Celebrating the Other White Meat

October 30, 2012

We’re nearing the end of Pork Month, and I can’t think of a better reason than this to eat a pork chop or some bacon (as if I needed another reason!).

And while this is a perfect opportunity to travel to Balltown to Breitbach’s Country Dining to enjoy their breaded pork tenderloin that was recently named the best in Iowa by the Iowa Pork Producers Association; it’s also a great opportunity to think about how quality pork is raised today by Iowa’s farm families.

I grew up on a family farm, so I remember the daily chores and care my family took to produce pork for not only my family, but for the global food chain. We mostly raised hogs, my parents still do. So when I talk to farmers who raise pork, I assume it’s just like the farm I grew up on, because all pigs in Iowa are raised the same way, right? Wrong.

The more I travel, the more I learn that there is more than one way to raise quality pork. While some farmers like my dad choose to raise pigs inside, others, like Chad Ingels in Randalia and Keith Kroneman in Osage, raise their pigs differently. Both Chad and Keith have repurposed their facilities to raise their pigs for the Niman Ranch system, which calls for raising pigs outside or in pens deeply bedded with hay or other forages.

And while farmers in Iowa raise hogs differently, the focus of all of the pig farmers I meet is to produce the highest quality of pork as possible to meet consumer demands. You want leaner pork? No problem. Prefer pork with more flavor? We’ve got that, too. Choices abound for consumers today with discerning tastes and Iowa farmers provide those options.

This is a reason to celebrate Iowa’s pork producers not only in October, but every month—maybe even with a side of bacon.

To meet a few of Iowa’s pig farmers and register to win $5,000 in free groceries, visit www.farmersfeedus.org/ia.

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

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Pork: The go-to protein

October 24, 2012

Most families have a go-to meal for busy weeknights, whether it’s spaghetti, tacos or grilled chicken. In my home, our favorite quick-to-fix meals often include pork.

My husband is a wizard in the kitchen, and I’m always amazed at what weeknight meals my husband can cook up using pork.

He makes an excellent pork stir-fry, or he’ll sauté pork chops with Italian diced tomatoes and add pasta. On really busy nights, he grills pork brats or pork burger patties. And on Sundays when we’re watching football on TV, I’ll put a pork roast in the oven so we can turn the leftovers into pulled pork sandwiches or tacos during the week.

Recently, I visited a new restaurant that showcases the versatility of pork. The Iron Hawk in downtown Iowa City serves pork raised by co-owners Rob and Char Brenneman, who are Farm Bureau members from Washington County.

Customers can find pork loin bites on the appetizer menu and pulled pork on top of pizzas. The daily specials often feature chili-topped pork burgers or pork marinara sandwiches.

The Iron Hawk’s top-selling menu item is the Iowa-style breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. Co-owner Eric Voss says the pork tenderloins account for 20 percent of the restaurant’s sales.

“We know that if pork is fixed right, it’s as good as anything out there to eat,” Rob Brenneman says.

So next time you’re in the grocery store, take advantage of the October Pork Month specials and plan a meal around pork. Last week, I bought a pork roast at my local Fareway store for under $2 per pound. Pork roast is also easy to prepare in a slow cooker. Check out porkbeinspired.com for recipes.

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

Talk about a corn dog

October 11, 2012

It’s been a tough growing season, but Iowa’s corn farmers have come through again this year. For food, feed and fuel, the corn harvested from our state’s rich soils is, as always, the country’s best.

Just ask Drake, the corn eating dog.

Farm Bureau photographer Gary Fandel came across Drake recently on visit to the Erik and Emily Oberbroeckling farm in northeast Iowa. The big farm dog took a glance at the visitor to the farmyard, but then went back to work—gobbling a newly-harvested, golden ear of corn on a crisp autumn day.

Written by Dirck Steimel
Dirck is the news services manager for Iowa Farm Bureau

Bacon: there’s plenty of this good stuff to go around

October 10, 2012

A global bacon shortage? Say it ain’t so! Really, say it, because it just isn’t true.

Rumors of the possible bacon shortage, dubbed the “aporkalypse” by comedian Stephen Colbert, sizzled across TV and computer screens recently after a press release from Britain’s National Pig Association said “a world shortage of pork and bacon next year is now unavoidable.”

The good folks in Britain must have a rather narrow world view, because pork supplies in the United States are projected to remain relatively stable.

The British press release says pig farmers have been plunged into loss by high pig-feed costs, which is true enough. Economists say U.S. pig farmers could be looking at greater losses than they experienced in 1998, when hog prices fell to almost nothing.

But, as a group, U.S. hog farmers have faced high feed prices before, adapted and survived. They are expected to meet this latest crisis with the same kind of resolve.

The USDA projects pork supplies will drop only about 1.3 percent next year. That’s a far cry from herd reductions of up to 13 percent reported in the European Union’s key swine-raising countries.

Perhaps a bigger problem in the EU are unrelenting government regulations, which dictate how farmers must raise their pigs. There is little evidence the regulations have achieved their intended goal of improving animal welfare. If fact, evidence shows EU farmers are seeing higher pig mortality, in addition to higher costs, Denmark ag minister Steen Steensen told a group of Iowa farmers who recently visited the Danish embassy in Washington D.C.

Meanwhile, U.S. farmers show their commitment to producing safe food and protecting animal welfare every day without the need for government intervention through voluntary programs like the National Pork Producers Council’s We Care initiative. You can learn more about the program at www.porkcares.org.

Or, take a virtual tour of an Iowa crop or livestock farm and register for a chance to win $5,000 in groceries at www.farmersfeedus.org/ia.

That’ll buy a lot of bacon.


Written by Tom Block

Tom is Spokesman News Ccoordinator for the Iowa Farm Bureau.





Cleaning Out the Closets

October 5, 2012

I had to acknowledge a truth this week, and it was years in the coming; I threw out my high school jeans.  I don’t know why I hung on to them because they don’t, nor will they ever, fit me again.  That’s okay because letting go of a tattered, 30-year-old pair of Guess Jeans is about more than clearing closet space; it’s about moving forward and acknowledging who I am today, and in many ways, it’s much better.

Acknowledging change is a hard thing, and not just for Baby Boomers who crave reasonable hemlines and fashion-forward sensibility; change isn’t always embraced by family, friends or detractors.

I guess I’d have to put Don Carr from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in that last category.  He’s no fan of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.  But perhaps, if he acknowledged and embraced the changing face of agriculture, he would be able to also cast off his ill-fitting “They’re All Big Ag” concepts. 

Carr’s recent blog, “The Speech the Industrial Ag Lobby Doesn’t Want You To Hear” is written without knowledge or consideration of the many men and women who work so hard to represent ag today.  These farmers want and deserve to be heard, not criticized for finding new ways to do it.    

Carr is critical of IFBF for seeking balance in a public forum on food production. His blog makes sweeping rants about GMO crops, obesity rates, pesticides, algae blooms, the Dead Zone, the Farm Bill, all while eliciting others to follow suit.   It simply doesn’t fit what Iowa agriculture, or Iowa Farm Bureau, is today.  So, what is Iowa Farm Bureau today?  Well, for one thing, it’s diverse. 

Iowa farmers not only wear many hats, they come in all sizes.  The average Iowa Farm Bureau member farmer owns just over 300 acres, raises farm animals in hoop buildings, feedlots and modern hog barns and has all kinds of ways to raise cattle, dairy, chickens or eggs, including conventional, organic, free-range and cage-free.

Reporters, bloggers, authors, photographers, researchers and movie producers from around the globe call us seeking perspective from every conceivable type of farmer on any conceivable type of issue; they want to talk to organic dairy farmers about rBST in milk; they want to talk to goat farmers who raise meat for ethnic markets; free-range chicken farmers; ranchers who raise cattle on pasture, on feedlot, or hog farmers who raise animals in modern barns or just a couple dozen in hoop barns.  They call us because those farmers, ranchers, grape-growers, and so much more all are Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) members.  We’re happy to connect media and consumers to these men and women who represent the increasingly diverse world that is farming because while it’s also important to show people what Iowa farmers are, it’s equally important to show them what they’re not. 

Big farmers aren’t all “Corporate Suits” any more than small farmers are all Carhartts and bib overalls.  And, Iowa Farm Bureau is certainly not out to “denigrate local food initiatives and organic farming.”  That’s a worn-out EWG line and a concept that simply doesn’t fit Iowa Farm Bureau.  That’s why we all work so hard to bring all those diverse stories about farming to consumers, because they deserve to make their own choices based on balanced information.  It’s high time Carr and the EWG clean their closets and cast off their corseted philosophies about successful, diverse Iowa farmers. 

Written by Laurie Johns
Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.

Farming and Family Ties

October 4, 2012

As I photographed the Iowa harvest this fall, it struck me how family remains a big part of Iowa agriculture. Some would have you believe that today’s agriculture is a corporate affair, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

It seems whenever I meet a farmer, it doesn’t take long before there’s a reference to a family member. It’s usually something like “Well, I farm with my dad and my two brothers.” Then the discussion usually leads to connections to grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and in-laws. For many farmers it would be difficult to make a go of it without the support of a family member.

Randy Dreher of Audubon, is thankful to his grandfather, who bequeathed him a about a 30-year-old combine, which runs great according to Randy, and some other equipment which for now allows him to invest in other areas of the business. Randy is also fortunate to share a harvest dinner break with his wife, Crystal, and two-year-old daughter, Katelyn.

Mark and Stacy Boender have five delightful children in their family. The Boender’s farm near Oskaloosa is not far from his dad’s place, Steve and Janet Boender, which is not far from his brother Mike’s place, which is not far from his brother Kurt’s place, which is not far from his brother Karl’s place, which is not far from his brother B.J.’s place. Mark joins his brothers as fourth generation farmers.

Steve Boender had most of the family together this week during harvest and hosted a Belgium TV crew doing a documentary in the Midwest. “We’ve never been filmed before in our lives,” said Steve, “and recently we’ve had a couple of film crews and foreign visitors stop by.”

Another family I met with strong working ties is the Jason and Amy Boyer family, owners of the Harvest Barn Marketplace east of Osceola. All three of the Boyer children are involved in the seasonal business.

Cousins Brian and Doug Sampson also work together farming near Roland. The two sort of watch each other’s back, giving them some free time to spend with their own families.

It’s been a difficult year for most Iowa farmers because of the drought. But the being together as a family at harvest helps to make it all worthwhile. Isn’t that what makes Iowa…Iowa?

Written by Gary Fandel
Gary is the photographer for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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Food planning, farm learning

October 1, 2012

When fall arrives, our family’s schedule hits high speed. The calendar is filled with activities for school, sports, church, work and more. I’m constantly syncing my phone to my planner and making sure that the family chauffeur (me!) is dropping off the right kid to the right spot for the right practice. Careful planning is essential.

I also carefully plan our weekly menus and grocery shopping excursions. I want to make sure that I’m preparing meals for different times of the evening depending on the day, making the most of leftovers, filling my kids with food to keep them energized and stretching our food dollars as far as possible.

 I’m not the only one thinking about food in the fall. Iowa farmers have been busy harvesting their crops and caring for the livestock. But they also think about folks like me, who often get caught up in associating food with my grocery store. Farmers are constantly looking for opportunities to connect their work on their farms with the food on consumers’ tables and on the shelves at the store.

A great way to learn more about what Iowa farm families do to raise food is visiting www.farmersfeedus.org/ia. With the click of a mouse, you can tour a farm, learn more about raising certain crops and livestock and even find recipes (www.farmersfeedus.org/recipes-and-news/.) And, from now through Oct. 31, you can register to win a year’s worth of free groceries.

I don’t know about you, but that would definitely make my meal planning a whole lot easier. And I get to know the families behind my food. Visit www.farmersfeedus.org/ia. Put it on your calendar so you don’t forget.

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


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