2 Important Things I Learned About Dietitians

November 21, 2014

I have never approached a grocery store dietitian for advice.

It doesn’t make much sense because I’m definitely interested in (although not always committed to) healthy eating. I understand they provide expert nutrition advice, surveys show they’re well trusted by Iowans, and they’re advertised in practically every Hy-Vee I visit.


Still, I’ve never bothered to schedule a meeting or subscribe for information.

I could attribute my lack of follow-through to a lot of things, but I think it starts with an unconscious assumption I’ve made that I already know (generally) what I’m going to hear.

That’s my first mistake, and I should know better.  

It’s the same passive resistance today’s farmers sometimes encounter when they try to help us understand why they’ve adopted genetically modified seeds, why they’re raising more animals today, why they raise those animals in modern barns, or why they choose to administer certain medication.

People seem to “know” that big farms and certain technology are bad, just as surely as they “know” that they only need to eat less to become more healthy.

A couple weeks ago, I had an opportunity to spend some time at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (an organization with 800-plus dietitian members).

What I learned about dietitians in a few short hours reminded me of the things I don’t know and nudged me to become a bit more active in seeking out information:


1) They really dig science and technology. 

GMOs, sustainability, nutrition informatics, and wellness smart phone apps.

How’s that for a geeky agenda? :)

And those were just the topics covered before lunch on day two of the meeting.

I walked away from the experience with a new app to explore (RD Alicia Vance Aguiar recommended Fooducate, a food scanner and diet tracker with “sound dietitian advice”), as well as some insights from Martina Newell-McGloughlin (Director of International Biotechnology at the University of California, Davis) about the proven safety and potential nutritional benefits of GMOs:

More importantly, I left with the impression that dietitians aren’t resting on what they already know.

They’re continually mastering their own areas of expertise, and they’re seeking out outside expertise on topics that they may be less familiar with (such as biotechnology).

The nutrition experts are still learning, so clearly there’s plenty for me to learn from them.


2) They’re practical.

If dietitians are conspiring to feed us nothing but spinach and broccoli, they didn’t let on.

In fact, I heard a lot of discussion about easy substitutes, small health and budget conscious changes, and simple snacks.

And while fruits and veggies were a common refrain, most seemed cool with organic and conventional produce and allowing people to make that choice on their own:

They’re also a friendly bunch (thanks Anne and Bridget for inviting me to the meeting), so there’s really no good excuse for me to hold out any longer…

It’s time for me to get off the sidelines and see what I can learn, and (whether it’s learning more about your nutrition or the farmers who provide your food) I hope you’ll do the same!

By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.

Young Farmers Are Stepping Up

November 19, 2014
Young Iowa farmers Luke and Krista Tjelmeland

Luke and Krista Tjelmeland

The latest U.S. Census of Agriculture shows farmers are getting older. The 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture showed the average age of the principal operator on U.S. farms was 58.3 years old, up from 57.1 years old from the 2007 census.

It’s not a new trend. And it sometimes makes you wonder: who’s going to produce the food and fuel America and the world need in the future?

Behind the census numbers, though, are countless stories of young farmers who are eager to farm and are willing to take on the challenge.

Two of those young Iowa farmers are Randy Francois and Luke Tjelmeland.

Francois, a 24-year-old grain farmer in Buchanan County, had the unique opportunity to farm his own acres.

Young Iowa farmer Randy Francois

Randy Francois

Tjelmeland, 24, and his wife, Krista, recently welcomed neighbors and visitors to their farm to showcase their new pig barn in Story County.

Both Francois and Tjelmeland beamed with pride as they spoke of their involvement in farming at a young age. Both had worked alongside their parents and family to learn more about growing pigs and crops.

Though Tjelmeland and Francois faced their own share of challenges getting started, they looked at their challenges as learning opportunities.

Francois planned his first crop by learning about fertilizer, seeds, and the other management decisions that go along with growing corn.

Growing his own crops was different than helping his parents grow their corn and soybeans, he said. This time, he said, the decisions he made affected his corn crop and ultimately his bottom line. Francois said planting his own crop this year meant he had to understand the effects one decision had on his entire crop. Francois surrounded himself with knowledgeable people who helped him understand not only the financial side of the business, but also seed selection, fertilizer use, and grain storage and sales. While he couldn’t control the weather, he said he wanted to do everything he could to learn how to successfully grow his corn crop.

Tjelmeland, meanwhile, learned how to best determine a site for his pig barn. He and Krista worked with siting specialists and learned how some soil types are more suitable for a barn construction than others. Luke and Krista care about the environment, so they worked with additional specialists to ensure their barn was a safe distance from water sources. And they already have plans to add trees and bushes to the barn site. Luke and Krista communicated the plan for their pig barn to their neighbors and the county’s board of supervisors. They welcomed visitors onto their farm in the beginning stages to understand the placement of the barn. And when the barn was constructed, they welcomed guests to their barn before pigs arrived so they could explain the controls they put into place to protect the environment and their livestock.

There are plenty of people like Randy and Luke in Iowa and in the United States who are eager to be a part of the next generation in agriculture. And knowing those two, the future is in good hands.

By Bethany Baratta. Bethany is Iowa Farm Bureau’s commodities writer.

A tough lesson in not keeping up with customer demands

November 17, 2014

mother daughter grocery shoppingThe bankruptcy filing by the Des Moines-era the supermarket chain Dahl’s Foods last week provides an illustration of the pitfalls of falling behind in a fast-moving market. And it’s a cautionary lesson for people who contend that agriculture should avoid new technology and return to old farming ways.

Dahl’s fell on hard times, according to several business analysts, because it didn’t adjust to changing consumer trends. Other supermarkets chains and national retailers in Dahl’s territory continually innovated, expanded their offerings and found ways to become more efficient, but Dahl’s just didn’t keep up.

I saw that at my neighborhood Dahl’s. It’s a nice little store filled with friendly people. It gives you a nostalgic feel of a 1950s supermarket. But nostalgia aside, my local Dahl’s often doesn’t the range of products or services found at other markets, and often its prices aren’t competitive.

Some people today contend that American farmers should ditch technology, like biotech seeds or GPS-guided equipment.

They believe consumers, the environment and farmers would be better off if we returned to farming with the technology and farm structure of the 1950s, or even earlier.

It’s not true. Just like successful supermarket chains, farmers have evolved and adopted technology to respond to consumer demands.

American consumers are demanding more from agriculture than ever before. They want a range of food choices that would have been unfathomable in the 1950s. They want agriculture to reduce its environmental footprint. And they want all that at affordable prices.

American farmers have delivered on all of those demands, thanks in part, to their willingness and ability to adopt new technologies. Biotech seeds allow farmers to reduce pesticide applications and limit tillage to trim soil erosion. GPS and other technologies allow farmers to apply fertilizer and pesticides precisely, avoiding wetlands and other sensitive areas.

The result is American food supply that is unbelievably diverse, safe and more affordable than in any other industrialized country on the planet. And yes, for the segment of consumers who want to pay a little more for food raised using older farming techniques, farmers have shown they can do that too.

It’s all about keeping up with customer demand.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is Iowa Farm Bureau’s News Services Editor.

Do you know the “farmer wave”?

November 12, 2014
Farmer Wave Week in Iowa

Todd Collins, a morning radio host for KIX 101.1, had Governor Branstad declare Nov. 9-15 “Farmer Wave Week.”

Now that election season is over, and I can finally watch a football game on TV without the negative political ads, we can get back to celebrating the “Iowa values” that the candidates liked to boast about.

And there isn’t a better reflection of our Iowa nice values than the state’s farm families and the rural communities that support them.

Whenever I get the chance to visit a farm, I typically end up driving down a dusty, or muddy, gravel road. I can’t hide the fact that I’m a city slicker with my Polk County license plate and my barely-above-a-crawl speed.

As I move over to the right shoulder to make room for a truck driving in the opposite direction, that’s when I get the “farmer wave.” The driver lifts one or two fingers from the steering wheel to say hello. Of course, I can’t resist waving back.

My brother-in-law, Todd Collins, grew up on a family farm in Carroll County, where everyone gave the “farmer wave.”

Today, Collins works as the morning host at the country radio station KIX 101.1 in Marshalltown. He’s always telling his listeners about strange holidays, like Talk like a Pirate Day, as conversational fodder for the show.

So he figured, why not start a “Farmer Wave Week,” encouraging everyone to wave like a farmer to spread a little kindness, whether you live in the city or the country.

“You would be amazed at what a simple farmer wave can do to make someone’s day,” Collins said.

Collins contacted Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey’s staff with his idea, and they suggested he submit a request for an official state proclamation declaring “Farmer Wave Week.” Less than 24 hours later, Collins found out that the Gov. Terry Branstad had approved his request.

The governor proclaimed Nov. 9-15 as Farmer Wave Week in Iowa. Branstad even demonstrated his one-finger “farmer wave” before signing the proclamation.

The official "Farmer Wave Week" proclamation

The official “Farmer Wave Week” proclamation

Branstad noted that it was Iowa’s reputation as a friendly, welcoming state that brought China’s President Xi Jinping back to Iowa in 2012, nearly 30 years after he first toured the state on an exchange trip.

In honor of Farmer Wave Week, Collins and KIX 101.1 are encouraging all their listeners to start “farm-waving” when they pass each other on the roads.

The radio station posted a fun video on Facebook of Collins demonstrating the farmer wave. So far, the video has gained more than 330,000 views on Facebook.

Folks from California, Texas, Boston, Alaska and, amazingly, India have commented on the video – thus, proving that the farmer wave is an international sign of good-neighborliness.

Collins says he hopes that Farmer Wave Week becomes an annual event. “We need to return to our farmer roots and appreciate all the (farmers) do to get back to the niceness and friendliness that Iowa is known for,” Collins said.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Senior Features Writer.

America: where all voting is local

November 7, 2014

rural Iowa electionsThe mid-term elections are over, the winners have been declared and (thankfully) all the negative televisions ads have ended. But before the 2014 election fades into memory, it’s good to take a minute to appreciate the act of voting here in America.

I really like voting because it’s such a simple act that can have such big consequences for our state and country. I also like voting because it’s done so locally. Here in Iowa I’ve voted in a couple of different churches in my quiet neighborhood, usually bumping into neighbors and friends. Once in Kansas City I voted in the laundry room of an apartment building, all of us sitting on dryers until it was our turn to mark our ballots.

In rural Iowa, there are some even more unusual polling places as our photographer, Gary Fandel, found on an Election Day drive in Story County. He found a couple of polling places in machine sheds and one at a country school house.

But whether you vote in a church, a machine shed, a country school house or anywhere else, making your voice heard through the ballot box is a true privilege of being an American.

one room school house election, Iowarural Iowa elections

Written by Dirck Steimel. Dirck is Iowa Farm Bureau Federation news services manager and editor of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman.

5 Reasons America Needs Farmers (ANF), Hand-Picked by Americans

October 28, 2014

Why do you need farmers?

You probably don’t farm (only 2 percent of Americans do), but I’ll bet you can come up with a reason or two.

Leading up to the fourth annual America Needs Farmers (ANF) football game, November 1 at the University of Iowa, we asked you to share the reasons you need farmers, and we’ve heard from more than 1,000 people in 27 states (and one from Canada)!

Why do Americans need farmers? Here are the five most popular reasons, picked by you!

5. We need food choices.

Reasons America Needs Farmers

“I love fresh vegetables and fruit, and farmers are such a vital part of our agriculture and economy.”

Shelby R.

Saluda, North Carolina

Reasons America Needs Farmers

“I need farmers because I like to make my own food and usually buy my food from local farmers markets.”

Julianne K.

Placentia, California

“I have celiac disease, so the farmers that produce white corn are very important to me; I need, for example, corn tortillas instead of wheat. Also, meat is a huge part of my diet, as I am not able to eat many processed foods. Beef and pork are on our table almost every day.”

Stacy M.

Postville, IowaReasons America Needs Farmers

4. We need good jobs.

“Farmers feed the world; it’s that simple. Also, they give me job security. I work at Kinze Manufacturing.”

Dustin C.

North England, Iowa

Reasons America Needs Farmers

“As an electrician, agriculture is a large part of my livelihood.”

Brian P.

Dyersville, Iowa

“I need farmers because they are the ones providing me with my trucking job so I can provide for my family.”

Bobby J.

Eldora, Iowa

Reasons America Needs Farmers

“I worked for John Deere for 33 years and without the farmers, I would not been able to support my family.”

Larry M.

Ankeny, Iowa

“My husband and I both work in the agriculture factory business. I build grain dryers, while my husband makes grain carts and sprayers. We need farmers to keep our jobs strong.”

Steph H.

Hampton, Iowa

“I am an economic developer in the heart of ag country. My livelihood depends upon it.”

Mark G.

Orange City, Iowa

Reasons America Needs Farmers

3. We need caretakers for the land and the environment.

“Our farmers are conscientious about food safety, water quality and soil conservation. Because of this, we will continue to enjoy a reliable supply of food products for generations.”

Debra J.

Storm Lake, Iowa

Reason America Needs Farmers, Environment

“Farmers contribute to our health, environment, and economy…Farmers use technology to yield larger production and do so in an environmentally-friendly way.”

Lisa T.

Washington, Iowa

Reason America Needs Farmers, environment

I strongly believe we need farmers to help our youth understand the importance of conserving, nurturing, and respecting our land.  Farmers bring out the best in understanding how to use the land to yield plentiful bounty to feed our world.”

Steve S.

Altoona, Iowa

Reason America Needs Farmers, environment

2. We need strong rural communities.


“I live in a small town in west Tennessee, and farming is a huge part of this area! I need farmers to help keep my hometown and surrounding areas successful.”

Meagan H.

McKenzie, Tennessee

Reasons America Needs Farmers, community

“[Farmers] bring love and provide food to small communities, and friendships that last a lifetime.”

Catherine C.

Park City, Utah

Reasons America Needs Farmers, community

“I teach at a high school in the Quad Cities where many of the students come from farms or their parents work for John Deere or Tyson. Farming is the driving force of Iowa’s and Illinois’ economy.”

Kent B.

Bettendorf, Iowa

“Farmers were the primary reason for my father’s and mother’s business success. I grew up in a small town of 100 people in southwest Iowa. My father owned three lumberyards and a concrete company. Farmers were my dad’s primary customers, friends and community leaders.”

Ross S.

Omaha, Nebraska

Reasons America Needs Farmers, community1. We need farm values.

“I need farmers because I need my family.  My family’s farm has been in the family since 1854.  Farmers care for the land and the animals on that land while supplying safe and affordable food to our country and the rest of the world.”

Jennifer W.

South England, Iowa

Reasons ANF, values

“My father is 86 and still farming. Hard to replace that kind of work ethic.”

Danny B.

Ankeny, Iowa

Reasons ANF, values

“In my profession I deal directly with farming family children. I truly feel that if we didn’t have farmers in our community we would have a great loss to our next generation. Many of these children carry on those great values that have been passed on from one family farm to the next family farm. I’ve always been impressed with the leadership, work ethic, dependability, pride, commitment, morals, and family values present in our family farmers around our community.”

Jay M.

Osage, Iowa

“I need farmers because that’s all I knew growing up. To make money I had to go work hay bails, hogs, cattle, and walked beans.  I cannot tell you how much that taught me and helped me with work ethic.  As I went through the military it was much easier because I knew what hard work was.”

Brian W.

Carroll, Iowa

“We need farmers to continue the tradition of hard work, family and friendship. When a neighbor is ill or worse, we all pitch in to get the work done.”

Carol K.

Johnston, Iowa

Reasons ANF, values

By Zach Bader and the one thousand-plus Americans who shared their reasons for needing farmers (thank you!). Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.

You’re Never Far from a Pig

October 24, 2014

pigsOctober is Pork Month, a time to celebrate the diversity as well as delicious products that come from pigs: pork chops, ham, brats, and my favorite, bacon.

According to retail scanner data and the Iowa Pork Producers Association, from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, the top five most popular pork cuts sold are boneless New York chops, back ribs, bone-in chops, spareribs and boneless tenderloin. Are any of those meat products a part of your tailgating parties?

It’s no secret that Iowa leads the nation in pig production, but you may not realize that there are multiple products we use every day made from parts of a pig.

These include insulin for the regulation of diabetes; valves for human heart surgery; suede for shoes and clothing; and gelatin for food and non-food uses, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Swine by-products also play important parts in products like water filters, insulation, rubber, antifreeze, some plastics, floor waxes, crayons, chalk, violin strings, adhesives and fertilizer.

Lard, the fat from pig abdomens, is used in shaving creams, soaps, make-up, baked goods and other foods.

In addition to tasty meat and life-saving products, Iowa’s pork industry provides more than 40,000 jobs in the state and pig farming represents $7.5 billion in total economic activity for Iowa, according to Spencer Parkinson of Decision Innovation Solutions and Iowa State University.

So as you mull over new pork recipes, raise your pork-chop-on-a-stick and celebrate pork this October and the farm families who raise safe, nutritious pork in a responsible manner.

By Bethany Baratta. Bethany is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Commodities Writer.


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