Less than 100 miles from Austin’s bustling epicenter is the small town of Rogers, Texas, where the local population is just over 1,200 people.
Unbeknownst to most, Austin relies heavily on Rogers for one of the most important things in Texan culture: the meat at the grocery store and on our dinner plates.
As a turkey and cattle farmer, and the owner of Bar G Ranch, I am fortunate enough to be at the forefront of food production and the conversations consumers are having about where their food comes from.
In late September, I was able to continue that conversation with food influencers, chefs, entrepreneurs, policy makers and thought leaders at The New York Times’ Food for Tomorrow event in New York. Representing the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), I walked into the event with my own beliefs and perceptions of food nourishment in Texas, across the country, and around the world.
While there were attempts to demonize conventional agriculture practices, I credit the event organizers with including voices who brought a 360-degree view to the discussions. During the panel “Farm to (Really Big) Table,” USFRA CEO Randy Krotz dispelled common consumer misconceptions about how food is produced – including the merits of conventional agriculture, use of technology and production agriculture’s role in helping to feed an ever increasing population. It was refreshing to see this sometimes overshadowed story being conveyed to a room full of attendees who may not understand why farmers do what we do. From raising animals indoors to using antibiotics responsibly, there’s a reason behind every step we take as food producers.
In recent years, there has been growing conversation around the supposed benefits of organic food over conventionally produced food. During a food trends panel, I asked the panelists, including Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen and brother of SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the question: “With the population of New York State approaching 20 million people, could anyone give me an estimate of the total acreage it would require to locally grow food using an organic system for this population?” Silence. It was a wake-up call that we have options for the food we purchase and consume. And we need the best technologies and the best agriculture practices available to feed the increasing population. All production practices have a place in helping us achieve this goal.
Among the event’s attendees was Martha Stewart, who presented on “The legendary tastemaker on lessons learned – and what’s next.” She ended up next to me in the serving line for lunch, providing the brief opportunity to tell my story of agriculture to someone who has tremendous influence on the American consumer. I introduced myself as a farmer from Texas who raises turkeys and cattle on our ranch, explaining that we make a living on our farm and the reasons we use many conventional food practices. She in turn told me that she had raised her own turkeys and was looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner. She also said if she came to Texas she’d consider visiting my farm to learn about what we do.
Today’s consumers want to know where their food comes from and how it’s produced. On our Texas ranch, we do everything we can to produce healthy safe and healthy food in an eco-friendly way. As farmers and ranchers, we must do more to tell that story.
So, Martha, please consider this an open invitation to visit Texas. Come see how Texas farmers grow food and why we do what we do. You may even be surprised along the way.
Darrell Glaser is a farmer and owner of Bar G and Reveille Turkey Farms in Rogers, Texas. He is part of the Faces of Farming and Ranching program for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance.
This piece originally appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on Oct. 26, 2016.