Resolve to eat more family meals at home

December 31, 2012

home cookingNow that the Christmas cookies are gone, it’s time to refocus on healthy eating.

If you’re setting a new goal for 2013, then consider making a resolution to cook more family meals at home.

In general, home-cooked meals are more nutritious and much lower in sodium than packaged foods and restaurant dishes, explained Barb Fuller, an Iowa State University Extension nutrition specialist, at the Iowa Farm Bureau’s annual meeting recently.

“When you have a family meal, you’re generally likely to have more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and calcium-rich foods like milk,” Fuller said.

Home-cooked meals can help lower our sodium intake throughout the day, which is a good heart-healthy goal for all Iowans, Fuller noted.

According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults over the age of 51 should consume less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day. For everyone else, it’s 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.

Unfortunately, most Americans consume an average of 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, “and that’s probably a low estimate,” Fuller said.

You might be surprised by the biggest sources of sodium. “It’s not just the salt shaker, but that’s a place to start,” Fuller said. “There’s lots of sodium hiding in all those foods you don’t cook yourself. So the prepared things, like frozen pizzas, packaged mixes, things you heat and eat, there’s lots of sodium in those.”

Reading food labels can help you choose lower-sodium foods, Fuller said. Many grocery stores now carry lower-sodium or no-salt added canned vegetables, soups or deli meats, which are good-for-you choices.

“Think fresh. Instead of those boxed mixes and cans and frozen dinners, fresh prepared foods – fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh meats – are lower in sodium,” Fuller said. “If you are cooking it yourself, even if it is salted, you are adding a lot less sodium than a lot of those packaged meals.”

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

A Wonderful Display

December 19, 2012

Bailey DisplayApparently Dennis Bailey, 68, of Rowan, is not related to George Bailey, the likeable character from the 1946 movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.” But Dennis Bailey and his wife, Donna, share the enthusiasm and  spirit of Christmas by lighting up their farmstead southeast of Rowan (if you’re southeast of town, just look for the glow in the sky). “I’m guessing there are about 80,000 lights this year,” said Bailey.

It’s one of the wonderful things about living in rural Iowa: the whole community can experience the efforts of a retired farm couple who add a warm glow to the winter countryside.  

Dennis Bailey, an avid collector of John Deere tractors, has been putting up a lighting display for the past 27 years. “It seems to get a little bigger every year,” said Bailey. Some of his antique tractors and farm machinery are showcased in the display, including a corn elevator with moving lights, as if corn is moving up the elevator and into an outlined corn crib. Some of the other features include a pull windrower, pull combine, a corn picker and shrine to the John Deere logo.                                                                                                                                                                        

“We’ve blown a few transformers even with 36 breakers,” said Donna. “Last year the utility bill went up $575,” added Dennis.                                                                                                                                              

Bailey hopes to move the display to some property with an old mill next year. “I guess we could use a little more space,” said Bailey.  

Although Dennis Bailey has a donation box at the end of his lane to help offset that electric bill, he says the effort and the couple of months of preparation isn’t about them. Instead, he says, it’s a celebration of the birthday of Jesus.

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

Farmers are stepping up for conservation

December 17, 2012

conservation-1Lately, the Des Moines Register and other urban media outlets have found a new cause: piling criticism on the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy.

They say the science-based plan developed by the state’s ag and environmental leaders is doomed to fail. They contend it will never meet its goal to reduce nutrient loss from farms and cities and attain federal goals to improve Iowa waters.

The problem, the newspapers say, is the plan’s flexible and voluntary approach. Instead, they want federal and state authorities to mandate one-size-fits-all regulations that would force farmers to use the same practices on every acre in the state. The rolling hills of western Iowa, the flat black acres in the state’s north central counties or the rocky fields in the northeast would all be treated the same.

The newspapers are demanding regulations because they predict Iowa farmers will never voluntarily take the steps necessary to meet the goals.

But clearly they haven’t taken drives around rural Iowa like I do. I’m consistently impressed with the farmers I meet who are stepping up to conserve soil and improve water quality.

In the past few years I’ve been to a number of Iowa farms that have installed wetlands  or bioreactors. I’ve walked across plenty of grass buffer strips and acres of cover crops . And I can’t tell you how many Iowa farmers I know who are avid no-tillers.

The farmers didn’t install these conservation practices because regulations forced them to. No, they simply believed it was the right thing to do to improve the environment and leave the land in better shape for future generations.

The statistics back up what I’m seeing on the ground.

Iowa farmers have enrolled more acres than any other state in the continuous, targeted Conservation Reserve Program; more than 354,000 Iowa acres have been restored to wetlands, and surveys show the use of conservation has soared in the past two decades. Indeed the demand for conservation cost-share programs from Iowa farmers far exceeds the amount of money available in state and federal programs.

But sadly, Iowans aren’t hearing much about these voluntary conservation success stories. Instead, they are being fed a heavy dose of the regulation message, even though there is no evidence that one-size-fits-all regulation will do anything to solve the issue. 

Iowa is only the second state along Mississippi River to develop a nutrient reduction strategy. And the strategy is by far the most comprehensive, looking at all the available research to determine which conservation practices, or combinations of practices, will work best on Iowa’s widely variable soil types and topography. Its focus is on immediate incremental progress.

And it’s all out there for everyone to see at

In my view, Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy is the best way to make our state the leader in addressing water quality just as it leads the nation in food production.

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

Lighting up the countryside for Christmas

December 10, 2012

winnebago1aOne of my favorite signs of the holiday season is seeing the farmsteads across Iowa lit up in the cold, dark nights of December.

When I was a kid growing up in northern Iowa, I looked forward to seeing the little blue star on the top of our town’s grain elevator, because it meant Christmas was near. But I wondered how that star got all the way up to the top of that silo. My dad insisted it was Santa and his reindeer.

Iowa farm families share Santa’s spirit of giving when they decorate their barns, homes and evergreen trees with holiday lights.

I remember on Christmas nights driving from grandma’s house, there was a farm with a tractor parked out front, the lights rotating around the tires to look like it was rolling through the snow.

Nowadays, I enjoy driving by the farm on Highway 17 (just south of the Highway 30 exit) with the big “JOY” sign that’s lit up with white spotlights, creating a shadow echoing the message on the barn behind it.

Maybe I’m sentimental, but I always feel hopeful when I see holiday lights way out in the distance, on a farm that may go unnoticed in the summer when it’s obscured by tall rows of corn.

And it seems those holiday lights shine even brighter out in the country, when the temperatures are at their coldest and the winter nights are at their longest.

Surely Santa would agree, when he’s flying his sled over Iowa on Christmas Eve night, with the bright stars on top of grain elevators to guide his way.

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


“Making Temple Grandin Proud”

December 6, 2012

templeIn an age of political-correctness overload, it’s down-right hypnotic to hear someone speak without filter or fear.   But then again, Temple Grandin has always been a trail-blazer.

A designer of livestock handling facilities and a Colorado State University Professor of Animal Science, Grandin has long been recognized as an expert by livestock farmers and meat processing folks; but,  it was the HBO movie about her life, starring Claire Danes, that made her a celebrity with consumers. 

She uses her international fame to do a job that makes others shudder in their cowboy boots; no, I’m not talking about bull castration, pig wrangling or heavy-lifting (she does those, too, no doubt).  What Temple advocates is, (deep breath!) speaking out.  Speak up!  Step Forward!  Be Bold!  Share!  Temple says farmers need to get better at that, because the good news of farming is being hijacked by fear-mongers  who have a ‘bone to pick’ with progress.

Grandin spoke to Iowa farmers at the 94th Iowa Farm Bureau Annual Meeting.  Her progressive, ‘straight talk’ keynote was delivered like a shot across the bough of a battleship; more than a thousand Iowa farmers sat in rapt attention as she talked about the public’s thirst for farming knowledge.  “I talked to one student at the University of Colorado Boulder that thought if beef cattle went to Whole Foods they were born on pasture and if they went to Safeway or Kroger or someplace like that, they were born in a feed yard. I explained to them that, no, beef cattle are born in a feed yard. The most basic things people just don’t know. It’s kind of appalling,” said Grandin. 

Grandin says the majority of farmers and consumers she talks to are receptive.  “The public is who we need to be talking to. Because one of the big problems we’ve got today, is the Internet increases the voice of radicals. I don’t care what the issue is; if you’ve got a big, fat mouth, you can make a big huge splash on the Internet. Well, the people that we need to be communicating with are the people in the middle, the public.”

She acknowledged that while there are things the public needs to learn about farming, there are also certain things that are harder for them to embrace because sometimes the scale and innovation of farming and food production surprises consumers.  “But, they need to know that big isn’t bad.  Small isn’t necessarily good.’ 

But, the true message we all need to embrace, is the need for being there to answer questions, share a story, listen to consumers and provide choices.  Speaking out is actually easy, once you get started.  Whether it’s done through fun channels (LINK: ) or simply taking a little extra time to chat about where bacon comes from while you’re in the check-out aisle at the grocery store; the stage is yours.  You don’t have to be a celebrity.  You don’t need a college degree.  You just need passion.  And that, my friends, is one thing today’s responsible Iowa farmers have, in spades.  Now, wouldn’t Temple be proud?

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

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