Food and farming... You can’t have one without the other. Yet many Americans today have no idea how food gets to the grocery store.
Seven percent of all American adults believe that chocolate milk comes from brown cows, according to The Washington Post. That means there are 16.4 million misinformed people – more than the population of Pennsylvania – who drink milk but don’t know that chocolate milk is made from milk, cocoa and sugar.
Participants on Expedition Farm Country, a two-day bus tour of Iowa farms hosted last week by the Iowa Food and Family Project, got to see the care and pride that goes into producing a safe and abundant food supply. They also learned about the conservation and environmental stewardship practices in place to help preserve soil and protect the water supply.
Conservation is a true passion for Mark and Michael Jackson, whose farm near Oskaloosa was the first stop on the Expedition. Michael is a
sixth generation Iowa farmer. His father, Mark, authors the monthly Farm Life Journal for the Iowa Food & Family Project. In 2014, Mark was a featured speaker at a TED event in New York City. He says he’s motivated to leave the land better than he found it, so his grandchildren and future generations will have the opportunity to continue farming.
Consumers on the trip were reassured by every livestock producer along the way, including turkey producers, that they use antibiotics sparingly and responsibly. Withdrawal periods are required for antibiotics before any milk or meat animals leave the farm. All dairy and meat products are inspected to ensure the withdrawal periods are followed.
In addition, no hormones are used in the production of pork or poultry (turkeys, chicken, duck). Save yourself some money by not purchasing pork or products labeled “hormone free” or “raised without hormones” because it’s just a marketing gimmick.
Tim Graber, a third-generation turkey farmer from Wayland, says new hatchlings arrive on his family farm weighing just one ounce. Expedition participants had the chance to hold 6-day poults, which weighed about 10 ounces. It takes about 18 weeks to get these toms (male turkeys) to a market weight of 42 to 45 pounds. This turkey meat is then sold primarily to Subway, Jimmy Johns and Costco.
Day 2 of the Expedition began at Brenneman Pork in Washington County where animal care and research are top priority so “no pig ever has a bad day.” Rob Brenneman and his wife, Char, started their operation in 1980. Their daughter-in-law Erin is one of their farrowing specialists. She actively shares “the beautiful world of farming” through SnapChat and Twitter as @sowmama.
In addition to meeting some of the world’s best farmers who also were the most gracious hosts, I’m confident that participants in Expedition Farm Country will feel more confident about the safety and quality of America’s food supply after meeting such caring farmers. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, be sure to apply for the 2018 Expedition! In the meantime, you can follow the Iowa Food & Family Project online and subscribe (for free) to its quarterly Fresh Pickings newsletter.