By Kelly Rivard / MidwesternGold.com
My name is Kelly Rivard, and I have a story. In fact, we all have stories. Mine is fairly normal for a college kid; I study, I juggle a few jobs, and I miss home. That last one is a big part of my story, actually. Home for me is the rolling landscapes of rural Illinois. For that reason, I run Midwestern Gold, a blog about Illinois agriculture and rural living.
Midwestern Gold was born out of an internship with the Illinois Corn Marketing Board. When the internship ended, I was given the option to continue with it. Like any respectable Internet addict, I decided to keep up the habit and hobby I'd formed through that internship. Now, Midwestern Gold is my personal project. There, I share insights about farming, food, and the people of the Illinois countryside. I share stories of my work teaching "city slickers" about where their food, fiber, and fuel comes from, and personal anecdotes from the farms I've lived around for my entire life.
Someday, I hope to go on to work in agricultural communications. For now, I continue to pursue my degree in interactive media (Internet communications) and find my own creative ways to stay in touch with the industry I've come to love. So, from a farmer's daughter, a future-farmer's-wife, and a lover of American farming families all over this state and this nation, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy!
This blog is, predominantly, about corn, especially in Illinois.
Occasionally it will branch out to include the industry that consumes the most corn: livestock.
Sometimes it branches out beyond just corn, and encompasses the midwestern grain industry, bringing in other commodities like soy and wheat.
I believe high fructose corn syrup is a sugar. I also believe it should be eaten with moderation and consciousness of its presence as a sugar. I don't think Mountain Dew Throwback is any better for me because it has cane sugar instead of corn sugar. They're both bad for me.
All of this, however, does not mean that I feel mass-production agriculture is the only food system in the United States. In fact, I'd go so far as to say my understanding of mass production agriculture has given me a deeper respect for "alternative" means of food production. I've had bacon from the "big companies." In fact, our local grocery store sells a brand called "Corn King" bacon that tends to fill my bacon cravings quite well. I've also had "specialty" bacon, pasture-raised by a small organic farmer in the area. (Let me tell you, it's nice to have an in with the local meat shop owner. I used to babysit his kids.)
I advocate for the corn industry, and mass production agriculture as a whole. However, first and foremost I support a diverse, well-rounded, and easily-accessible food supply in this country, and around the world. I've worked in nutrition, have read up on health food and organic and natural alternatives. I don't suggest any one is better than any other.
My concern is making sure that everyone is well-verse in their choices, and can make those choices accordingly. I dream of a world where our food producers can co-exist peacefully, without bashing others to further themselves. How often do we see organic producers and non-organic, going head-to-head and battling each other with "he said, she said" rhetoric, name-calling, and judgement?
It doesn't have to be that way. In fact, there's plenty of wonderful co-existence on Twitter. That's not to say there isn't tension, but there's plenty of wonderful examples of how people with very different methods and mentalities can get along, agree to disagree on some things, and collaborate when the time calls for it.
As a friend of mine, Ryan Goodman, said recently on his blog, Agriculture Proud:
I continually see this by people using labels of grain vs grass fed, big ag vs family farm, organic vs conventional. Many tend to use words like “inhumane” to scare people. Because of this constant bashing, consumers shiver at the mention of hormones, antibiotics, and grain-fed. Truth is we are all in the business of feeding people. We all work hard to fit different niche markets and this constant bickering is scaring consumers of food safety as a whole.
He hit the nail on the head here, at least in my eyes. We need to work together. We need to stop using smear campaigns, derogatory terms, and fear against each other.
No one single food system can meet all the wants and needs of a hungry planet, or even a hungry nation. No singular approach to food can satiate the desires of the United States. We need each other. Organic, non-organic, small-scale, large-scale, all-natural, antibiotic-free, or even that overused word of "conventional," we are all a part of a food system that continues to grow, adapt, and evolve to meet the needs and desires of this planet.
So, in short...I don't advocate that the entire agricultural world converts to the "large-scale" system that the corn industry is known for. I don't suggest that Old McDonald's farm gets shut down to make way for an ethanol plant. I also don't suggest that every person in the U.S. relies entirely on farmers markets for their food (although I do love me a good farmers market).
I'm saying, we need choice. We have no choice but to have choice. Because, let's face it, a homogenized system just wouldn't cut it.