Salute to Agriculture 2019

A SPECIAL EDITION PUBLISHED BY THE KEARNEY HUB By LORI POTTER Hub Staff Writer KEARNEY — As he listened to farmers in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Poland talk about their lives, Broken Bow farmer Clayton Govier heard two similarities loud and clear. “It was the same con- versations we have in the United States about being a farm advocate for agriculture because their city people don’t understand where their food comes from, just like many city people here,” he said. “I thought, holy cow, the parallels, the issues, the struggles are the same.” Struggles described by German farmers included difficulty in getting the next generation interested in farming, government regulations, low commod- ity prices and farm labor shortages. “Also, they showed a level of passion for agriculture equal to that of anybody in the United States or Ne- braska,” Govier said. “The passions and the struggles were so similar.” The differences between U.S. and European agricul- ture and farming practices also were clear to Govier and his Nebraska LEAD 37 classmates, including Jose Valles of Kearney and Jason Keiser of Gothen- burg, during their Jan. 5-20 international study-travel seminar. Valles, a self-employed livestock consultant special- izing in beef health, educa- tion, training and research, said European farmers have more regulations and receive more subsidies than their U.S. counterparts. Family farms that were 400 acres in the 1800s remain 400 acres, he said, and many farmsteads have old buildings long past their usefulness that haven’t been torn down. “Animal welfare is huge,” Govier said, and subsidies in some European countries are linked to animal welfare practices. Valles said other subsi- dies are used as incentives to follow strict conservation practices, including limits on fertilizer use. COST OF LIVING High costs for everything in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany are another reason farms there are small compared to Nebraska stan- dards, Govier and Valles said. “Since I’m in the livestock business ... we’ve talked about buying a small feed- yard,” Valles said. “There, that would be almost an im- possibility. We have freedom of growth. Here, if you have the capital, you can buy what you want.” They didn’t see any irrigated cropland. “It really was like farming in Iowa, with super good soils and lots of rain,” Govier said, “especially in northern Germany.” He added that field sizes are much smaller and land can be worth twice the price of Iowa acres. Those German farms focused on small grains — wheat, barley and canola — and there also were highly efficient dairies. Govier said they visited a hog farm, but didn’t see a lot of beef cattle. “It seemed like, at least in Germany, the government regulations and subsidies were more tied to keeping farms smaller,” he said. “... Their farms are big enough to support only one farmer.” He added that it is com- mon for farmers to have a town job and farm part time. There are larger farms in Poland. Costs are lower, but so is the standard of living. “Even buying a beer in Poland versus buying a beer in Germany, it was a lot cheaper,” Valles said, noting that Poland was the only one of the four countries not using the euro as currency. Govier said standard of living differences were obvious between the more modern, western side of Poland and the less affluent east side. Valles said some Poles go to other European countries for jobs. Like the United States, EU countries have a mix of immigration concerns and difficulties hiring people to do manual labor jobs, including jobs in agricul- ture. “They want to com- plain about immigration, but it’s the only way to get your produce (harvested),” Govier said. POLITICS AND TRADE The Nebraskans stopped at the European Parliament and European Commission in Brussels, Belgium, vis- ited university agriculture programs, and toured the headquarters of internation- al companies to learn about manufacturing, trade and politics. U.S. politics followed them to Europe. Because of the federal government shutdown, visits to U.S. em- bassies in all four countries were canceled. The alternative to the embassy stop in The Hague, Netherlands, was a large greenhouse specializing in roses. Govier said he had looked forward to the embassy vis- its “because I’m interested in European Union policy and those types of things.” When asked about EU trade barriers on U.S. ag products, he said those countries “hate GMO corn.” Yet, they buy a lot of GMO soybeans from the United States, Valles added, because growing conditions aren’t favorable to soybeans. “So it’s not 100 percent,” he said. “... That’s an excuse to bring them (soybeans) in.” Govier said negative opinions about genetically modified crops mostly come from public perception, not science-based arguments. “It’s the court of public see GLOBE, page 7 Fondness, challenges of farming span the globe Clayton Govier Litchfield students benefit from local garden bounty By ERIKA PRITCHARD Hub Staff Writer LITCHFIELD — Where does school lunch food come from? At Litchfield Public School, 50 percent to 75 percent of the breakfast and lunch program’s fruits, vegetables and meats are locally produced, according to food service manager Janice Reynolds. Much of the produce is plucked from Litchfield soil at Trotter’s Garden Shoppe and Learning Center. Local ag producers donate cattle and pigs as the protein sources for beef and pork entrées served twice a week in the school lunchroom. All those from-the-garden and from-the-farm prod- ucts then are prepared by school cooks for the plates — and tummies — of Litchfield’s 120 students. Reynolds said the school purchases commodities from the government for the balance of meal ingre- dients. All of the food gets special attention from Reynolds and her cooks, who bake all the breads and make des- serts and salads from scratch. “We try to serve meals that we serve at home,” she said. That’s possible thanks to community support. HOME GROWN Todd Wardyn, a rancher and owner of Full Circle Irrigation in Litchfield, has purchased pork from Mike Gappa of Ashton and donated it to the school for the past two years. As a Valley dealer, Wardyn is encouraged to give back to his community. He also wanted to give back to the school where his son, Nathan, is a ninth-grader. “We like to see the school get as fresh of a product as they can, and have the kids have some kind of idea where this pork comes from,” Wardyn said. The Feldman family of southern Sherman County started the Beef in Schools program at Litchfield three years ago. Gary and his eldest son, Mitch, donated a beef animal the first year. Reynolds and her husband, Steve, filled in with an- other beef donation the following year. This year, the youngest Feldman son, Dan, donated a beef animal, minus the steaks. Dan, who sells packaged beef through Setting D Ranch, said the program is a great way to give back to the community and to influence potential customers. “If we can get those kids to eat beef when they’re young, when they go to college ... and go on further in life, they’ll eat beef,” he said. The beef and pork must be processed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected facility. The Feldmans and Wardyn work with a St. Paul processor. Other Litchfield families have donated money to cover processing costs. If needed, the school will pay any remaining processing costs, Reynolds said. The meat was cut into roasts and ground into patties see LITCHFIELD, page 11 ■ New health care options • Page 3 ■ Deciphering food labels • Page 4 ■ Learning to farm • Page 5 Erika Pritchard, Kearney Hub LITCHFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS pre-school student Morgan Sawyer points to fruit and vegetables on the school’s salad bar that she wants to eat for lunch. Many of the school’s vegetables are grown at Trotter’s Garden Shoppe and Learning Center. Jason Keiser, courtesy THE CANALS IN AMSTERDAM were part of a city tour at the start of the Nebraska LEAD 37 international study-travel seminar in January to the Netherlands, Belgium, Ger- many and Poland. Jose Valles, courtesy LEAD 37 CLASS MEMBER Jose Valles of Kearney stands by a mural on a part of the Berlin Wall. LITCHFIELD PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ menu includes locally grown potatoes and local beef and pork. Erika Pritchard, Kearney Hub