If you’ve read my About Page or have followed my blog for some time, you probably know that I studied Hospitality Administration and worked in the hotel industry up until 2013 when I started blogging full time.
Aside from cooking, travel is a huge passion of mine that brings me more joy than I can put into words. One of the many reasons I am so grateful for my job is that it gives me the opportunity to combine the two.
Most recently, Iowa Corn Growers Association invited me to visit Iowa to learn more about the corn industry and the farmers behind the tractors. It’s funny…I grew up in Michigan surrounded by farms, orchards, vineyards and more. I’m less than 5 miles from an apple orchard, 10 miles from a corn field and 20 miles from a hog farm. In fact, agriculture is the second largest industry in the state and growing. I’ve fed baby pigs, picked peaches and visited a soy bean field.
So you’d think that I would be well aware of Iowa’s farming industry, right? Wrong. I had no idea. The scope, the size, the mass quantity… my mind has officially been blown.
First, I must talk about the people. Over the two and a half day trip we had in-depth, open and honest conversations with folks from Iowa Corn, Iowa Pork, Iowa Beef and Common Ground. These people were made up of farmers, educators, PhDs, farm wives, fellow bloggers and more.
If there was one resounding word I could use to describe everyone I met in Iowa it would be passionate. These folks are passionate. They are real, they are genuine, they are hard working and they are passionate about the work they are doing to feed the world while raising families of their own.
Let me be very clear: there was not a single question that popped in my head that I didn’t feel comfortable asking. Not only did they welcome our questions but they took the time to answer every question we had (even the silly ones like when I asked why the government doesn’t subsidize peaches. What can I say, you can take the girl out of Michigan but you can’t take the Michigan out of the girl.)
If you’re like me, you may be wondering what type of corn is grown and where it ends up. This helpful article, A Hard Look at Corn Economics and World Hunger, does a nice job breaking down the corn industry. One fun fact: 1% of all corn grown is the sweet corn that you and I consume. The rest of it is used for animal feed, ethanol, sweeteners and more.
Speaking of ethanol, we were treating to an experience of a lifetime: riding in a high speed car around the Iowa Speedway. It was incredible.
A little terrifying? Yes. But incredible nonetheless. As you probably guessed, Iowa is the #1 state in the country for ethanol production.
Another fun fact about Iowa: it is home to Meredith Corporation which produces many of the magazines you likely have in your home while I type including Better Homes & Gardens, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Family Circle, Fitness, Baby, Traditional Home and more.
We also had a surprise visit from my dear friend, the one and only Kristin of Iowa Girl Eats (on the far left). A new mom to an adorable little guy, Kristin and I have bonded over the past year as we both juggle working from home with active little ones.
As you can probably imagine, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) were discussed throughout the trip. One thing I learned is that the cross-pollination practices people often refer to as “genetic modification” of corn is achieved by planting several rows of a certain type of corn next to a single row of another variety and letting nature do the rest.
The fact is, GMOs have only been around 20 or so years and there is no scientific evidence proving that they are harmful. One question I asked was why farmers are against labeling food products if they feel confident that GMOs are perfectly safe. They explained that adding that type of label to one of the most misunderstood sciences around would instill fear and confusion to consumers.
I’ve always said, at the end of the day, I would rather someone eat a conventionally grown apple over a Snicker’s bar, even if it’s not organic. I would rather you have a glass of non-organic milk than a Dorito. Guilt and fear should be taken out of the equation when making food purchases so for that reason, I can’t say I disagree with them.
While I would like to consider myself an educated shopper, my entire day and career revolves around learning more about the foods we eat. The average person spends much less time researching foods and for that reason, I believe there is more to the equation than simply adding yet another misleading or confusing food label. As it stands, all ingredients are listed in every food you purchase. At the end of the day, you have a lot of choices in the grocery store and it’s up to you to do your own research.
I am so grateful to the kind folks at Iowa Corn for inviting me and my fellow blogging friends to learn more about the work of America’s farmers. It was an incredible opportunity and one I won’t soon forget.
Disclosure: I was not compensated to write this post. Iowa Corn hosted me on my recent visit to Iowa but all thoughts here are 100% my own.