A Spicy Perspective

Iowa CornQuest 2013

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. 

Iowa CornQuest 2013

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…

Jumping for Joy in the Corn FieldOur group included: SandyLaurenMeganChung-ahHeidiAnnaliseSheilaNikkiJessica 

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.

Madison County Winery Iowa

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.

Madison County Winery

There may, or may not, have been some local beer and chocolate at dinner too.

Beer and Wine Pairng

That evening we watched the sunset over the winery. There’s nothing quite like a midwestern sunset.

Iowa Sunset

I just couldn’t stop taking pictures of it…

Iowa Sunset 2

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.

Iowa Farm

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.

Corn Farming in IowaFarmer 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.

Iowa Corn Farming

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.

Iowa Speed Way

Before I left Iowa that afternoon, I had time to do one last thing…

Sommer Collier at the Iowa Speedway



Iowa Speedway Animated Gif

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!

Sommer Collier - Iowa Speedway

Disclosure: Iowa Corn Growers Association hosted this tour. All opinions are always my own.

Share This Recipe With Friends!

Other Great Recipes

Odds & Ends Travel

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

25 comments on “Iowa CornQuest 2013”

  1. Although it was quick, I’m glad to have had the time to get to know you! Loved the photos you captured! :)

  2. It was simply lovely to have you along for the “ride,” Sommer! Your photos are just gorgeous – such a nice way to re-live the CornQuest.

  3. Great recap, Sommer. I’m so glad you enjoyed a corn harvest in the beautiful Midwest! It’s how I grew up. I had a great time with the Iowa corn group, wish I could have just one more lap around that track!!!

  4. That is so neat. I’ve had a chance to visit a few local wineries and some restaurants due to my job. It’s always such a treat! :)

  5. Looks like a great time Sommer!

  6. Very interesting! Looked like a great day in Iowa. Enjoyed. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Looks like a good time! Can you please send me an invite to your baord Holy Sweetness #Recipes. I would love to participate, there are a lot of wonderful pins!

    My board is ….http://www.pinterest.com/martic/boards.

    Thank you so much!

  8. What a great recap! It was so much fun meeting you, hope our paths cross again soon!

  9. Sounds like it was a fun trip! I certainly learned a lot of facts about Iowa (and the agriculture in general) that I didn’t know before. Very educational. And what a gorgeous photo of sunset you have captured!

  10. It looks like such a wonderful trip! Love the videos!

  11. What a fun trip – love that you included videos!! I bet you girls had a blast!! Thanks for letting us follow along!

  12. How fun is this?! Looks like you had a great time in Iowa!

  13. Great recap, Sommer! I am so glad you got to hang out for a bit!

  14. Looks like a fun trip!

  15. Cool post Sommer! Looks like you had a great day!!

  16. Sounds like you had an awesome trip. Getting a ride in a race car would be sweet! Great photos.

  17. Looks like so much fun! I didn’t realize how much corn is used for ethanol production…that’s so interesting!

  18. Looks like you had a blast!! And speedy speedy – you look good as a racer. ;)

  19. Ahhh I’m so glad you got to go on this trip! I went last year and had a blast and I totally miss it! Looks like you had a ton of fun! Vroom vroom

  20. What an awesome experience and true midwest hospitality! Glad you ladies had a great time, and thanks for sharing part of it with us. PS. Race car? YOU GO GIRL!

  21. This sounds like it was a fun adventure!

  22. What a fun trip Sommer – that race car sounds crazy! Not sure I’d have the courage to do that.

  23. Love this post Summer! Looks like you gals had a great time :)

  24. How awesome, Sommer! Such a fun day!