Last month I had the to opportunity to travel to Des Moines, Iowa with nine other bloggers to meet with the Iowa Corn Growers Association and learn about the corn industry and farming. I’m not sure what I thought I’d get out of this trip, other than lots of laughs with my fellow bloggers and friends, but it far surpassed my expectations.
We spent our first evening at Madison County Winery where we were treated to a wine and beer tasting, followed by dinner sponsored by the Iowa Pork Producers Association. It was lovely soaking in the beautiful countryside, getting to know each other, and enjoying great food and wine.
Our next day started bright and early so we could get out on the farm. We spent the bulk of the morning at Couser Cattle Company where farmer Bill Couser showed us his family’s third generation farm, where they raise cattle and farm corn and soybeans. I was very impressed by Bill’s passion and dedication to farming, his community, and the environment.
A few things I learned
1. Family owned farms account for over 95% of farms in the U.S. These are regular folk (not corporations) that are proud of what they do.
2. Not all genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are scary. Bill showed us his simple process of cross-pollination where they plant 6 rows of female corn of one variety and 1 row of male of another, letting nature do the rest.
3. Genetically modified corn helps farmers create better, more efficient crops. They require fewer pesticides, increase yields and require less land to do it.
I’m not going to lie, this city girl had a lot of fun out on the farm!
After we left the farm, we headed over to the Iowa Speedway to ride in a pace car powered by 100% ethanol. My 5 minute ride where we topped out at about 117 MPH was a heart-pounding highlight of the whole trip.
We enjoyed dinner that night in Des Moines with a gorgeous view of the city. We had the chance to get to know a few more family farmers and hear about their operations, and I enjoyed chatting with each one of them. Of course, we food bloggers couldn’t go to bed without stuffing ourselves one last time. We headed on over to Zombie Burger + Drink Lab for some late night grub. Farmer Dick came along and was less than amused by all the instagramming.
The next morning we started off the day with breakfast and a Q&A with Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Chair of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. We talked about fad diets, processed food, and the term “organic”. She assured us that our food is safe and that nothing needs to be completely off-limits in a healthy diet.
After breakfast we headed over to tour the Meredith Corporation, the home of Better Homes and Garden Magazine. Everyone was a little geeked out and excited about seeing the behind-the-scenes, and while the prop room and studio were very impressive, I was super jealous of their big rack of baking pans. If only my kitchen was that well-stocked!
Before we headed home, Iowa Corn had a fun surprise for us. They selected one corn-related recipe from each of our blogs for us to prepare for the group for lunch. I can honestly say it was one of the tastiest meals I have ever had, and it was a lot of fun sharing the kitchen with my fellow bloggers. I baked my cornmeal lime cookies, which were a huge hit. Check out Foodie Crush for a roundup of all 10 corn recipes.
My main takeaway
This trip reaffirmed my suspicions that what we hear in the media isn’t the whole truth. The farming industry in the U.S. has another side, and one that should be heard: that we have the safest and most abundant food supply in the world.
When all is said and done, I feel more confident in the food that feeds my family. I know this is a hot topic and a decision every family must make, and I am fortunate to have had the chance to hear about farming straight from the farmers themselves. Thank you, Iowa Corn!
My comrades for the trip: Sheila of Eat2Gather, Heidi of Foodie Crush, Megan of Country Cleaver, Sandy of Reluctant Entertainer, Sommer of A Spicy Perspective, Jessica of The Novice Chef , Lauren of Climbing Grier Mountain, Nikki of Seeded at the Table, and Chung-Ah of Damn Delicious. Love these ladies!
Disclosure: The Iowa Corn Growers Association paid for all of my travel expenses. I was not compensated for this blog post. All opinions are my own, as always.