Iowa Corn Quest 2013 Recap
I recently had the privilege of touring the Iowa Corn fields in Des Moines, Iowa, where we met the farmers who grow our nation’s crops, learned about farming trends, food supplies, sustainability, and alternative energy supplies–called the Iowa Corn Quest 2013, sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association. We also had some of the most amazing weather – we lucked out! (This crazy picture above … who’s the gal who forgot to wear denim?) :)
Farmers are stewards of the land and livestock. Their goal is to raise the cattle, hogs, or turkeys, be good stewards of the land, and to leave the environment better than when they started. They keep the land sustainable, keep up with cutting edge technology and growth, and care deeply about what they do, and how they do it. Farmers are constantly working to improve the conditions of the animals on their farms, and reduce the need for chemicals.
The team of ladies who guided us through our 3-day tour were fabulous: Roxi, Mindy, Hana, and Shannon. They were so welcoming and engaging with us bloggers, and were very passionate about the corn project as well. We had an amazing limo service that drove us around, plus the benefit of hanging out with other bloggers who are all friends is a real plus. Hana did a great job with her invitee list–we all had such a great time together!
We started off the first night at a beautiful winery called Madison County Winery, located outside of Des Moines about 30 minutes. There we wine tasted and met the owners, got some gorgeous photos of the group and the sunset, and settled inside with a chef-inspired meal hosted by the Iowa Pork farmers. We learned that Iowa is the #1 state for pork, and we got to sample several cuts and styles of meat, and also the perfect wine to pair with the meal, dessert, and cheese. It was fabulous!
The next day we journeyed out to the corn fields and met some of the farmers!
This is always one of my favorite parts of going on a farm tour, because you get to meet the salt-of-the-earth farmers, like Iowa corn farmer Bill, a very humble man who owns Couser Cattle Company, a fifth generation farm. These are the people who literally help feed our world. Even with misconceptions from the media about the corn industry, what I saw from Bill was a true commitment and a love for people, their families, and their job of farming with livestock and crops. (I snuck in a picture of my Grandma Dubs in on the right–she’s the cutest farmer I’ve ever known!)
I walked away with a greater appreciation for farmers, for sure, and also understand better why crop insurance is so important. Farming is a risk — there’s no guarantee how the crops will turn out each year, due to the weather, wind storms, wet springs, insect plagues–all the things that can ruin crops and even livestock.
Only 1% of America is still wiling to farm full-time. Iowa is the #1 agricultural area for corn, soybeans, pork, and eggs, cattle and turkeys!
We learned that sweet corn that we typically buy in stores or Farmer’s Markets is not the same as what they grow in Iowa–the corn used for seed, feed, the full circle operation of farming.
I loved hearing about Temple Grandin’s feed lot that they use! (If you haven’t seen that movie with your family, Temple Grandin, it’s a must!)
We learned about cross-pollination practices (GMO’s) where the most common form of genetic modification for corn is achieved by alternating 6 rows of a certain type of corn, and one row of another variety, and then nature does the rest.
After time in the field, and sitting on a tractor (we didn’t get to ride one this time, dang!), we went off to a non-farm related activity.
We went to the Iowa Speedway where we got to ride in a race car fueled by ethanol! (42% of corn is used for ethanol production.) I prayed BIG prayers, because quite honestly, I was scared to death going around those corners.
My driver got the car to about 117 and I prayed at least 10 times that I would not die. When I told my husband, he laughed and said he’s prayed at least 10 times that he wouldn’t die with my driving. A big difference! LOL.
The last night, we went to the Historical Society Building and enjoyed hearing from more farmers, like Dick Gallagher who farms with his son and brother in South-Central Iowa. They grow corn and soybeans that they then market to the Mississippi River area, ethanol plants and nearby hog farmers. They use GPS technology on their farm for precision planting, which I found very interesting. The farmers who spoke this night were truly inspirational.
The last day, we were fortunate enough to meet with Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University, who helped us understand some myths and huge controversies surrounding high-fructose corn syrup, GMO’s, and many different foods and diets. Basically, she debunked so many thoughts that we were on the fence about, with her approach to science and GMO’s. While food documentaries get most of the press in our country, Dr. Ruth assured us that some of the statements that we hear are not scientifically tested. This session was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip, because it confirmed what I had already known: There are two sides to every story.
Lastly, a tour to the Meredith Corporation, the mothership of many magazines, including the beloved Better Homes and Gardens that we bloggers love! We got to visit the test kitchens, see the sets, (a live photography session was going on), the place smelled like really good food, and the people were so nice! It was an amazing experience and we all left with a big, thick BH&G cookbook! (Picture below from Heidi.)
Our closing party at the Hy-vee, in their back room, was really clever. The ladies who brought us all together had us cook and create some of our own recipes for a festive, spicy Mexican meal, where ever dish included corn. It was a really awesome way to end our time together before we all flew home.
Check out the 10 recipes we cooked over at FoodieCrush.com. You’ll want to use these when planning your next Mexican Fiesta!
The food was fantastic on this trip, our love and knowledge for the midwest farming increased, but the great people in Iowa definitely warmed our hearts and changed our thinking when it comes to the food culture and popular opinions of today.
Have you ever toured a farm, and what was your favorite part of the tour?
Disclaimer: The Iowa Corn Growers Association payed for my traveling expenses. I was not compensated for writing this post; and as always, all opinions are my own.