Posts Tagged With: environment

3 take-aways from our radio appearance

Black and white photograph of a Neumann U87 mi...

Black and white photograph of a Neumann U87 microphone | Wikipedia Commons

Last Tuesday, my colleague Jordan Seger appeared on WFYI’s “No Limits” radio show.  Jordan is the director of ISDA’s soil conservation division.  The topic of the show was the future of agriculture, and Jordan was joined by Kim Ferraro of Hoosier Environmental Council and Laura Henderson of Growing Places Indy.  John Krull of Franklin College moderated the conversation.

I had the pleasure of listening to the show live in a WFYI studio with the show’s producer and engineers.  It was also great to meet Laura and Kim and visit with them briefly before and after the show.

Throughout the show, a variety of topics surfaced, from legislation to farmers’ markets to community development.  Here were my key take-aways from the show.

Like Laura Henderson said, the future of agriculture needs to be polyfaced.  Agriculture is a multifaceted field with many players, issues and concerns.  There is not a “right” farming method, way of approaching a problem, or solution to the issues we see surfacing.  We need CAFOs and the farmers’ markets.  In September, I interviewed Kip Tom on my blog and he put it this way: “I and many in agriculture embrace all forms of food production, whether organic, natural, local or commercial modern agriculture.  We need them all for today and tomorrow.”

Radio is a place to gain an introduction to complex topics.  There were several “hot topics” brought up on the show, including the “Ag Gag” and “Right to Farm.”  These are subjects that were introduced on the radio, but couldn’t be fully explored.  Before you make a decision on either of these topics, talk to a farmer, read some literature from both sides, and call your senators and representatives to see where they stand.

ISDA wants to help agribusinesses and farms of all shapes and sizes as we explore the future of agriculture.  Our division of soil conservation works with farmers throughout Indiana to implement stewardship programs.  In the radio program, Laura Henderson mentioned our economic development team’s efforts to assess the viability of “food hubs” (or virtual farmers’ markets)The goal of our grain warehouse licensing branch is to foster a sound grain marketing infrastructure so that Indiana can continue to be a standard in grain production.  ISDA recognizes that Indiana is a global leader in agriculture, and we want to make sure that continues into the future.

Have you had an opportunity to listen to the radio show?  If so, what questions did you have?

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Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, Informational | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking with an Indiana Farmer | Part 1

Kip Tom

Kip Tom

Today, I have the privilege of introducing you to Kip Tom.  Kip is the CEO of Tom Farms, a family-owned business located in Northern Indiana.  Tom Farms was established by Everett and Marie Tom in 1952 and is currently one of the largest suppliers of seed corn to Monsanto.

Kip kindly agreed to do an email interview with me discussing sustainability, agriculture in the 21st century, and family business.  Enjoy the first part of the interview today, and check back for the rest of the interview on Thursday.

AM: Obviously, your family’s connection to agriculture is deep and important to you. How does your family’s farming history impact the way you think about the Ag industry?

KT: Our family settled in our community 176 years ago this summer, about seven generations before my children joined the business.  Each of us who have a role in this business must take responsibility to assure that the business continues.

AM: Sound economics and business principles are key components of running an operation that can last for multiple generations.  Why is it important to run a family farm using sound business principles?  How does a sound business model contribute to the overall livelihood of an operation?

KT: Oftentimes financial decisions have been made on the farm in the past with little-to-no due diligence.  A business can only survive through good and challenging times if the financial impact of all decisions is clearly understood prior to making the decision.  It is critical that leaders understand where the income and cost centers are, and how the contribute to the business’s bottom line.

AM: As I listen to the conversation surrounding agriculture, I hear a lot of talk about sustainability.  What does sustainability mean to you? How is an operation like yours sustainable?

KT: Sustainability is a word that can span many conversations, but to our business it means:

  1. Succession of the family business;
  2. Protection of all resources spanning generations; and,
  3. A systems approach to our manufacturing processes.

AM: You’ve spent many years on your family farm, and have also chosen to be actively involved in the national and international discussion about agriculture.  In other words, you have the knowledge and experience of working on the farm while also understanding the various dynamics of national and international Ag concerns.  From your perspective, what are the top three challenges farmers are facing in the 21st century?

(Photo by Roberts)

(Photo by Roberts)

KT: The first challenge I see is a failure to recognize that production agriculture is a manufacturing business and that we need to invest in developing a systems approach to producing the products that we “build” on our farms to feed the growing global demand.  Farm structures will be much different in the future as they are in essence a “biological manufacturing plant” producing food, fiber and energy.  Success in this endeavor will require extensive capital investments, coordinated supply chains, and talented management and staff.

Additionally, education will continue to be the differentiator in the future as it is now.  The successful farm business will need to have qualified leaders in the management positions as well have educated technical staff to operate the complexity of the “manufacturing plant”.

Finally, agricultural advocacy will continue to be a challenge with less connectivity between consumers and the farm.  It is the responsibility of our industry to step up from all levels and engage in local and global discussions.  We also have the responsibility of engaging with policy makers to ensure we are helping the food insecure.

Check back here on Thursday to hear more from Kip!

Categories: Agriculture in Indiana, Farming in the 21st Century, The Faces of Modern Agriculture | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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