Quarterback Tom Brady led his New England Patriots to another comeback win on Sunday. Analysts raved about his five touchdown passes, but he was hardly perfect against the Houston Texans: Brady fumbled three times, including a miscue that allowed the Texans to recover the ball and return it for six points.
This is one of the joys of watching NFL football: Playing armchair quarterback and second-guessing the decisions and performances of star athletes.
It’s not really fair, of course. I’m a farmer. Who am I to tell Tom Brady how to play his sport?
Then again, who is Tom Brady to tell me how to farm? In “The TB12 Method,” the bestselling book he released last week, Brady offers a lot of opinions about farming and food production.
He’d do well to learn a few facts, which I’d be glad to teach him. Tom, I want to personally invite you to visit my family farm so we can talk about your food and farming concerns.
I happen to be a fan of Brady and his team. I was born in Massachusetts and grew up watching the Patriots. I was a Patriots fan before Brady was ever on the team.
Today, I help run a third-generation farm in rural Maryland, where we grow corn, soybeans, canning tomatoes, grapes, and fresh-market green beans on about 2,000 acres. My family, especially my husband, and most of our neighbors are fans of the Baltimore Ravens—and I like to annoy them by wearing my Brady jersey.
Brady’s book title comes from the jersey. “The TB12 Method” combines his initials with his roster number. The subtitle summarizes its content: “How to achieve a lifetime of sustained peak performance.”
The book is essentially a series of workout, lifestyle, and recipe suggestions.
One chapter focuses on nutrition. It includes a screed against modern agriculture and what Brady calls “the multinationals that control our country’s trillion-dollar industrial food system.”
It all sounds so sinister.
Brady gets sacked for a loss, however, when he takes up the subject of GMOs: “Then of course there’s genetic engineering,” he writes. “Does that sound like something you’d want to eat? It sounds like a chemistry experiment to me.”
The quarterback may think this is a clever quip, but in fact it exposes his ignorance. Genetics have nothing to do with chemistry: They’re a feature of biology. They’re also essential to agriculture.
On our farm, we grow two kinds of soybeans. One is a non-GMO variety that becomes tofu sold to Asian food processing companies. The other is a GMO crop—in other words, the kind that Brady condemns as a “chemistry experiment,” even though it’s a safe and proven technology for farmers and consumers.
Here’s the irony: Our GMO soybeans are high in oleic oil, which allows our customers to extract from them an oil that is free of trans fat.
Brady ought to cheer us on: “Basically, trans fats are the worst kind of fat out there,” he writes in his book. He advises his readers to avoid them.
We’re trying to help, using GMOs.
Brady also accuses farmers of not caring about the soil: “A lot of studies show that the mineral content of our soil as declined steadily since the 1950s, along with the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables that we grow in the that soil,” he writes.
I don’t know about the studies that he claims to have examined—the book has no citations—but I do pay a lot of attention to our own farm’s annual soil tests. They haven’t shown any decline in soil health.
“What you put in your body is often what you will get out of your body,” writes Brady in “The TB 12 Method.”
That’s probably true—and it’s definitely true of soil, whose health we maintain through fertilization, crop rotation, cover crops and other methods. Because of GMOs, no-till farming has been more widely adopted in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and has resulted in positive contributions to water quality.
We want to keep our farm’s soil as healthy as Brady wants to keep his body—or perhaps even healthier, because we seek more than “a lifetime of sustained peak performance.” We aim to keep our farm’s soil healthy not only from year to year, but also from generation to generation. We intend to pass on our farm to our children, after all.
Brady is as free to play armchair farmer as I am to play armchair quarterback—but if he wants to know the facts about today’s agriculture, he should come visit my farm and learn the facts.
I’ll even put on my Patriots jersey.