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Ag and Food: Yesterday, Today but What About Tomorrow?

All About Food | May 9th, 2024

By Madeline Luke

mzlnd@yahoo.com

“When I was growing up in the 1940s in rural Missouri, we had a local food system. Most of what we ate was grown, hunted, fished, or foraged on our farm. Most of the rest was grown and processed within about 50 miles of our farm. There were local meat processors and locker plants, dairy processing plants, fruit and vegetable canneries, and even local flour mills. Coffee, tea, spices, some canned and packaged foods, and occasional bananas and oranges came from elsewhere. My best guess is that at least 75% of what we ate in the 1940s was homegrown or grown and processed locally.”

Dr. John Ikerd, Emeritus Professor of Agricultural Economics, University of Missouri.

Fast forward to 2024: fruits and vegetables of all kinds, more or less fresh, shrink wrapped from all over the world, USDA stamped meat that may have come from Argentina, ultra-processed mostly prepared “food” with a shelf life of years. Oh, and by the way, the farmer gets about 12 cents on a $3.49 loaf of bread and about 40% of corn goes into the gas tank.

Dr. Ikerd will present his view of the huge changes in agriculture and the American food system over the last 50 years as part of the 150th Anniversary of the founding of Barnes County. Dr. Ikerd worked in at a meat packing plant for three years, then taught for 30 years at North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, and the University of Georgia, before returning to University of Missouri where he had received his masters and Ph. D degrees in agricultural economics.

“I taught the things I had been taught, things I believed at the time,” he said. “I spent the first half of those 30 years as an extension livestock marketing specialist. I helped start the hog industry in North Carolina and worked with the big feedlots in western Oklahoma. During those times, I was a very traditional agricultural economist...’Get big or get out.’”

Dr. Ikerd began to believe that this message was fundamentally wrong in the mid 1980’s during the farm crisis, when he saw Georgia farmers commit suicide as they faced big loans, high interest rates and poor commodity prices. He also saw the devastation that “going big” did to rural communities and to the land itself. He spent the last half of his career and his retirement to work on behalf of sustainable agriculture.

In 2014, he was commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) to write one of six regional reports prepared in recognition of the International Year of Family Farming. Dr. Ikerd has written numerous articles and six books on food, economics, and social change, traveled nationally and internationally (giving 20 to 25 presentations annually) and was featured prominently in “Right to Harm,” a film about the impact of factory animal farms on surrounding communities.

The Dakota Resource Council and Barnes County Historical Society are pleased to host Dr. Ikerd in Valley City. They invite all those interested in the past and future of farming, food, rural communities, clean air, water and soil to attend. The Barnes County Historical Society, founded in 1930, is the oldest county museum in the state and has been presenting lectures to the public for 23 years. Started in 1987, the Dakota Resource Council is a North Dakota grassroots organization whose mission is to promote sustainable use of North Dakota resources and family owned and operated agriculture.

Dr. Ikerd will speak at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13 at the Eagles Club in Valley City. The talk is free and will be available on Zoom. For further information contact Wes Anderson at 701-845-0966. To request a Zoom link, contact sam@drcinfo.com.

IF YOU GO:

Farming, Food and Rural Community

Dr. John Ikerd

June 13

7:30 p.m.

Eagles Club

345 12th Ave. NE in Valley City

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