Fun at the Iowa State Fair

August 19, 2011

Here are a few of the fun sights and activities that can be found at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines,Iowa. Whether you want to learn more about the America Needs Farmers (ANF) campaign, try your hand at milking a dairy cow, watch a cattle show or see the new butter cow the Iowa State Fair is the place for you to visit.

Written by Joe Murphy
Joe is a photographer and writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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Cookout contest forecast: rain with a 100% chance of fun

August 17, 2011

Ponchos were the wardrobes of choice for the 48th annual Iowa Farm Bureau Cookout Contest this year. Again. As soon as the grills were firing up and the smokers were long into their smoking rhythm, the skies opened up and the rain came down.

So I just strapped on my poncho and did some puddle jumping between contestants.

This weather added an extra challenge to the grillers who were vying for the 48th annual state title. They’d each won county-level competitions and were eager to prove their outdoor cooking prowess at the Grand Concourse of the Iowa State Fair. The cool and wet conditions made temperature control elusive and simply made everything wet. It’s hard to be excited and optimistic when you’re standing in a downpour.
Or is it?

The smiles were everywhere. The rain simply brought out the best in everyone.

Royalty in the rain
While I looked like a soaked free sample seeker, Iowa’s Pork Queen seemed to be impervious to the rain. (It must be the power of that tiara.)

With her Pork Queen sash proudly displayed, Cheyenne McNichols of Rippey greeted contestants, talked to them about their recipes and answered questions about modern agriculture.

“I’m always excited to promote pork and educate people about how farmers care for their livestock,” she said. “And a day like today is a great time to remind people that hogs in climate-controlled barns are staying nice and dry at this very moment.”

Family affair
They say like father, like daughter and it’s true for the Hanson family .

The last time Ashley Hanson was active in this contest, she was a 10-year-old helping her dad, Dennis, with a pork recipe. “That was 12 years ago,” she said on Tuesday. “Now we’re each competing.”
But not against each other. Ashley won the Hardin County Farm Bureau contest with Hanson’s Smoked BBQ Chicken and Dennis came by way of the Hamilton County Farm Bureau contest and was working on a turkey offering called “Up in Smoke.”

“At least we’re in different categories, so we’ll have no family issues,” laughed Ashley. (And the best part of their story: They both won their category contest! What a great story to tell at the next family reunion.)

A unique gathering of grillers
Every year, it’s always interesting to find out what brings people to this contest. Me, I’m okay at grilling a steak or two, but this talent is truly amazing…and delicious. And so are the stories. Some folks find a recipe in a magazine and begin to tinker with it until it becomes something new.
Others, like Phil Dicks of Grundy County get a hold of a 500-year-old beef recipe and bring into 2011. And others like Brandon Scott who came by way of the Mitchell County contest use a secret sauce developed by his mother-in-law.

“And she won’t even tell ME what’s in it,” he admits.

Some secrets are simply worth keeping. But the cookout contest isn’t one of those secrets. Despite the weather, hundreds of poncho-clad people lined up to taste samples on a stick. It just shows you…if you grill it (or smoke it or barbeque it), they will come.

It’s one forecast that you can count on.

Written by Heather Lilienthal
Heather is a communications specialist with the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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Hawkeye’s Fry knows America Needs Farmers

August 9, 2011

If you listen to former Iowa football coach Hayden Fry for any length of time, there’s a good chance you’ll learn as much about farming as football.

Fry captivated a room full of reporters at Iowa’s football media day last week with homespun stories regarding his boyhood on the farm and how it helped him become Iowa’s winningest football coach of all time. His stories teach about qualities such as integrity, humility, teamwork, leadership and innovation that are common to success in both professions.

“I am one of the luckiest men in the world to be raised on a farm,” he said. “A lot of the things I learned on the farm I applied to coaching football.”

In 1979, Fry took over a program that hadn’t had a winning season in nearly two decades. By his third season, Fry’s team posted a winning record and in his seventh year Iowa was ranked No. 1 in the country.

He credits the turnaround to building his team around farm kids.

“We had a lot of farm boys that were hungry, they craved an education, they were strong,” Fry recalls. “They were the backbone of our teams.”

That’s why in 1985, with his Hawkeyes ranked No. 1 in the country, Fry took the opportunity to draw attention to the problems farmers were facing during hard economic times. Before the Hawkeyes faced Ohio State in a nationally-televised game, Fry put yellow stickers with the letters ANF on his team’s helmets to send a message that “America Needs Farmers.”

“It was the right thing to do,” Fry said. “Hopefully it did help.”

And, while times have changed, America still needs farmers. Experts say in less than a generation, the world’s population will require 100 percent more food than is grown today.

With the support of Fry and current Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, the University of Iowa and the Iowa Farm Bureau are collaborating on efforts using the ANF banner to help consumers understand the challenges and opportunities today’s farmers embrace.

“Of course technology has changed, but we should all take note of what’s going on in farming,” Fry said. “It may be more important today than it was in 1985 because there are fewer farmers now. The ones that have hung in there and survived do a great, great job and they need to be recognized for what they’ve done for America and the world.”

Iowa is dedicating a new ANF Plaza at Kinnick Stadium to describe the ANF initiative. It will also have a Wall of Fame to honor football players who exemplify the tenacity, work ethic and character of American farmers. Iowa has also designated its Oct. 15 home game against Northwestern as ANF Day at Kinnick Stadium.

“This is a great honor for me,” Fry said. “It’s a tribute to the players and coaches who took great pride in having ANF on our headgear.”

“I think it’s a tremendous event (to have) the story retold and recognition to a great initiative,” added Ferentz, who served as an assistant coach under Fry in the 1980s. “We have an awful lot to be proud of in this state, and the fact that we lead in so many areas agriculturally. Certainly right now with the demand for food globally, I think that’s all the more reason we can be very, very proud of what this state does.”

Written by Tom Block
Tom is news coordinator for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

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