We all know that people know very little about how their food is produced. Although there are few who will admit that. I never ceases to amaze me how there are so many “experts” on producing food. People like to sit around and complain about things. People like to have other people do the things that they don’t want to do themselves. Well now, we have a small part of the population directly involved in food production, and boy, the rest of the population is sitting around complaining about it. Please take note that I don’t think farmers know much about food production themselves. I’ll explain.
Here’s the thing. A farmer knows exactly what he needs to do to produce a crop of wheat for example. He knows when to plant, how much fertilizer to put on, what the seeding rate should be, how deep to plant. He knows to scout the field looking for a whole spectrum of problems that may arise, and how to deal with those problems. When the crop is mature he knows to pay attention to the moisture content of the wheat to make a harvest decision. As the last truck load of wheat is delivered the farmer thinks “Well, I did my part to feed the world.” And it is done, over with, forgotten about. The check is in the bank and he makes a little profit. He produced a commodity. Food is made from that commodity, its just that the farmer didn’t produce the food. Just an ingredient. Unless you are one of those people who eats wheat berries for breakfast (which I am going to try soon)
When wheat harvest was nearing the end on my family’s farm, I saved back a couple buckets of wheat. I was going to make food from it. The first step was to winnow the wheat. I used a fan to do this. I took small cups full of wheat and dumped them into another bucket, that was placed in front of a fan, using the air being pushed by the fan to help carry away any light trash. This consisted of beards and any straw and even some weed seeds.
After that I made a homemade sieve and cleaned the wheat that way eliminating even more trash. This consisted of bug parts, heavier straw, and berries that were still in that little protective layer they come wrapped in. As I sieved the wheat I was hand picking some out that made it through my sieve. I always thought my dad did a really good job delivering clean wheat. And he does. Just that it is no where near clean enough for food.
It took about two hours to clean a five gallon bucket full. This being my first time doing this I was slow at it, because I am not skilled at doing that kind of task. I was also being thorough because some of this wheat may be fed to my daughter. I then took about 8 cups of wheat berries and washed it. I know firsthand how dusty, dirty a wheat field is. After the wheat was washed I placed it on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven at 150 degrees for about 15 – 30 minutes to get the moisture out.
Now look at all the effort I have put in so far and I still don’t have a food product. Just a bunch of fresh clean wheat berries. Now here is where the hard work came in. All I have is a hand crank grain mill I bought cheap. It clamps down to the edge of the table. I poured the wheat in and started cranking. I had the mill adjusted so it would grind the wheat pretty fine. It took me over and hour and a half to grind 3 and one half cups of flour. I was sweating and my shoulders were burning. Thing is now I FINALLY had something!
It was late at night when I finally had flour. So the next evening I tried my very first ever attempt at baking. (other than that one time in Jr. High Home Ec. Class where I put salt in my cookies instead of sugar. The look on the teachers face was priceless when she tasted them). I set about baking bread. My wife really had her doubts that I could pull this off. She gave me a little advice and left me to it. A short time later we had a loaf of bread. I got to tell you that was some really good stuff. It tastes different than what you get at the store, as you might imagine it would. We kinda pigged out on it that night, and I even made breakfast the next morning, using some of that bread to make French Toast. (it was really good topped with honey and butter). The next night my wife baked another loaf of bread, and she even uses some of the flour we grind to add to her pancake mix. I tell ya it really makes a difference in taste. I can tell now that I should have kept more of the commodity on had to grind for flour to make food.
I have butchered my own deer in the past. I made my own jerky, and steaks and grind from it. A deer here weighs around 200#. There is no way I’d try to butcher a 1400# steer. I have been in numerous packing plants and watched the workers in there for a while. I got to tell you that it looks like really tough work.
Could you imagine if you had to make all your own food? No more football. No more running the kids to 100 different activities all year round. No more Idol on TV. No more time at the lake. You will be to tired from planting, tilling, harvesting, feeding your livestock, butchering, grinding grains and so on. Could you imagine cooking all your meals from scratch every day? Can you imagine trying to store enough wheat to feed your family for a year? How would you protect it from spoiling? How would you keep the weevils out? Have you ever looked at the ingredients list that is in a bag of flour? There is way more goes into getting that bag of flour on the shelf at the grocery store than I know about.
As a farmer I would often times get butt hurt when I would hear someone complain about food production in this country. And I do feel people have a right to voice their properly educated opinion about it. Its just that I felt I worked pretty damn hard to produce what I did just to have someone complain about it. This whole process of making my own bread form wheat grown on my family’s farm was fun. It also made me realize that there is so much more to producing food than just the farming end of it. So maybe when people complain about food production they really aren’t complaining about farming practices. Maybe they are. Thing is people have a pretty good lifestyle because of the food system we have here. And by that I mean having a lot of free time to pursue other activities. If we all lived like what I described in the previous paragraph people then would be complaining of blisters and muscle aches, and wishing someone else was doing the hard work for them.