Washington Times columnist Cheryl K. Chumley is biking the battleground states as part of an ongoing series, visiting 14 states in 14 days to hear what real Americans think of the 2020 election. All of her interviews may be found HERE.
WHITE CLOUD, KANSAS — One of President Donald Trump’s signature messages in recent COVID-19 times has been to assure the American people that food — access, supply and ability to buy — would not be a problem, i.e., that food security would not be compromised.
Well and good. That’s the Washington Way for reacting to a problem.
But when it comes to prevention — when it comes to food security, organic farming and healthy eating mixed with a decent dose of environmental compatibility, and for the long-term — the eyes of the nation should really be trained on the 350-400 members of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, the Ioway, who populate roughly 5,000 acres in White Cloud, Kansas.
That’s where the real food security is taking place. America, take a listen — and a lesson.
“[T]he number one focus that we’ve been really heavily involved in is kind of realigning our ag [agricultural] operation in a much different way … to be environmentally friendly,” said tribe chairman Timothy Rhodd, in an interview at his White Cloud offices.
Why the concern about clean farming?
The pesticides, the chemicals, the sprays and such typically used in modern farming have all had their effect on the land — not to mention the people. The land was becoming difficult to farm; the tribe-members were experiencing hikes in diabetes and other health hazards; and, as as Rhodd said, it was an unhealthful farming practice that was largely to blame for both trends.
“What we’ve done in agriculture is degraded [the] system and it’s going to catch up to us,” Rhodd said, speaking of the 11 inches of humus that used to cover the land, according to Lewis and Clark documentation from years past. What’s that?
Humus is the dark soil that comes from natural decay — it’s the home of the earthworms, to put it in layman terms. More importantly, it’s the breeding ground for all the healthy nutrients that contribute to successful vegetative grows.
“Now it’s gone,” Rhodd said. “We’ve contaminated our soil and it’s just not able to grow what we need to live.”
Some predict the tribal property and surrounding areas will become desert land within the next few decades, if nothing changes, he said.
If the heavy infusion of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides into the soil don’t stop.
If the soil degradation doesn’t come to a halt.
Enter the Ioway, who teach their children to look seven generations into the future, and to adjust actions accordingly.
They’re actively researching and implementing methods to provide nutrient dense foods — corn, soybeans, wheat, for example — to their community in a way that staves off modern day diseases and preserves the land for future farming use.
And isn’t that what the rest of America is talking about as well, from the high-class, high-brow types of New York City to the fitness and organic oriented of San Francisco, to the COVID-19 conscious of the Trump White House?
It’s a basic national need.
And here are some statistics for all of America that should widen eyes: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the “prevalence” of obesity was more than 42% of the population in 2017-2018. Obesity brings on health issues ranging from heart disease to stroke to diabetes. The annual medical cost for treating obesity in the United States was around $147 billion in 2008 — and it’s since hiked. Those are sad and sorry statistics for what’s rapidly become Fat Nation.
What’s more — we all know it.
In May of 2019, the annual organic food market in the United States grew to $48 billion, Food Business News reported. Just this past June, the Organic Trade Association reported in its Organic Industry Survey the market hiked once again, to more than $50 billion.
Meanwhile, this — from the White House, in August: “Facing unprecedented [COVID-19] circumstances, President Trump took action to ensure the food supply chain remained safe, secure and durable even as the rest of the country shut down.”
Food security. Healthy food. Best practice farming that secures the coming generations’ ability to deliver the same on quality, the same on security.
Those are national concerns. Those are COVID-19 concerns. Those are political concerns.
But it’s the Ioway, even more than Washington, who are on the cutting edge of delivering.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE.