Episode 12 :: True Lies

True Lies

We’ve got our first official guest in the studio this time – Shaun, an agriculture/biology major studying at Cal Poly Pomona University. Shaun is a wealth of knowledge, and answers all of my questions about what it’s really like for farmers, and the truth about the food we eat.

We discuss the future of farming, and what role the government plays in that. There are a lot of agricultural commodities that are already being outsourced. The reason? Land and water. California is the #1 state for production of fruits and vegetables, but the future looks somewhat bleak.

I ask Shaun what the process is to start a farm. What hoops do you have to jump through? How much support do they get from the US government? How much land is required to turn a profit? What are your expenses? Is it more profitable to raise animals, or grow produce? He provides in-depth information on this and more.

There’s also a discussion of what it costs to raise a cow, and what the profit margin is for farmers. And he also sheds light on the truth about Mad Cow Disease (I’m almost sorry I asked).

It’s a different kind of show this time. No beer, no recipes, no discussion of fancy meals. Just information about food and farming. I want to thank Shaun for taking his time to come in and share his knowledge with us.

Download the show here.

This episode’s theme song is “Minus” by Unforscene. Buy it from the iTunes store.


  1. I found your site on technorati and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed to my Google News Reader. Looking forward to reading more from you.

    Tom Humes

  2. Very informative show guys. Shaun did great. And he’s from my Alma Matter Cal Poly Pomona. I am concerned by the revelation that BSE might be more prevelant then we knew before – just we slaughter the cows before they become symptomatic. Um… YUCK! Again – great job.


  3. Phil, great show, quality and quantitatively. I would like to offer that the observations made by Shaun are not limited to the US food production but are mirrored here in Europe. I can not emphasize enough how much I hate seeing a perfectly round, red, and very tasteless tomato at the vegetable stand. My problem is that those same standards are migrating to the farmers market as well. When I was in Italy, my revelation came when I bought an ugly half yellow tomato for a salad. This tomato blew my mind away in flavour and texture.

    I wonder if it may happen that when people start getting fed up with the tastes of food that “victory” gardens may pop up again. I have thought seriously about a few chickens and a pig in my back garden (I personally have an unusually large garden for Germany) If I can get a decent size out of village plot I could get a cow as well.

    I love the show because you are dealing with intelligent issues that many other casts, professional and amateur, are not touching.

    Take care,

  4. Best show you’ve done so far. No question about it. Shaun is a definite wealth of knowledge, as you said. The state of food in our country is headed down the shitter and that’s really sad. Really sad.

    Can’t wait to hear more from him. Again, quality show. Thanks.

  5. I fully agree with the other posters. This show is getting very intelligent and serious, and there are some things that just need to be said. I’m glad you’ve taken the stance you have on this, and hope to hear more from Shaun.

    What you didn’t hit on is the population growth we’re facing in our country. If we make even less food than we’re making now and have more mouths to feed, then what? Are we all going to be faced with the same crisis that they have in Africa. That may sound like a stretch, but think about it seriously.

    Very good show. Keep them coming.


  6. Awesome episode!

  7. Very good interview with Shaun. And what timing too. That video that someone posted a link to last episode must have made its rounds. They recalled all the beef from that farm, and they’re reporting that it may be tainted with Mad Cow Disease.

  8. Very enlightening interview. Interesting to find that raising animals is less profitable than growing vegetables. Water shortage is certainly going to be an issue soon. We are using ground water at a faster rate than is being replenished. I think we will end up building pipelines for water as we now do for oil. Maybe oil will be so much less important we could actually use some of that infrastructure to pump water around. I imagine the developing countries will have a bigger problem. Some of the great rivers in China are already running dry hundreds of miles from the sea.

    Great show.


  9. Different kind of show this time. I liked it. There is a drive for good, local healthy food options. It’s not a fad, so farming is not going to go away. Interesting to hear about the water consumption, though.

    The more I hear about it, the happier I am that I don’t EAT MEAT. How disgusting.

  10. Cool show.

  11. Everyone, thank you for all of your comments regarding the interview with Shaun.

    Kirk, I appreciate what you wrote very much. I recently read a really cool piece about victory gardens and how they got so popular. I wondered myself if that was going to come back into vogue one day. I grow as much as I can here myself and there definitely is a different taste to the ugly stuff from my garden. The uglier it is, the tastier it is. 🙂

  12. Shaun & Phil,

    This was a very good discussion, but no mention of Global Warming? This was disappointing.

    Farming does get a bad rap for the amount of water they use, but most use the least amount of water they can because it’s so expensive and they’re only given so much they can use. If they let it go too long, it will hurt the crop and they’ll get a lower yield. And the land is so valuable and the cost of production is so high, they have to have high yields.

    If we’re doing conservation to build the reservoirs back up, that’s great. But if the farmers are giving up water so someone else can grow, that’s different. Once you lose water, it’s tough to get it back.

    Global Warming is real and deserves a place in this discussion. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have brought water up as the main topic of your conversation. I think you were a bit shortsided in this regard.

  13. I farm wheat and barley in Montana. I have no idea what happens in California, but much of what your guest said is different in Montana. This confuses me, as I would think the federal governments help would be the same across the States. In Montana there is no big corporate incentive as your guest mentioned. All farms (even the smallest) get equivalent government subsidies up to about 40k. This means the larger farms get cut off. Also contrary to what your guest said their many programs for first time farmers and we have lots of insurance programs for failed crops. My $.02.

  14. Phil, great show. I was in the hazardous waste business for years and Cali has double and triple the laws than most other states. It costs the producer and us in the end. I know we need to be responsible for the environment but the gov. has really hurt a lot of honest businesses.
    Produce and other foods are becoming tasteless and boring, I am going to do a garden this year.


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