I just read another article about buying food locally and started contemplating this visit. I'm all for buying locally whether it is food or other products. But, what if your source of food is thousands of miles away? Is buying local as important as is knowing where your food comes from?
We hosted a group of Japanese corn customers through the US Grain Council. There were 22 individuals from very different backgrounds but all had some connection to US corn. There were economists, starch millers, feed mill managers, grain buyers, a college professor, and even an environmentalist. Japan happens to be the largest importer of US corn in the world.
|Our visitors arriving at our home farm.|
The visitors really got excited when we brought out ears of corn to show them that there is no physical difference between conventional and genetically modified corn. Many of them had never seen an ear of corn even though they used it in some aspect of their business or occupation.
We next headed down the road to our bin site. They were able to watch how we load out semis to haul our corn to market. They were very interested in how we handle our grain and store it. In the past we have sold corn through one of our local grain purchasers to a Japanese business that used the corn to produce beer. At that time, the end user was very concerned about stress crack in the corn kernels so we had to cool the corn very slowly after drying.
The final leg of our tour was to go out into the field and watch the combining process. I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter where a guy is from every boy/man loves equipment that has wheels.
I'm pretty sure that there were hundreds of pictures taken in a matter of minutes when the
Japanese customers got off the bus by the field.
And, just as many were taken when Dad pulled up to the group and opened up the side panels of the combine.
There was one question that at the time surprised me but made perfect sense. One person wanted to know what the things were coming out of the back of the combine. Those would be the corn cobs. Then the next question was if there was a use for the cobs.
To him this looked like a waste but when we explained to him that the fodder (corn cobs and leaves) helps hold the soil in place during the winter and also adds nutrients back into the soil as the fodder degrades he agreed that this is a very environmentally friendly use.
A cross section of an ear of corn - the kernels
still attached to the cob.
Back to my original question - Is buying local as important as knowing where your food come from? After spending time with these customers I believe that while it is good to buy local because of the economic values to an area, it is important to know where you food comes from and to make buying decisions based on what you may know about the producer of the product. I truly feel the Japanese corn customers that came to our farm now have a better understanding of the product they are buying.
Considering the fact that Japan does not have the land available to produce crops like corn, US corn could be labelled local product in this case. There are only a few other countries that can produce a high quality corn crop and also be a dependable supplier.
Any thoughts on the buying local topic?
Gary explaining what a corn cob is.
This young man did all he could to be left behind so he could run the combine with Gary the rest of the day.
I would like to thank Shannon and John from Iowa Corn and Tetsuo "Tommy" Hamamoto from the US Grains Council for giving us the opportunity to share our story with a great group of Japanese corn customers. It was an educational experience for all of us!