A few weeks ago I spent a fast and furious day in Iowa. I made some new friends, learned a few things I didn’t know about farming corn, and did some things I’d never experienced before.
One of the bonuses of being a food blogger is that sometimes I get invited to visit interesting travel destinations, or go on tours to learn about food and farming.
A couple weeks ago I spent approximately 28 hours in Iowa for the annual Iowa CornQuest sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
I should have known the quick-stay was an omen of things to come…
Our first night we had a wonderful dinner at Madison County Winery. Owner Doug Baker explained that the climate in some parts of Iowa wasn’t only conducive to growing corn.
Certain types of grapes grow well there as well.
He proved this by pairing several of his wonderful wines with a gourmet dinner prepared with many of the farm-fresh foods grown in Iowa. The two star ingredients of our meal (aside from the wine) were corn and pork, provided by the Iowa Pork Producers.
There may, or may not, have been some local beer and chocolate at dinner too.
That evening we watched the sunset over the winery. There’s nothing quite like a midwestern sunset.
I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of it…
The next morning we headed out early to explore an Iowa farm and meet some farmers.
We had several in-depth conversations with local farmers, about how they manage their farms, the many uses of corn, and some areas of concern we often hear in the media.
The farmers were more than happy to share about their lives and explain certain misconceptions about the corn industry.
A few things I learned
- Iowa is the agriculture Mecca of the US. It’s #1 in corn, soybeans, pork, and egg farming. It’s 4th in cattle and 9th in turkeys.
- Although Iowa farmers grow a TON of corn each year, 99% of the corn they grow is not sweet corn that we eat.
- 42% of that corn is used for ethanol production, which makes Iowa the #1 state in ethanol production as well.
Two of the farmers we met had won the national Environmental Stewardship Award, given to farms that are taking huge strides to protect our land and future.
They shared the heartfelt highs and lows of farming including, how they handle being the last surviving 1% of Americans still willing to farm, yet they get ruthlessly attacked by the media on a regular basis.
The farmers wanted you to hear from them, that they live on their farms, often right next to the corn fields, and so do their neighbors. So they are extremely aware that what they do on their property effects the lives around them.
They are constantly working to improve the conditions of the animals on their farms, make the best use of the land, and reduce the need for chemicals.
Farmer Bill Couser
The farmers also stated, they wished America understood that most “commercial farms” are still family owned operations. They have grown by buying the land around them when other farming families felt it was too difficult to continue on.
They talked quite a bit about cross-pollination practices often referred to as “genetic modification.” They explained that the most common form of genetic modification for corn is achieved by planting 6 rows of a certain type of corn, and one row of another variety, then nature does the rest.
I guess what I learned most from the farmers, is not to believe everything I hear on the news or from an out-spoken neighbor.
It’s important for us to do our own research before making judgement calls.
And it’s important to support our farmers, not attack them.
They are currently an endangered species.
Before I left Iowa that afternoon, I had time to do one last thing…
RIDE IN A PACE CAR ON THE IOWA SPEEDWAY!
We each took a spin at somewhere between 160-180 miles per hour in pace cars fueled by ethanol.
My face was plastered in a wide toothy grin of horror, adrenaline, and absolute bliss!
Here’s a little clip of a pace car taking off…
Iowa, thanks for the education and the good time.
I think I want to take another spin!
Disclosure: Iowa Corn Growers Association hosted this tour. All opinions are always my own.