A few short months ago our family suffered the consequences of an F3 tornado that hit our home. Everyone is safe but the fact of the matter of the resulting damage is that we now have to rebuild our home.
Building, especially rebuilding, was never in the plan. But building is now knocking at our door and with that comes a variety of decisions that we hoped we would avoid in our lifetime of living in our home of 14 years.
We recently met with our contractor on the big decisions of our home. You know, the windows, the doors on the inside and outside, cabinets, counter tops, light fixtures (I know the list is long)...The bonus is that we get a budget! After looking through the contractor's budget we realized our decisions need to be based largely on our needs (and a little bit on our immediate "wants" - the lesser priority "wants" can be addressed later). Decisions come down to do we want a Chevy or do we want a Cadillac? In most cases a Chevy will suit us just fine, but a few decisions will upgrade to the Cadillac - investing in windows will pay us back in heating bills, good entry doors will also do the same and likely provide better safety for our family.
So when it comes to farming and our seed choices, do we choose the Chevy or do we choose the Cadillac?
Well, the answer is, "it depends".
When it comes to our seed decisions, a lot depends on:
- our environmental stresses
- weather patterns
- naturally occurring soil impediments
- noxious weeds and other pests that are just part of our environment but can wreck havoc on crop production
We sit down at the table each year (usually late Fall, early winter) to discuss what seed hybrids worked well for us during the growing season. Was the seed able to adapt to the weather conditions throughout the growing season? Did we have significant weed control issues that weren't controlled by the weed management practices we have in place? Did we have pest problems that we weren't prepared for before planting happened in the spring? Did we recognize the warning signs from previous years (regarding pest control) and take every step possible to make good seed management decisions that reduced the amount of synthetic materials that were needed?
For us, all of these questions help us choose between a Genetically Modified (GMO) seed hybrid or a standard, conventional/traditional seed. All the seed that we use in agriculture today is typically hybridized (cross pollinating with other hybrids/varieties has made our seed stronger and more robust). Genetically Modified seed has given us the seed strength to make better decisions that help us use less pesticides (as a whole) in our farming applications and has afforded us the opportunity to do better for our environment.
We use GM seed in cases where we know that we are in a cycle of increased risk for bugs/insects. And, in some cases, we use this type of seed to reduce the risk of not being able to control weed pressure that ultimately impacts resulting yields.
We use standard, conventional seed as a means to reduce input costs in areas where weed pressure and pest pressure is null or minimal.
Just as we want to build a strong, beautiful home to last us the rest of our lifetime (sans any future natural disasters), we want to make decisions on our farm that will also allow our family farm to last a lifetime, plus many generations to come. We don't always need to have the Cadillac of inputs, we can do with a Chevy when the conditions provide. We evaluate what is best for our family (safety and security), our property (the home and environment), and our business (how can we be better stewards in accordance with a successful business plan?).
It's not all about the bottom line and what makes us more profitable at the end of the day (while that is very important to our business plan, obviously), our decisions on what types of seed we purchase become an insurance policy of sorts. Some of the farm ground we grow crops don't have "special needs", like weed issues or bug issues so we tend to purchase conventional/traditional seed for these areas - it doesn't mean that we won't ever apply any synthetic materials to it, it just means that our risk of pest and crop damage is less in these areas - we can save money up front and assess the needs in these locations throughout the growing season. Other farm locations are known to be at risk for insects or complicated weeds and having the GM technology opens up doors that will require a larger financial investment up front, but won't require synthetic materials to be used later to prevent crop damage from pests.
In the end, it's about stewardship and doing what's right for our family, our friends, our community and the environment. It's about making the right decisions for everyone that will positively impact everyone in the long run. So, do we go Cadillac or do we go Chevy - both will get us where we need to go, one may offer us a better "policy" than the other.
For more information and a super easy way to better understand GMO's, please check out this link https://www.myfearlesskitchen.com/easy-understand-gmo/from my friend Marybeth Feutz