Culinary adventures close to home

March 29, 2013

IMG_9703-SquidInkRisottoMONEY500x299It was Spring Break and while our friends planned exotic beach vacations or saved for cruises, we knew we would be spending our time right here, in Iowa.  How bad could it be?  Last year at this time, we set a record high and Iowa was actually warmer than many traditional Spring Break vacation spots.  

That’ll teach me.   It snowed nearly every day.  Even my dogs didn’t want to go outside.  So, I made a vow with my teenager that we wouldn’t just sit inside and sulk away the hours with Netflix; we’d find ways to experience something new, right here in Iowa.  We would go on a ‘culinary adventure.’

Iowa is known for its many family livestock farms and the area restaurants menus are a salute to passionate, picky carnivores; it’s easy to find amazing steaks, juicy pork chops and flavorful poultry dishes.  Iowa is so passionate about meat, it has festivals dedicated to its consumption, (BaconFest, anyone?) which sell out, in minutes. 

So, imagine my surprise to find 25 sushi restaurants in Des Moines!  Consumers want choices; choices in steak, pork, sure, but apparently they want choices in seafood, too.  I began with a couple tame versions of ‘California rolls’, and then went bold: scallops, nestled on a bed of couscous, and….something black?  My daughter, wizened by the culinary adventures on cable TV, watched me pick at my plate with a raised eyebrow.  “Mom, that’s squid ink; I saw Andrew Zimmerman eat that on his ‘Bizarre Foods’ show!”  Seriously?  Squid ink, in Des Moines?  Well, since I always preach the value of embracing choices, and this was to be a ‘culinary adventure,’ I had to eat it. 

In the end, I learned two things: trying new things teaches you a little bit more about yourself and that’s a good thing.  Second, I learned that Iowa restaurants, just like Iowa farmers, are surprisingly diverse.  You want a grass-fed steak? They raise it.  You want affordable, juicy pork chops?  Organic heirloom tomatoes? They’ve got that, too.  In fact, there are even some creative Webster City farmers raising striped bass in a former hog farrowing barn. .  Choices you want; choices you got, along with a great opportunity to learn more about the men and women who provide diverse food options for your family.  After all, it’s not just about the food, it’s about the people you share it with and the stories of the farmers who grow your food, are learning opportunities that will last you a lifetime.  

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

A necessary safety net for erratic weather

March 25, 2013

It’s certainly been a crazy, topsy-turvy 12 months of weather here in Iowa, hasn’t it?

Last weekend, as I watched snow blow around my yard, my mind went back to a Sunday afternoon exactly a year earlier when I was on a long bike ride wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Last year I worried about sunburn, this year the primary concern was frost bite.

8.12 Drought Pottawattamie CountyAnd then there was last summer. After years of serious flooding, Iowa was scorched by the worst drought in decades. The hot, dry weather scorched lawns, withered crops and made life pretty miserable all around.

While we talk about the weather all the time, for most of us it’s not really a factor in our daily lives or how we make a living. About the only weather-related adjustments most of us need to make is which coat to wear and whether to grab an umbrella as we head to work.

But weather is a big deal for farmers. Their economic fortunes are tied directly to the weather, no matter how unpredictable it can be. They invest more dollars every year to plant and nurture their fields. So when a drought or flood damages crops, it hits farmers’ right in the pocketbook.

That’s why the risk protection offered by the crop insurance program is so important for farmers and, really, for all of Iowa.

Farmers rely on crop insurance to protect them from disasters like the 2012 drought. They pay insurance companies premiums up front, just like everyone does when they insure their car or house. And like a car or homeowners coverage, crop insurance only covers farmers’ losses when the harvest falls well short of expectations.

Lately some articles in the media have speculated that Iowa farmers are making unfair profits on crop insurance. That’s not what I see.

Actually, most years the premiums Iowa farmers pay to purchase crop insurance far exceed what they ever get back in payouts. Even after the drought last year, the farmers I talked with received some of the first insurance payouts in their farming careers. Others didn’t get any payouts after all because their crops produced more grain than expected and it allowed them to break even.

And the dollars from those insurance payments aren’t lining farmers’ pockets. Farmers use them to buy seed, feed and other farm supplies, along with groceries, clothes and all of the other goods every family needs. And that helped propel Iowa’s overall economy forward in 2012, even with the devastating drought.

In an era of erratic weather crop insurance provides farmers, and all of Iowa, a vital and necessary safety net.

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






Every day is ag day for farmers

March 19, 2013

March 19 is officially National Ag Day, set aside to celebrate farmers and food production in America. Different organizations have planned breakfasts, dialogues and other programs for National Ag Day. But most farmers celebrated agriculture like they do every day of the year- they put their boots on and went outside to care for their livestock.

You see, farmers don’t get days off, even National Ag Day. They can’t call in sick to work if they feel ill or take a vacation day without considering first the needs of their livestock and their entire farm.

Though National Ag Day is celebrated only one day per year, I think about farmers more often than that. As I think of my daily routine, I think of the many people, several of them farmers, who play a part in growing the food I consume, the cotton for the clothes I wear, and the corn that goes into the ethanol that fuels my car and takes me to and from work. And I’m grateful for the farmers, like my parents, who work even if they feel ill and consider the needs of their livestock before arranging a well-deserved vacation.

Ag day or not they will be out there doing their work.

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

March 12, 2013

The Iowa Farm Bureau has always believed in the importance of Iowa’s young people. They are the life blood of our communities and a promise for our future. For years, we’ve supported student achievement in academics, the arts and athletics while encouraging the leaders of tomorrow through our sponsorship of the Iowa High School Athletic Association, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the Iowa Hall of Pride.

One of the best places to see the leaders of tomorrow is at the state’s high school basketball tournaments, held each March in Des Moines. Check out these shots from the 2013 state tournaments from Iowa Farm Bureau’s award-winning photographer, Gary Fandel.

For more information on IFBF’s support Iowa’s youth, click here.

Maple syrup, a sure sign that spring is coming in Iowa

March 1, 2013

Maple SyrupAfter a late February surprise winter storm blanketed the state in fresh snow, I’ve been on the lookout for any signs that spring is indeed on the way.

While I haven’t seen a robin in the snowdrifts yet, we are getting closer to maple syrup season in Iowa, one of the first sure signs of spring.

Starting in March, several maple syrup festivals kick off across the state, where Iowans can eat their fill of pancakes while also learning more about how maple syrup is made.

Maple syrup production dates back to pioneer times here in Iowa. Native Americans were the first to tap Iowa’s maple trees, and many of these same maple trees still exist in pockets of eastern Iowa.

Iowa is home to more than 50 maple syrup farms, producing about 953 gallons of maple syrup annually, according to the most recent 2007 Census of Agriculture.

For many Iowa farmers, tapping maple trees in the early spring provides an off-season income before they’re back out in the fields planting corn and soybeans.

Iowa farmers collect maple syrup much like our ancestors did, using hand-powered drills to tap into the trees and wood-fired evaporators to boil the clear sap into amber-colored maple syrup.

Maple trees are ready to tap when the daytime temperatures rise above freezing, but the nighttime temperatures dip back below freezing.

Maple syrup varies in color depending on when it was tapped, from light brown in the late winter to deep brown in early spring. The syrup is graded according to its color, not its quality. Grade A syrup is light amber, while grade B syrup is darker and thicker.

mapleAlthough maple syrup is a sweetener, it does offer nutritional benefits. Maple syrup contains calcium, potassium and small amounts of iron and phosphorus, according to the University of Vermont.

You can also use maple syrup as an alternative to sugar in your favorite recipes. Cornell University recommends replacing 1 cup of granulated sugar with 1 cup of maple syrup. Light-colored maple syrup will add a mild flavor to a recipe, while dark-amber syrup will add more noticeable maple flavor.

If you’re looking for a maple syrup recipe to try at home, Midwest Living magazine has a great collection of recipes on its website:

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


%d bloggers like this: