THANKSGIVING TRADITIONS: DRESSING!

Do I dare travel down the debated path of dressing vs. stuffing? Probably best that I leave it alone or I may be here all day. No matter what you call it, it’s still a staple at the Thanksgiving dinner table. In my case it’s dressing, and it might just be one of the top reasons I look forward to Thanksgiving each year.

family in fieldWhile my family’s Thanksgiving celebration might not be the most traditional celebration, it is in fact an interesting one that we make special in our own way. While many families are tucked indoors sitting around the dining room table feasting on delicious food, my family is standing in the middle of a field bowing our heads to pray for the bountiful harvest and the food (especially the dressing) we are about to consume. Growing up in a farming family I have found that holidays, birthdays, and weddings are no excuse to quit harvest. So we make the most of the time we have and we load up the back of my Dad’s truck bed full of Thanksgiving delicacies, most importantly the dressing, and head off to the field with all the women and kids to meet the men for a feast.

recipeNow, this dressing I have been obsessing over is not just any ordinary dressing, but it’s my Great-Grandmas recipe that my Mom has come to perfect over the years. Although, there are a couple of things that my Mom has slightly tweaked, and that is stuffing the bird, as well as throwing the whole oyster thing to the way side (thank goodness). If you are an oyster fan though, go for it!

To begin you need two to two and a half stale loaves of bread torn into pieces. The tearing can be done ahead of time if the bread isn’t quite stale yet, just make sure it has plenty of time to dry out.

When you’re ready to make the stuffing here is what you will need: the pieces of bread, butter, celery, onion, eggs, fresh dried sage, oysters (if you’re a fan), baking powder, chicken broth, and even an apple for flavor if you would like.

First chop up 2 cups of celery and 1 cup of onion and sauté in 1 cup of butter.

dressing collage

Once those are all buttered up and full of calories you can add the mixture to the bread pieces. Mix it all up and then add 2 beaten eggs. Next, in a separate bowl you will want to crumble up your fresh dried sage and combine with oysters (like I said, optional) and ½ teaspoon of baking powder. Combine the sage mixture with your bread.

After combining you will want to add in some chicken broth, enough to moisten it. In my Grandma’s recipe it says to add in some milk with the mixture if it isn’t quite “sloppy” enough.

The last ingredient is completely optional, an apple. My Grandma would always add it in and my Mom does as well, gives the dressing a great “extra” flavor!

The rest is easy as can be, pop it in the oven at 350° and let it bake for about an hour. My Mom always makes sure to stir about halfway through to make sure it is all the same texture!

final dressing

While this may be a very simple recipe I am here to tell you it still tastes wonderful, even standing in the middle of a dusty field in the chilly fall air. Like they say “simple is better.” If you’re looking to impress at Thanksgiving I hope you try this out, I promise you will be THANKFUL after taking your first bite. Cheers to another safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving!

 

Shayla GrosenheiderShayla Grosenheider
Illinois State University student

THANKFUL

As we enter the month of November “thanks” is a word heard pretty regularly. The word “thanks” is simply an expression of gratitude. I was very recently asked what I was most thankful for and many things came to mind. Of all of the wonderful things in my life, the gratitude I have for my home is one of the dearest to my heart.

Where I call home isn’t much. In fact, I am not too sure I can even classify it as a map dot. The small village of Hamlet, population 48, is where I am proudly from and where most of my family members still reside, tending our family farm. Being able to grow up in such a small, close knit, community made up by surrounding rural towns has been one of the best things to ever happen to me. That statement may puzzle many of you who are not from a setting such as this. How could living in such a small place with so little going on be so great?

instagram tractor

Let’s talk about work…it’s not often viewed as an enjoyable activity but in this area, working is considered family time. Family farms work with true synergy, accomplishing goals greater than what a singular worker could handle. Families survive by working as a team to successfully plant and harvest crops or raise cattle and hogs. There is an unexplainable, warming, sense of pride found in looking out over what you and your family have built together, knowing that it is not only your work bettering the world but it is your name bettering the world for years to come. I am so grateful to be apart of something I can be so proud of, not just for today but for the rest of my life.

instagram boy                          (Photo Credit @thefarmerswife71 (Susan) Instagram Follower)

We even attend schools that accept and allow missed days of class for things like field work, opening day of hunting/trapping season and the evaluation and showing of livestock, just to name a few. All of which instill skills that lay a foundation that will last a lifetime on both a personal and professional level. In other words, I am thankful to be apart of a community that understands not all lessons can be taught in a classroom or read in a book.

Just like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. With over 75,000 farms in the land of Lincoln alone and each farmer feeding about 156 people, our schools understand the importance agriculture holds and allows practice and learning opportunities in order for the job to be done the right way. As someone in a farming family, I am thankful to be in an area that supports the growth and development of something I am so invested in.

instagram harvest(photo credit Marla Thrall (Instagram follower)

They say home is where the heart is and if that is the case, my home is pretty huge. While the population is small, the heart of rural Illinois is warm, loving and big enough to truly touch the lives of anyone who lives there. It has turned work into a family affair and supported mine along with many generations of families alike to be proud and confident in our meaningful life’s work. I could not have more gratitude or express more thanks to the place I get to call home; Hamlet Illinois, population 48.

instagram small town

Briley lloydBriley Lloyd
ICMB Social Media intern

FRIDAY FARM PHOTO: FRUSTRATION!

corn ethanol performsThe EPA just today announced its decision on the Renewable Volume Obligation issue that we were reeling about last fall.  (Read more about that here.)

The answer is … drumroll please … there is no answer.  The EPA has decided to wait until 2015 to announce how much ethanol retailers must use in 2014.

While we’re glad they haven’t gone backwards or kept the 13.8 number they released last fall, it’s frustrating to still have no RVO number!

 

I VISITED A BEEF FARM AND STILL WANTED A STEAK

Originally posted at www.watchusgrow.org

There they were. Hundreds of them, in roomy pens, air moving freely. They milled, they chewed, the lay down and took rests. All getting ready to be beef, which I enjoy on my plate on occasion.

I had the pleasure of visiting the Larson Farm in mid-October and met four generations of family farmers. Together they manage 6,300 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat and 2,500 head of cattle. Lynn, member of Generation 2 and daughter to the 1st Generation was in charge of the fields while her husband Mike managed the cattle operation. They work together and separately, making a life for their son and his children. They have four full time employees (also a family affair) and one part-timer to help them out. What I gathered that they have most of, is each other.

There are some facts that I really want to share with you that are fascinating.

Hormones – yes, there is estrogen used in the rearing of these all-male beef cattle There are 1.9 nanograms of estrogen per 3-ounce serving of beef that was treated with growth promotants compared to 1.3 nanograms of estrogen per 3-ounce serving of beef from an untreated steer.  There are 225 anagrams of estrogen naturally occurring in the baked potato you set next to that steak.

Antibiotics – yes, there are antibiotics in the feed. These antibiotics are to prevent cows from developing blood in their stool; these antibiotics do not exist on the human side. Antibiotics are given to sick animals that DO exist on the human side. There is a strict regimen followed including a “withdrawal” period, which most farmers will extend out. These do not show in the meat we eat and help keep the animals from sickness.re1.9 nanograms of estrogen per 3-ounce serving of beef that was treated with growth promotants compared to 1.3 nanograms of estrogen per 3-ounce serving of beef from an untreated steer. There are 225 anagrams of estrogen naturally occurring in the baked potato you set next to that steak.

Corn – they eat it. Their food consists of mother’s milk until they are six months old and then a mix of corn, hay, a glutinous mixture of sticky goodness that is the byproduct of processing corn for ethanol or cornstarch, and a small additive in pellet form which contains the antibiotic and a protein supplement.

Meat Grade – this was super cool. Mike ultrasounds the steer between the 12th and 13th rib. From this ultrasound they can detect the fat layer on the back and the marbling of fat in the muscle. They do this ultrasound to determine how many more days they can feed the cow until they go to market, and what the expected grade might be. This is all determined by complex equations calculated in seconds by a specialized computer program. There is nothing they can do to improve the grade other than feeding the cow and they are very careful to ensure the cow is at a healthy, manageable weight – sometimes sacrificing grade.

All of that talk about marbling made me hungry for steak, even after seeing the cows in the pens,  seeing the feed, and looking around what is known as a CAFO or a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation; AKA the devil.

Here is what I can tell you.

The family cares about the welfare of the animals. They care about their use of manure, they monitor their water usage for runoff, and they want the best for us and for the animals. I came away with some questions about how it could be better.

Could the operations be smaller? Lynn tells me that the smaller operations, say 300 head of cattle, are not regulated in the same way, all livestock operations are regulated, but the bigger they are the tighter focused the microscope gets.

Could the pens be bigger, and could the cows roam? They could. I can pay more for that at the grocery store and if enough of us do, then things will change. Farmers are always responding to the fluctuations in consumer preference. If we, the consumers, want cattle to be treated or raised in a different way then we argue that point with our checkbooks, and we will pay for it. This is our choice and the farmers are ready to accommodate.

But what I am trying to tell you is that these animals looked good and healthy to me, in this large operation in my home state. I trust that they are not only safe to eat, but that the farmers are being responsible about their overall health management, the environmental conditions an operation like this produces, and the desires of the consumer.

Am I comfortable eating meat? Yes, I was before and I am now. I feel like I know a little more about antibiotics and hormones and I cannot wait for steak night.

Sara McGuire,
Chicago, IL

Sara is one of the Illinois Farm Families 2014 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visits Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each visit, the Field Moms share their thoughts by blogging about what they experience on these farms. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago Moms Meet Farmers.

FIVE WAYS FARMERS FARM RESPONSIBLY

In this office, it feels like farmers being irresponsible is a primary headline in the media.  Intellectually, I know it isn’t.  I know that things like ISIS and the latest slip up by the President or Congress make the headlines far more.

But you know how you notice things that really bother you more?  How a personal interaction with something makes it appear more often to you?  Yeah, that happens to us when we hear how irresponsible farmers are.  Because for the majority of farmers, it just isn’t true.

(I know there are “bad actor” farmers.  But really, there are “bad actors” in any industry.  In your workplace alone, I know you can name at least two or three that don’t do their job appropriately or efficiently.  Don’t hold that against us.)

So today, I’d like to highlight five ways farmers farm responsibly.  If any of these are news to you, make sure you ask all your questions in the comments.  I would absolutely LOVE to clarify.

1. Farmers preserve their soil through tilage practices.

illinois, farm, winter, snow, cornOk, this sounds big and complicated, but it really isn’t.  Tilage: it’s the same thing as tilling your garden, but on a really big scale.  What this means is that farmers have actually quit tiling their soil so much to minimize soil erosion.  When the stubs of the crop before are left on the field over the winter, the roots and stalks help hold the soil in the spring when the melted snow and excessive rain threaten to wash it away.  Farmers are interested in preserving and building up their soil because it is their family’s income for the next year … and the next.

2. Farmers minimize trips over the field to use less fuel.

Sights of guys back in the fieldThis should make sense to everyone – fewer times up and down the rows in the field equals less diesel used equals less emissions.  But how do the farmers do it?

Well, the tilage practices I mentioned help.  If they aren’t tilling their ground, they also aren’t running a tractor up and down to till the soil.  But also, farmers are using GPS to cover their fields more efficiently.  Before, every trip up and down the field included a few feet overlap to be sure that no portion of the field was missed.  GPS eliminates that and allows farmers to minimize their fuel usage.  Technology is amazing!

3. Farmers “prescription farm.”

farm technologyNew technology is also allowing for another amazing advancement – “prescription farming.”  Farmers are able to look at soil types and soil tests to determine what each square foot of their field needs in order to be optimized for crop production, and then they only apply fertilizers on that area.  Gone are the days when farmers treated a whole field the same!  Now they minimize the use of inputs by applying only exactly what is needed in the single spot in the field where it’s needed.

4. Livestock are known as individuals.

6-24-11 cattleJust like your doctor knows you as an individual and treats your needs accordingly, livestock farmers know their animals as individuals too.  Each animal has a certain personality and demeanor – and farmers recognize changes when they see these animals every day that alert them to illness and other problems.

Some farmers even have ultrasound scanners that individually check each cow to determine weight and potential grade of the meat they will supply.  The health of each cow is a priority and the farmers strictly manage antibiotics (only given when the animals are sick!) and withdrawal times before they can enter the food supply.

You’ll definitely want to read this mom’s impressions of the livestock farm I’m talking about!

5. Farmers seek continuous improvement.

11-19-12 FarmerIf there’s one thing that is a priority to farmers, it is preserving the land and equipment they have for the next generation.  Farmers and their families spend their lives just hoping to build something they can pass on.

All the technology they use now helps.  They are able to gather data about their fields, harvests, yields, inputs, rainfall, etc and analyze that data in programs that help them understand their sustainability.  But the real key here is that all that data gives farmers a means to continually improve.

Think about it this way – if you are mostly healthy but not having a yearly physical, you probably don’t worry much about your cholesterol.  But the moment that you have your first blood test and your cholesterol is high, you eat healthier.  Farmers are the same way.  Having the technology to provide data about how they are farming helps them in their pursuit of continuous improvement and leaving something amazing to their children.

Want to know more?  Ask questions in the comments!!

Lindsay MitchellLindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

THANKSGIVING DECEPTION: A BUYER’S INFORMATION GUIDE

turkeys

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I wanted to let you in on the Grocer’s Turkey secrets! Popular to common belief, not all turkeys are created equal and not all consumers are educated before making their poultry decisions! Before you purchase your prized bird for your family feast, make sure you know these 6 turkey labels to look for!

AntibioticFreeMeatNo Antibiotics: This term signifies a producer’s demonstration of animals being raised without antibiotics. However, whether or not the bird was fed antibiotics, there is a law that the animals must go through a “withdrawal” to allow traces of antibiotics to leave the turkey before it is slaughtered, to ensure the complete absence of antibiotic residues in the bird. So whether your label reads “No Antibiotics” or not, come time to eat, your bird will not contain any antibiotics.

No hormones in poultry porkNo Hormones: Producers use this term to trick you into thinking that other turkeys that are not their brand are filled with nasty hormones. FALSE! By law, Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry. In order to even use the “No Hormones” label, it must be followed by the statement “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”

So far we have learned that ALL turkeys in the grocery stores are able to be served up at your Thanksgiving Day feast without any antibiotics or hormones, thanks to the laws in place.

  • Three other labeling tactics are the Organic, Natural, and Free range labels.

Organic uses those generic No Hormone, No Antibiotic labels, as well as labels that express that their turkeys will have been raised organically on certified organic land that has outdoor access and fed certified organic feed. This is nice except for the fact that although they have access to the outdoors, how many turkeys actually get outside? For this Organic label you will likely be paying 6X more at the grocery store.

Organic pricing

 

All NaturalNatural: Natural was the most truthful label I have seen so far. Natural means minimally processed and contains no artificial ingredients. The turkeys are fed animal by-products, which wild turkeys are accustomed to. No notation of the diets or living conditions is needed for this label.

 

Free RangeFree Range is another deceptive label. Free Range labeling does not require a producer to have a set allowance of outdoor time in the wind and sun, the minimum requirement that they have is to have outdoor access (sound familiar).  Being labeled “Free Range” does not necessarily mean better or worse living conditions.

 

So what have we learned? As you can see marketing ploys are all over your Thanksgiving packaging, from how the turkeys are raised to what is in the meat you purchase. This Thanksgiving make sure you are educated about your purchases and if you have farming friends, ASK questions or ask right here in the comments! These labels are out there to make money, not to tell consumers the truth! Don’t be fooled by marketing this season.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at IL Corn!

amy k

Amy Kuhlmann
Illinois State University student

WHY FARMERS NEVER GET MARRIED IN THE FALL

When fall rolls around many of us are excited to enjoy the pumpkin treats, scents, and apple cider. But to some of us who are farmers that means harvest is just around the corner. Long hours, hard work, and little sleep is what every farmer knows to be true during this season. So with that said, a farmer simply cannot get married during the fall. Here are the Top 5 Reasons Why Farmer’s Never Get Married in the fall:

1. Very few of your family and friends will be able to attend.

wedding crowd
Courtesy of Brendan Bullock Photography

Literally, everyone will be in the field harvesting their crops before it is too late. Many are on a time crunch, so getting the crop out at the right time is really important. I don’t know about you, but I would like for my wedding to be filled with tons of people!

2. Anniversary?  What anniversary?

couple on beachNot only does your hardworking husband (or wife) have to get out of the field for a day, but you’d be lucky if they remembered at all about the whole anniversary thing. During harvest, many farmers are constantly thinking 24 hours a day about their job. There is very little room for time to think of an anniversary, let alone planning a getaway for a weekend.

 3. No, I can’t register at Target with you.  I have to be sure the combine is ready.

groom looking upFor many farmers, harvest is a yearly salary they cannot live without. Instead of getting paid every two weeks, farmers are paid once a year … and we all know planning a wedding is really expensive. So, when your groom (or bride) is at the wedding, they are not going to have their full attention on the detail of the day. Instead, they will be thinking “is it going to rain tomorrow?”

4. Is it really good luck if it rains (or snows!) on your wedding day?

wedding in rainThis will most likely make your farmer very unhappy. Depending on when your crops are ready to be harvested, snow could be a problem (yes – even in October) and rain and wind is not a girl’s best friend when she has done her hair and make-up and basically arranged the entire wedding to be a sun-filled day. If you want your farmer to be happy, do not chose a month in the fall where any slight change of weather could send anyone into a panic.

5. Hold on, I have to take this call …

groom on phoneWhile you may think you got your farmer for the entire wedding day and honeymoon to yourself, think again. He will be called for questions or needed to check out a part on the tractor that isn’t acting right. The stress from your farmer will be so high; you’re going to wish you wouldn’t have scheduled a fall wedding right in the middle of the harvest season.

Amy Follmer 11_cropAmy Follmer
Illinois State University Student

5 THINGS EVERY FARM KID DOES

I’d like to say that growing up on a farm was a pretty great experience, but then again, I guess I have nothing to compare it to! One thing is for sure, though- farm kids have some childhood experiences that our friends from the city don’t.

  1. You get to ride along in the “buddy seat” of the tractor, combine… whatever dad is driving that day, really.
    combine ride
  2. If you’re REALLY lucky, dad lets you move from the buddy seat into the driver’s seat! In fact, most of us learn how to drive farm machinery before we learn how to drive a car.
    lil driver
  3. If you ever made the mistake of telling your parents you were bored on summer vacation, you were quickly assigned the job of walking corn/soybeans. You’re supposed to pick up rocks that could damage the farm equipment and/or pick weeds… but you’re mostly just doing it because your parents were tired of hearing you complain.
    trace
  4. Naps in the barn with your favorite animals.
    barn nap
  5. One of the coolest things about being a farm kid: Eating a meal that is 100% home-grown!
    plate

Rosie PhotoRosie Sanderson
ICGA/ICMB Membership Administrative Assistant