Eat Through Iowa During June Dairy Month

May 30, 2014
Iowa farm tours and dairy tasting events in June

Iowa farm tours and dairy tasting events in June

If you’re like me, you welcome any excuse to search out a good cheeseburger or ice cream cone this time of year.

Well, June is Dairy Month, and Iowa’s dairy farms are celebrating with farm tours and dairy tasting events around the state.

You’re welcome!

Here are a few of the family-friendly Iowa events being promoted by the Midwest Dairy Association and the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance:

Iowa State University Dairy Farm Open House

  • Time: June 6, 6-11 a.m.
  • Location: Iowa State University Dairy Farm, 52470 260th St, Ames, Iowa (Directions from U.S. Highway 30: Take University Boulevard Exit (146) and go south one mile. Turn right on 260th St.)
  • Details: Free samples of milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream! Farm tours begin at 6:30 and end at 10:30.
  • Note: I’ve attended this open house in the past. It’s a great event! My family and I plan to attend this year. See you there!

Campbell Dairy Farm Open House

  • Time: June 10, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.
  • Location: 24342 Westgate Road, Neola, Iowa
  • Details: This open house, presented by the Campbell family, DeLaval and Dairy Farmers of America, will feature free lunch (freewill donations accepted), a farm tour, and innovative dairy technologies.

Fredericksburg Dairy Days

  • Time: June 10-11
  • Location: Fredericksburg, Iowa
  • Details: Fredericksburg has been celebrating Dairy Days for the past 90 years. The two-day event includes a 5K race, a parade, a cattle show, a milkshake contest, and (of course) great food!

Cheese Fest

  • Time: June 12, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.
  • Location: Agropur cheese plant, 332 Division St., Hull, Iowa
  • Details: Enjoy free cheeseburgers, chips, milk, and ice cream (freewill donations benefit local FFA and 4-H programs). The event also includes children’s games and a small petting zoo.

Breakfast on the Farm

  • Time: June 21, 8:30 a.m. – noon
  • Iowa’s Dairy Center, 1527 Highway 150 South, Calmar, Iowa
  • Details: Breakfast will include Dad’s Belgian Waffles, sausage and dairy products produced in northeast Iowa (freewill donations accepted). Families can participate in guided tram tours, meet some calves, milk a cow, see new robotic milking units in action and visit educational exhibits.

Plymouth Dairy Farms Open House

  • Time: June 26, 4 – 7 p.m.
  • Location: Plymouth Dairy Farms, 23505 K-49, Le Mars, Iowa
  • Details: Tour the farm and enjoy a free meal, with cheeseburgers or hot dogs, Dean Foods milk and Blue Bunny ® ice cream treats.
  • Bonus: Le Mars is known as the “Ice Cream Capital of the World,” so you don’t have to worry about them running out!

Lunch Day on the Farm

  • Time: June 29, 1 – 4 p.m.
  • Location: Scott & Tricia Holdgrafer farm, 20070 328th Ave., Bellevue, Iowa
  • Details: This eastern Iowa event is a local favorite and attracts thousands of visitors every year. It includes a free lunch (freewill donations accepted), a farm tour, activities for kids, and various food samples.


By Zach Bader . Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.

Honoring our veterans

May 23, 2014

Bubba package optionWhat started as a high school art project by a southwest Iowa farm kid has evolved into a must-see tourist destination and treasured tribute to U.S. veterans. Earlier this spring, artist Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II sandblasted the now-famous “Freedom Rock” north of Greenfield to remove the many layers of paint it accumulated in the 16 years that Sorensen has painted a Memorial Day mural on the 60-plus-ton rock.

Each year, Sorensen repaints the Freedom Rock with a different mural to recognize veterans who have served our country since its founding. The Freedom Rock is located south of Interstate 80, just off of Highway 25 north of Greenfield.
In addition, Sorensen has set a goal to paint a Freedom Rock in all 99 Iowa counties by 2019.

“I have 65 counties booked right now,” Sorensen said. “I plan to paint 10 to 12 per year.” Currently, Sorensen is working on Freedom Rock number 15 in Hancock County.

As always, Sorensen finished painting the original Freedom Rock by Memorial Day.

Words and photos by Gary Fandel. Gary is photographer/reporter for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

Taking a breather for Mom

May 9, 2014

Few things can slow the planters rolling through Iowa’s fields this time of year.

Mom can.

Earlier this week, I asked a few farmers to share their feelings about the “farm moms” in their lives. I was blown away by the responses I received! Check out their stories below.

I’d love to see your story as well! Please share thoughts about your mom (whether she’s a “farm mom” or not) in the comments section at the bottom of this blog post.

Happy Mother’s Day!


Mom Teaches Us Life Lessons

Farm mom

Darcy (Dougherty) Maulsby and her mom, Janet

Darcy (Dougherty) Maulsby farms in northwest Iowa, near Lake City. Her mom, Janet, doesn’t claim to be a farmer, but she has raised two and has been married to one for nearly 43 years.

And she’s taught Darcy plenty of enduring lessons about farming (and life):

  1. Taking lunch to the field is the farmer’s version of dining alfresco.
  2. It’s okay to say, “Oh, it’s only a little mud.”
  3. Family weddings and special events are planned around spring planting and fall harvest.
  4. City friends are impressed that your rock garden is hand-picked.
  5. Going out for dinner may include a talk by a seed corn dealer or co-op agronomist.
  6. Dinner is at noon and supper is in the evening. You get bonus points for preparing a meal that can be ready in six minutes and will still be ready two hours later.
  7. Your nearest neighbor is in the next section, and you know what a section is.
  8. Your family instantly becomes silent when the weather report comes on the news.
  9. You refer to farms by who owned them 50 or more years ago, like “the old Robinson place.”
  10. There are few things more challenging and rewarding than living on an Iowa farm.


Mom Puts Family First

farm family

Randy and Crystal Dreher and their daughter, Katelyn.

Randy Dreher and his wife, Crystal, farm near Audubon in western Iowa.

“When spending long hours on the farm in the spring or fall with crops or livestock, it is nice to get a simple call from my wife seeing if/when I would be available for supper,” said Randy.  “We often get caught up with all the work that needs done during these busy times, but this simple gesture helps remind me of the importance of family, and the least I can do is try to stop and spend a small part of my busy day being a husband and father.  A real highlight for me is when Crystal brings a meal or snack to the field along with our daughter, Katelyn. It is times like this that farming truly feels like a way of life for the entire family, as opposed to my everyday job.”

farm family

Sara (Rebling) Adrian (far right, back), her mom, Karla (middle seated) and family.

Sara (Rebling) Adrian and her siblings (Adam, Kristen and Alex) also credit their mom, Karla, with finding opportunities to spent time together as a family.

“Growing up I never realized how important everything was that we did together as a family, from picking and shelling peas from our garden to taking our supper to the field so we could eat together,” said Sara, a farmer near Fairfield, in southeast Iowa. “Mom instilled in us at an early age that family was always number one. I love you, Mom!”


Mom Juggles Life

“What makes my mom (Deb) special, is her persistent effort to see the farm, and more importantly her family, succeed,” said Ben Bader, who farms near Jesup, in eastern Iowa. “Taking care of my youngest brother, who has special needs, is a full time job in itself. However, Mom also finds time to teach pre-k while he is in school. Being a wife, mother of five children, and farming partner has kept my mom on her toes.”

“The thing that’s special about farm moms is their ability to multi-task,” said Larry Sailer, who farms near Iowa Falls in central Iowa. “My mom (Mary Ann) raised seven kids with unique interests and personalities. My wife (Janice) has done the same with our five kids, all while getting chores and field work done. Plus farm moms put up with ornery old farmers worrying about weather, crops, livestock and prices. They’re a special lot!”


Mom’s Love Inspires Us

“When I think of our family operation on Mother’s Day, I think of the dedication my wife (Jennifer) and my mother (Barb) give us and the farm throughout the year,” said Justin Dammann, a farmer from Essex, in southwest Iowa. “Whether it’s preparing meals throughout the day or doing the necessary documentation and farm office work and everything in between, they show their love and compassion for all of us and the operation every day in what they do. Their unconditional love for us and agriculture is what keeps us as a farm family operation moving in the right direction.”


Mom is at Her Best when Times are Tough.

Colin Johnson’s grandmother, Ada Fay, was a source of strength for her family through good times and bad.

“Grandma was the stable farm partner anchoring us to the ground when things got hectic,” said Colin, a farmer from Batavia, in southeast Iowa. “In addition to tending the farmstead, moving equipment, and managing the books, she was the glue that bound us together and the dinner bell that sustained us.”

And when Colin’s father battled Lou Gehrig’s disease five years ago, Colin watched his grandmother rise to the challenge as well.

“She was a loving caregiver and an extraordinary mother while her son deteriorated and succumbed to the disease.”

Even terminal cancer couldn’t stop her from serving those she loved.

“Even in her last month and last days facing cancer, she was always serving others and placing them first. On Ada’s farm, loving arms and a warm kitchen are always open to family, friends and former strangers.”


By Zach Bader . Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.

Phenologically speaking

May 7, 2014

At a wedding this past weekend I had a conversation with a farmer from northern Iowa. We got on the subject of planting and weather. He asked me if I had ever heard the phrase “Plant corn when oak leaves are the size of squirrels’ ears”. I had not, and it got me thinking – what else am I missing?

I did a Google search and found out that these fall under the term phenology, officially the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and inter-annual variations in climate. And I found a few more of these phrases for farmers and backyard gardeners. Such as:

• When red winged blackbird females (the ones without the showy red wings) return it’s time to plant peas.
• When the chickadees build their nests, plant peas and spinach.
• Plant your corn when apple blossoms start to fall.

Got others you’ve picked up along the way to guide your planting calendar? Please post them in the comments.

By Bo Geigley. Bo is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Multimedia Developer / Print Designer.

Beef shopping tips from a cattle farmer. Plus a recipe for citrus-marinated beef and fruit kabobs!

May 5, 2014

May is Beef Month!

Cows give terrible interviews, so I asked Iowa farmer Dan Hanrahan for his insights on caring for cattle and the land and tips he can offer the average Iowan shopping for beef. I think you’ll enjoy his responses!

Stick around ‘til the end, and there’s a nice recipe for citrus-marinated beef and fruit kabobs!

Cattle farmer Dan Hanrahan

Dan Hanrahan raises cattle and grows corn and soybeans in southern Iowa. He’s also active in his community, serving on his parish’s council and on Madison County’s soil and water conservation board.

Q: We’ve left behind Iowa’s coldest winter in 35 years, only to encounter record rainfall events in some areas of the state. How do you keep your cattle comfortable this time of year, and year-round?

Dan:With regards to the cold weather of this past winter, we paid particular attention to several things.  First, we made sure the cows had protection from the wind, which can amplify the effects of the cold.  Second, we would frequently use baled corn stalks as bedding for cows going into those cold snaps.  Once broken apart, the bales became a mat and provided some insulation from the cold ground.  Third, we paid attention to cow body condition, or fat cover, monitoring it every several days to make sure we were providing the nutrition the cows needed to maintain their weight.

During the spring, we’ve always calved mature cows on pasture, which gets them out of the mud that can sometimes be found in a lot. We also put our cows inside when they’re close to calving. This gives them as much space as possible in the barn, while keeping the bedding dry. Our pastures also have natural windbreaks, like trees and draws, that the cows utilize to get out of the wind.

Dan Hanrahan feeding cattleQ: I’ve heard a lot about new structures and practices farmers are adopting in their fields to protect water quality. How are you handling your cattle in ways that protect the environment?

Dan: Several years ago we implemented a rotational grazing program, where the cow herd is moved roughly every week to a new area of the pasture. We’ve seen lots of benefits from this practice.  Ponds and stream banks are better protected due to increased grass cover, and any compaction from high traffic areas is minimized. We’ve seen more diverse grasses work their way into the mix, and the grass is maintained in better health, giving it better roots, which cuts down on erosion and improves water infiltration.

We’ve also recently begun experimenting with using cover crops on our crop acres as a way to provide additional feed for the herd, while keeping the soil covered during a sensitive time of the year.

Farmer feeds cowsQ: I have an aisle-full of choices when I shop for beef at the grocery store. I can buy beef that’s “grass-fed”, “organic,” or “natural.” No one knows a good steak better than a cattleman. What are you looking for when you shop for beef?

Dan: It’s a wonderful testament to beef production that consumers have so many choices available to them at the grocery store.  Whatever their preference is, they can take confidence in the safest food supply of anywhere in the world.

They can also rest assured that farmers are constantly looking for ways to produce it better. For our farm, it starts with bull selection. Technology has helped us learn about the genetic traits of our bulls, so we can select bulls that help us produce the kind of beef consumers want. For example, we may be on the cusp of identifying and selecting for bulls that will help us maximize the tenderness of our meat.

When I shop for beef, price is usually the biggest motivator, so when I step up the to the meat counter I’m looking for the best deal.  It might be ribeyes one day, and a flat iron steak the next.

Over the summer, my personal preference is to find cuts that work well for grilling and exhibit a nice, marbled texture (white flecks and streaks of fat within the meat that give it added flavor). Also, I sometimes prefer to purchase ground chuck, as opposed to standard hamburger, which rewards me with a little extra flavor for my dollar.

As a consumer, I feel I have a lot of great choices because of the confidence I have in beef’s quality and how it is produced.

By Zach Bader and Dan Hanrahan. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager. Dan farms in Madison County.

Citrus-Marinated Beef & Fruit Kabobs

Recipe and photo courtesy of the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Beef Checkoff Program

citrus-marinated beef and fruit kabobsTotal Recipe Time:  40 to 45 minutes
Marinade Time:  15 minutes to 2 hours

1 pound beef Top Sirloin Steak Boneless, cut 1 inch thick
1 medium orange
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (optional)
4 cups cubed mango, watermelon, peaches and/or plums

1. Grate peel and squeeze 2 tablespoons juice from orange; reserve juice. Combine orange peel, cilantro, paprika, and ground red pepper, if desired, in small bowl. Cut beef Steak into 1-1/4-inch pieces. Place beef and 2-1/2 tablespoons cilantro mixture in food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Place remaining cilantro mixture and fruit in separate food-safe plastic bag; turn to coat. Close bags securely. Marinate beef and fruit in refrigerator 15 minutes to 2 hours.

2. Soak eight 9-inch bamboo skewers in water 10 minutes; drain. Thread beef evenly onto four skewers leaving small space between pieces.  Thread fruit onto remaining four separate skewers.

3. Place kabobs on grid over medium, ash-covered coals. Grill beef kabobs, covered, 8 to 10 minutes (over medium heat on preheated gas grill, 9 to 11 minutes) for medium rare (145°F) to medium (160°F) doneness, turning occasionally. Grill fruit kabobs 5 to 7 minutes or until softened and beginning to brown, turning once.

4. Season beef with salt, as desired. Drizzle reserved orange juice over fruit kabobs.

Makes 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving: 239 calories; 6 g fat (2 g saturated fat; 2 g monounsaturated fat); 70 mg cholesterol; 57 mg sodium; 20 g carbohydrate; 2.4 g fiber; 27 g protein; 11.3 mg niacin; 0.7 mg vitamin B6; 1.5 mcg vitamin B12; 2.1 mg iron; 31.0 mcg selenium; 5.0 mg zinc; 107.1 mg choline.

This recipe is an excellent source of protein, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, selenium, zinc and choline; and a good source of iron.

“Lose Weight Instantly!”

May 2, 2014

Online-Medical-Advice1The headline grabbed my attention; a “new study” featured in the New York Times shows living at higher altitudes helps you lose weight.  Well, Sisyphus, don’t pack your bags for Colorado just yet.  Soon enough another ‘study’ will send that weight loss plan rolling back down the hill to failure.

There are so many ‘studies’ out there when it comes to our health, it does feel like we’re eternally pushing a boulder uphill, never reaching the top.  That’s because too many ‘weight loss’ plans aren’t sustainable for the way we live today.  Even worse, we tend to believe the most ridiculous health claims (hello, Jenny McCarthy?) simply because the messenger looks good, is influential, or is a celebrity.  We listen when these ‘quasi-experts’ claim that juice cleanses, avoiding meat, avoiding carbs, fat, dairy or diet soda, etc. is the answer.

The latest to enter the fray is a former Australian TV star, now an author and a self-appointed health advocate, Sarah Wilson.  “I quit sugar for life and you can too!” says Wilson, who recently appeared on the Today Show to prove her point while making a sugar-free dessert.

Wilson says by ridding her diet of all sugar (high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, beet sugar and processed foods that have sugar) she not only lost weight, but her wrinkles, insomnia, muscle and joint stiffness, acid reflux and acne disappeared.  I’m certainly not advocating for sugar, but she lost me with this claim: “One hundred years ago we ate eggs for breakfast, meat at lunch, vegetables prepared simply, fruit as a treat and drank our milk whole. One hundred years ago type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and cholesterol issues were a much less significant problem.”

Sarah, you just pulled a ‘Jenny’ (McCarthy).  Doctors, historians and anyone who had a loved one who lived ‘back in the day’ knows that’s wrong.  The average lifespan 100 years ago was just 52 years for men and 56 for women.  Most died from influenza, gastrointestinal infections, and ‘yes’ heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases.  Don’t forget polio!  Today, the average lifespan is 79.

Food preparation and farming was a hardship 100 years ago, too.  Choices were few and the labor of putting a meal on the table was no ‘picnic.’  My late grandmother talked about spending all day in a sweltering farmhouse kitchen making bread from scratch, plucking chickens, pickling vegetables, canning fruit, pulling weeds in the garden, hanging laundry, raising children, doing dishes, sewing and starting all over again at dawn.  It was tiresome, unheralded, but expected work for life on the farm in the ‘good ole days.’ Our Grandmothers and great-grandmothers didn’t complain.  Or blog about it.  That’s just the way it was.

When nostalgia honors our ancestors and traditions, it’s one thing.  But to counsel others to shun innovation, progress and science of today’s farming, that’s just plain ignorant.  Innovations are good; they brought sanitizing-cycle dishwashers, modern vaccinations and cell phones.  Innovation brought us renewable energy, GPS planters and improved conservation on today’s farms.  I wish the Sarah Wilson’s of the world could see the wisdom of innovation and how the lifestyle they advocate only takes away choices, while adding guilt. Who needs that?  Besides, didn’t you read the latest study?  Guilt causes slumped shoulders.

By Laurie Johns. Laurie is the public relations manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

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