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Food Bullying Podcast

Apr 1, 2024

“The biggest misconception about farming in the dietetic world is that GMOs are bad for the environment and human consumption - and that farmers are financially well-off.” 

Wendy Yeager is a fourth-generation farmer who, with her husband Jamie, owns and operates Bell Place Farm, a diversified row crop operation.  They grow peanuts, cotton, sorghum, soybeans, and wheat managed through crop rotation over 1100 acres in west central Alabama (the heart of the Blackbelt).

Given the rise in prices of multiple inputs including fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, and diesel fuel, the Yeagers are more conscientious than ever in planning before planting. And while no-till farming and GPS technology have helped transform day-to-day business, the uncertainty of mother nature (such as threats of severe drought) still creates a sense of uncertainty and hurts a farmer’s mental health. 

Wendy outlines how the costs of farming, specifically putting a crop in the ground, are increasing each year. She highlighs that while people may perceive farmers as rolling in money, the reality is that margins are getting tighter, making it harder to stay profitable. Wendy explained that expenses such as fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, and diesel fuel are rising, impacting the financial sustainability of their family farm. 

Wendy describes how farming practices have evolved over the last 30 years, particularly in terms of trips across the field. She contrasted traditional methods, where multiple trips were made for tilling, spraying, and other tasks, with their current approach at Bell Place Farm. She explains their operation now primarily practices no-till farming, planting directly into crop residue without tilling the ground. By utilizing GPS technology, they can plant precisely, reducing field compaction and erosion. This shift has led to fewer trips across the field, cutting down on fuel consumption, equipment wear, and benefiting both cost savings and environmental protection.

While the term “genetic modification” often carries a negative connotation, Yeager explains the reality for farmers: genetically modified plants help with disease resistance and reduce the application of herbicides, allowing for more efficient farming practices.  She stresses that, as a farmer, she prioritizes the health of the land and would confidently consume and feed her family the crops grown on her farm.  

Wendy talks candidly about the financial stress in farming. She highlighted that while outsiders might assume farmers are financially well-off, the reality is that farming margins are becoming tighter. Wendy explained the rising costs of inputs like fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, and diesel fuel, which impact the profitability of farming operations. She also mentioned the challenges of predicting yields and ensuring that the crop's financial returns cover the initial investment costs. Additionally, Wendy shared the mental strain caused by factors like severe droughts, which can significantly impact a farmer's confidence and outlook for the future.

Listen in as Yeager shares her journey to becoming a respected female farmer in a largely male-dominated industry and how she balances and has confidence in her own food choices.

Visit Bell Place Farm on Facebook and follow Yeager on Instagram.