It’s always a pleasure to sit down and open up a conversation about food and farming with South Dakotans and the farmers who grow it. In fact, that’s what Hungry for Truth is all about. True to our mission, we had another wonderful opportunity of connecting, Iowa native and speech pathologist/feeding and language specialist, Andrea Boerigter with soybean farmers, Peggy and Brad Greenway of Mitchell, South Dakota to talk harvest, sustainability, food safety and animal care. They spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon together filled with good conversation and farm education. Today, Andrea is sharing her perspective of her recent South Dakota farm visit.
This Sunday I was fortunate enough to visit and learn about one of South Dakota’s family owned farms. I was promised an experience of learning about everything that goes into the inner workings of a farm: from the manure being knifed into the field all the way to the meat being butchered. I absolutely got what I was promised, but I got a whole lot more.
The moment Peggy opened her front door and invited me to sit down with her, I entered a world I have not been in since my childhood. She spoke about her husband being in the field with harvest and her daughter bringing him out lunch. She talked about walking through the pig barns and being thankful it has been dry enough to be in the field. I had been part of all of these conversations before. I had heard these words from my grandparents. I also saw the same love and passion for her crops and animals as I had seen in my grandparents’ eyes. Because to be a farmer, you have to love it. It is too hard to do it if you don’t love it.
That part of farming has stayed the same. However, so much of it is different. This is where it gets fuzzy for me. This is where I needed to learn…a lot.
In my childhood, I recall a much smaller combine. The pigs were moved from outdoor cement pads to smaller barns throughout the year to protect them from elements. I recall all of this somewhat – what I mostly remember is when my grandpa let me bring a baby pig into the house and put doll clothes on it. My mother assured me she was never allowed to do such things.
So it was time to ask questions. And let me tell you, if you have questions – Peggy and Brad are the people to ask. They are a wealth of knowledge and so passionate. They speak about not wanting to change anyone’s mind about what they eat, but they want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to learn about what they do on their farm. I could not agree with them more.
Because I could rant and rave about this amazing day forever, I decide to walk you through each part of the process – just like they did with me.
We started at the house, me asking a million questions, Peggy having a million answers. She spoke about their mission – Sustainability and responsibility. She said “It is responsible for us to grow as much food as we can with as little effect on the land as possible.” She also spoke about how making changes to their farm are not done without great thought. They do not just throw up a hog barn, they use local companies for concrete and equipment, as well as the companies that build the barns. I take so much comfort knowing that people growing my food put this much thought into things like this. It means they are putting even more into my food.
From the house we headed out to the field to get in on some harvest action. I had not been in a combine since I was 5. Holy moley, have those things changed! After talking about the field and the acres and process, Brad invited me to hop on up for a ride. Did you know they have a computer that tells them exactly where to put what?! My grandpa did not have one of these. Different colors on their screen indicate where weak spots in the field are and where they should use less seeds or more seeds. They are able to mark spots that have rocks and even use their technology to decide how much of what kind of fertilizer goes where. Yeah…that is a thing! They have their manure tested to make sure it is at safe levels and then they use certain types of their manure on specific areas of land.
Along with that computer telling them where to put what, it also measures what is coming up as Brad combines. They know exactly how many bushels they are getting from each area. This allows them to be more specific when they plant again next year. They work with an agronomist to make final decisions on their fields, but without this technology, a lot of resources would be wasted.
Now that we covered how they built their farm, how they plant, grow and harvest their crops, we had one last stop. The hog barn. And I love pigs. I was one happy lady to be ending this amazing day at a hog barn. This was one fancy operation. When we entered the pig barn, we came into a small office. In the office we saw binders, pipes, rules, regulations, and a bunch of buttons (at which point I thanked God my kids weren’t with me to push). To keep the pigs healthy – and happy – they are inside year round. They are not only shielded from the cold, but also from the heat. The barn provides them with heaters, fans, and even misters in the summer. Peggy explained that the books were all records of each health check and walk through. They have a vet monitor their hogs and must keep very specific records for the state. This assures that hogs are being taken care of to the best possible degree.
A few questions I wanted to ask Peggy were about hormones, vaccinations, and antibiotics. She informed me no pig is given hormones, so that wasn’t something anyone needed to be concerned with. (Check that off our list of things to worry about.) Vaccinations are something every animal on her farm gets, and they are very similar to the type we give our children. As for antibiotics, she explained that when hogs become sick, they do treat them. But they only do this when necessary. Peggy stated “Vaccinations are something we do to keep pigs healthy. Antibiotics are different. We do not want to use antibiotics unless we need to. They are expensive and cause a lot of added paper work.” She also went on to explain that when given antibiotics, like all other animals being raised on farms, there is a period of time where the animal has to stay healthy and the antibiotics must leave the animal’s system before being brought to market.
And this ends my tour. I have to say, I learned a lot. I am not only taking away exceptional pieces of information for my own children, but so much for the families I work with as well. I feel prepared to offer suggestions and answer questions about the process of our foods and what the best choices are for the children I provide feeding therapy for. I also encourage any parent – with any questions – to go straight to the source. Farmers are the only people that know how the food is being produced. No one else. So, when in doubt, ask a farmer.
It was so amazing to see everything that has changed in the past 20 some years since I last rode in a combine and played with a baby pig. What was even more amazing was to see that the love a farmer has for their farm hasn’t changed a bit.
About Andrea Boerigter
Andrea Boerigter is a mom, wife, pediatric speech, language, and feeding therapist, owner of Bloom Indoor Play Center, and blogger. Andrea grew up in small town Iowa where she was fortunate to watch her grandfather and uncles farm as well as participate in 4-H showing pigs. She is passionate about helping families bring peace and knowledge to the dinner table through feeding therapy and education. Andrea spends every spare minute she has exploring the world with her children, Hank and Gus. Andrea currently lives in Sioux Falls but takes her children back to that small town Iowa life any opportunity she has.