CARPOOL WITH A FARMER

Have so many questions about your food but very little time to look for answers?

What if you could have a farmer for a day?  Ask her all of your questions and get the answers you felt confident in?  What if you and that farmer could actually … talk?

Check out the conversations this busy mom and her farmer had when we did exactly that.

 

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#TBT: CELEBRATE NATIONAL DAIRY MONTH WITH PIZZA

[Originally published: June 23, 2016]

June is National Dairy Month! Now I don’t know about you, but that sounds like an exciting time for me. You can find me celebrating by eating ice cream, cheese, and all of the other delicious dairy products that our American Dairy Farmers work hard to produce!

6-23-16image6National Dairy Month is a little more personal for me. I grew up on my family’s dairy farm 40 miles south of downtown Chicago. On my family’s farm, I was able to watch as my grandfather, uncle, and father worked hard each morning and evening, no matter the weather conditions, to feed, milk, and clean up the cows. Their dedication to the animals was mesmerizing. Even I had the chance to be active and work with the cows in day-in and day-out as I grew up.

No matter how much hard work dairy farmers put in, they still seem to be scrutinized by the general public. It is always interesting to me that those from off the farm don’t stop to see and realize that American Dairy Farmers spend every day of the year working with their cattle to make sure they are strong and healthy.

I grew up on a dairy farm and I have worked on my family’s dairy farm. I know how we treat our animals. We treat our animals with care, love, and respect. You can ask anyone who knows me that I love my cows and treat them with better respect than most humans I interact with.

6-23-16image5Now, to celebrate my love for National Dairy Month, I decided to cook one of my favorite meals, my homemade pizza. I make the dough and sauce from scratch, but what makes this pizza great is the cheese: Chellino’s Scamorza Cheese to be exact. Chellino’s is based in Joliet, IL and they use milk from our dairy farm to make the cheese. Now, what could be better? Great tasting cheese AND you know who put in the hard work to produce and deliver the milk and cheese.

If you can’t get your hands on Chellino’s Scamorza, it is okay to use other Scamorza, or even smoked mozzarella. However, if you can get your hand on some of Chellino’s, you’ll know it will turn out delicious, and you’ll even know where the milk came from that produced it!

FOR THE PIZZA:

  • 1 1/3 cup hot water (not boiling)
  • 1/4oz envelope active dry yeast
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil (and extra for oiling bowls)
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 3 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • granulated garlic
  • scamorza cheese
  • baby arugula
  • diced pancetta
  • baby arugula

GET COOKIN’:

  1. In a bowl, add warm water and 1 1/2 tsp sugar, and then add in the yeast packet. Set aside.
  1. 6-23-16image2In a stand mixer bowl, add 3 tbsp olive oil, salt, the rest of the sugar, and the flour. Then, take the water, yeast, and sugar and mix until it is dissolved. Once dissolved, add to mixer bowl. With a dough hook, mix at low until everything is combined, and then mix on medium and let the mixer knead the dough. Add more flour if needed until the dough is coming off the sides of the bowl and not sticking, about 6-8 minutes.
  1. Take the dough and divide it into two piece. With each piece, round into two balls and place into an oiled bowl seam side down. Cover with plastic wrap and let them sit to rise for 90 minutes, preferably in an oven recently turned off and still warm.
  1. Once risen, the dough should be able to be poked and the indent stays. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Roll the dough out into a circle and onto a pizza stone. Mix together 1/4 cup olive oil with 1 teaspoon of granulated garlic. Once mixed, brush onto the dough. Once spread onto dough, grate about 1/4 – 1/2 lb of Scamorza cheese onto the pizza. Pop into the oven for 15 minutes.
  1. After 15 minutes, remove the pizza from the oven and add the diced pancetta. Pop back into the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Once finished, add baby arugula to the top of the pizza. Slice up and enjoy!

For more recipes, find me on my website at DiningWithDakota.com

Cowger_Dakota_IL CORN INTERN 2x3 16

Dakota Cowger
Communications Intern
IL Corn

FARM BILL 2018 PASSED IN THE U.S. HOUSE: WHAT’S IT MEAN?

For farmers, the farm bill is a very important piece of legislation.

You can read more about why we need it here.

Included in farm bills are the:

  • commodity title (which builds a safety net underneath farmers who are growing something without having any idea what the market price will be when they market),
  • crop insurance title (which builds a government-backed insurance program to protect farmers against risk),
  • conservation title (which helps farmers integrate conservation programs into their farm management and not be penalized in other programs for doing so),
  • trade (which helps America trade commodities freely with other countries),
  • nutritional title (which feeds hungry Americans all over our nation), and
  • several other titles like forestry, horticulture, research, and rural development that we pay a little less attention to in the corn industry.

The House farm bill that was passed last week included some interesting changes and updates to the previous bill.

The House maintained the two programs that existed before under the commodity title and made a few edits, mostly to improve the program and reduce administration costs.

The House increased conservation acres to  29 million and included ways to target the most fragile lands in the U.S in the conservation title.

The House established a new International Market Development Program which will be the umbrella over the trade programs we already understand and enjoy.  This is important because one of the programs was set to expire in 2018 and now it will live on under this new program.  Export is the number one market for Illinois corn so this is very important to us.

The biggest change was to the nutrition title.  This new farm bill provides that work capable adults (ages 18-59) work or participate in work training for 20 hours per week.  Exempted populations include seniors, disabled, those caring for children under six, or those who are pregnant. No one loses SNAP benefits unless they decline to work or decline free training to learn a skill.  This is a huge change from the previous nutrition program and provided the bulk of the political discord over the passage of the bill.

The House Ag Committee produced a really great fact sheet on their recently passed farm bill if you’d like to learn more.

Now we just wait for the Senate to pass their version and see what changes they believe should be made in this important farm bill.  Can’t wait!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES & THE FAMILY FARM #WISDOMWEDNESDAY

When I really think about it, I’ve lived off the farm longer than I lived on, but you know how it goes: You can take the girl off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the girl.

So, here’s a fun list of quotes from famous people that make my mind slip right back to the farm.

Innovation – wow.  Have you SEEN what’s going on on the farm lately?  These farmers are using GPS to map their fields.  GPS is turning on and off the planter boxes so that the planted rows don’t overlap.  GPS is controlling the fertilizer application so that the soil is getting exactly what it needs – no more and no less.  These innovative farming techniques are distinguishing the really great farmers from those that still need to improve.

This takes me back to spring planting.  The years when the soil was dry and hard, yet those little seedlings pushed through!  And, although I didn’t appreciate it fully at the time, the first day driving to church on Sunday when you could finally “row the corn” which meant that the little green rows of seedlings were finally visible as you drove by … those little guys saw strength and growth through continuous effort and struggle.  And in the end, they put me through college.  I’m so grateful little corn seedlings!

Optimism: some farmers have it more than others, but all farmers have it.  Think about it, when you put a field of seeds into the ground, knowing that at that present moment you are going to lose money on each and every one, hoping that the economy turns around before harvest?  That’s optimism.  Farmers are full of hope and confidence.  They hope for good growing seasons and good marketing opportunities.  They are confident in their own abilities as farmers and, usually, in God that they will take care of their families somehow.

This isn’t something that my parents said to me *exactly* but the sentiment is the same.  Don’t do a job halfway.  Always do it the very best that you can and look for the opportunities to learn to do it better.  I definitely remember conversations like this in regards to my school work, but also when it came to ironing, house cleaning, and picking up the yard.  In the end, it was a great lesson and one that I’m always teaching my kids too.  I definitely think of kid’s ag organizations like 4-H and FFA when I read this one.

Check out the 4-H motto: I pledge my head to clearing thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, and my hands to larger service, and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.  Hear the push to always be better, bigger, clearer … and more?

Me to my kid: Yes, you did clean up your room about 50%.  Is that your best work?  Did you understand that we don’t allow piles of trash on your floor?  Do you think you can do better?  Then go do it!  And don’t complain about being punished when you know you only did it 50%!

This.  Every planting season.  Every harvest season.  Every week of hauling grain.  Every calving season.  Every season on the farm looms large ahead of you and the work is overwhelming.  And yet, every farmer I know keeps moving forward, eyes only on the next thing – the next calf, the next 80 acres to harvest, the next 8 hour day of hauling grain – until they turn around and the job is done.  THAT feeling of satisfaction can’t be matched.

Are there quotes that make you think about your life and your upbringing?  Do these quotes give you any insight into what it is to grow up and work on a farm?  Let’s chat in the comments!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

 

HORMONES IN MILK: SHOULD YOU WORRY?

June is Dairy Month and honestly, we haven’t celebrated it up like we should!  So, in order of one of my favorite months (ice cream for dessert every night!) I thought I’d bring you some information about one of the most concerning aspects of milk for the average joe: hormones.

Reference these facts by South Carolina Dairy farmer Caci Nance:

  • Milk has hormones because it is a product of nature. Hormones are naturally present in all milk, whether it comes from a cow, a goat, or even a human.
  • Hormones are just proteins, and most–up to 90 percent of them, in fact –are destroyed through the process of pasteurization. The small amount of protein that may be left after pasteurization gets broken down through digestion in your stomach, just like protein in other foods.
  • There are hormones in almost all of the food we eat. Lettuce has hormones, for instance, and cabbage actually has a very high level of hormones.
  • black and white, holstein, cattleHormones are never added to milk. Most dairy farmers do not give their cows a supplemental hormone, called rBST, to increase milk production. The Midwest Dairy Association reports that only 30 percent of U.S. dairy farmers choose to use rbST with their herds, accounting for 20 to 25 percent of cows. Notably, rBST is not added to the milk itself, but rather is administered to some cows in some herds. Repeated studies by the FDA have found rBST to be a safe and effective way to increase milk production and ensure a plentiful milk supply.
  • Farmers are consumers, too. We would never add something harmful to the food supply that is unsafe or dangerous because we eat the same foods that other consumers do.

Knowing this should help calm your fears, but what if you have more questions?  Well, the comments in this original blog post are a treasure trove of answers.  Go now.  Read the comments.  Add  a question yourself. 

And then put milk, cottage cheese, and ice cream back on the menu for tonight.  It’s Dairy Month after all!

Lindsay Mitchell
ICGA/ICMB Marketing Director

SHOULD CATTLE REALLY BE EATING CORN?

See this article as originally posted here

feedlot cattleI’ve heard people say that it’s “unnatural for cows to eat corn.” As someone who studies what cattle eat for a living, I’m perplexed. Let’s talk.

HERE’S WHY CORN IS OK FOR CATTLE TO EAT:

  1. Cattle can easily digest and convert corn to milk and meat
  2. It’s an excellent energy source
  3. Corn is tasty, even for cattle

Want to know more? Read on.

Corn isn’t the only thing cattle are eating. As an animal nutritionist, I want every bite of feed that an animal takes to be nutritionally perfect. We analyze animal feed (which is generally a blend of grass and grains, including corn) to see what nutrients their diet has or might be deficient in. Oftentimes we design a mineral mixture to meet the requirements of that particular feed mix to ensure the animals have everything they need to grow and stay healthy. Even cattle eating grass need their diet fortified with a vitamin and mineral supplement!

Next, consider the fact that cattle are ruminants – their digestive system is very different from ours. I like to call cattle “the original recyclers” because they have an incredibly adaptable digestive system that can convert many different feed sources into meat and milk. Cattle can eat everything from the corn kernels to the corn stalks. The adaptability of the bovine digestive system helps farmers be more sustainable by using every part of the plant.

Corn is an excellent energy source for cattle, too. From a plant perspective, corn is a grass – it just happens to be a much more nutritious grass than the stuff that’s growing in your yard. The starch and protein that the corn kernel provides help cattle grow and thrive.

Have I mentioned that cattle enjoy eating corn? In my experience, they would choose corn over grass seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Farmers are not “forcing” their cattle to eat corn. More than likely, it is more trouble keeping the cattle from getting into the corn when they’re not supposed to, kind of like you might have trouble keeping your kids out of the cookie jar!

I hope this puts your mind at ease. Farmers and animal nutritionists truly do have the animals’ best interest in mind. If you have questions about why we do what we do, just ask us.

Dr. Josh McCann
Assistant Professor, University of Illinois

Dr. McCann studies the influence of nutrition on metabolism and growth of feedlot cattle by characterizing ruminal fermentation, the gut microbiome, and muscle development – i.e. he’s a nutritionist for cattle. His work contributes to the efficiency and sustainability of cattle farms providing high quality beef to consumers.