The Peterson Farm Blog
March 10, 2016 12:57 PM   Subscribe

We are glad you are here! This blog was created for us to address the many questions people have about farmers and modern day agriculture. We hope that our blog will be a source of answers for people who are searching for the truth! ... This blog will focus mainly on family farmers like us who live in the Midwest and grow typical Midwest crops and livestock (wheat, corn, soybeans, sorghum, cattle, etc). There are countless other farmers out there who grow all sorts of different things (fruits, veggies, nuts, etc.) and raise all sorts of different animals (swine, poultry, dairy, etc.), but since my expertise lies solely on Midwest USA farmers, that’s what I will generally be referencing! The point to take away here is that we need to appreciate all farmers, no matter what kind they are, and we should all do our best to thank those who help grow our food!
All I Do Is Farm (All I Do is Win Parody) -Feat. Lil' Fred and Farmer Derek
The blog is incredibly deep and awesome, don't miss the songs and other videos!, and provides an unfortunately rare view into the perspective of the farmers who feed us:

Introduction
GMOs
Chemicals/Pesticides
Animal Welfare
Industrial/Factory Farming

The Peterson Farm Bros’ Beef with Chipotle (Part 1)
Part 2: The Definition of a Family Farmer
Part 3: The Definition of a Humanely Raised Animal
Part 4: The Definition of Ethical Behavior
Most of their videos are fun, but even better is their relatively under-appreciated and meditatively educational Life of a Farmer Series
posted by Blasdelb (15 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow Blasdelb! Thanks for this post! I've watched a few of their videos, but I had no idea these kids were doing such great outreach on other farm fronts. I skimmed their GMO page and it sounded pretty damn reasonable. Excellent work. Can't wait to read more.

Also, on the farm theme, check out for International Women's Day #ilooklikeafarmer on Instagram.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:19 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can not digest all of this. My main concern is farm subsidies and the 322 billiion farms receive.
posted by Postroad at 1:31 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


This blog is seriously my new favorite thing
posted by Blasdelb at 1:47 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


when i was growing up i'd hear so many farmers go on and on about "the cities" and "welfare queens" and i actually have no problems with farm subsidies but i do have a problem with rank hypocrisy.

that said, farmers aren't a bad bunch, just a bunch of people who don't feel particularly connected to anyone else's lives aside from the food they make. also, tractor DRM is bullshit of the first order.
posted by gorestainedrunes at 1:53 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Petersons make an interesting rhetorical point, directed at those horrified by the treatment of animals on farms, when they number the millions of humans on the planet that are subjected to more suffering--at the hands of fellow humans--than are livestock.

This reminds me of the odd tendency of some humans (more so in Britain than in America, if I have my stereotypes right) to get more upset at the mistreatment of a dog or a cat than a human baby.

Just a casual observation. I'm not taking sides. (Although the Petersons are absurdly over the top when it comes to glorifying meat meat meat and more meat.)
posted by kozad at 2:03 PM on March 10, 2016


I find the use of the word "harvest" in the meat life-cycle ridiculous. I eat meat. I don't think meat eating is necessarily immoral. But if we are not ashamed of breeding, rearing, and killing animals for meat, why can we no longer use the word "slaughter"?

I look forward to the day when taboo deformation has replaced "harvest" and we have to speak of, I don't know, "gently gathering" wheat and rye.
posted by Hypatia at 2:08 PM on March 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


the blog entry on the GMO issue is excellent!
posted by sallybrown at 2:36 PM on March 10, 2016


The point to take away here is that we need to appreciate all farmers

Oh, balls, there's no more need to appreciate all farmers than there is to respect all cops, defer to all doctors, blah blah blah.

That said, this does look enjoyable and interesting.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:46 PM on March 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Petersons make an interesting rhetorical point, directed at those horrified by the treatment of animals on farms, when they number the millions of humans on the planet that are subjected to more suffering--at the hands of fellow humans--than are livestock.

"What about [worse problem]" is such an old, and unconvincing, rhetorical strategy that the Romans were already tired of it.
posted by Pyry at 3:23 PM on March 10, 2016 [10 favorites]


You may now be thinking: “Wait, you said thousands of animals and thousands of acres of land? That sounds like factory and industrial farming to me, not family farming.”

Not really! Family farming is as alive as it has ever been! 96% of farms in the United States are family farms and I cannot name a single farm in our area here in Kansas that isn’t a family farm! The key point here is that family farms are getting bigger and many of them fall into the “industrial/factory farm” label, giving them a bit of a bad reputation.


That "family farm" term is an interesting one. Culturally, it tends to be associated with images of small farms where just the family are working the land and raising the farm animals themselves. Like a mom and pop corner store, maybe one or two local teenagers are also employed during the summer, but that's about it in that cultural archetype.

These guys make a good point that most farms are still family-owned, with family members actively working on the farm. However, I couldn't find how many people outside of their immediate family are employed, either permanently or seasonally, by their farm. Certainly the 1000 acres they say they have is mid-sized, not huge. But it's not tiny either. The farms near me are also almost all family farms, many are smaller than that, yet most still employ 20-200 non-family members, at least seasonally. They also tend to be more diversified and focused on crops that require hand-picking, so I wouldn't expect these guys to have hundreds of seasonal employees, but do they have no non-family employees? Two? Ten? 35? 50? They are certainly not in the same category as the small farmers I know who do all of their own work or have five or fewer employees.

The fact that many farm-owners are also operators, actively working on their farms, makes the situation different from other big family-owned businesses like Walmart or S.E. Johnson. But would we have the same nostalgic associations and make the same political decisions about farm policy issues if we called them small farms, medium-sized farms, large farms, and factory farms; or if we referred to family farms with more than some number of employees instead as sole (or family) proprietorship agricultural businesses, or something less ungainly but that still draws the comparison with businesses in the medium-sized, 50-200 employee range?
posted by eviemath at 3:52 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


eviemath: "Certainly the 1000 acres they say they have is mid-sized, not huge. But it's not tiny either. The farms near me are also almost all family farms, many are smaller than that, yet most still employ 20-200 non-family members, at least seasonally. They also tend to be more diversified and focused on crops that require hand-picking, so I wouldn't expect these guys to have hundreds of seasonal employees, but do they have no non-family employees? Two? Ten? 35? 50?"

This isn't berry picking in the Central Valley, or some other really labor-intensive form of agriculture. In the highly automated farming landscape of the modern Midwest, 1000 acres is actually pretty small. I suspect they don't have any non-family employees at all. Look at this article from 2003:

“One of the most difficult factors for many 1,100-acre or less farmers to accept is that, unless they have livestock, they're probably underemployed. Thirty years ago, 1,000 acres was enough to support Dad, me and three hired men.

“But with new technology, equipment and products like Roundup Ready soybeans, I can farm 1,100 acres, run an independent seed dealership and still have time to be active in commodity groups like NCGA.

“Farmers have to understand that there's not much chance to make a living on a 1,000-acre farm without supplemental income or non-commodity crops. You can count on one hand the number of farms in our area that don't have an outside job or enterprise to go along with their farms.”


The brothers don't even anticipate there being enough work for all of them once they graduate from college:

Our goal is for all 3 of us to be able to return home to the farm after college and farm together. That is easier said than done, as our farm with have to grow quite a bit to be able to support all of our families. If we are not able to farm together full-time, we are hopeful for other scenarios where maybe 1 or 2 of us are only part time farmers. None of us desire to leave the farm completely!
posted by crazy with stars at 4:14 PM on March 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


They are certainly not in the same category as the small farmers I know who do all of their own work or have five or fewer employees.

I'm not so sure about that in terms of numbers of people working. Row crops and big machinery are, it turns out, a pretty good match.

It wouldn't surprise me much to know people who know these guys. Assaria's maybe 25 miles from my dad's family farm east of Culver.

It's pretty likely I disagree with them about more things than not, but it's cool to see their perspective and experience represented. I have some aunts and uncles and cousins who would probably love this stuff, if they haven't seen it yet.

Also I I wish I knew where the fuck I put my D.A.R.E. t-shirt from 6th grade.
posted by brennen at 4:21 PM on March 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


I used to be a rabid anti-GMO activist, until my sustainability interests put me into a career where I worked with lots of farmers of all scales, from organic hippie-with-a-box-truck (during the height of the locavore craze of the late 2000's) to farmers of a similar scale as this family, to larger.

Between learning more of the nuances of the issues and reading more and more about the lack of evidence for the anti-GMO side's claims, I eventually did a 180 degree turnaround on the issue.

Also, yes, lots of farms this size are very much 'family farms', even with a few year-round nonfamily employees or some seasonal employees.

The idea that "family farm" implies a tiny operation run by just family members is some kind of authenticity hoax fantasy.

The 'hippie with a box truck' organic vegetable farming operation that serves farmers' markets for instance, which is the smaller scale of commercial farming, still tends to rely heavily on hired help and interns/WWOF 'volunteers', often under the guise of education. Even at that tiny scale it's not common that the people selling local vegetables at your local farmers' market are magically a one-family operation making a living with no hired help (unless the farming operation is a side project of a farmer whose main career is something else). It's just the reality of farming that it's hard to do without labor and many hands.
posted by girl Mark at 4:38 PM on March 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


This is a fascinating and worthwhile read. I think the discussion of our food economy is well served by including the reasonable voices of those involved in food production and The Petersons represent their industry well by being down-to-earth, articulate, well-intentioned, and intelligent. Particularly, I like their defense of the humaneness of livestock production and GMOs, two issues which I agree are criticized largely on emotional rather than rational grounds. I love that they are doing their jobs with pride, reflectivity, and humor.

I'd like to read their take on the valid criticisms of the energy required to maintain the high productivity of their farms, the ecological consequences and waste production of conventional farming, and the health consequences of a largely corn based diet for their animals and for people. Because they articulate a view that seems reasonable, I want to see a coming together with critics whose views are also reasonable.

Michael Pollan really changed my thinking about food by being reasonable and rational and these guys have a similar tone and I feel that real progress could be made by more conversations between people like this instead of industry spokespersons (and I'm not convinced that the Petersons aren't being paid by Monsanto or other industrial concerns) yelling at the equally entrenched opinions of food activists.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:13 AM on March 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


An aside:

I have a friend who is a farmer in the San Joaquin Valley of California, not corporate but an actual family farmer, gasp. I really got a kick out of a characterization of farming he related some years ago, the mid 80's. He noted regarding the amazing American farmer growing so much food, that dictum becoming a kind of meme for the American styles of farming. "Why one American farmer can grow food for 155 people a year (coming from Monsanto, ha)."

He went on to note wryly, yeah, an American farmer and 150 Mexicans, often undocumented (at that time), etc.

So much for the meme. Or at least we should be cognizant of what American farming really means.
posted by WinstonJulia at 1:41 PM on March 11, 2016


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