Dinner Starts on the Farm

by John Parker

One of the farm supply companies has a slogan “If you eat a meal, you are involved in agriculture.”  Stop and think about that.  No matter what you eat, most of what is on your dinner table originated on a farm some where in this area or, with few exceptions, else where in the United States.

In the next couple of weeks many of you will be making extra trips to the grocery store getting ready for the Christmas Holiday.  When you get to that store, you will expect to find what you want, when you want it, where it is in the store–and at a reasonable price.  Unless it is a specialty item or something in big demand, you expect to find a plentiful supply of the items on your grocery list.

Thinking about what is on your dinner table, the connection to a local farm and the abundance you find in the grocery store can be complicated.  Yes, you can tie that beef roast to a beef animal raised on a local farm or the glass of milk to one of our good dairy farmers.  But what happens between the farm and your table?Farm products can be considered the beginning of a complicated food system.  First, you want to know that out there on the farm these products are produced safely and healthfully.  With the inspection and quality requirements we have, you can be assured that is the case.

Milk, for example, is the most inspected and regulated food that comes off the farm.  Even a hint of antibiotics in milk cause it to be rejected and disposed of before processing.  Quality and cooling regulations require milk to be of the highest standards.Grain going to the elevator has to meet certain quality and moisture standards before unloading.  Signs of molds or high moisture cause some grain to be rejected or the value is dropped because it has to be dried before it can be stored.So now we have trucks and drivers to get farm products to a processing plant.  Depending on the food to be made from the farm  product, processing can be complicated or simple.  But there has to be inspections and quality control all along the way.

That box of corn flakes, for example, can have a lot of processing as well as packaging to get the corn in edible form for your breakfast.  Butter for your toast was churned from cream that was separated from milk, two separate processes.  Then it has to be sliced, put into packages and kept cool from the plant until it gets to your table. All along the way with what ever food you are shopping for, many people are involved.  In your grocery store, there are people that unload cartons of food, unpack those cartons and put the things you want on the shelves.  When you check out, cashiers are ready to help you and in some stores there is even carry-out service when you have a big order.

Let’s go back to that dinner you may be getting ready to put on the table.  You do that believing that all those that helped you with that meal can be trusted.  From the caring farmer who starts the process all the way to your table, with rare exceptions, you trust your food supply.Our country is one of the best in the world in providing a plentiful, safe food supply at reasonable prices.   We can also say that, with the number and kind of farms we have in Ohio and the food processing facilities that are in business, when you buy at the local food store, much of what you buy is grown locally and sold locally.

Enjoy your locally grown Christmas dinner.

Parker is retired from Ohio State University and an independent agricultural writer.