Back to School Challenge: Learning About Wheat and Agriculture

As the seasons change, we all associate fall with leaves turning colors, days becoming shorter and colder, and sweaters and boots replacing T-shirts and sandals. For many families, fall also marks the end of summer memories and the start of another school year.

As we grow older and become further removed from our school days, we may not specifically associate fall with education. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should ever stop learning. Now, the classroom is our everyday lives. Of course, this living classroom can make our job as students much more challenging as we are expected to discern facts from the information overload we encounter on a daily basis.

With that in mind, it is in the spirit of continued learning that we wanted to simplify the fact-finding process when it comes to producing and consuming wheat and provide answers and information to some of the most common misconceptions about our industry.

Textbook Facts Versus Playground Rumors

We all remember the days of recess gossip. Regardless of the content of the rumor, once a rumor spread, it was hard to get anyone to believe the truth. Nobody wanted to be the kid on the wrong end of a rumor.

Unfortunately, that’s the position many growers have found themselves facing as those in agriculture are wrongfully criticized for using science and innovation to more efficiently do their jobs. The latest rumors going around attempt to paint farmers and farming in a negative light, even though all the facts – the truth – show just the opposite. That’s not an easy position to be in, and yet, day after day, wheat growers across this country wake up before dawn and go to bed after dark so that food can make its way to kitchen tables across the world. And if you ask any farmer, they’ll say they are proud to do it.

U.S. wheat is known worldwide for its quality. Our country is the rare supplier that can provide 
all six major classes of wheat in large quantities and at the highest quality. The U.S. wheat industry not only adheres to marketplace standards, it abides by the regulatory oversight of U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration. When wheat growers talk about when and why they apply glyphosate to their wheat fields, if they even use the herbicide, there is private and public sector research to support their facts. The decisions growers make on their farms are guided by their experience, university research (Extension), advice from soil and plant experts, advice from their seed dealer, their bottom line and other resources. They also live on the land they farm and eat the food they produce. In that respect, a farmer has a unique perspective as both a business owner and a consumer. As a business owner their goal is to feed the consumer, and as a consumer, their desire is for a healthy, safe and affordable product. It’s also worth considering that for every dollar a consumer spends on food, farmers receive on average 23 cents – less than a quarter. The rest of the costs are beyond the farm gate, including transportation, manufacturing, packaging, etc.

Next time you come across an article, social media post or conversation about wheat or agriculture, read the information and then pause and think. A little objectivity can help you identify textbook facts versus playground rumors.

Raise Your Hand

Less than 1 percent of the U.S. population claims farming as an occupation, and a little less than 2 percent of people live on farms. Not everyone is an expert about farming and understandably so.

Naturally, the conversation may be louder from the majority of the population that are not farmers, but it’s rarely the loudest voice that’s right. If you have questions about how wheat is grown, go straight to the source: ask a wheat farmer.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even the tough questions, and learn more about how your food is grown. This is true for any type of farming operation or agricultural industry. Ask a farmer, and don’t be surprised if they are willing to talk your ear off with information. Growers are smart, passionate people.

Other Wheat Resources

For other helpful information specific to the wheat industry, visit these industry organization websites to learn more:

National Association of Wheat Growers: wheatworld.org
The Word on Wheat: wheatfoundation.org/blog
U.S. Wheat Associates: uswheat.org
Wheat Foods Council: wheatfoods.org
North American Millers’ Association: namamillers.org
American Bakers Association: americanbakers.org

We challenge you to get into the back-to-school mindset when it comes to wheat production: identify the facts, learn from the grower experts and ask lots of questions. The more we know, the better decision-makers we can be as consumers.