Thursday, July 27, 2017

August Is "Celebrate CAST Members Month"

Success Comes from an Engaged, Diverse Base  

When CAST began in 1972, the organization used rotary dial phones, clunky typewriters, and snail-mail newsletters. The digital age changed the methods, but the basic premise remains the same-CAST fulfills its mission of communicating credible, science-based information, and it succeeds because of the consistent support of its members.

Seven scientific societies signed on as the first official members of CAST, and dedicated individuals began donating time and expertise. Charles A. Black served CAST in some manner-including president-from 1972 to 1988, and he became known as the organization's "moving spirit."

Norman Borlaug was a charter CAST supporter, and throughout the decades, hundreds of scientists, educators, and agriculturalists have contributed in various ways. Without the financial support of members, the commitment of those on the boards, and the expert input of task force volunteers, CAST could not have succeeded as a respected agricultural resource.

In recognition of the many who have contributed, the CAST staff and boards declare August 2017 as "Celebrate CAST Members Month." Through Friday Notes, social media, and the website, the organization will be sharing historical information, highlighting founding members, and featuring examples of the many who have joined in this effort to promote ag and science-from long-time individual participants to CAST's newest-and youngest-student member.

CAST Executive Vice President Kent Schescke recognizes the importance of active, diverse membership: "We have been working with the Board to strengthen our membership base--from teenagers to retirees, from nonprofit to corporate, from agriculturalists to consumers, and from educational institutions large and small.  We know that all our membership categories help CAST achieve its mission."

By: Dan Gogerty

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Much More Than Just a Four-leaf Clover

Fortunate enough to grow up in a small town enriched in agriculture, I eagerly looked forward to the county fair each July. Though I saw a majority of my friends during my weekly trips to the aquatic center and various local sporting events, I yearned to be reunited during what my 10-year-old self saw as her "favorite time of the year." My summers consisted of countless hours washing, brushing, and walking my livestock; reciting my educational presentation umpteen times in the bathroom mirror; putting the finishing touches on my latest project for the exhibit building; and perfecting Mom's chocolate chip cookie recipe for the food auction. Throughout all the hustle and bustle of county fair time, it wasn't until I was much older that I realized 4-H had became much more than an opportunity to reunite with my best friends. Instead, it became a safe place for me to learn, grow, and build skills.

4-H taught me hard work and responsibility. Having an animal to care for each morning and night takes a great deal of time and patience. It made me accountable for the health and well-being of something other than myself. I was the soul provider of feed and water for my animals, and without those nutrients they would die. I gave them baths and kept their barn clean and dry. A majority of my classmates slept in during summer vacation, while you could find me up by sunrise feeding my animals before I was able to eat breakfast myself.

4-H taught me the value of a dollar. In a previous CAST blog titled Dreaming Big about Cattle and Communications, I shared that I made my first real purchase of $100 when I was only 10 years of age. At the time, I was just excited to finally have an animal that I could call my own. Little did I know how life changing that small purchase would be. Fast forward 12 years and that small purchase has helped kick-start my love for the beef industry, allowed me to travel all over the United States, paid for my first car, and financed a large portion of my college education. Thanks to that 600-pound bottle calf, I have learned the importance of saving and investing money.

4-H taught me many life skills. Contrary to popular belief, 4-H is not only an organization for farm kids. It has programs and curriculum for everyone's interests--whether you live in the suburbs of Chicago or the farmlands of Kansas, 4-H has a place for you. I became a more confident public speaker by giving presentations at monthly meetings--speaking in front of my peers and colleagues became a breeze. Cooking, sewing, and carpentry are also tools in my tool box thanks to the countless blue-ribbon projects I completed throughout my involvement.

Although here I've only touched on a small fraction of the lessons learned from the organization of hands-on learning, one other opportunity must not go unnoticed--the chance for consumer engagement and agricultural advocacy. A recent blog written by the Animal Ag Alliance provides 3 Tips for Consumer Engagement This Fair Season. During your time in the barn this fair season, a moment might occur when a fair-goer asks a questions about your 4-H project. Take this time to share your story, show you care, and tell them why the agricultural industry is important to you. They just might learn something new too.

By: Kylie Peterson

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ag Headlines—Pollinators, Biotech Crops, Cheese Alerts, and the Hygiene Hypothesis

News items about food production and agriculture offer us a digital smorgasbord, but many readers do not have the time to dig under the surface of the headlines and tweets. Check out these recent items—and the article, commentary, or blog that can provide more insights:
Mac & Cheese Reports--Health Alert or Fear Mongering?
After testing 30 different cheese products, researchers found that all but one contained chemicals called phthalates--man-made substances that have been shown to interfere with human hormones. The highest levels were found in the cheesy powder used to make the sauce for boxed macaroni and cheese. BUT—according to many, a mac-and-cheese eater would need to eat hundreds of servings to reach a toxic level. University of Florida scientist Kevin Folta says the reports are another case of manipulating your deepest food fears. 

Pollinators and Bee Health--Common Sense Approaches 

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has initiated the “Voluntary Plan to Mitigate the Risk of Pesticides to Managed Pollinators.” The document consists mostly of recommended best practices for the use of outdoor agricultural and commercial pesticides to minimize honeybee losses, but does not strengthen pesticide regulations. It mainly encourages beekeepers and pesticide applicators to communicate more effectively and use chemicals wisely. Check out CAST’s informative commentary, Why Does Bee Health Matter? The Science Surrounding Honey Bee Health Concerns and What We Can Do About It.

Biotech Crops and Trade

Global seed companies have called for transparent, science-based approvals processes for new crop types after China approved two more genetically modified crops for import but left four others on the waiting list. For an in-depth look at global regulations and biotech crops, check out this CAST commentary--The Impact of Asynchronous Approvals for Biotech Crops on Agricultural Sustainability, Trade, and Innovation.

Gotta Get Dirty

Yet another expert is explaining why “dirt is good” and saying that kids need to be exposed to germs. Check out the CAST blog, The Hygiene Hypothesis—Farm Germs Might Be the Best Medicine.



by dan gogerty (bottom pic from

Friday, July 14, 2017

Beef: Could It Play a Part in Preventing Alzheimer's?

In Memory of My Grandpa Peterson

There are very few things in life that I love more than my family and good cattle. My parents could see, from a young age, that I would grow up to be a young woman rooted in agriculture. By the age of five you could often find me in a pair of Levi jean shorts, a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, and my dad's old Stine Seed hat stirring up dust on our generational family farm in southern Iowa.

Although you are unable to see it in this picture,
my mom often found me "farming" in a pair of old tap shoes.

My love for the beef industry was something that I proudly shared with my father and late
grandfather. Sundays often consisted of a visit from Grandma and Grandpa to enjoy a home-cooked meal and an update on the latest farm activities. When October 4th came around, I grew another year older, but something that I failed to notice was so did Grandpa.

For several years my family watched as Grandpa's mind slowly slipped away and the memories that we shared became fuzzier, as the dementia began taking over his life. It made problem solving and the completion of familiar, everyday tasks a struggle. This led to confusion, frustration, anger, and depression. With heavy hearts, my family laid my Grandpa to rest on October 28, 2016.
My Grandpa and Dad with our show string, 
at the Iowa State Fair, 
a few months before he passed away.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, this disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 5 million people currently living with it. Alzheimer's attacks the brain and shows severe decline in mental ability, interfering with the victim's everyday life. Though deaths from this disease have increased by 89% since the year 2000, it is not a normal part of aging.

So can Alzheimer's be prevented? That question is one that researchers work diligently to answer daily. As a quest to find new treatments is under way around the world, one study shows that beef could play a positive role in Alzheimer's prevention. In this article written by Amanda Radke, she states that beef provides the perfect saturated fats and nutrient-dense protein per serving to fight and prevent Alzheimer's.

Though my Grandpa is now watching over me from above, I hang on to the wonderful moments and memories my family shares and thank him for helping me discover my passion for the beef industry. Watching a loved one suffer from this disease is heart wrenching, and I have high hopes that someday we can find a cure. Until then, you can help make a difference by participating in research, becoming an advocate, or making a donation!

By: Kylie Peterson

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Digital Tracking Devices and Farm Kids Off the Grid

Various digital devices now help parents locate and track their children—for many, the safety factors are appealing. Wearable GPS tracking devices mean Mom and Dad can look at a screen and know if six-year-old Jane is wandering away from the family picnic or if sixteen-year-old Johnny has cranked up the family car to 80 mph on his way to the convenience store.
Helicopter parents and free-range devotees can argue the merits of these monitoring systems, but I know one thing for sure: such precision parenting methods would have ruined our days as predigital kids growing up on a farm.
My dad and his brother managed a 480-acre crop and livestock operation. Until we were old enough to do chores and drive tractors, we kids thought of this land as our private playground. With ten boys and four girls in the combined families, we needed the space—creeks, pastures, groves, and barns were perfect for tunnels and hay forts. Somehow, no one got killed.
We grew up when digital referred to the fingers we used to dial the new rotary phone that hung on our kitchen wall. A GPS app on mom’s iPad would have completely altered life as we knew it. The screen would have flashed warnings at regular intervals. What’s the icon for a bee sting, a fish hook in the finger, an accidental fall in the creek? A modern-day parent might have sent in an emergency drone when the screen showed excited cattle running at a few goofy boys crossing the pasture or when one of the younger kids was talked into climbing high up in the cottonwood tree and was now too scared to descend.
A recent ad for one tracking device says, “Whether your child is starting kindergarten or middle school, wearable GPS technology helps you keep track of their day without being too intrusive—giving you the peace of mind that every parent dreams of.” When I envision Mom and Aunt Ruth monitoring us, the phrase “peace of mind” does not float by—more like an image of that Norwegian painting called “The Scream.”
It would not have been fun for us either. A parent with a digital monitor might have stopped us from trying to roll up dried corn silks in paper for our first venture into Marlboro Country. And any Little League parent would have sent the authorities to intercede when we played ball. First base was a tree, center field was a road ditch, and the rules were arbitrary. “Tagged ya. Yer out.” “No fair. I tripped over the dog on my way ‘round second.”
Modern wearables for kids might include phones and internet access, so we could have looked up “dam construction” as we were moving rocks and packing mud in the creek. Chances are, we never would have slowed the water’s flow; we would have been sitting on the bank playing Candy Crush or texting friends. On the other hand, Mom could have messaged us when it was time to trudge home for dinner. It was easy to ignore the high-tech method we used back then—Aunt Ruth turned on the yard light. We always had an excuse. “Gee, sorry we’re late, Mom. We were having a rotten apple war in the grove. Terry and Mike had us pinned down behind the oak tree.”
Responsibilities and “maturity” eventually encroached on our playground, but for a wonderful stretch of time, we wandered off the radar screens. Whether it was one of us rolling in a pile of leaves with our dog or seven of us crossing into the neighbor’s woods to hunt for beaver dams, we knew there wasn’t a benevolent Big Brother watching. For better or worse, we trudged back into the house by meal time and answered that classic question, Where did you go? Out. What did you do? Nothing.*

by dan gogerty
Note: * The title of a popular bestseller when it first appeared in 1957, Where Did You Go? Out. What Did You Do? Nothing is Robert Paul Smith's nostalgic look back on his 1920s childhood.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Improving Food Safety: The Farm-to-Fork Method

As the intense heat of summer quickly makes its appearance, farmers and citizens alike gather the product of their labor and head to the local farmers market. This seasonal event can draw quite a crowd--creating many benefits for the consumer, the community, and the farmers who grow the food.

In a CAST Top 50 Food Questions news segment addressing the topic of fresh produce and food safety, Dr. William G. McGlynn says that humans are consuming more fresh fruits and vegetables than they have in the last 18 years. Also on the increase, foodborne illnesses associated with fresh produce. The solution, according to Dr. McGlynn, is that "We can cut down on foodborne illnesses with a more farm-to-fork approach." Luckily, farmers markets are the perfect chance to implement this technique. Not only is it an opportunity to incorporate farm-fresh ingredients into your next meal, but it has lots of other advantages as well.

1. Meet the farmers:

Now more than ever before, consumers demand transparency between the food they eat and the farmers who grow it. Farmers markets provide shoppers with the opportunity to meet and talk to the people who are working hard to feed our growing population. Contrary to popular belief, farmers love sharing their passion for agriculture and graciously welcome your questions. Additionally, people who know you tend to want to help you, whether it's cutting you a deal or letting you know when your favorite produce will be on sale.

2. Learn a farmer's secret:

Not only are farmers markets the best way for you to make a personal connection with those who put food on your table, exhibitors may also be a great resource for learning a few cooking tips and tricks. Farmers are very knowledgeable about their produce and often feed their families the same products. Are you looking for something to spice up your fresh salsa recipe or a side dish to go with some juicy pork chops? Ask the farmer!

3. Try something new:

Although you are always sure to find your favorite seasonal produce at your local farmers market, you are also likely to find a few items that will stretch your culinary imagination. Have you heard your friends talk about gooseberries and rhubarb but never tried it? Chances are you might find, maybe even sample, them here. You never know, you might even discover some new favorites!

4. Eat seasonal, full-of-flavor produce:

Eating foods that are locally grown means that you are eating foods at the peak of their growing season. The foods we consume from our local grocery store during the winter months typically have traveled thousands of miles before reaching the produce department. Though this food has been approved safe to eat, the farm-to-fork route that Dr. McGlynn discussed is being lengthened. If you have ever eaten strawberries right off the vine or bitten into an apple plucked directly from the tree, then it is no secret that produce tastes better when it is perfectly ripe.

5. Enjoy the beautiful weather:

Have you been looking for a fun, new weekend activity? Farmers markets are kid friendly and dog friendly! Get out and enjoy the fresh air and occasional entertainment from local musicians. Let your kids pick out something new to try and enjoy some friend and family bonding time. 

6. Eat local:

Spending money with local farmers and growers stays close to home. In addition to supporting your local economy, it also helps to keep local businesses afloat--instead of handing money over to corporations in another city, state, or country. On top of that, buying produce locally can help cut down on agriculture's environmental impact and help to maintain farmland and green space in your area.

For additional information about food safety, visit USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service or

By: Kylie Peterson