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Farmers tell their story at fair

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Farmers today are not your grandfather's farmers. Minnesota State Fair visitors learn that when they stop in the Farm Bureau booth and actually talk to a real, live farmer. "We are getting a lot of fair goers who have nev...

FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Farmers today are not your grandfather's farmers.

Minnesota State Fair visitors learn that when they stop in the Farm Bureau booth and actually talk to a real, live farmer.

"We are getting a lot of fair goers who have never met a farmer," Nicole Krumrie said. "It is eye opening to them that they are not the typical American Gothic style picture when they see a farmer. But we are just real people like they are."

Krumrie -- Litchfield, Minn., native, former dairy princess and University of Minnesota student -- and others from the farm host more than 1,000 people a day during the fair, many asking about what today's farmer does, and why.

Justin Jacobson of Minneapolis is like many at the fair, with no farm background, but he did have questions.

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"How often do they have to rotate crops?" he said that he wondered, although there was no simple answer to that one.

Another issue he wondered about was one of the hot booth topics: genetically modified organisms. An example of a GMO seed is one that allows a crop to grow without a need for a weed killer.

Farmers say GMOs help them produce more crops with fewer chemicals, while opponents wonder about their safety.

"I'm not for it (GMO)," Jacobson said, "but I don't know much about it."

That is where the booth's farmers stop in and talk.

"We are getting a lot of questions about genetically modified crops and explaining to them some of the misconceptions about things they have heard out in the media," Krumrie said.

Some of the questions come from people who are merely curious and some from those who are hostile toward GMO use. The hostile ones "want to have a conversation with us about why they don't approve of them or why they don't feel like they are safe," Krumrie said. "We hope they will continue to learn more."

A farmer's daughter, who lives in St. Paul, stopped by the booth and said she knows a bit about GMOs.

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"I get into arguments all the time," Susan Thurston said in defending farmers. "These are people who just want to feed the population."

Those opposed to modern farm techniques have "tunnel vision," the Lake Crystal, Minn., native added.

"It would be hard to farm without it," Colleen Passehl of Claremont said of GMOs.

She and a friend, Sheryl Goodenough of Rochester, looked through the booth.

Goodenough wondered if "all farmers get subsidies," a common question. (No, and federal policies are moving away from subsidies and toward things like crop insurance.)

Questions included some about animal welfare, which Krumrie said come about because "there are so many misleading articles and videos out online. ... They just picture farmers as being such bad people. More often than not, they put the animals first."

People are surprised at the cost of farming, she said, as equipment such as tractors and combines can cost more than a house.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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