A soybean field being irrigated in the middle of summer.

What were the biggest food and farming questions of 2015?

Hungry for Truth is celebrating its first birthday! It’s been one year full of food, farming and fun conversations that connected South Dakotans from farm to table. Hungry for Truth is all about answering questions, and we’re thrilled to connect with you and help answer some of your questions. Through these conversations, we’ve also had the chance to learn a lot about what’s important to you when making food choices. As parents, community members and farmers, this interaction is what drives our passion for Hungry for Truth, and we can’t wait to continue connecting in 2016.

To celebrate, we’ve rounded up a few highlights and most frequently asked questions from the past year.

1. I would like to feed my kids organic food because I’ve heard it is healthier, but it is too expensive for me to afford. How can I make sure my kids are getting the healthiest food?

“A young mother approached me with this question, and I explained that all foods in our grocery stores, no matter the growing practice, are safe. Organic really refers to the way a product is grown, not a product’s health or nutritional value. Whether food is raised organically or conventionally, they both offer the same nutritional value,” Jerry Schmitz, a farmer and Hungry for Truth volunteered shared.

2. Are the farming methods that our ancestors used better than what farmers use today?

“Our ancestors used a plow and cultivators to control weeds that rob moisture and nutrients from crops because that was their only option,” Schmitz said. “Today, science and technology offer farmers lots of different options to choose from, and it’s up to the farmer to choose the best practices based on the soil characteristics of each field they farm. One technology that’s had a huge impact on how I farm is GPS. GPS technology has done more than help give directions around town. Today, I use GPS to map fields into garden-sized plots for soil sampling and fertilization so that each small area receives the exact prescription of nutrients the plants require.”

3. Do farmers use hormones when raising livestock, and does that affect the meat I eat?

Tip for the savvy shopper: Added hormones are NOT used in hog or poultry farming, so if you see chicken, turkey or pork labeled “no added hormones,” it’s just a marketing tactic, and you don’t need to pay extra for that label. Farmers can use a naturally occurring, slow-release hormone in cattle if they choose. The use of these hormones is strictly regulated. If used, the hormone is typically put in the ear of an animal, and it is slowly released over that animal’s lifetime. For more insights into this question, we connected with Morgan Kontz who is a beef farmer from South Dakota.

“On our farm, we do choose to use added hormones in our beef cattle because it helps the animals convert their feed into lean muscle more efficiently. But the real question is, what does that mean for us when we’re buying beef at the grocery store?

A 3-ounce serving of beef from a steer that had a hormone implant contains 1.2 nanograms of estrogen while that from a steer with no implant contains 0.9 nanograms. To put that in perspective, one egg contains 252 nanograms of estrogen and an adult woman has around 513,000 nanograms of estrogen naturally occurring in her body.”

Have more questions about food and farming that you’d like to ask a farmer? We’d love to hear from you!