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Thank You Consumers

Today (March 19) is National Ag Day, a day to celebrate the wonderful world of Agriculture.  As a farmer, I cannot imagine a day when I do not get my hands dirty or welcome a brand new calf into the world or discuss agriculture.

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No one on this planet could go a day without Agriculture. You are part of Agriculture from the food you eat to the clothes you wear. Agriculture is everywhere. Beyond the plate, farmers and ranchers produce items you use every day.

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On National Ag Day, we need to celebrate AGRICULTURE and the abundance, variety food choices that U.S. Farmers and Ranchers provide for the World. Whether your food choice is conventional, organic, all natural, local, gluten-free, vegetarian, or all animal protein; we need to be thankful for the affordable choices available to us as consumers in this nation. Despite the rising food costs in the grocery store, the U.S. still has the cheapest and more food choices for its citizens. Read More

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in food

 

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McDonald’s Top Pork Buyer

Agfact #29

McDonald’s, with its Sausage McMuffin, McRib sandwich and breakfast platters, is one of the nation’s largest buyer of pork products, consuming about 1% of the nation’s total production.

More Facts about Pork

  • The U.S. pork industry generates sales of about $21 billion a year, according to National Pork Producers Council.
  • 21 billion pounds of pork were processed from about 110 million hogs in 2011.
  • A total of 2.3 million metric tons of pork valued at more than $6.1 billion was exported in 2011.
 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in Ag Facts

 

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Wheat, the First Biotech Crop

Agfact #27 

Wheat is the product of a cross between three different grass species which is reputed to have happened about 10,000 B.C.  Our forefathers quickly learned this wild grass was a good source of food for humans and animals.  New species of wheat developed because early farmers selected kernels from their best wheat plants to use as seeds for planting the following year’s crop. That way, only the best wheat qualities were passed from one generation to the next.

Today, the method to select the best quality of corn-soybean-wheat-canola seed is selected in a lab. Biotechnology is not evil as reported in the media.  Just keep in mind Bio means “living things” and technology means “the discover of scientific discovery used to solve problems”. In general terms, Biotechnology is just the use of scientific discovery about living things to solve a problem.

Like the B.C. farmers, Biotechnology today involves the process of Natural Selecting a desired trait or gene.  The difference in the method. Presently, a machine can take the genetic footprint of a seed and identify the desirable trait (example, a plant species that uses less water to produce grain). Personally, this is an amazing innovation.

Scientific Definition of Biotechnology

Food for Thought about Biotechnology

Biotechnology products in the United States are regulated more strictly than any other
agricultural or food product in history. The first biotech crop was available in 1996 but the research began many, many years before. In 1986, the government developed a framework of regulations for biotech crops to ensure it would be safe for humans to consume and the environment.

It is also noteworthy that a record 15.4 million farmers in 29 countries are using agricultural biotechnology.  The grand total of biotech crop acreage of 366 million acres. Ninety percent (14.4 million) of these are resource-poor farmers in developing countries. This fact is a great example of how a scientific discover of living things can solve a problem- feeding nutritional food to people in countries where starvation is a leading killer. 

Read more – Biotechnology 101

The Myth About Who Grows Biotech Crops

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2012 in Ag Facts

 

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Farmer’s Share

Agfact #23

For every dollar spent on food, the farmer receives 15.8 cents.

Ag fact provided by National Farmers Union

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Ag Facts

 

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Sweet Corn the Rock Star of the Garden

Unquestionably, the sweet corn is the Rock Star of the Garden. From the minute the first seed is planted, I can actually taste this juicy nutritional flavorful vegetable.


Perhaps you share my fond memories of sitting on the tailgate removing husks from the sweet corn, picking out the tiny silk strings, and investigating each ear for bugs or worms to be removed. All the time it takes to place the seed in the ground, nurturing its growth, and hand picking it in peak of ripeness to serve as savory vegetable for my family’s dining pleasure is well worth it. Read More about my family’s sweet corn adventure.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in food

 

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Dairy Goodness

Immigrants brought Dairy cows by ship from Europe to provided milk and meat for their families.  Realizing the first Thanksgiving probably did not include goodness from the dairy animals but as settlers came to America  so did dairy cows.

At the turn of the century, cities grew and the demand for mass production of milk and other dairy products sparked innovation.  Significant inventions such as commercial milk bottles, milking machines, tuberculin tests for cattle, pasteurization equipment, refrigerated milk tank cars, and automatic bottling machines contributed towards making milk a healthful and commercially viable product.

It is important to remember that whole milk from dairy cows, sheep, or goats is the raw product to produce all other dairy products:  cheese, whipping cream, butter, and ice cream. It is no secret that dairy products especially milk are vital to the development of strong bones and reduce the risk for developing rickets and osteoporosis.  Rule of thumb:  It takes 3 cups of cooked broccoli to equal the calcium in 1 cup of milk, 1 oz of cheese contains 8 grams of protein, and 8 oz serving of low fat yogurt contains the same potassium as banana.

Presently, Thanksgiving menus will include some type of dairy product from milk in the glass to whipping cream on desserts.  In 2010, U.S. Dairy farms produced 192.8 billion pounds of milk valuing at $31.4 billion.  Wisconsin and California have always battled for bragging rights as top producing state. California “Happy Cows” moved ahead in 1993 in total fluid milk, butter, ice cream, and nonfat dairy production.  However, Wisconsin remains number one producer of cheese.

The collection of milk would not be possible without hardworking farmers-Thank You- who enter a new level of commitment by milking two to three times a day.  While the total dollars brought into our nation’s economy seems like a large sum, it is must be noted that the price the farmer receives for milk in recent years have been so low that some have said they are paying for milk to be hauled off the farm for processing instead of being paid for the raw product.  Did you know that when you purchase 1 gallon of Milk at $4.39 the Farmer’s Share is $1.71?

Dairy Trivia:

  • The average cow produces enought milk each day to fill six one-gallon jugs, about 55 pounds of milk
  • It takes more than 21lbs of whole milk to make 1lb of butter
  • Dairy farms are located in all 50 States
  • It takes 12lbs of whole milk to make 1 gallon of ice cream

Visit Midwest Dairy Farmers for great videos

Sources:

Ag Marketing Resource Center

Midwest Dairy Association (photos, videos, and other great info)

National Ag Library

National Farmers Union

Unversity of Illinois Extension

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in food

 

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Sweet Potato, the vegetable of choice for George Washington and Columbus

The Sweet Potato was brought to America by Columbus and his shipmates.  This vegetable became a resourceful food source in the colonial times.  On his Virginia farm, George Washington grew sweet potatoes.  Later, George Washington Carver derived over 100 different products from this sweet wonder.  In World War I the sweet potato flour was used in baked goods to stretch wheat flour.

Sweet Potatoes are actually not a relative of the Potato or Yam.  It has more starch than potato and has many similar characteristics as the yam.  In the United States the Sweet Potato is often marketed as Yam.  As result, USDA has required the “sweet potato” yam to be properly labeled.  A true yam is a starchy edible tuber that is generally imported from the Caribbean.

The Sweet Potato plant is a tropical orange-colored root vegetable the thrive in long, hot summer of the South.  It can be grown anywhere that has 150 frost-free days. On large farms, growers plant transplant in-depth of 3 inches at the end of May to early June.  The transplant requires much need rain in the first 40 days.  The ideal growing condition for the sweet potato is even rain to optimize yields.  Although it grows on a vine, the edible part of the sweet potato is the root.  Since the sweet potato is very susceptible to damage at harvest, the majority are harvested by hand-See Picture below by the North Caroline Sweet Potato Growers.

The USDA reports that the 2010 Sweet Potato Crop totaled 23.8 million Cwt and valued $478.3 million.  North Carolina leads as the top producing state at 9.7 million cwt followed by California, Mississippi, and Louisiana.  Internationally, China is the number one producer accounting for 81 percent of the global market.

The Sweet Potato is naturally rich in  Beta Carotene, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Manganese, Fiber, and Antioxidants with a low-calorie count.  A medium sweet potato (2 inch diameter and 5 inches in length) is 100 calories with out the fixings.

Sweet Potato Harvesting

Sources:

Ag Marketing Resource Center

North Carolina Sweet Potatoes

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in food

 

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Cranberry, the Power-Packed Fruit

The Pilgrims first named this unique fruit “Craneberry” for its small, pink blossoms that appear in the spring and resembles the head and the bill of a Sandhill Crane.  The Cranberry joins the Blueberry and Concord Grape as North America’s Native fruits.  Native Americans first discovered this wild berry and used it for food, fabric dye, and a healing agent.  European settlers adopted the uses for the fruit and the berry become a valuable bartering item.

By 1871, the first association of cranberry growers in the United States had formed, and now, U.S. farmers harvest approximately 40,000 acres of cranberries each year. Captain Henry Hall -Dennis, Massachusetts, discovered that the wild cranberries in his bogs grew better when sand blew over them.  He transplanted the vines, fencing them in, and spread sand by hand.  Cultivation of the cranberry began shortly after that.

Cranberries do not grow in water but on vines in impermeable beds, layered with sand, peat, gravel, and clay. The growing season begins in April and last through November.  These beds are commonly known as “bogs” and were formed by glacier deposits.

Harvesting Cranberries provided by Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association

Cranberries are grown through out the northern part of the United States producing 679.6 million pounds of cranberries in 2010, valued at $456 million. Wisconsin farmers raise more than half of the nation’s cranberries followed by Massachusetts. The cranberry industry provides nearly $300 million annually to Wisconsin’s economy.

 The Native Americans first discover the health benefit of the Cranberry. Cranberries are rich in fiber, vitamin C, flavonoids, phenols and other substances that help protect against health problems like urinary tract infections, and chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

About 95 percent of cranberries consumed int he U.S. are processed into to juice and juice blends. Ocean Spray is an agricultural cooperative owned by more than 650 cranberry growers in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and other parts of Canada as well as more than 100 Florida grapefruit growers. Ocean Spray was formed 75 years ago by three cranberry growers from Massachusetts and New Jersey. It accounts for about 80 percent of raw cranberry in-take.

Ride Along with Oregon State for Cranberry Harvest:

An Educational Video from Canada-Cranberries going to Ocean Spray Juice Company:

Photo Slideshow provided by Wisconsin Growers

Cranberry Trivia

  • There are approximately 333 cranberries in 1 pound, 3,333 cranberries in 1 gallon of juice, and 33,333 cranberries in a 100 pound barrel.
  • About 95% of cranberries are processed into products such as juice, sauce, and sweetened dried cranberries. The remaining 5% are sold fresh to consumers.
  • The average number of cranberries used per can of sauce is 200.
  • Some cranberry beds are over 100 years old and still producing.
  • Cranberries are almost 90% water.
  • On average, every acre of cranberry bog is supported by 4 to 10 acres of wetlands, woodlands and uplands. This area offers refuge to a rich variety of wildlife including the bald eagle, osprey, great blue heron, fox, deer and wild turkey.
  • Wisconsin cranberry growers annually harvest enough cranberries to supply every man, woman and child in the world with 26 cranberries.

Sources:

Pacific Coast Cranberry Web

Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association

Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association

Cranberry Institute

Agricultural Marketing Resource Center

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2011 in food

 

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The Great Pumpkin

Thanksgiving is a holiday for family and friends to sit down around the table to enjoy feast of choice and count their blessings. The first Thanksgiving feast between the Pilgrims and Indians was a three-day celebration of a Great Harvest. Many American Families will partake in this annual feast first proclaimed by Abraham Lincoln as a National Holiday.

America is blessed with hardworking farm families that provide a variety of abundant, inexpensive food.  As Thanksgiving fast approaches, I hope you follow along as I share a glimpse from field to table on common food dishes served on Thanksgiving Day. I hope you see why we should be Food Thankful on Thanksgiving and every day.

PUMPKINS

I think it is only fitting to start with desert first.  After all my home state of Illinois-land of Corn and Soybeans-actually ranks #1 in Production.

The pumpkin originated from Central America.   In early Colonial times, the pumpkin was original used in the crust of pies and not the filling. Colonists actually cut off the top of pumpkins, removed the seeds and filled the inside with milk, spices, and honey.  The pumpkin was then baked over hot ashes to create the original form of the pumpkin pie.

Today, pumpkins are mainly grown for processing with a small percentage grown for decoration.  A total of 1.06 billion pounds of Pumpkins, valuing $117 million, were grown on 50,200 acres in the United States in 2010.  Illinois leads the states in growing over 4 million pounds.  Morton, Illinois has been crowned Pumpkin Capital of the World with 85% of the world’s pumpkins processed at the Libby’s Plant owned by Nestle Food Company.

The pumpkin is actually a fruit that grows on vines.  It is 90% water and packed full of potassium and Vitamin A.  The seeds of the pumpkins are edible and usually are roasted for a tasty snack. Pumpkins are used to make soups, pies, and breads.

You can Virtually Visit a large Pumpkin Farm;

Watch as they plant, grow, and harvest Pumpkins for Libby’s.

Other Videos:

Pumpkin Harvest in Illinois brought to you by Illinois Farm Bureau

Pumpkin Trivia:

  • The largest Pumpkin Pie ever made was over 5 feet in diameter and weighed over 350 pounds.  It used 80 pounds of cooked pumpkins, 36 pounds of sugar, 12 dozen eggs, and 6 hours to bake
  • The largest Pumpkin weighted 1, 140 pounds
  • Native Americans flattened strips of pumpkins, dried them and made mats.
  • Native Americans used pumpkin seeds for food and medicine.
  • Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.

Source:  University of Illinois Extension

 
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Posted by on November 15, 2011 in food

 

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Bee Thankful

A recent field trip to a local Apple Orchard -Curtis Orchard- reminded this farm girl to Bee thankful for the wonders of Mother Nature. The family at Curtis Orchard not only sell their products-apples, pumpkins, and honey- raised on the 80 acre farm but other products from nearby farmers.The Curtis Orchard’s History is rich with family traditions and still owned and operated proudly by family members.

On this field trip, classmates of my son started the behind the scene tour with a lively discussion about bees and the jobs they perform for the farm.  For you see the bees are the only workers on the farm that is not receiving a paycheck.

Did you know?

Bees

  • The Girl Bees, Worker Bees, do all the work collecting the Pollen, feed the Queen and other bees, and guard the hive.
  • There is one Queen Bee who lays 2000 eggs a day and never leaves the hive.
  • One hive can hold 20,000 to 100,000 bees. The hives at Curtis averae 80,000
  • The bees are the only workers on the Orchard that are NOT paid.
  • Male Bees, Drones, only job is to fertilize the eggs
  • When more eggs to produce Queens are laid, the current Queen uses her stinger to kill 4/5 eggs. The remaining new Queen Bee and the current Queen fight to death. The Strongest survives.

Honey

  • 300 Unique types of Honey produced in the United States
  • Honey can vary in color and flavor
  • The 60,000 or so bees in a beehive may collectively travel as much as 55,000 miles and visit more than two million flowers to gather enough nectar to make just a pound of honey!
  • Honey is a natural sweetener and contains a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, scavenging and eliminating free radicals.
  • Honey is used in a variety of beauty products.  It is a humectant, which means it attracts and retains moisture-great for shampoos, cleansers, lotions, and conditioners.
  • Honey has antimicrobial properties. Most bacteria and other microorganisms cannot grow or reproduce in honey.  Therefore Honey does not go Bad.
  • Since Honey has the antimicrobial properties, it has been used as medicine.  It was found in King Tut’s Tomb.
  • In practical sense, honey can be used as ointment as tropical treatment to a wound. It also has been found to reduce scarring.
  • Honey is a natural cough suppressant.

Visit the National Honey Board’s Website for great recipes using Honey, Beauty Recipes, and great info on Honey.

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Dirt Trail, food

 

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