” said Wilson. “I have realized that we are raising a generation of kids that are disconnected from where their food and fiber comes from. I believe that if we can improve the understanding of agriculture, we can encourage an appreciation for farming as it is today.”
In addition to classroom education, Sarah and her husband, Jeremy, also participated in a unique project this year involving a traditional summer food: sweet corn.
The Grow Forward project, sponsored by Monsanto, provided more than 170 growers with one or more bags of Seminis® Performance Series™ sweet corn to plant on an acre and share the experience of growing the product with neighbors, friends and the surrounding community.
“We [farmers] are the experts at what we do, and we should be telling that story,” said Carrie Mess, a Wisconsin farmer, who also participated in the project.
The Grow Forward harvest was plentiful this year, and farmers were able to share more than their farming story with their communities.
“A bag of sweet corn seed can produce 33,000 ears per acre,” said Paulette Pierson, Monsanto Grow Forward project lead. “The project provided growers with the opportunity to give back to their communities.”
Growers donated over two million ears of sweet corn to 79 charitable organizations, including 23 food pantries, eight schools and nine agriculture-related youth organizations, impacting 328 communities.
“I think farmers are uniquely aware the process of growing food, but also the topic of hunger,” said Mess. “We are food secure, but we know what it means not to be, especially when you think about the challenges we’ve faced historically.”
“We received a tremendous yield and invited the community to pick,” said Wilson. “On the largest picking day, we collected 6,200 pounds, which is about 12 pallets for the food bank.”
Mess sent a request to her local friends through social media to help pick.
“Now other farmers in the community have been asking how they can get involved,” said Mess. “I was also able to talk to the food bank workers, some of which are also clients for the organization. We’ve already been planning on how to make the process better for next year.”
Growers also reported high satisfaction with the performance and quality of the biotech sweet corn.
“I grew up on a farm where we grew sweet corn, but this is the cleanest sweet corn that we’ve grown. There were not any worms,” said Wilson. “The corn also freezes well, and it has been reheating beautifully.”
“The corn was good in yield and quality despite a rough year, and it was also delicious,” said Mess.
Seminis® Performance Series™ sweet corn provides a fresh, flavorful and nutritious sweet corn, but it also can be grown in a way that is sustainable for the environment.
“The farmers were thrilled with the ability to plant sweet corn that reduces insecticide applications by up to 85 percent,” said Pierson. “By making fewer tractor trips across the field, farmers also decrease fuel and energy use.”
“We’re innovative farmers,” said Wilson. “We are tied to the core values that tie our family back to five generations on a farm. As a family and as farmers, we believe in farming in a fashion that has long-term benefits for generations to come.
“We are comfortable with the genetic advancements in agriculture, and we feel comfortable bringing our kids out to help pick and continue to learn about agriculture. The project gave us an opportunity to help teach our kids that we were picking and donating sweet corn to help people that don’t have food in their fridge. As a farmer and a mom, it was a great experience to connect people with nature and develop new friendships through agriculture.”