Farmers have responsibility to educate world
Tom Farms is responsible for the shipment of more than 30 million pounds of seed corn, 120 million pounds of corn and 13 million pounds of soybeans each year. We are what some might consider a large-scale factory farm, detached from Norman Rockwell's vision of what American agriculture once was.
And in some ways, they're right. American agriculture has come a long way since the days of horse-drawn plows and pitchforks. We utilize precision farming now, using state-of-the-art GPS and planting mechanisms that allow us to farm at a greater capacity every day.
But where some see a "giant agribusiness," many of us involved in the process, see creators and caretakers of the American food supply—our farm may be a large operation, but it got that way throughout several generations of hard work and dedication from the Tom family.
It's families like this—who stuck with farming through the bad years, and were lucky enough to have the support we needed to weather the storms—that allow us all to take comfort in our national security, knowing that we have a domestic food supply.
It's something that I am very proud of, and a story that I would like to see continue for many years to come.
So, when Andy Weber, CEO of Farm Journal Media—a seasoned executive with 25 years of senior management experience in business-to-business and agricultural media—approached me about a not-for-profit venture that could fight hunger through agricultural development and food aid, while telling the story of American farmers' incredible productivity, I was intrigued.
It's not every day that people from such different backgrounds can find a common platform. But when it comes to our food supply, we both quickly realized that there was only one goal.
"The Farmers Feeding the World campaign will help educate the public about agriculture's role in feeding a hungry world," Andy explained to me. "We'll rally the agriculture industry around an effort to raise financial support for organizations already on the front lines in fighting global hunger."
There is a great need for initiatives like this one and The Hand That Feeds U.S., to counter an unfortunate emerging trend in this country. As population booms—the U.N. estimates that the world's population will grow to about 9.3 billion by 2050 and 10.1 billion by 2100—farmers take on more responsibility to increase productivity.
At the same time, this growing population is moving into urban areas and further away from the farm, resulting in a negative narrative among consumers who are left with very little communication between themselves and those who produce their food.
It's a scary thought when we take the time to consider what an absolute disconnect between the few remaining farmers and the rest of America could mean. If people don't care about this country's agricultural industry or understand how farm policy directly affects their lives and livelihoods, the dialogue will shift among the policymakers in Washington.
And with only 210,000 U.S. farmers holding a thin green line between a stable food supply and starvation, now is the time for our representatives in Washington to focus on farm policy and protect the safety net that these men and women rely on.
Because we might not be around to explain to those 9 billion people that our inaction is the reason that they're going hungry. And is that really a burden that we want to place on our grandchildren?
Kip Tom is CEO and president of Tom Farms, LLC, based near Leesburg, Ind. The family business is the leader in seed corn production and provides services globally to Monsanto and DuPont. Tom Farms' seed corn production operations include those in the United States and Argentina. Tom Farms also provides products and services to various other Indiana companies. Today, the business operates more than 16,000 acres in Indiana and another 4,000 acres in Argentina. He serves as an adviser to the Indiana Department of Agriculture. He currently serves as a board member of the DuPont Global Agriculture Advisory Board and John Deere's Global Advisory Board. Tom has an associate's degree from Texas A&M in agricultural economics and has just completed an Executive MBA course in food and agribusiness at the Harvard School of Business. At Purdue University, he serves on the Dean's Advisory Council.