Sustainability Through Communication promoting sustainable AGRICULTURE through communication

Tomato harvest is considered a destructive harvest, where the plants are ripped from the field for the fruit, while the stems and unripe tomatoes are left to be re-tilled into the soil. This is one sustainable practice used by various farmers across America.

Produce depends on environmental factors. Farmers today communicate what that means for their business, and for the food on the world's tables.

Farmers face challenges year-to-year: from radical changes in temperature patterns, causing issues with vegetable growth, to new cosmetic market standards for the crops they grow.

Farmers are forced to continually adapt.

Farmers are also trying to do a better job communicating their care for the environment.

John Purcell, the Global R&D Lead at Bayer, said, "We did a really crappy job; for years, we talked to everybody in the chain."

"Two percent of the American population today are farmers," Purcell said. "And now everybody's talking about food, but we were (only) talking to the chain; we should have been talking to the 98%."

Terry Berke, Ph.D., a pepper breeder for Seminis, holds up a bunch of Cherry Bomb Peppers grown at the Bayer Vegetable Farm in Woodland, California. Berke helped to breed the Chichen Itza habanero pepper grown mostly on the Yucat√°n Peninsula in Mexico.

The Chichen Itza is resistant to most widespread infectious diseases, along with having a faster growing season. Harvest averages two weeks earlier than other breeds. Chichen Itza is now one of the most sold habanero breeds in Mexico.

Growing peppers like the Chichen Itza helps to reduce food loss due to their hardiness. With less food lost, more is yielded. Less waste is produced and more people are fed.

Sustainable practices do not occur with only the growing and harvesting of vegetables, but also with the feeding of crops. University of California, Davis Ph.D. students Tyler John Barzee and Abdolhossein Edalati show their work with the on-campus biodigester.

Tyler John Barzee (left) and Abdolhossein Edalati (right), Ph.D. students at UC Davis, show the different fertilizers they have developed from research through the university's on-campus biodigester. The dark liquid Barzee (left) holds can be thinned enough to distribute through drip-tape in the soil under the roots of various crops. The pellets Edalati holds on the right are organic and in practice gained an equal-to-higher yield of synthetic fertilizers. The pellets only need to be placed once in the soil before the crop is planted, while other fertilizers have to be continually re-introduced.

The use of fertilizers created with organic materials helps to lessen the adverse effects that synthetic fertilizer runoff has on the surrounding aquatic systems.

Some sunflower plants grow "duds" or casings without actual seeds inside the plants. One of the workers for Schreiner Farms shows how he checks for full casings while the harvester begins to sweep the field.

Another way farmers look into sustainable practices is how the consumers receive and purchase food.

Raoul Adamchak, the UC Davis Student Farm Coordinator, spoke about a food pantry started three years ago by a student. This student found that close to 45% of all UC Davis students had a median income of $50,000 per year, and that most were not eating their daily vegetables.

Raoul Adamchak, UC Davis Student Farm Coordinator, explains how his students choose different crops to grow during each growing season. Adamchak co-authored the book, "Tomorrow's Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food," with his wife, Pamela Ronald, professor at UC Davis' genome center and the department of plant pathology. Adamchak practices organic farming at the student farm and says organic farming practices can lead to more sustainable farming and healthier fields and people.

In the process of providing food for those in need, the farm reduced their food waste by using the vegetables that were not cosmetically perfect for the regular market. Adamchak said, "This (student) began diverting produce from the market garden, either things that were extra or slightly cosmetically imperfect and taking them over to the food pantry."

The idea began small, only providing a small amount. Over the past two years, the student farm acquired new funding to help run this food pantry and now diverts close to 10,000 pounds of produce every year.

"This has provided food for students, but in a way, it has also helped us reduce our crop losses," Adamchak said.

Writing and Photography by Olivia Bergmeier, a Kansas State University Journalism student.


(Photography by Olivia Bergmeier)

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