Keep on learning this summer

June 21, 2012

Looking for a rainy day activity for your kids in the summertime? How about playing a video game that’s not only colorful and fun, but also helps sharpen their math, science and reading skills, all while teaching about agriculture.

Check out the My American Farm ( online games, developed by the American Farm Bureau Foundation and sponsored by Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-Bred. The website features interactive, educational video games for children from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade.

Also this summer, if your family is visiting the Iowa Hall of Pride in Des Moines, look for the My American Farm game kiosk, provided by the Iowa Farm Bureau. The Iowa Hall of Pride offers free admission to Farm Bureau members. In addition, Pioneer will bring the My American Farm kiosk to the Iowa State Fair this August.

Parents are encouraged to try out the games, as well. Who knows? Maybe you’ll also discover something new about food and farming.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Bringing consumers and farmers closer

June 20, 2012

Thanks to the Internet, social media and a new generation in agriculture, consumers and farmers are getting closer than ever.

That was the clear message from a conference I attended recently in northern Michigan.  

Here’s what I discovered:

–   Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) is allowing farmers and consumers to connect directly—no middleman required. There used to be a gap between the farmers who grow the food and the families who buy it. But not anymore. An increasing number of farmers, particularly young farm women, are turning to social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to give the public a field-level view of their farms.

–   Consumers are asking questions, and farmers are listening and responding. That could be about pesticide use, antibiotics in livestock and farming’s impact on the environment. Farmers realize that they need to listen to their customers, answer their questions and engage them in a conversation about today’s farming practices.

–   A new generation of farmers is changing the face of agriculture. Today’s young people are looking for new and different ways to farm than the way their parents farmed. Instead, they are interested in tapping into demand for local foods. They are eager to adopt new farming technologies that use fewer resources and improve food safety. Farmers are constantly working to get better at what they do, producing better and safer food for consumers, using fewer resources and protecting the environment.

On a side note, I encourage you to check out one of my new favorite Facebook pages, “Through the lens of a farm girl.” ( Not only is the photography amazing, but it also provides eye-opening info about food and farming today.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Raise a glass – or a spoon – to dairy farmers

June 13, 2012

While enjoying a dish of ice cream in celebration of June Dairy Month with my fiancé the other night, I couldn’t help but think of the dairy farmers who play a role in producing fresh products that go into the cool, creamy treat.

It reminded me of the two young couples I met in northeast Iowa a few weeks ago while on assignment for the Spokesman.

There’s no getting around it, dairy farming is hard work that never ends. The cows, of course, don’t take off weekends or holidays. But I quickly discovered that these young couples were more than up to the challenge of providing wholesome and locally-sourced milk and other dairy products for Iowa and the Midwest.

The first couple was Nick and Jessie Westhoff of Guttenberg. They gave up their off-farm jobs and dedicated their lives to dairying.

That meant early mornings and long days. They milk their 68 Holsteins two times per day-at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

The 26-year-old producers have won awards for milk quality, and take the job of providing wholesome milk seriously. “If you can get a good job in town and have your weekends off, I don’t blame people for not doing it (dairying). But somebody needs to,” Jessie said.

The second couple was Klark and Brittney Telleen of Monticello. This couple, also in their 20s, milk nearly 200 cows three times daily with his parents and three other individuals. Like the Westhoffs, the Telleens don’t complain about their shifts and say it’s their job to produce a fresh, quality product for consumers.

“We take a lot of pride in what we do and we’re excited to be milking cows, feeding cattle, and providing consumers with quality product,” Klark said.

So whichever way you celebrate June Dairy Month—by eating cheese, enjoying a thick milkshake, or enjoying yogurt-think of the Westhoffs, the Telleens and other dairy farmers throughout Iowa who play a role in providing a safe, nutritional product not just during the month of June, but every day of the year.

Written by Bethany Pint
Bethany is an Ag Commodities Writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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