14 October 2014

Across the U.S., Day 8 - Grand Island (NE) to Pawnee City (NE)

Now I'm on the road for one week already and it still feels really good!

From Grand Island I drove ~ 30 min east to Marquette and visited Grain Place Foods, Inc.

1904 N. Hwy 14, Marquette (NE)

They cooperate with organic farmers all over the country and manufacture ecologically sustainable grain products such as oats, chia, wheat, sunflower, triticale and freeze-dried blueberries, just to name a few. It's a third-generation family business founded in 1953. They specialized in organic production from the get-go and got officially USDA organics certified in 1987. They showed me the facility, including QA and lab tests done on the crops they receive, through the cleaning processes and e.g. the soy flakes production with UV-red light for moisture control. We also talked about the challenges those small companies are facing, surrounded by mainly conventional farming and a large percentage of GMO crops. (About 90% of corn and 94% of soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.)

I continued my journey south-east through a picturesque rural scenery. When driving by the fields, it is of course impossible to see from far whether the plants are regular varieties or GMO-species. However, signs along the fields provide additional information.

Test plot of the Southeast Corngrowers Association

The signs inform about the producer, plant variation, pesticide resistance etc. Pioneer is one of the big  producers in the area.

In terms of cattle, no need for a closer look to find out how they are raised. On my way through Nebraska, I saw many of those:

And only one place like this:

This farm is tiny compared to those large feedings lots where thousands of animals are raised on very little ground. The less they roam, the faster they grow, become fat and can be slaughtered. A farmer I talked to mentioned that the very large feedings lots are north of Omaha. Lots of water is required for such kind of production and there is not enough water available in the southern area of Nebraska.

Cows are funny. When I approached their lot, they all got frightened and moved back to the furthest corner. But they are curious. And soon they all turned around and watched me. The bad smell however convinced me to quickly get moving again.

Shortly off Hwy I-80, I happened to come by the Claas Nebraska Harvest Center. And I had to take some pictures, especially for my dad, who had worked many years for the Claas Customer Service. Now my oldest brother is one of their QA managers in Germany and visits the Omaha headquarters once in a while.

"Green f...er", as the Irish farmers used to call them. ;-)

The Bed & Breakfast I stayed this night ...

... no, this one:

"My Blue Heaven" bed and breakfast in Pawnee City (NE) is owned by an interesting elderly lady who is very active in her community. The room I had was full of her service awards from the American Heart Association, Pawnee City Chamber of Commerce and recognitions for her B&B. Her daughter-in-law is German (from Düsseldorf) and her husband was on dialysis for eight years (four years on PD, then HD). You bet, we had lots to talk about!

More to come.

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