Fresh Pickings Magazine | Spring 2021

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MAKE BABIES’ FIRST BITES COUNT

GARDEN LIKE A FARMER THIS SPRING

SPRING 2021
Arty’s Ice Cream & Grill Wilton Bambino’s Ossian #DutchFix Pella Fishback & Stephenson Cider House Fairfield Foodie Garage Eatery Dubuque Moo’s BBQ Newton Murph’s Creamery & Grill Toledo Saucy Focaccia Cedar Rapids The Map Room Cedar Rapids Troy’s Bar and Grill Earling Sponsored by the Iowa Beef Industry Council and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association.
MORE ABOUT THE TOP 10 AT WWW.IABEEF.ORG TOP 10 Murph’sCreamery&Grill Toledo Fishback&Stephenson CiderHouse Fairfield TheMapRoom CedarRapids FoodieGarageEatery Dubuque Moo’s BBQ Newton Bambino’s Ossian #DutchFix Pella Troy’sBarandGrill Earling Arty’sIceCream &Grill Wilton Saucy FocacciaCedar Rapids IOWA’S BEST BURGER TOP 10 IN 2021 Announcing
LEARN

IN THE SPRING ISSUE OF FRESH PICKINGS MAGAZINE, YOU’LL FIND STORIES THAT CELEBRATE THE INCREDIBLE FOOD, FARMS AND FAMILIES THAT MAKE IOWA A SPECIAL PLACE TO LIVE.

THIS QUARTERLY PUBLICATION IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE IOWA FOOD & FAMILY PROJECT. WE ARE AN INITIATIVE THAT INVITES IOWANS TO EXPLORE HOW FOOD IS GROWN AND RAISED AROUND THE STATE AND MEET THE FARMERS WHO MAKE IT HAPPEN; 24/7, 365 DAYS A YEAR.

WE NETWORK WITH NEARLY 35 FOOD, FARMING AND HEALTHY LIVING ORGANIZATIONS WHO ARE PROUD OF IOWA’S HOMEGROWN FOODS AND HOMETOWN VALUES. YOU CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT OUR PARTNERS ON PAGE 5.

Welcome

Features

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THE ART OF AGRICULTURE

The intersection of agriculture and art across Iowa inspires creativity that draws rural and urban residents together.

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10-YEAR CELEBRATION

For the past decade, the Iowa Food & Family Project has invited Iowans to explore how food is grown and raised around the state.

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CHOPLOCAL

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A new online meat marketplace offers convenience and agricultural awareness while connecting shoppers and farmers. 28 16

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44 FRESH PICKED: FARM LIFE IN THE SPRING

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LET’S GET GROWING

Growing gardenfresh food has never been easier. Experts share tips to create a nutritious bounty of vegetables and herbs.

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MAKE EVERY BITE COUNT

New dietary guidelines recommend introducing solid foods – like meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and soy –to infants and toddlers.

ON THE COVER: Jordan Hill of Stanhope feeds her nine-month-old son Oliver a bite of whole fat yogurt.

SPRING 2021 | ISSUE NO. 9

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 3
LETTERS TO THE
6
EDITOR
DECADES TO COME
7 EDITOR’S NOTE:
8 FAMILY TABLE: PANNA COTTA WITH BERRIES
GARDEN
PLANT PERFECT
TIPS:
CONTAINERS
12 POINT OF INTEREST: TAYLOR’S MAID-RITE
In Every Issue
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#StrongerTogether

Iowans truly are #StrongerTogether when we support one another. Like you support local businesses, restaurants and more, you can support local Iowa farmers! Iowa’s farmers are your neighbors, friends and family. They’re people you see and interact with every day, picking up groceries at the local supermarket or sitting in the stands cheering on the hometown kids. With just three easy steps you can support Iowa corn farmers!

F ARMERS support local Visit www.iowacorn.org to sign up for more information about giveaways and promotions!
Farmers 1. Buy Corn-fed Meat, Dairy and Egg Products 2. Fill Up Your Glass With Water Right From the Tap 3. Fuel Your Vehicle With E15/Unleaded 88
We Are All
How to Support Local

BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE IOWA FOOD & FAMILY PROJECT

FRESH PICKINGS MAGAZINE

EDITOR

KELLY VISSER

PHOTO EDITOR

DESIGN

ASHTON BOLES

CONTRIBUTORS

ANN THELEN

Thelen Public Relations

CRISTEN CLARK

Food & Swine

HALEY BANWART

Farm Roots & Chore Boots

DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY

Darcy Maulsby & Co.

AMY NELSON

CommonGround Iowa

IOWA FOOD & FAMILY PROJECT

FOUNDERS

Iowa Soybean Association

Iowa Pork Producers Association

Iowa Beef Industry Council

Midwest Dairy

Iowa Corn Growers Association

Iowa Poultry Association

Iowa Egg Council

Iowa Turkey Federation

The Soyfoods Council

SUPPORTERS

Anderson Erickson Dairy Cargill

Cookies Food Products

Corteva Agriscience

Earl May Nursery & Garden Center

Farm Credit Services of America

Heart of America Group

Hy-Vee

Iowa Grocery Industry Association

Iowa Machine Shed Restaurant

Iowa State Fair

Key Cooperative

Latham Hi-Tech Seeds

Live Healthy Iowa

MercyOne

Subway

REQUEST YOUR MAILED SUBSCRIPTION AT IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM/MAGAZINE/SUBSCRIBE

Thank you to the Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Midwest Dairy, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Turkey Federation, Farm Credit Services of America, Cargill, Corteva Agriscience, Key Cooperative, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, Live Healthy Iowa and Earl May for the financial investment that makes this publication possible.

Fresh Pickings is published four times a year by: Iowa Soybean Association, 1255 SW Prairie Trail Parkway, Ankeny, Iowa 50023

For advertising information, complete the form at iowafoodandfamily.com/magazine/feedback.

Advertising space reservations must be made through the above form. In consideration of the acceptance of the advertisement, the agency and advertiser must, in respect of the contents of the advertisement, indemnify and save the publisher harmless against any expense arising from claims or actions against the publisher because of the publication of the content of the advertisement.

Comments: iowafoodandfamily.com/magazine/feedback

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 5

I want to thank you for the easy-to-make recipes with simple ingredients. It certainly makes for delicious, healthy meals after working all day! Also, I am enjoying "armchair travel" with the interesting places you feature right here in Iowa. During these uncertain times, it is nice to just sit back and be taken on a journey through the pages.

Thank you again for the very thoughtful input on each and every issue.

Letters to the Editor

We love the magazine and look forward to reading every issue! It is always so much fun to learn something new … for example, we didn't know the Butter Braid pastries our kids have sold for fundraisers over the years were made in northwest Iowa.

It is also fun to read about familiar places. I am from northeast Iowa, and I have been to Green's Sugar Bush for pancakes with freshly made syrup. There is nothing better than enjoying breakfast in the spring air with extended family. The only way to make that feature story better would be breakfast delivery!

It was a joy to read "A Man with Heart" in your Winter 2020 issue. John Mortimer is a longtime friend, and we love all the great food at the Cattlemen's Beef Quarters! It is always part of our day at the Iowa State Fair. Thanks for spotlighting a wonderful man and a wonderful Iowa product … beef!

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Submit your own letter at iowafoodandfamily.com/ magazine/letters.

DECADES TO COME

a growing disconnect between consumers and farmers, and most importantly, wanted to be proactive in addressing this divide in a welcoming, relevant way.

Over the years, it has grown to incorporate nearly 35 partner organizations, connect with more than 135,000 fans each month and foster countless conversations, celebrations and relationships.

I am thankful that I am a part of Iowa FFP’s history.

Around here, we’re all about looking ahead. As my manager Aaron Putze often says, “There’s a reason the rearview mirror is smaller than the windshield.” When one chapter closes, it is time to lace up your shoes and chart a path forward, dream up the next project, story idea or collaboration.

I firmly believe this attitude has shaped the Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) into a premier and powerful agricultural awareness initiative. It has led to innovation, new relationships and continuous improvement. This spring is a milestone in Iowa FFP’s history – it marks the initiative’s 10-year anniversary. While it isn’t always natural to look back, I’ve made it a priority to reflect on the past decade. To look back and take a moment to pause, breathe, think, celebrate and honor all that is Iowa FFP.

Iowa FFP was founded in April 2011 by a forward-thinking group of farmers and agricultural organizations. They identified

It has helped me grow more confident and push my boundaries. Not only as a professional, but also as a consumer who has learned firsthand how food is produced, met inspiring farmers and confronted my own misconceptions about agriculture. And most importantly, Iowa FFP has reaffirmed the value I place on family.

Now, back to that windshield.

As I look ahead, it is clear to me that spending time with my young family is my top priority. I’ve decided to step away from my role with Iowa FFP to spend more time at home with my little girl. I have no doubt this step will push me to grow in ways I can’t yet imagine.

It is bittersweet to say goodbye, but I know incredible things are ahead for Iowa FFP, because of its strong momentum, energy and connections. I am confident that I will carry the lessons I’ve learned with me for decades to come.

Enjoy the issue,

iowafoodandfamily.com/magazine/letters

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 7 Submit a letter to the editor! Share how a story in Fresh Pickings magazine has inspired you to act, explore or try something new. If your letter is published, you’ll receive a $25 Hy-Vee gift card.
editor’s note

Cristen Clark is a pig farmer, creator of the Food & Swine blog and an award-winning baker and cook. She lives on a farm near Runnells with her husband Mike and children Halle and Barrett.

Delightful Dairy Desserts

USHER IN WARMER WEATHER WITH DECADENT YET REFRESHING DESSERTS

Warmer weather is the perfect excuse to enjoy tasty confections of all kinds!

I’d be hard-pressed to say that the classic soft serve ice cream cone isn’t one of my favorite springtime treats. There’s something so satisfying about the soft swirls of ice cream and the urgency to eat before the melting begins.

While soft serve ice cream is my favorite dessert, there are endless combinations of custards, creams, rich cakes and pies that feature decadent dairy ingredients. No matter the final dish, desserts with dairy are satisfying and delightful.

When it comes to using dairy products in desserts, there are some easy ways to elevate a dish and avoid common missteps. The following are a few tips I’ve learned from wise, experienced home cooks.

Whipped cream: To make the best whipped cream, chill the cream, whisk and bowl before mixing. Add sugar slowly to sweeten. If whipped cream will be used to top a cream pie, add a teaspoon of sour cream per cup of heavy cream. This addition stabilizes the cream and keeps it from separating on top of the pie.

Sour cream: Sour cream is rich and acidic. It acts as a fat to produce moist, tender textures in cakes and pastries. The acids in sour cream tenderize baked goods by breaking protein molecules into smaller pieces.

Heavy cream: When adding heavy cream to finish a dish, remove the dish from the heat before adding the cream to prevent curdling. Heating the cream gently before adding will help as well.

Inspired by fresh berries and delicious dairy products, I’ve created this Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Berries recipe. It is an excellent make-ahead option for warm weather celebrations. My recipe incorporates sour cream along with heavy whipping cream. The acidity from the sour cream makes the mixture flavorful and imparts a subtle tang.

If you want to unmold panna cotta, coat vessels with nonstick spray prior to filling. After chilling and use a hot water bath to soak chilled containers before unmolding. It is also important not to substitute lower fat ingredients in a panna cotta recipe without adding a little extra gelatin. This will keep the structure and thickness of the final dessert as intended.

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family table

Sour Cream Panna Cotta with Berries

Panna Cotta

• 1 packet gelatin (21/4 teaspoons powdered gelatin)

• 3 tablespoons cold water

• 1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided

• 11/2 cup sour cream

• 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract

• 1/3 cup granulated sugar

Berry Sauce

• 3 cups assorted fresh berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries)

• 1/2 cup granulated sugar

• 1 tablespoon lemon zest

• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin on cold water. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the gelatin to dissolve. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup heavy cream with sour cream and vanilla. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream and sugar over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat once mixture simmers.

Off the heat, add softened gelatin to the hot cream and whisk to dissolve. Strain hot cream/sugar/gelatin mixture into the heavy cream/sour cream/vanilla mixture and stir to combine.

Pour into glasses. Refrigerate 4-8 hours until firm. Serve with berry sauce and fresh berries.

Berry Sauce

Combine half the berries with sugar, lemon zest and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue boiling for 5 minutes, crushing a few berries while stirring consistently. Remove from heat, add vanilla and stir well. Cool slightly to warm temperature. Fold in remaining berries. Spoon on top of panna cotta prior to serving.

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 9
Photo courtesy of Kelsey Byrnes, Dance Around the Kitchen.
Let's Dig In Stay connected with tips and inspirational projects from your local Earl May Garden Center at earlmay.com.

Plant Perfect Containers

Master the art of container gardening in five easy steps

Container gardening is a simple way to make a dramatic statement with flowers and plants. Remarkably flexible and fun, it’s perfect for boosting a home’s curb appeal or adding a punch of color to decks and patios.

Mary Decker, store manager for Earl May Nursery & Garden Center in West Des Moines, shares five tips for creating stunning container gardens.

Pick the Proper Soil

Select soil that is a container mix, which is designed for plants in aboveground containers and hanging baskets. The container mix helps regulate moisture by shedding water from the roots in wet conditions and holding water in dry conditions. A container mix with timedreleased plant food will ensure the proper amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the macronutrients plants need.

Factor in Sun and Shade. Choose plants that will thrive in the light where your container will be throughout the day. Carefully check the plants’ tags to know

if they are sun- or shade-loving. During Iowa’s summer heat, flowers that need shade will not survive the impacts of sitting in the sun for hours.

Select the Right Container. Choose the right container for the space allotted and ensure it is large enough to hold the desired plants. Put in enough plants so that the dirt isn’t visible when planting is complete. Almost any container will work if it provides good drainage, so check for a hole at the bottom.

Choose a Thriller, a Filler and a Spiller. The thriller is usually one featured, vertical plant

that brings a different look to the container garden, such as tall grasses, tropical plants or other striking foliage. For the filler, select a mounding plant with flower power and fill in the blank spaces between the vertical and trailing plants. Spillers are the trailing plants used to round out the container garden while creating flow and a finishing touch.

Tickle the Roots.

When planting, take the plant out of the pot that it came in and loosen up or “tickle” the roots, so they almost look like little feathers. Doing so will allow the plant’s roots to get established in the soil and the plant to flourish.

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 11 garden tips

point of interest

Sandy Taylor Short, Marshalltown

A Legendary Sandwich

Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown has served their signature loose meat sandwich for more than 90 years. The iconic creation is freshly ground hamburger, prepared to crumbly perfection in a cast-iron cooker, carefully mounded on a soft, white bun and served with mustard, pickles and chopped onions.

The Maid-Rite sandwich first appeared on menus in 1926 when Fred Angell, a butcher from Muscatine, crafted his recipe and later franchised the idea.

In 1928, Cliff Taylor purchased the franchise rights and opened Taylor’s Maid-Rite Hamburger Shop in Marshalltown. The Taylor family ran day-to-day operations of the restaurant, including baking pies at home and hand-slicing whole pickles from Marshall Vinegar Works and buns from the local Strand’s Bakery.

Since then, four generations of the family have operated the shop in the same friendly,

hometown fashion. Current co-owner Sandra (Sandy) Taylor Short has fond memories of growing up in the family business.

“I washed dishes while standing on top of a pop case because I wasn’t quite tall enough to reach the sink,” she recalls. “In 1958, my folks built a state-of-theart building across the street from the original shop. I still remember moving everything to the new location in the middle of the night to avoid street traffic.”

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 13
By Haley Banwart | Photos by Joseph L. Murphy Perfectly cooked ground beef is the secret sauce behind every great-tasting Taylor’s Maid-Rite.

Th e Original Fast Food

Today, loyal patrons and visitors enjoy the great taste of local tradition in the same cement brick building Short’s parents built. Not much has changed at the restaurant, but to many, consistency is what gives this family-owned eatery its charm.

“Whether people grew up in Marshalltown or stopped by for a visit, Taylor’s Maid-Rite sticks in their memories. There’s something nostalgic about the experience,” says Lynn Olberding, president and CEO of the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce. “Their products and service are legendary, and the employees are treated like local celebrities.”

For newcomers, a trip to Taylor’s Maid-Rite can feel like a step back in time.

Twenty-nine iconic red bar stools line the horseshoe-shaped Formica counter – once a dark brown, now turned white from years of wear.

At the center of the small hub, employees tease the taste buds of hungry customers who watch as sandwiches are prepared to the steady hum of malts and milkshakes being made in the background.

All orders are placed off a singlesandwich menu. The limited selection is a testament to the Maid-Rite’s popularity as an oldfashioned, unseasoned sandwich crafted with quality choice beef.

“We’re the original fast food,”

Short jokes. “We like to keep things simple. That’s just what we do.”

While simplicity is key, there are a few variations of the famous Marshalltown Maid-Rite worth noting. Customers can order the sandwich “wet” (which means the loose meat is served with extra beefy drippings), add a slice of cheese or help themselves to ketchup on the counter, though some say ketchup masks the flavor.

According to Short, a Maid-Rite, malt or a slice of pie “that tastes as good as grandma’s” are some of the most popular orders.

“If you ask for fries, we’ll know you’re a first-timer,” she says. “We’ve always served chips instead of fries.”

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Employees prepare for a lunch rush at Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown.

Kee ping the Tradition Alive

When asked what keeps customers coming back to Taylor’s Maid-Rite, Short ventures it’s the “good food” and “fine help.”

In addition to serving thousands of sandwiches to hungry patrons every year, Taylor’s Maid-Rite gives back to the community through donations to various businesses and nonprofit organizations.

For example, when a devastating tornado ripped through the city’s historic town square in 2018, Short and her team donated provisions from the restaurant’s walk-in freezer

to the Salvation Army and delivered sandwiches to the local hospital and fire department.

When disaster struck the community again in 2020, this time in the form of a powerful derecho, drivers waiting in line at one of the town’s only gas stations were treated to a Taylor’s Maid-Rite.

“Despite these natural disasters and the pandemic, Taylor’s Maid-Rite has turned on their lights, opened their doors and continued to serve patrons,” Olberding adds.

Three Ways to Enjoy a 1 2

Order a famous sandwich online or by phone and have them shipped to you directly. Deliveries in quantities of one, two or three dozen are available on Thursday and Friday each week.

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Get a dozen Taylor’s Maid-Rites delivered to your door! Enter to win at iowafoodandfamily.com/ magazine/sandwich

Make the original Maid-Rite sandwich recipe at home. Short recommends starting with a cut of quality choice beef double ground and cooked on high heat in a castiron skillet. Cook the meat into fine crumbles, add your favorite toppings and enjoy!

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 15
Stop by the shop located at 106 S. 3rd Ave. in Marshalltown.
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Taylor’s Maid-Rite is kno wn for sandwiches, but its ice cream treats are showstoppers, too.

THE OF

CREATIVE EXPRESSIONS CONNECT RURAL, URBAN AUDIENCES

Photos

“When tillage begins, other arts follow,” noted the prominent American orator Daniel Webster more than 180 years ago. The intersection of agriculture and art in Iowa has long inspired creativity that draws rural and urban residents together.

STEEL COW REFLECTS HOMEGROWN ART IN WAUKON

Finding beauty in agriculture resonates with Valerie Miller, the creative force behind Steel Cow, an art studio in Waukon. Steel Cow is known for its distinctive cow, pig, chicken, sheep, goat and wildlife art prints and paintings.

“I’ve always loved animals of all kinds, and I always wanted to be an artist,” says Miller, the fifth generation of her family to live in the northeast Iowa community.

The daughter of a funeral director and a nurse, Miller didn’t grow up on a farm but maintains close ties to local farms. Two of her uncles own the WW Homestead Dairy in Waukon, which has been dubbed the “cheese curd capital of Iowa.”

A family trip to Switzerland proved to be a turning point in Miller’s life. The summer after she graduated from high school, her family went to Europe to visit a foreign exchange student her father knew. “Bernie took us kids on motorcycle rides through the Swiss Alps,” says Miller, who could hear the bells of the cows as the motorcycle sped by. “I thought the Brown Swiss cows were the most beautiful things I’d ever seen.”

After returning to Iowa, Miller viewed her home area through completely different eyes. “I was mesmerized by all the cows in northeast Iowa, which is sometimes referred to as ‘Little Switzerland,’ since we have so many more hills and bluffs than the rest of Iowa.”

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Valerie Miller, owner of Steel Cow in Waukon, paints a farm animal portrait at her studio. Miller photographs animals, and then uses the images as inspiration for her paintings.

When Miller started college that fall, she majored in art and business. “I started painting cows and never stopped,” she adds.

After graduating from college in 2004, Miller married her husband Josh (a fellow artist) and started her own business at 23. From the start, Steel Cow has been located in a former funeral home/furniture store that Miller’s great-great-grandfather built in the 1920s. While the Millers have renovated their three-story building at 15 Allamakee Street, it still includes the original wood floors and tin ceilings, along with Miller’s first-floor gallery/ store and second-floor art studio.

The inspiration for each piece of Miller’s artwork starts in the country. “I meet each animal and photograph it before I paint,” she says. “I love visiting

farms and getting acquainted with the farmers.”

Miller names the animals after her friends and family and gives each animal its own biography. “I like to think of the animals having alter egos,” Miller says. “So, I have my sister Greta, who is a Jersey dairy cow; my friend Lindsey, who is a Holstein dairy cow; and our sons Ellison, who is a pheasant, Eddie, who is a fox, and Harry, who is a horse.”

Some of Miller’s artwork features animals on brightly colored backgrounds, while other pieces include earth-toned or white backgrounds. Miller has also created a series with the American flag in the background. “This way, the artwork can fit into many different home and office environments,” she says.

Customers can shop at the store or online for canvas prints featuring an array of animals, Christmas ornaments and more. Many of Miller’s customers appreciate her “made in Iowa” business philosophy. “We make as many of our products as we can, including our shipping boxes,” she notes.

Customers nationwide enjoy a view of rural Iowa, thanks to the livestock that inspire Miller. “I have a deep respect for the farm families who take care of these animals and the land,” she explains.

As creatives know, art is essential to the human spirit. Enduring expressions of beauty connect people, reflect the rural culture’s values and remain essential to life – much like Iowa agriculture itself.

Barn quilts are an American folk art phenomenon that have flourished in Iowa for nearly 20 years. They highlight Iowa’s agricultural heritage and the time-honored art of quilting.

“I immediately fell in love with this concept when I heard about it,” says Sue Peyton of rural Sac City. “Barns and barn quilts are such a natural fit.” The Peytons coordinated the construction and painting of Sac County’s first barn quilts in 2005. Sac County boasted 55 barn quilts within two years of the start of the project.

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 19
Angie Blumhagen paints iconic barn quilts in her home studio near Audubon. SAC COUNTY BARN QUILTS REVITALIZE THE COUNTRYSIDE

SAC COUNTY PROVES THAT BARN QUILTS OFFER AN EFFECTIVE WAY TO HELP SAVE BARNS, PROMOTE RURAL TOURISM AND BOOST ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

Every barn quilt tells a story, such as the pastel-colored Double Aster barn quilt on the Hogue family’s barn north of Odebolt. This Sears & Roebuck dairy barn built in 1942-43, is a focal point of the Prairie Pedlar, a garden center and popular destination for weddings and other events. “We’re proud to be part of Sac County’s barn quilt project,” says Jane Hogue, who has operated the Prairie Pedlar, with her husband Jack for more than 35 years. “With our gardens and tourism, it’s a win-win.”

Sac County proves that barn quilts offer an effective way to help save barns, promote rural tourism and

boost economic development. The vintage barn at the Rustic River Winery and Vineyard north of Lake View, for example, has been remodeled into a winery and venue where people can host parties and other gatherings.

Angie Blumhagen, who owns and operates The Yard N Garden east of Auburn, sells barn quilts that she paints. Some quilts support fundraisers for groups like the local Pheasants Forever chapter. “I enjoy creating handmade art projects that are complementary to Iowa and life on the farm,” she says. “I love this state and let it show in the work I do.”

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Angie Blumhagen offers a wide variety of artwork at The Yard N Garden east of Audubon.

MT. VERNON BARN SHOWCASES AMERICAN GOTHIC

Sometimes a barn itself becomes a striking piece of artwork. Travel west of Mt. Vernon, and you will spot a replica of Grant Wood’s famous American Gothic painted on the north side of a barn along U.S. Highway 30. “It definitely stands out from the landscape,” says Mark Benesh, a Mt. Vernon middle school art teacher who painted the barn.

It started around 2007, when the barn’s owner connected with Benesh during Chalk the Walk, an event where more than 200 artists use Mt. Vernon’s Main Street as a canvas to create stunning works of chalk art. “She asked me if I knew anyone who painted barn murals, but I didn’t,” Benesh says.

Undeterred, the barn owner asked him again the next year. He decided he could give it a try. First, the barn had to be faced with cement board. “This material doesn’t expand and contract with the weather like barn wood does, which helps the paint last longer,” Benesh explains.

After the barn owner paid for the rights to reproduce the American Gothic image, Benesh created a grid system to scale, based on a photo he took of the barn. “It’s the kind of thing where one inch equals one foot on the grid system,” says Benesh, who notes that the barn measures approximately 30 feet by 40 feet. “Then, you just paint square by square.”

It took Benesh about three weeks to complete the barnsized American Gothic. He used artist-quality acrylic paint and varnish to help protect the image from ultraviolet light.

“I haven’t had to touch it up since I painted it in 2008,” he says. He also painted flowers and deer on the east side of the barn, along with buffalo on the west side.

Travelers often stop to photograph the colorful barn. “Rural Iowa’s landscape is so interesting with its patterns and colors,” says Benesh. “Anything can be beautiful if you handle it properly.”

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 21
This famous roadside attraction was painted by Mark Benesh, Mt. Vernon middle school teacher. The barn mural is a replica of Grant Wood’s American Gothic painting.

A 10-YEAR CELEBRATION OF FOOD & FARMING

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From balloon sculptures to paint-bynumber murals and photo booths to sand sculptures, the display at the Iowa State Fair always entertains fairgoers. A Summer Iowa Games athlete joins in “Food & Family Fair” competitions during the 2017 Athlete Jamboree in Ames. Corinne Rowe explains rotational grazing during Food U in 2019.

INITIATIVE REACHES MILESTONE IN BUILDING CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IN AGRICULTURE

While farmland blankets the state, farmers make up just 4% of the Iowa population. This means that 96% of Iowans are disconnected from agriculture and a growing number are at least three generations removed from the farm.

Not only are many consumers unaware of how food is grown and raised, but the disconnect can also lead to distrust in farming practices and misperceptions of today’s food system.

The Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) invites Iowans to explore how food is grown and raised around the state and

meet the farmers who make it happen, 24/7; 365 days a year. Since its founding in April 2011, the collaborative initiative has united farmers and consumers in a powerful and relevant conversation about modern agriculture.

“Instead of seeing the gap between consumers and farmers as a problem that couldn’t be solved, Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer leaders wanted to take a revolutionary, long-term approach,” says Aaron Putze, senior director of information and education for ISA. “They decided that embracing consumer questions and concerns should be core to our work in agriculture.”

This decision led to the creation of Iowa FFP, a proactive approach to consumer engagement that’s growing momentum a decade later.

Centered on welcoming consumer questions about modern agriculture, Iowa FFP develops programming, events and editorial that thoughtfully bring the stories of Iowa farmers and the food they produce to Iowa consumers. It goes beyond “thank a farmer” themes to relate first on a human level, and then inspire curiosity and appreciation for the family legacies, community values, scientific advancements and environmental considerations that drive modern agriculture.

IOWAFOODANDFAMILY.COM | 23
Teresa Nennig holds a jar of treated soybeans during Expedition Farm Country in 2018. Expedition Farm Country invites Iowans to meet farmers and learn firsthand how food is grown and raised across the state.

Iowa FFP is led by ISA and founding partners, including the Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Midwest Dairy, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Egg Council, Iowa Turkey Federation and The Soyfoods Council. Iowa-based restaurants, retailers and health organizations also lend their support. By unifying this diverse partner network, Iowa FFP has become a premier voice for agriculture.

“We look very broadly at how to solve problems, and improving trust in modern agriculture isn’t something just one organization

can do alone,” Putze says.

“Coordinating across groups and marshaling resources toward a shared goal is what has made the initiative successful over the past decade.”

Each month, Iowa FFP connects with an audience of more than 135,000 opt-in fans across its social media, eNewsletter and Fresh Pickings magazine channels. The initiative also connects personally with thousands of Iowans each year through farm tours, farm-to-table meals, speaking engagements and community events.

MOVING THE NEEDLE

Improvements in consumer trust and agricultural awareness are tricky metrics to measure.

That’s why Iowa FFP has invested in an annual Consumer Pulse Survey. The survey, conducted since 2013, gauges Iowa grocery shoppers’ perceptions of modern agriculture and food purchasing habits. The sample, which is representative of the state’s population, is split between those connected with Iowa FFP and the general public.

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Iowa FFP has proudly sponsored Iowa Sports Foundation programs since 2011, including Live Healthy Iowa and the Iowa Games. Aaron Putze picks sweet corn for the Iowa Food Bank at Kevin and Julie Van Manen’s farm near Kellogg in 2014. Food U participants visit at Walnut Ridge Farm in Indianola. Dave Stuthers hosted a Food U tour at his farm in Collins in 2018. Launched in 2018, day-long Food U tours offer consumers a deep dive into modern agriculture with a variety of experts across farm, food and restaurant industries. A Food U tour at Center Grove Orchard in Cambridge.

“Measurement is foundational to every initiative,” says Putze. “Not only does it show the value of the investment in Iowa FFP, but it also gives us consumer insights to share with farmers.”

When asked, “Overall, how satisfied are you with Iowa agriculture?” in the most recent survey (October 2020), those connected with Iowa FFP were significantly more likely than the general public to be satisfied, 89% vs. 83%, respectively.

The research also dives into specific perceptions of farmer performance. The latest survey revealed the following feedback from Iowa grocery shoppers:

• 75% are satisfied with farmer performance in producing safe foods.

• 75% are satisfied with farmer performance of raising healthy animals with care.

• 70% gave farmers “excellent” and “good” ratings for protecting our air, soil and water, up 20% over the past four years.

Across all survey categories, those connected with Iowa FFP were significantly more likely to hold more positive perceptions of agriculture. Beyond measuring the initiative’s impact on agricultural awareness, this survey work is foundational in Iowa FFP programs, partnerships and editorial decisions.

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“ N o matter if you’re looking for agriculture, food, entertainment or nostalgia, you can find it all at the Iowa State Fair. Over the years the Iowa Food & Family Project’s display in the Varied Industries building has helped us deliver something for everyone. ”
— GARY SLATER, CEO AND MANAGER OF THE IOWA STATE
FAIR Iowa FFP’s presence at the Iowa State Fair is made possible by hundreds of passionate and loyal volunteers. Mindy Whittle volunteers at the trivia spin wheel, which always delights fairgoers. Sandscuplture at the 2014 Iowa State Fair. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and his family leave a mark on Iowa FFP’s barn mural during the 2018 Iowa State Fair. “Back to the Farmer” Canstruction at the 2012 Iowa State Fair.

“ Developing recipes for the cookbooks and Fresh Pickings magazine has been one of my favorite things. I love to sneak in family recipes that stir up nostalgia that all Iowans can relate to. ”

ENCOURAGING TWO-WAY CONVERSATIONS

No matter if it’s around a family dinner table or at the Iowa State Fair, good things happen when farmers and consumers come together.

That’s why Iowa FFP has been dedicated to fostering welcoming, two-way conversations about today’s food system.

“I have enjoyed volunteering with the Iowa Food & Family Project at events like the Iowa State Fair because it gives me a chance to talk with consumers who have questions

or misconceptions about agriculture,” says Randy Miller, who raises soybeans, corn, pigs and cattle in Lacona and serves as a director on the ISA board. “It’s on farmers to share our stories and help encourage meaningful conversations with consumers.”

Beyond in-person discussions, the initiative also welcomes questions through its website and social media channels, coordinating with farmers to field requests and share perspectives.

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Kristin Porter, creator of the popular Iowa Girl Eats food blog, teamed up with Iowa FFP to explore how food is grown, raised and produced in the state in a “Join My Journey” series. Cristen, Halle and Barrett Clark prepare a recipe at their home in Runnells. Cristen is the creator of the popular Food & Swine blog. Iowa FFP created three cookbooks featuring recipes from bloggers, farmers and agricultural organizations. Lindsay Greiner connects with consumers during “Talkin’ Farming at the Shed” in 2012. Randy Miller volunteers at the Iowa State Fair.

SHARING THE STORY OF IOWA AGRICULTURE

Heartfelt, curious and impactful storytelling has been a cornerstone in advancing Iowa FFP’s mission. The combination of photography, videography and written content work in harmony to tell the story of Iowa agriculture to a growing audience.

“Photography is a powerful tool because it can instantly transport people to a moment and place in time,” says Joseph L. Murphy, photo editor of Fresh Pickings magazine and communications and editorial director for ISA. “I believe showcasing agriculture through photography can lead to a greater understanding and appreciation for the work going on across Iowa’s countryside.”

The initiative’s storytelling transcends the farm-to-fork connection by spotlighting restaurants, food manufacturers, nutrition insights, points of interest and niche agriculture. By offering diverse content, Iowa FFP has built a reputation for surprising and delighting readers who may not initially be seeking agricultural-related content.

“Whether it’s on the farm or in a café, the Iowa Food & Family Project showcases the fabric of Iowa,” Murphy adds. “I love that we’ve been able to explore the state to capture and share such a wide range of stories.”

As Iowa FFP turns the page on its first decade, an exciting chapter lies ahead.

For opportunities to be involved with upcoming programs, events and activities, subscribe to our eNewsletter. Published eight times a year, the eNewsletter is a continuous invitation to explore how food is grown and raised in the state.

iowafoodandfamily. com/sign-up

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Consumers and farmers share a meal and conversation during Expedition Farm Country in 2015. Suzanne Shirbroun (above center) and Mark Jackson (right) share their perspectives on modern agriculture during Expedition Farm Country.
LET’S GET CONNECTED
Joseph L. Murphy climbs a combine to get the perfect photo during Expedition Farm Country in 2019.

ChopLocal

ONLINE MEAT MARKETPLACE CREATES FARM-TO-FORK CONNECTION

From shoes to home décor to pet supplies, consumers have grown accustomed to the ease, selection and control of e-commerce. But when it comes to buying groceries online – especially meat products – many consumers aren’t keen on handing over control of specific product selection to the stranger who is fulfilling their grocery order.

With this concern in mind, a new, Iowa-based, e-commerce site called

ChopLocal gives consumers the convenience of online shopping with easy options to choose specific meat products.

“We’re making an alternative supply chain that gives consumers options, while allowing them to learn where food comes from and support local farmers,” says Katie Olthoff, ChopLocal’s co-founder.

ChopLocal is a one-stop-shop where consumers can buy high-

quality meats directly from farmers and small businesses like meat processors and butcher shops. Each vendor has its own microstore at choplocal.com, where products are for sale and the story of the producer’s farm or business is on display. Orders can be placed online and shipped directly to customers.

“ChopLocal helps consumers know exactly who they are ordering from,” Olthoff says. “The best way to describe it is the ‘Etsy of meat.’”

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Jared Achen, ChopLocal co-founder and farmer from Wayland.

Making an Idea a Reality

ChopLocal is the creation of Jared Achen, a fourth-generation farmer from Wayland. He first started exploring the idea of an e-commerce site for meat when he took an agricultural entrepreneurship class at Iowa State University. After earning his ag business degree, Achen returned home to farm, where he raises turkeys, corn and soybeans with his family.

When the pandemic exploded in March 2020, Achen thought back to his e-commerce idea, especially as COVID-related shutdowns at meat-packing plants left farmers with full-grown animals and nowhere to market.

“We saw disruptions in demand for the turkeys we raise,” says Achen, who notes that most of his turkeys are processed into deli meat. “As different areas of the United States went into

lockdown, fewer people were eating at restaurants and hotels. The decrease in demand trickled down to farmers.”

While farmers had reduced markets for their livestock, more consumers struggled to get the meat they wanted from grocery stores. “I knew there had to be a better system to connect the farmers who have meat with the consumers who want it,” says Achen, whose father helped found West Liberty Foods, a turkey processing plant in West Liberty.

By May 2020, Achen officially started ChopLocal and began signing up vendors. The online marketplace, which includes beef, pork, lamb and rabbit offerings, launched in December 2020. The site has options for every customer, from pre-cooked, heat-and-serve cuts to premium cuts of meat to snacks like beef sticks and jerky.

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ChopLocal provides high-quality cuts of meat to consumers through an online marketplace.

Among the vendors is Brewer Family Farms from Dallas Center. The Brewers have been raising cattle and pigs in Dallas County for five generations. An array of products, from New York strip steaks to smoked Windsor pork chops to ground beef, are available through their ChopLocal microstore. “Our goal is to produce and provide wholesome, flavorful, locally grown beef and pork products that our family has enjoyed for generations,” says Emily (Brewer) Wynn.

The convenience of ChopLocal is a plus for consumers and farmers, adds Wynn. “We’ve been looking to expand our meat business to reach markets we couldn’t access on our own,” she says. “ChopLocal has helped us sell to customers across Iowa and beyond, including Denver, Colorado.”

Convenience + Quality = Trust

ChopLocal allows consumers to order from multiple farms and businesses at once. There is no fee to join. In addition, shipping is free with an order of $150 or more from a single vendor.

Nick Lenters, owner of Old Station Craft Meats in Waukee, credits ChopLocal with helping grow his customer base since opening his business in December 2020. “ChopLocal is broadening our market outside of the Des Moines metro area,” says Lenters, who grew up on a farm near Sioux Center.

Old Station Craft Meats offers beef, pork, poultry, lamb, turkey, duck and bison through a store located on the downtown triangle in the heart of Waukee.

A number of these products can also be purchased through ChopLocal.

“At the grocery store, the meat producer’s story can be lost on the customer,” Lenters says. “This isn’t the case with ChopLocal, which is dedicated to educating shoppers about where their meat comes from and offering premium products.”

As more vendors set up microstores on ChopLocal, an even wider variety of products will be available in 2021. “Our vendors are fully invested in providing the best products possible,” Olthoff says.

“ChopLocal’s goal is to connect customers with convenience, quality and trustworthy products from local Iowa farms and small businesses.”

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Nick Lenters, owner of Old Station Craft Meats in Waukee.

BBQ BaconWrapped Pork Loin Strips

• 6 boneless thick-cut pork chops (about 2 pounds)

• 1 tablespoon seasoned salt, divided

• 2 pounds thin-sliced bacon

• BBQ sauce of choice

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

F. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet and coat with nonstick spray.

Slice each pork chop lengthwise into three even strips, then season with half the seasoned salt. Wrap a strip of bacon around each pork strip, securing the ends with a toothpick. Sprinkle the bacon-wrapped strips with the remaining seasoned salt and arrange on the prepared rack.

Roast for 20 minutes, then glaze with BBQ sauce. Return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes or until the glaze is thick and shiny.

Serve the glazed strips warm with additional BBQ sauce on the side

Serves: 10

Source: Cristen Clark, Food & Swine

Nutrition per serving: 571 calories, 47 g total fat, 118 mg cholesterol, 802 mg sodium, 1 g carbohydrate, 0 g fiber, 33 g protein

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Calvin Schnucker, a butcher with Old Station Craft Meats, makes various cuts of meat at the store in Waukee.
magazine readers. Visit choplocal.com and use code FRESHPICKS at checkout.
ChopLocal is offering free shipping for Fresh Pickings
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Mark Jackson, a Rose Hill farmer, examines the quality of his soil after using cover crops and no-till conservation efforts for many years.

Let's Get Growing

GARDEN-FRESH FOOD IS ON THE TABLE THIS SEASON

Across backyards and community spaces, in planters and raised beds, the appeal of gardening is stronger than ever. No longer is gardening reserved for those whose families have raised fruits and vegetables for generations or in vast spaces on rural acreages.

Even in Iowa, where we rank No. 1 in producing many food favorites, such as pork and eggs, there has been a resurgence of people wanting to connect with the origins of their favorite foods. The pandemic sprouted a newfound and renewed passion for growing garden-fresh food.

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Soil Matters

Growing starts with what’s beneath our feet – the soil. Soil is a living organism, constantly changing and working in every season. It needs to breathe to give plants healthy roots, which give way to proper nutrition. Ensuring that water can drain away from the soil after it’s absorbed is critical.

“If soil becomes water-logged and can’t drain, it creates the same effect as placing food in a plastic bag and sealing it,” says Mark Jackson, a farmer from Rose Hill. “The soil can’t breathe. It holds the moisture in and prevents the exchange of bacteria that is essential for microbial activity.”

It’s one reason farmers plant cover crops after the fall harvest. Cover crops – such as cereal rye, peas, turnips, radishes and clover – keep a cover on farmland between harvest and planting seasons. Grown in fields after corn and soybeans are harvested, these small plants have big benefits for soil fertility and conservation.

Gardeners have become intrigued with this concept and are also adding cover crops to backyard vegetable beds with the soil reaping the long-term benefits.

“A farmer’s goal is to have soil bacteria and growth occurring throughout the year. Earthworms, for example, feed off the sugars of a growing living plant in the soil,” Jackson explains. “That part is an exchange in nutrients. Earthworms process it and put it back into the soil in an organic nutrient form, usually more readily available to the plants. The same process is beneficial for gardening.”

Understanding the soil is the first advice Deanna Anderson, director of marketing for Earl May Nursery & Garden Centers, gives to gardeners.

“Most soil needs to be amended by adding a layer of topsoil, compost or a structure product – especially in Iowa where the state has really heavy clay soils,” she explains. “Mixing in amendments helps the soil from becoming compacted and helps it retain moisture for longer periods. That’s important during Iowa’s hot – and often dry – periods in the summer.”

GARDENING IS LIKE FARMING

Mark Jackson raises soybeans, corn and livestock on his family’s Century Farm in Mahaska County. Although Iowa is globally known for its agricultural leadership, most people are several generations removed from the farm.

“Farming is a lot like gardening, just on a larger scale,” Jackson says. “Farmers and home gardeners have similar goals –we both want to raise healthy food responsibly. Whether I’m growing soybeans or my neighbor is growing vegetables, our crops

both need to be planted in the right place at the right time with the right rate and right source of nutrients.”

While gardeners use their hands, shovels and trowels, farmers use advanced planting equipment to work on a larger scale. Corn and soybeans are carefully planted and spaced to allow for optimal growth. Technology also allows farmers to place fertilizer precisely where the plant needs it so it’s not overapplied. These same principles are important for gardening, too.

4R PRINCIPLES OF NUTRIENT STEWARDSHIP

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Match amount of fertilizer type crops need. RIGHT RATE Make nutrients available when crops need them. RIGHT TIME Keep nutrients where crops can use them. RIGHT PLACE Match fertilizer type to crop needs. RIGHT SOURCE
Mark Jackson pauses for a portrait outside of his planter on farm ground with terminated cover crops. Each year, cover crops hold soil in place through the winter before soybeans or corn are planted for the growing season.

5 Practical Tips for Growing Produce and Herbs

Whether a beginner or master gardener, Anderson and Jackson have tips for gardening success.

1. PREPARE . Preparing the soil to allow it to breathe is the last activity in the fall and the first task of spring. Before planting, have the soil pH tested for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Farmers test for these same elements in fields. Most problems with tomatoes – blight or root rot – are low calcium levels in the soil.

2. PLAN . Before purchasing products, plan what will be planted and where. Most vegetables and herbs thrive in the sun, needing a daily minimum of six hours of sunshine. Determine if plants will be in rows or squares, and if vertical, trellises and cages can be used.

3. PAIR. Some vegetables perform better when planted next to certain other types. Cucumbers like to be next to green beans, corn and radishes. Flowers provide many

beneficial effects when integrated into gardens. Marigolds deter pests and discourage many insects, while petunias protect green beans.

4.

PLANT.

When planting seeds or small plants, it’s easy to underestimate growth. Carefully follow the package instructions and plant according to the recommended spacing. Just like farmers, gardeners need to rotate crops from year-to-year. Don’t plant herbs and vegetables in the same spot of the garden every year. Doing so can lead to diseases that degrade the plant’s health.

5.

PROTECT.

Protect the plants against stress by ensuring the equivalent of one inch of rain is received every week. When supplemental watering is needed, water slowly and at the base of the plant. Early morning watering is best to prevent moisture from lingering on the leaves during the overnight hours, which can lead to fungus or other diseases.

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The Streck family of Van Meter plants vegetables in their backyard garden.

MAKE A MEAT GARDEN

Iowa’s warmer weather months are perfect times to take mealtime outside and grill up favorite proteins. Packed with flavor, this “meat garden” provides a bounty of herbs and vegetables that pair perfectly with beef, pork, turkey and dairy products.

TOMATOES: Often referred to as the king of the garden, tomatoes are a quintessential summer favorite. Whether served on a grilled hamburger or as a Caprese salad with fresh basil and mozzarella, tomatoes add versatility and color to plates and juicy flavor to palates.

KALE: Kale is one of the most nutrient-packed vegetables, and when paired with Iowa-raised proteins it provides a wellbalanced, wholesome meal. Grill stemmed kale leaves in a perforated pan for a smoky richness. Toss with bacon and a lemon-flavored dressing for a side dish with a steak. Or add bold ingredients like blue cheese or walnuts.

PEPPERS: From mild bell peppers to flaming-hot habanero varieties, the ways to use this heat- and sun-loving vegetable are endless. Bell peppers are easy to grill and create a smoky, tender and sweet side dish with any meat. Plant a variety of colors – red, green, yellow and orange –for a rainbow of goodness.

BASIL, THYME AND ROSEMARY:

This trio of herbs, ranging from mild to intense flavors, creates a sensory delight of choices. Basil pairs well with red meat and poultry, rosemary receives accolades when added to pork or red meat dishes and thyme balances perfectly with pork. If there’s space in the garden or individual pots, also plant dill, oregano and cilantro for a buffet of seasoning options.

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When and What to Plant WINNING FREEZER

SALSA

LATE MARCH – APRIL | SPRING CROPS

Once the ground thaws and soil can be worked in the spring, frost-tolerant plants can be sown directly into the ground. Hardy and fast-growing, many deliver their first crop within a month of planting. Spring crops include kale, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, potatoes, brussel sprouts, peas, kohlrabi, leeks and radishes.

MAY | SUMMER CROPS

Most summer crops are planted in the spring after the chance of frost has passed. These heat-loving plants flourish in Iowa’s summer weather, providing a nearly endless buffet of homegrown, nutritious produce. Consider planting green beans, corn, cucumbers, melons, peppers, tomatoes and squash for a summer harvest.

LATE JUNE – JULY | FALL CROPS

When summer peaks, it’s time to plant for a fall harvest. Several robust vegetables yield crops until the first frost, and sometimes even after, such as beets, broccoli, carrots, collard greens, kale, lettuces, peas and turnips. Many herbs are also hardy until the frost.

• 8 cups tomatoes, peeled, diced and seeded (Variety pick: Roma)

• 2 medium green peppers, diced (Variety pick: Cal Wonder)

• 2 large onions, diced (Variety pick: Red Onion)

• 2 jalape Ñ o peppers, seeded and chopped (for spicier salsa, do not seed)

• ¾ cup tomato paste

• ⅔ cup condensed tomato soup, undiluted

• ½ cup white vinegar

• 2 tablespoons sugar

• 2 tablespoons salt

• 4½ tablespoons garlic powder

• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

In a Dutch oven or large saucepan, combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Stir often.

Pour into small freezer containers or freezer bags. Cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Cover or seal and freeze for up to 3 months.

Makes: 10 cups

Recipe courtesy of Earl May

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Dig into gardening this spring! Visit iowafoodandfamily.com/ magazine/garden to win one of two $50 Earl May gift cards.
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Oliver Hill, a nine-month-old from Stanhope, enjoys a strip of an egg omelet.

MAKE

EVERY BITE COUNT

NEW DIETARY GUIDELINES RECOMMEND INTRODUCING

SOLID FOODS TO INFANTS AND TODDLERS

When it comes to feeding infants and toddlers, every bite counts! The time from birth until a child’s second birthday is a critically important period for proper growth and development while establishing healthy dietary patterns for life. During this period, it’s essential to provide adequate amounts of nutrients essential for brain development and growth, including protein, iron, zinc and choline.

Many children aren’t receiving enough of these core nutrients, causing a public health concern across the U.S. In response, and for the first time, the newly released Dietary Guidelines for Americans now recommend introducing complementary solid foods to infants and toddlers starting at about 6 months. Researchers studied food sources for making up these nutrients in infants and concluded that the best supplemental sources come from meat, poultry, eggs, dairy and soy.

“For approximately the first 6 months of life, it’s ideal for babies to be exclusively fed human milk because of the benefits in building

immunity,” says Dr. Linda Snetselaar, University of Iowa College of Public Health professor of epidemiology and endowed chair of preventive nutrition. “However, it's evident that iron, protein and zinc aren't typically being consumed in adequate amounts from 6 months to 2 years.”

A 9-month-old infant needs nine times more iron than an adult male. Yet, only 10% of infants are starting to eat meat – a key source of iron –at this age. There are safe and wholesome ways to introduce meat into infants’ diets, and Iowa’s protein-rich commodities can serve as excellent mealtime resources.

“Many foods can be sources of iron and zinc, but when looking at infant nutrition, they also need to be quality sources of protein,” explains Snetselaar, who was 1 of 20 nationally recognized scientists selected to serve on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. “We concluded that animal products, such as lean beef, pork and turkey, provide the perfect combination of protein, iron and zinc that children can easily digest when properly prepared.”

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NUTRIENTS

Infants and toddlers cannot eat large amounts of food but require significant amounts of essential nutrients during this critical period for growth and development.

PROTEIN: Essential for a baby’s growth, development and immune function.

IRON: Essential for a baby’s brain development and a critical component of blood cells that deliver oxygen to tissues and cells throughout the body. Iron deficiency in the first 2 years may cause future delays in intellectual, behavioral and motor development.

ZINC: An essential nutrient for growth, appetite regulation and immune system function.

VITAMIN D: Required for a baby’s proper bone growth and strengthening.

DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID (DHA) : An essential nutrient for a baby’s brain and retina (eye) development.

WHAT ARE THE DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR AMERICANS?

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition programs and policies, providing food-based recommendations to help prevent diet-related chronic diseases and promote overall health.

An independent advisory committee of 20 individuals across the U.S. reviewed scientific evidence on topics and questions identified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, then provided a report on their findings to the secretaries of these departments.

FAT: An essential nutrient to support a baby’s rapid growth and brain development.

“The amount of information we reviewed and scrutinized was incredible,” says Dr. Linda Snetselaar, director of the Department of Epidemiology’s Nutrition Center at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics . “For the first time in the 40-year history of the guidelines, we looked at birth to 24 months. We spent a great deal of time making sure our committee’s recommendations were based on the scientific rigor of the research we examined.”

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FEED HEALTHY GROWTH AND
DEVELOPMENT

STEPS TO DECREASE CHOKING RISKS

1. Offer foods in the appropriate size, consistency and shape that will allow an infant or young child to eat and swallow easily. All finger foods should be small and bite-sized. Cut circular items in half and other foods like plain egg omelets into thin strips.

2. Make sure the infant or young child is sitting up in a high chair or other safe, supervised place.

3. Ensure an adult is supervising feeding during mealtimes.

4. Don't put infant cereal or other solid foods in an infant’s bottle. Doing so can increase the risk of choking and will not make the infant sleep longer.

WAYS TO SERVE M EA T to Infants

8-10 MONTHS

Shredded

10-12 MONTHS

Chopped

6-8 MONTHS

Pureed

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Images courtesy of Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.

BABY'S FIRST FOODS

HOW TO INTRODUCE SOLID FOODS

Introducing solids to an infant is an exciting milestone. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Women Infants and Children's Program have long supported this approach. Now, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans validate the importance of these foods early in life.

Experts agree that most infants are ready for complementary foods between 4-6 months. At this age, infants are developing the gross motor, oral and fine motor skills necessary to begin eating complementary foods. As an infant’s oral skills develop, the thickness and texture of foods can gradually be varied.

These signs indicate a child may be developmentally ready to start some solid foods:

• BEING ABLE TO CONTROL HEAD AND NECK

• SITTING UP ALONE WITHOUT SUPPORT

• BRINGING OBJECTS TO MOUTH

• TRYING TO GRASP SMALL OBJECTS, SUCH AS TOYS OR FOODS

When introducing solid foods, patience is a virtue as it may take 8-10 exposures for an infant to accept a new type of food.

AROUND 6 MONTHS

Babies may be ready to make the transition from watery purees to smooth, pureed, singleingredient foods, such as pureed meats, vegetables or fruits. Use a blender or food grinder to make soft or pureed meats.

Rich in calcium and protein, yogurt can also provide essential nutrients necessary for a baby’s growth and development. Although yogurt and soft cheeses can be introduced, cow’s milk and soy beverages are not recommended to replace or supplement human milk or formula until 12 months of age.

Eggs provide various amounts of all nutrients listed by AAP as essential for brain growth, including lutein and zeaxanthin. Emerging evidence links these carotenoids to brain development and health.

6 to 8 MONTHS

Babies may be ready to transition to mashed, lumpy texture foods and combinations of singleingredient foods. These include mashed banana or avocado, and pureed meats, green beans or tempeh. Introducing iron-rich food at this stage is essential. Just 1-2 ounces of beef supplies most needs of iron, zinc and B12 in infants.

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8 to 10 MONTHS

Babies can transition to chopped table foods, such as shredded or chopped meat, well-cooked pasta, chopped cooked veggies, tofu or soft-cooked beans. Finger foods are preferred in this stage, and allowing the infant to experience the smell, taste and texture of new foods can improve development.

12 to 24 MONTHS

In the second year of life, when calcium requirements increase, additional dairy products can be incorporated, including cow’s milk. Fortified soy beverages can also provide good sources of vitamin D.

10 to 12 MONTHS

Between 10-12 months of age, babies can start transitioning into chopped family food and practicing with a spoon to self-feed.

If you have questions about starting solid foods, consult your baby’s physician or health care provider.

Amy Nelson is a fifth-generation farmer who grows soybeans and corn and raises cattle. She is an active member of CommonGround Iowa, the Scott County Farm Bureau Board and the Iowa Soybean Association. She lives near Davenport with her husband Randy and children Jakob and Courtney.

Farm Life in the Spring

PLANTING AND CALVING SEASON BRING NEW BEGINNINGS TO IOWA’S COUNTRYSIDE

Spring is full of expectations and changes, growth and fresh beginnings. I’m always excited to see snow melting, crocus flowers popping and landscapes starting to turn green.

It is also the time of year when I look forward to having babies join the farm family – baby calves, that is! Like humans, cows are pregnant for about nine months, and they can have a calf any time of year. On our farm, we try to coordinate calving season to begin in mid-March. I like this time of year because it is ahead of planting season and gives me the chance to watch the mamas and babies closely to ensure things go smoothly.

Most of our calves are born in the pasture because the weather is typically nice, and labor seems to go best when undisturbed. But we also have special pens (somewhat like a maternity ward) set up for emergencies, extreme weather or first-time moms. These are all conditions where a cow may need some extra TLC from me or a local veterinarian.

In total honesty, calving makes for either the best or worst days on the farm. The best when a dangerous situation turns out with a healthy momma and baby. The worst when no matter how hard I have tried, the baby doesn’t make it. Each situation brings me to tears – tears of joy or tears of sadness.

Within about 30 days, most of the calves have arrived, which is perfect because we are rolling right into the beginning of corn and soybean planting season. Next to harvest, this is the busiest time of year because we want the crops planted in as short of a time window as possible because it impacts the timing of harvest.

Farmers rely on a variety of science-based research to determine when planting conditions are optimal. Fortunately, we do not have to rely on grandpa’s adage that “it is time to plant corn when leaves on the trees are the size of a mouse ear!”

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fresh picked

The soil temperature is one indicator of when it’s time to plant. The magic number is 50 degrees F but we also need the ground to be dry enough so we aren’t getting stuck in the mud or compacting the ground so tightly that corn or soybeans can’t emerge through the crust. Plants have a better chance to thrive when the soil is aerated so it can breathe. We also need the seeds to have enough moisture in the soil to begin the germination process and start growing as quickly as possible.

I use a lot of math during planting season. Here’s an example I give my kids when they ask why they need to study math:

Farmer Amy wants to plant a population of 32,000 kernels of corn per acre. Seed comes in bags of 80,000 seeds per bag. Her field is 40 acres large. How many bags of seed does Farmer Amy need to purchase to plant this field?

This is assuming Farmer Amy has calibrated her planter, done maintenance over the winter, adjusted the planter

depth and down pressure to accommodate for the soil residue and composition of each field, and even checked the tire pressure on the tractor. Believe it or not, each of these factors can impact how many kernels per acre are planted.

In our downtime this spring, I’m hoping I can get my kids to fly kites in the pasture like when they were little. I’m looking forward to the joys the season will bring.

For those of you still working on the math problem, the answer is 16 bags of seed!

Farmers rely on a variety of science-based research to determine when planting conditions are optimal.
Soybean plants poke through the soil in an Iowa farm field.
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