Back on the farm with Tina

Are you ready to hit the farm for a few more hectic days? If you read the previous post you have already met wife and mother of five – Tina. She balances and juggles the needs of her business life on the farm as well as spending time with each of her kids, her church family and friends. 

If you were to ask Tina why she loves living the farm life, a person can’t help but hear the sincerity in her voice as she explains it.

“Our family works hard together. We work through whatever hurdles pop up – whether it’s weather or broken machinery – so others can have access to the food they need. We want our fellow Oklahomans to have quality, affordable and healthy food at every meal. It’s our passion. Our family is proud to be a part of feeding everyone – from our neighbors to those living half-way across the world.” 

Curious how Tina’s weekend went? Keep reading to see her diary entries for Saturday, Sunday and Monday.  

Tina and goat

Tina holds her goat in a kind embrace to show him off to the camera. 

If you were to have been in our house on Saturday morning before 9 a.m. you would not have seen me. It wasn’t until then I was able to get my exhausted self out of bed. I cooked a simple breakfast of bacon and eggs on English muffins before I rallied the kids. We scarfed down food.

After a quick meal EVERYONE managed to get dressed to work outside with the goats. It wasn’t long before our human herd invaded the 200 plus goats in the field.

field of goats

The goats are strolling through the pasture where they will receive care from Tina’s family. Those who are to go to market today will then be loaded onto a trailer after which they will sell at market, helping to feed the world. 

Our family works together in the field all of the morning and part of the afternoon to care for the health of the goats. We vaccinate against diseases, use de-wormer to protect against parasites and we sorted the animals into groups.

The heat truly took a toll while we worked through lunch. However we made sure everyone took lots of water and Gatorade breaks. Even when the weather is extreme we make sure to prepare and take care of one another.

Once we have goats sorted we load 22 of them for auction into a livestock trailer. The goats we take are billy kid goats – which are young male goats that are not castrated. My husband and I then load our twin eight-year-old boys into the truck and head for the auction.

We’re on the road for about an hour before we arrive at the auction. We wait in line to unload for about 30 minutes and at 3:30 p.m. we are able to check in and unload the goats into pens.

Ben with goat

Tina’s husband Ben inspects one of the goats up close. Doesn’t he seem to be pleased with what he sees? 

If you think our Saturday was finished, think again. At 3:45 p.m. the drive to our north farm begins. The plan is to finish raking and baling tonight. When we arrive at 4:15 p.m. one of the twins goes with my husband while the other rides with me and while I rake, my husband bales.

Guess what happens at 6:30 p.m. No, we don’t finish working in the hay field. A chain breaks on the baler my husband is driving. I call John Deere (thank goodness for cell phones, am I right?) and drive into town with the twins to meet the John Deere dealer – after hours I might add – to pick up a new chain.

At 7:45 p.m. I once again grace the farm with my presence and after installing the new chain my husband once again is baling hay. I continue to rake. Once the raking is finished I start removing the bales from the field.

The bales must all be removed in order for us to use the central pivot irrigation system to deliver fertilizer to the hay field. The fertilizer is the manure from the pig farm and helps us to recycle the waste back into a better hay crop to feed other animals.

What happens then? My tire blows and I am no longer able to help my husband. I am now simply waiting for my husband to finish.  By this time it is VERY late and VERY dark, but finally we finish. We start the pivot system and it seems to be in working order. By 1 a.m. we are back home and getting showers done before collapsing into our beds.

The next thing I know, it’s Sunday and I’m up at 8 a.m. I shower and get ready for church, wake up the kids so they can get ready, and make some eggs for a quick breakfast. By 10 a.m. we’re out the door and on our way.

After an uplifting service finishes, we head to my parents house for Sunday lunch. By this point it is past noon. Lunch is served and enjoyed by all – my three youngest kids decide to stay with their grandparents while I take my two teenage daughters shopping for back-to-school clothes. (I know it is early – but I do so hate all the crowds).

While shopping we decide we might as well take out two birds with one stone, so we grocery shop too. I am back to my parents house by 6:30 p.m. to pick up my three youngest children and once we’re home I make dinner. Everyone gets to take leisurely showers since we are home so early.

The kids get in bed and I spend some time checking emails, then I stalk around social media and finally I watch my show on Netflix before I drift off to sleep.

Guess what though – the first cut of the hay season is finished and it’s a good day.

I greet the sun at 7 a.m. I proceed to get ready, eat breakfast and go to my desk to return emails, pay bills, make and return phone calls and sort all of the mail. This is the boring paper work part, but someone has to do it.

By 8 a.m. I get a call that the farm needs more semen to be able to artificially inboy on hay baleseminate the sows. I call the boar stud  and set up time to meet a delivery driver. (Securing the materials to breed the pigs is the job of the company with which my family contracts).

At 8:30 a.m. I am driving to Seminole, Okla. to meet the delivery driver with the semen. Once the delivery is finished I drive straight to the farm and get the semen into a cooler. I check the paperwork to make sure every single detail is in order before I leave.

Lunch is next on my agenda so at 10:30 a.m. I am making lunch and the family eats together around 11:30 a.m. By noon I am back to the desk and working on all of the paperwork. I plan for this to be my job the rest of the afternoon.

However at 3:30 p.m. my husband calls. He has a busted hydraulic hose and needs a new one as soon as I can possibly get one to him. Luckily by 4 p.m. I am at Napa Auto Parts store having a new hose made (and then I stop by the bank while I am in town). By 5 p.m. my husband has the new hose and less than 30 minutes later I am getting to water the flowers on my porch.

From 6-7 p.m. I make dinner. The family gathers to eat together and then everyone gets their showers finished. Once that is done, we sit down together and watch a movie. Want to guess which one? It is then time for bed.

Can you imagine spending a few days in Tina’s shoes? Does it sound fun to you? Would you be scared to have so many irons in the fire? Let me know what you think. Also, what questions do you have for Tina – or any other Oklahoma pig farmer? Let’s get connected! 


It’s 9 a.m. it must be time for…

There is no such thing as the same old routine when you make your living raising pigs. While there are days when you ship pigs, days when you wean pigs and days when you get feed – no two days are ever the same. There is always something new around the corner and interesting hurdles to overcome.

For that reason, we asked one member of okPORK to document what happened on a single day on the farm – moment by moment. Those moments are shared here to help you to understand how a day moves behind the biosecure doors of an Oklahoma farm.

What I got in return was an accounting of several days – both on and off the farm. How do your days compare to the those of a farmer?

Meet Tina who farms in southeastern Oklahoma. She and her husband Ben rock through life with five kids – a daughter who is 18, one who is 13, another who is 10, and twin eight-year-old boys. With two pig farms, goats, hay, dance practice, soccer games, church and everything else life throws at them this family intimately understands the phrase “burning the candle at both ends.”

Sound familiar? Tina kept a diary of a few days during hay season. Scroll to experience a Day in the Life of Tina.

At 8 a.m. we are out the door. I snagged the wheel of the tractor and one of my sons joined me. Since we have a buddy seat in the newest tractor we often take one of the kids with us while we work. It’s great to be able to spend one-on-one time while at the same time practicing the family’s work ethic. We head to the hay field and begin raking.


11:30 a.m. rolls around and we head to the house for lunch and a quick pit stop in the bathroom. I cook lunch for the family and manage to get the kitchen cleaned afterward.

Feeling refreshed after finishing lunch by 12:30, this time I head back to the field with my daughter who is 10. We all make sure we take turns in the buddy seat, so everyone gets a chance to feel the love. Once we start baling hay we don’t stop until the sun retires for the day.

When 5:30 p.m. rolls around, we switch fields. We also stop by the house and I managed to make a meatloaf for dinner. I got to put it in the oven but my 18-year-old daughter took over then. She was in charge of taking it out of the oven when the timer chimed in an hour.

About the time I should have been having dinner (7:30 p.m.) a bale managed to get stuck in the baler. I was able to go back to baling, but only after the fun of digging out the problem bale.

9:45 p.m. saw me sliding into my HOME sweet home. It was at this point I finally was able to sit down at the desk in my home office to do some quick work on the computer.

A few minutes after 10 p.m. I knocked off the dirt with a shower before finally getting to finish dinner at 10:50 p.m. by making mashed potatoes to accompany the meatloaf we made earlier. Finally, the parts of the family who are home sit down to eat.

It wasn’t until 11:05 p.m. that I was able to head into town to drop a deposit for my 13-year-old daughter’s solo dance class (which was due the next day). I knew I would be unable to take it later since the hay fields would be waiting again tomorrow.

It was 11:40 p.m. before my husband and my last two kids (the other 8-year-old and the 13-year-old) got home. This is when they finally finished hauling hay and were able to eat.

At 11:45 p.m. I return from town, we start showers. We finally all fall into bed by about midnight.

It is now Friday at 7 a.m. I am up, making breakfast, getting all five kids organized for the day, I then run through the shower and get dressed. I head to my desk for over-due phone calls, emails and mail.  As soon as I finish, I’m outside to load the tractor and baler onto the goose-neck trailer and hook the rake onto the other truck.

edited 2

My husband and I head to our other farm 52 miles away – he pulls the goose-neck and I tow the hay rake with the other truck. Since we are expecting an extremely long day, we don’t bring any of the kids with us. When we arrive we immediately get set up and I rake hay until dark while my husband bales behind me.

It takes us an hour to get back to town and at 10 p.m. we do a drive thru for dinner. While we are in town we pick up our daughter from her grandparents house. Mercifully we then get to go home, shower and crawl into bed.

Are you having fun learning about Tina’s life on the farm? Tune in for the next post where Tina and her family take care of the goats and work around the pig farm. 


So fresh and so clean, clean…

What’s the first thing you do when you get to work in the morning? Do you snag a cup of coffee? Talk about last night’s television programs with your coworkers? Quietly check your email and hope no one talks to you before 10 a.m.? Not if you are a pig farmer.

If you are working on a modern pig farm the first thing you do is take a shower. You heard that right – you take a shower AFTER you get to work. Curious about why?

Shower clean side

This is the “clean side” of a shower room at a farm in northwestern Oklahoma. The uniforms stay on the clean side while farmers’ “street clothes” stay on the “dirty side.”

The showers are simply one of several steps of a biosecurity plan. Biosecurity is the term used to describe all of the processes in place to keep the pigs inside the barn as safe and healthy as possible – away from the germs and diseases outside the barn.

When coming to the barn you step into the dirty side – and if you are simply making a delivery you drop it through a window where it will be cleaned and disinfected. If you are coming to visit the animals or work – such as a farmer or a veterinarian – you will then step into a shower room.

Everything you have on when you enter the “dirty side” of the shower room comes off and goes onto a shelf or into a cubbie hole. You then jump into a shower and get scrubby with the bubbles all over – hair, glasses, jewelry included.

When you finish getting clean you step out of the shower into the “clean side” of the shower room where there are uniforms – usually scrubs or coveralls – waiting as well as all the undies and socks you might need.

This ensures that no matter what you may have touched – you are as clean and germ-free as one can be when you enter the barn and are around the pigs.

On the reverse – as the farmer leaves the barn they also take another shower. This is another step in the biosecurity plan to keep any germs which could be inside the barn from spreading to any other barns. Are you willing to take two showers a day for your job?

There is more to biosecurity than showers though. Before you even get to the barn you will almost always see a sign hanging on a fence letting you know that no unauthorized vehicles are allowed past this certain point. This isn’t because the farmers inside are hiding something – but so that no disease or germs are brought near the barn where farmers will be walking.

Moving pigs onto truck

Above you see farmers loading weaned pigs, those who are old enough and strong enough to be on their own, onto a truck to be taken to another farm where they will grow to market size.

When vehicles must come to the farm – such as feed deliveries and trucks which deliver pigs – those trucks are cleaned between loads and the drivers stay outside the barn while the farmers stay inside.

Of course the trucks are often scrubbed down with disinfecting soap and water but sometimes they are driven into a garage-like building called a truck baker. The doors close after the trailer is dropped in the building and sealed. The temperature is increased in the “baker” until it is high enough to kill bacteria.

As pigs move in and out of barns everything is soaped up and cleaned between groups of pigs. Just because bacteria may be carried without a problem by one group of pigs – it doesn’t mean the next group will be affected (or not be affected) by the bacteria in the same way.

Rising stalls

The above photo shows a farmer pre-rinsing the farrowing stalls – or stalls where sows give birth and spend the first days with their piglets to keep both sow and piglets safe. Every stall is cleaned between uses to keep all germs from spreading among different groups of pigs.

After sows and the piglets separate into their appropriate groups – all of the pens are power washed. The next group of pigs to come to the farrowing stalls will have the cleanest pens possible.

soapy stalls

The above photo shows some soaped up mats and pens being cleaned.

All of the above steps are taken to keep all of the animals in the best possible health. When the animals are healthy they will get sick less often and the less antibiotics are needed. These are all important factors to Oklahoma’s farmers.

What else do you want to know about biosecurity practices? What other questions do you have? Let’s talk pig farms folks! 

A place to call your own

Individual stalls

This photo is of sows in individual stalls in a farm in western Oklahoma. It is one way farmers choose to keep their pigs healthy and safe.

Farmers in Oklahoma are dedicated to a set of ethical principles and among those principles you will find a dedication to animal care. Modern research into farm design, animal handling practices and veterinary medicine have helped to increase the health and comfort of pigs in in barns.

Animal welfare is of the highest importance to the farmers in Oklahoma who believe it is the best state in the country in which to raise baby pigs.

A number of farmers in Oklahoma see individual gestation stall housing as one way to keep pigs safe and healthy. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians and the American Veterinary Medical Association both agree that all types of sow housing have advantages and disadvantages and what is most important is the level of individual care given to the pigs.

The level of individual care each pig is able to receive is at its highest level with this type of housing. With only one pig in each stall the pigs aren’t able to fight or steal food from each other.

Farmers in an individual stall housing style barn can walk thorough and see each pig, how they are looking, what they have eaten and what kind of mood they are in immediately. The farmer knows from day to day which animals are acting like their normal selves.

checking feeders

In this photo one farmer is checking gestating sows and the feeders to make sure everything is in proper working order.

The Oklahoma Pork Council believes that decisions about how to raise pigs and how to house those pigs are best made by the people who are on the farm taking care of the animals each day, backed by science and overseen by a veterinarian. okPORK also supports all types of pig farming – as long as the ethical principles the pork industry stands behind is adhered to.

What questions do you have? What other parts of the farm are you curious about? What would you like to talk about next? Oklahoma pig farmers are ready to share their story with you and looking forward to you peeking behind the barn doors! 

Scratching in individual penA farmer stops to scratch behind the ears of one of the gestating sows. Individual attention is easy to give when the sow is in a stall and is also safe for the farmer as well.

You’ve heard of pigs in a blanket, what about pigs in a pile?

penned sows

The above photo shows sows in a group housing situation. 

Legislators talk about it. Farmers talk about it. Activists talk about it. Moms in the city talk about it. Moms in the country talk about it. Dads everywhere talk about it. There is so much to wade through – how do you know what to hear?

There I go, talking about it and not even naming it. You see, I am talking about sow housing systems.

In Oklahoma a significant number of sows live their days in group housing. Another option is individual housing. Both of these housing options are healthy, safe and humane options where sows can live. The next post will cover individual housing options and why farmers sometimes choose to raise sows in stalls.

The number of pigs living in group housing in Oklahoma change with time due to renovations of older facilities and improvements in feeding systems. Group housing is also known in the industry as group gestation or pen gestation, which refers to the time when the sows, or mother pigs, are pregnant. During this time the sows will be living in large pens with other pregnant sows.

These groups of sows usually get to know each other. After having babies, being bred and becoming pregnant again the same group will come back together to spend their gestation period.

Pen gestation is very different from farm to farm and one main difference among them are the feeding arrangements. In Oklahoma there are electronic sow feeders and free access stalls. Both allow for the pig to eat in privacy away from the other pigs. This helps even the least aggressive pig to get plenty to eat.

If a farm has an electronic sow feeder, each sow must each have an electronic chip in their ear. When the sow walks up to the feeder the chip is read, and if the sow hasn’t eaten yet the gate will open. The correct amount of food is dropped into a pan inside the feeder once the sow has entered. When the food is all gone the pig exits through a gate on the other end of the feeder from where it entered.

The information is recorded about which sows have eaten, how much they ate and when they ate into a computer database. Each day a farmer checks the database to make sure each pig has eaten. If one of the sows doesn’t eat all the day’s food, the farmer goes out to the pen to see why. If the problem is simply a sleeping pig, the pig is woken up and the farmer will steer the pig to the feeder. If one of the sows is sick or hurt, the farmer will then remove the sow from the pen into the “hospital” where individual pens will help with individual treatment.

mansion checking pigs to feed

in the above photo, a farmer is checking the electronic tag in the pig’s ear against his list of pigs who haven’t eaten. This helps to ensure each sow gets plenty to eat each day. 

You will often find a pigs sleeping in a pile when they live in group housing. Farmers jokingly call the pile of animals a pig pile.

pig pile

Sows in a pig pile. You can also see a water nipple in the foreground where the sows have access to as much water as needed any time of day or night.

Free access stalls are another system to care for sows in groups. In this style there is a large group area lined by individual pens. Any time the sow wishes to be alone and not share space with the other females, they are able to open the individual pens themselves. The sow can simply push open the back panel of the stall and enter and as she does so the stall will close behind. The moment the sow wishes to leave the stall the sow simply backs up and the back panel will open.

When it is feeding time, each pen in a group is delivered the same amount of food and the sows will pick an individual pen to let themselves into to eat.

Checking_the_pens_MBStoryThe above photo is of a farmer checking the functionality of a free access stall. He is standing in the group pen and sows would are able to open and close the pens any time they choose.

With both styles of pen housing you can see the positives. There is a social aspect to the housing and room to move around at will. Each sow is still fed individually and has access to plenty of food and water to help keep both her and her growing babies healthy.

There are a few negatives as well to the group sow housing. Pregnant pigs are often mean to each other. They can be very territorial and violent. It is something which must be closely monitored. In addition, each animal must be trained to use the feeding system in place before they can be expected to become part of a group.

It is the farmer who is in the barn every day. It is the farmer who knows which pigs get along and which are bossy. It is the farmer who knows which sows are picky eaters and which ones are the first in line to the feeders. This is why we believe farmers should have the right to choose how they raise their animals.

What questions do you have about group sow housing? Of which parts would you like to see more photos? What other topics would you like to read about.

Dottie with a baby pig in arms2

Let me know! This is meant to be a discussion – but I need to hear your voice!

Why shouldn’t you tell a pig a secret?

RR Farm shot beauty

Pigs squeal! (That’s why you should never tell them a secret).

Now that you’re paying attention – we are so glad you are here.

We want you to get to see what happens in our barns every day. We want you to see our animals, how we care for them, how important they are to our families and friends. We hope you see our passion and dedication. We welcome your honest questions and your respectful disagreement.

Okies know this is a top notch place to put roots down, but do you know it’s a pretty special place to raise pigs too? Oklahoma takes special care of each baby from the time they are born until they are old enough to be away from their mother (also known as weaned from sows). Many farms in Oklahoma specialize in raising pigs to this age and then they send them to another farm where people specialize in caring for them as they get older.

Pigs need more grains to eat as they get bigger, right? So as they grow, the pigs move closer to where the grain is grown and can get every bite they need to grow. So the pigs load up in a truck and move to barns closer to food. As each animal grows, it is given the kind of care necessary to keep it healthy and safe.

Pig farming comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. The barns most often don’t look like the classic red barn you see in photos anymore. The modern version of pig barns come equipped with climate control, state of the art waste management systems and are able to provide food and water to each animal as needed.

Modern pig farming looks different but what doesn’t look different than it did 50 years ago? Every advance in farming has been to help keep people and animals safe and healthy. Farmers are always looking for ways to improve and do a better job of raising their animals and taking care of the land.

What questions do you have? What do you want to know about pig farming? Ask away! That’s why we’re here! We’re also on Facebook and Pinterest as the Oklahoma Pork Council, on Twitter as @Okpork, and on Instagram as okpork.

Who are we? The pig farmers of Oklahoma. We are opening the barn doors and bringing the farm to you.

Archived: Why you should care about Orcas

Yep, that’s right I’m writing about killer whales in in Sounds from the Sty. Give me a sec – you’ll see the point.

The People for Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed suit against SeaWorld on behalf of five Orcas. They are claiming that the Orcas are enslaved and it is a violation of their Thirteenth Amendment rights. In 1865, the amendment was a monumental move for human rights – outlawing slavery and indentured servitude. Now PETA is going to use the court system to say the same right should be applied to non-humans.

Last week I happened to catch a radio discussion between Laura Ingraham and the Jeffery Kerr, general counsel for PETA, on this very issue. Ingraham tried diligently to press him to admit that they would continue up the ladder and seek to “abolish slavery” of all zoo animals. Of course, Kerr denied it working very hard to say that “this is just about the Orcas.”  No one wants to hear that PETA may deny you of your right to take your child to the zoo. They are just not going to admit that.

Ingraham did not press Kerr on if the ruling could have implications for farm animals – I wish she would have. But, James McWilliams addresses the issue in his article How PETA’s Lawsuit Against Sea World Could End Factory Farming published in The Atlantic. McWilliams certainly had nothing nice to say about “industrial ag” or “factory farming” but he gives a pretty good synopsis of what is happening with the suit and what it could mean. I hope you will look at his article.

It will be interesting to see the court’s decision on this case. I have not seen anyone make predictions yet. But, if you have young children, you might schedule your trip to see Shamu soon and pay attention to the Orcas. What happens to them might someday affect your ability to raise pigs.

Archived: Pork’s power to inspire

Lela Davis takes 1st Place at the Pork Recipe Contest

We are all busy these days and cooking a meal for family and friends seems to not be the priority it was a few years ago. I had the opportunity to attend the Tulsa State Fair Pork Recipe contest last week. It was amazing to see the scrumptious creations the entrants had created. The dishes tasted so yummy. It was fun to see the look of anticipation on the ladies faces as the judges tasted each dish and examined the presentation. The winners were so elated when their name was called and I was inspired by their eagerness to share their dishes with everyone there.

I’m sharing the winning recipe below.

First because it was SOOO good.

Second, to inspire you to get in the kitchen. Even if you don’t have lots of time, you can find easy recipes. In fact there’s’ hundreds on
Third to encourage you to incorporate pork into your meal plans. Not just because I work here at OPC, but from my personal experience of feeding my family. Pork is a versatile, healthy option that fits the needs of this busy working Mom with a husband and two boys. I know it will meet your needs too.
Pork Chop Tomato Pie
Created by Lela Davis of Owasso, Okla
1 c. onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. shortening
4 pork chops, finely chopped2 tbsp. flour
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
4 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
1 cup mozzarella cheese1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 ready- made pie crust
Pork Chop Tomato Pie - YUM!

In a large skillet, sauté onions and pork chops in shortening and 2 tbsp. flour. Cook until tender then simmer until thick. Cook pie crust until ½ done. In medium bowl, stir mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper, cheese and cooked bacon. Add onions, pork chops, and tomatoes and mix well. Put mixture in pie crusts. Cook at 325 for 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown. Makes 2 pies.

Archived: New Recipe – Grilled Bratwurst with Onions Braised in Beer and Mustard

In one week we’ve gone from 100+ degree weather to what I like to refer to as “hoodie” weather. Read as: sweatshirts with hoods.

And, with hoodie weather comes football, and with football we get tailgating food!

Here is a recipe we used during the Backyard Barbecue with Tulsa’s News on 6 – and I’m quite certain you’ll enjoy it!

Grilled Bratwurst with Onions Braised in Beer and Mustard
Recipe from

Prep Time: 20 minutes prep, Cook Time: 20 minutes cook

4 4-oz fresh bratwurst (or cooked or smoked varieties)
2 tablespoons bacon fat, lard or olive oil
3 cups onion, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon sugar
12 ounces dark or amber beer
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons coarse-ground country-style mustard
4 crusty hoagie or Italian rolls, split

Cooking Directions:

Heat fat in 12-inch, deep skillet over medium heat. Add onions and sugar, stir well to coat with fat. Sauté onions, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until starting to turn golden brown. Add beer, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan. Add bay leaves, lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir mustard into onions, remove from heat and set aside, discarding bay leaves.

Grill bratwurst over medium-hot fire, turning to brown evenly, until nicely browned and internal temperature reaches 160 degrees F. on an instant-read meat thermometer. Remove from grill and add to skillet with onions. Over medium heat, cook and stir until sauce becomes syrupy. Serve bratwurst in rolls, generously smothered with mustardy onions.

Serves 4.

Serving Suggestions:
Adapted from Bruce Aidells’ Complete Sausage Book by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly, Ten Speed Press, 2000. Brats and beer are a great combination. Serve with German Potato Salad and in seasoned fruit for your next get together.

Calories: 620 calories
Protein: 22 grams
Fat: 40 grams
Sodium: 1023 milligrams
Cholesterol: 75 milligrams
Saturated Fat: 15 grams
Carbohydrates: 36 grams
Fiber: 3 grams

Random Tip:
Remember! A little pink is ok.

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Archived: Best invention of all time

What is the best invention of all time? Is it your smart phone? The automobile? The computer? Some advancement in medicine? Ask this question and you’ll likely get a different answer from everyone you ask.

Agriculture – that’s the answer Dr. Jonathon Foley, the director of the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, provided at a recent pork industry conference.

Setting the stage

During the presentation, Foley explained how the food system serves the world population and how it impacts the environment.

  • Today’s food system is failing 2 of 7 people on the planet because:
    • 1 billion people are hungry, and
    • 1 billion people are overweight.
  • To feed the world in 2050 we will need to produce twice as much food as we do today. By 2070 we’ll need three times the food we produce today.
  • 40 percent of the all land on earth is devoted to food production.
  • Agriculture is the largest source of water pollution on the planet.
  • 30-35 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions are from agriculture – for comparison, electric generation is 15 percent and manufacturing is 20 percent.
  • 1 percent of all global energy is used to move food.
  • In just the last 20 years:
    • 28 percent more crop production on 2-3 percent more farmland.
    • 7 percent more harvested land with 19 percent higher yields per acre.

While these are significant improvements, they aren’t enough to keep pace with demand while lowering the environmental cost of food production.

The road map

Foley offered four steps to address the need for food and to protect the environment at the same time.

Slow the expansion of agriculture – any expansion of existing production areas (i.e. land use) will come at a huge environmental cost. Foley estimates halting expansion of agriculture lands would decrease greenhouse gas emissions at 12-15 percent.

Close yield gaps – Raise all yields, but especially those that are lowest. There is always an opportunity to increase yields in Iowa, but the real gains can be made by increasing yields in other parts of the world – eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union bloc countries have huge opportunities to increase yields. These opportunities exist in many parts of the world. Closing yield gaps could add 55-60 percent to food production.

Improve efficiency in resource use – Today there are huge variations in the amount of crop produced per drop of water used. Narrowing these variations could greatly increase food production.

Close diet gaps – How much of our crop production goes to human consumption? About 60 percent. Another 35 percent goes to livestock production and 5 percent goes into fuel production. Changes to crop usage could increase food calorie production by 50 percent. Reducing food waste would increase availability by 30 percent. Consider this – feeding grain to hogs is a far more efficient converter of crops to food than feeding it to cattle.

How I see it

So, why have I spent a page sharing this information? I feel strongly that this is something we need to think about. Historically, we’ve thought of people who are concerned about how we care for the environment as the bad guys. It should be clear to all of us now that every decision we make ultimately has an impact on the environment and our consumers are placing more emphasis on minimizing that impact. Simply, saying “we need to feed the world, leave us alone and let us do it,” is not sufficient.

Foley concludes that none of these options would work alone, but when you take the benefits of all four steps together, we could double food production and cut environmental damage in half. There is little margin for error, but agriculture has been the greatest invention in the history of man and continuing that kind of innovation will allow us to feed an ever-growing world and protect our environment.