Posts Tagged With: beef

Farmer Perspectives: What “Good” Moms Eat

By Lana Barkman, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Lana has a master’s degree from K-State. She lives on a farm near Circleville, Kan., with her husband, Caleb, and their daughter. The farm includes chickens, horses, dogs, and cats. In her spare time, Lana competes in barrel racing and judges horse shows.

My daughter is nearly 18 months old right now. It’s the perfect age to remember all the things you were going to do as the “perfect” parent — and it’s been long enough to have broken most of those rules already.

Many of my high parenting standards were all about food. In fact, my goals for healthy eating started before giving birth. As a healthy adult, I was shocked to learn I’d developed gestational diabetes. I meticulously tried to control the problem with strict guidelines on healthy eating: fresh veggies, lean protein, no processed foods, not even grapes, which would cause my blood sugars to spike!

I ate a lot of lean beef, which provided a great source of iron and other essential nutrients. Anemia is another common concern for pregnant women, and lean beef was an excellent option to get the iron and protein I needed.

Growing up around cattle, I was confident in purchasing conventionally grown beef from the grocery store. I knew it was raised responsibly and was safe. Having owned and raised cattle myself, I know firsthand ranchers care for their livestock in the same exacting way I was taking care of my body and growing baby.

 

Milk does a body good

After giving birth, my goals continued into breastfeeding. I was going to breastfeed for at least a year. I knew it was the healthiest option for my child and our family bond. Under no circumstances was I going to give my baby formula.

Well, never say never. I drove myself crazy trying to keep my milk supply up. I tried professional advice and everything else on the Internet too — supplements, pumping, different latches and all the other tricks. None of it worked, and the strain contributed post-partum depression. Eventually, my mom and husband intervened and recommended formula.

In the end, I agreed to supplement. Unsurprisingly, my worst fears were never realized. My daughter and I have a wonderful, special bond. She is in excellent health and didn’t have an ear infection for 14 months. I was able to get more rest, which helped my recovery too. My husband, father and mother were able to take turns feeding her and had their own bonding time.

As a consumer, I was so thankful to have a safe, affordable alternative. In a way, the dairy farmers I personally know helped provide me with this option. Baby formula is commonly made from a combination of nonfat cows’ milk and other ingredients to provide the energy, vitamins and minerals infants need to grow. There are soy-based formulas as well. Guess what? Farmers help contribute to those options too!

 

Future meals

As I prepare meals for my toddler, I am keeping this initial parenting experience in mind. A little flexibility helps, and every family must decide what is best for them. We are fortunate to live in a country where our options are all safe ones. It allows us to focus on our own family’s needs and feel confident that any choice is a good one.

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Farmer Perspectives: Sustainability from a farmer’s perspective

By Kelsey Pagel, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer 

Kelsey and her husband, Matt, are part of his family’s farm near Wetmore, Kan. They are the third generation to contribute to the operation and raise corn, soybeans, wheat, cover crops, chicken and cattle. They are living their dreams as farmers and focus on holistic and sustainable management practices.

Chances are, you’ve seen “sustainably farmed” labels at your grocery store. Did you ever stop to wonder what that means? Like many confusing food labels, the definition is not universal. In fact, sustainability can mean different things from one farm to another.

For us, sustainability simply means affirmatively answering “can you keep doing what you’re doing long term?”

I currently live and work on our farm full time. It’s my family’s sole source of income. Above all, farming is a business — and very few businesses are sustainable if they aren’t also profitable.

On our operation, we see everything from a holistic viewpoint. We firmly believe each living thing on our farm is intimately interconnected. Our choice in one area affects several other things. For example, we feel like the soil is the heart of our operation. Without healthy soil, we can’t raise healthy products — crops or beef.

To achieve healthy soil, we need to have a living root in the ground as much of the year as possible. This helps prevent erosion on our land, and each plant gives organic matter back to the soil — helping the next one grow and flourish. We believe the soil needs the same things we, as humans, need: a diverse diet, shelter against the weather and a little stress.

As soon as a crop is harvested off the ground (by machine or by animals grazing), we rush to get seeds in the ground to start growing. This is the soil’s diverse diet. Plants can actually give back nutrients to the soil.

We are a no-till operation. That means we want the ground to have cover — we consider that the soil’s shelter. In our view, plain soil is open and exposed to the elements. The soil temperature in bare spots is much higher, which requires more water to grow plants. Exposed soil can rapidly lose water and nutrients to the air. Our no-till philosophy helps maintain cool, nutritious soil even during the peak of Kansas summers.

We also want to stress the soil a bit. It’s okay for the plant to have to work a little bit to stretch those roots to get water or fight off a few bugs. The process is similar to how exercise works for our own bodies: a little stress makes us healthier overall.

Our cattle are part of our system. They help the land in a number of ways. Cattle help graze cover crops — again, our soil’s shelter and diverse diet — and add back nutrients to the land through their manure. It’s a natural process that allows the animals to take what they need from pastures and return the favor to the plants.

Our holistic approach extends to our cattle herd as well. We intentionally own the cattle from their birth until harvest, which helps us minimize stress on the animals. We perform sonograms on our finishing calves to let us know the optimal time to harvest. It’s our hope that people can truly taste the generations of work put into our pastures, crops and cattle.

There are many definitions of “sustainable” and “holistic.” The simple truth is that these definitions must change depending on the specific opportunities. To us, this is what works for our bottom line, our land and our family.

Every day, we feel the desire and responsibility to continue and improve the farm we now operate. It’s not just grocery shoppers that want farms to be sustainable — our family wants the same thing. Our parents and grandparents want our farm to be sustainable. It’s the farm they started, and it’s our job to continue the tradition.

It’s not easy, but we do our best to continually learn about the latest science, the best practices and how we can implement new techniques into our operations.

Please feel free to ask any questions or follow our lives online on Facebook and Instagram (@SustainableBitesLLC) or Snapchat (@EverydayKelsey).

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Farmer Perspectives: Food for Thought

By Katie Stockstill-Sawyer, CommonGround Kansas farmer volunteer

Katie Sawyer farms with her husband and two boys near McPherson, KS

Katie married into the farming world in 2010. She is no longer brand new to the farm but still finds herself asking questions about agriculture as she and her husband raise two sons on a farm and ranch in central Kansas. Katie is also the district director for her Kansas congressman.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I did what most modern moms-to-be do — I went online. As it turns out, many expecting moms are fearful about their food.

I didn’t feel the same way, but I may have an unfair advantage. I was able to simply step away from my computer and ask my husband, Derek. He’s a fourth-generation farmer and has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture to boot. Derek is my first and primary resource. I’ve seen him make decisions based on scientific research to ensure our practices are both safe and effective. He can answer questions as both a businessman, farmer and father.

I never hesitate to ask him what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Today, I’m going to share some of my questions and our farm’s answers with you.

 

  1. Why do we use GMOs?

This was a practice put into place by my husband’s father and grandfather. We continue to plant GMO corn and soybean seeds. Today’s GMO seeds help make our plants more drought tolerant, resistant to extreme weather and less susceptible to devastating pests.

This technology helps our business — yes, farms are businesses too — produce more crops with less water, herbicides and pesticides. It helps us carefully manage the resources we use to produce a consistent crop from year-to-year, and positively contribute to a stable global food supply.

That’s doesn’t mean we take the safety of GMOs for granted. We’ve read the research and firmly believe they are safe for humans. In fact, GMO crops surround our family’s home and our children regularly play in the fields.

 

  1. Why do we use antibiotics in our cattle?

Raising cattle is an emotional part of our farm. We watch a mother cow’s movements, appetite and interaction with other animals in the herd. We can see when she isn’t feeling well. It’s our responsibility to alleviate that cow’s suffering and treat her illness. It’s an animal welfare decision for us. While our cattle are under our watchful eye, they are going to be cared for.

We don’t give antibiotics without reason and track their use diligently. We work closely with our veterinarians to oversee the health of our herd and administer antibiotics, and other treatments, when necessary. Animals treated with antibiotics are never sent off our farm when they are still being treated. We don’t sell sick cattle.

 

  1. Is farming a lifestyle or career?

It’s both, and a whole lot more. Farming and ranching can be fun and inspiring. It’s our job, but it’s also a heritage. In fact, we hope that one (or both) of our sons will want to continue our work. That’s the main reason I believe farmers, like us, are inherently responsible stewards of our resources. Every decision is made with the idea that our farm will see a fifth or sixth generation one day.

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Kansas Farms Highlighted at Hy-Vee Simple Fix Mini

img_5387Did you know much of the food you buy in the grocery store has a Kansas connection?

CommonGround Kansas hosted a Simple Fix Mini featuring Kansas-grown foods Tuesday, Feb. 21, at Topeka Hy-Vee. Guests enjoyed appetizers and wine, visited with Kansas farmers and prepared a three-course meal to take home and bake for their families.

The menu featured Southwest Avocado Ranch Salad, Layered Beef Enchiladas and Tres Leches Cake. Each recipe showcased connections to ingredients that are grown in Kansas, such as the wheat that goes into flour tortillas, corn that is fed to beef cattle and soybeans that are made into oil for salad dressing. The salad even featured grain sorghum as a topping.

Each work station was equipped with easy-to-follow recipes and all the prepared ingredients needed to create each dish.

Volunteers Melissa Hildebrand Reed, a dairy farmer near Junction City, and Laura Handke, a rancher near Atchison, visited with guests and answered questions about their farms. Guests also sampled flavors of milk from Hildebrand Family Dairy.

Hy-Vee dietitians Kylene Frost and Alyssa Gehle answered nutrition questions and served samples of the prepared meal.

The meal and event was sponsored by the farmers and ranchers of CommonGround Kansas. Ticket proceeds benefited Harvesters Community Food Network. Guests also brought canned and dry goods to donate.

Thank you to all who attended for the great discussions and for helping feed the hungry in our community!

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Conversation Flows at “Dinner on the Farm”

dinner on the farm

by Laura Handke, CommonGround Kansas volunteer

Handke

Laura and Chris Handke, with daughter Audrey Ann, are proud to represent the fourth generation on Chris’ family farm near Atchison, KS.

Grain finished beef brisket, fresh-from-the-garden green beans, butter yourself (and lots of it, please) homegrown sweet corn and homemade dinner rolls preceded a perfectly crusted, vanilla ice cream topped peach cobbler—is your mouth watering yet—all from the farm and all the main topic of conversation at the Dinner on the Farm evening hosted by Bismarck Gardens, Lawrence, KS, on July 9.  It was a made-to-order event: a nice breeze beat the heat, the location was picture perfect and great conversation flowed throughout the event. It was a perfect evening!

Both the owners and employees who make Bismarck Gardens so successful, in cooperation with Kansas Corn, made sure that the evening was all about mingling, food, fun and lots of conversation! Farm owner Patrick Ross addressed the group right after the meal to talk about the farm, the dinner we had all just enjoyed and to thank everyone for coming and sharing in the evening.

I sat by a fun-loving couple from Shawnee Mission: she manages the produce department at HyVee and he is an Uber driver; a lively pair of BFFs in their eighties; and a young entrepreneurial couple from Arkansas who moved to Lawrence to grow their business of helping foreign students acclimate to a new environment, both academically and socially.  I couldn’t have hand-picked better conversations! We talked about the advantages of grain fed beef, nutrition, sweet corn versus field corn and how field corn is used, and the incredible feats agriculture technology has achieved in the past decade. We shared childhood stories of growing up on the farm — we all had farm roots, but most had long-since pursued lives in town.

As events go, I would have to say that this has been my favorite to participate in as a CommonGround volunteer. I was excited to have been invited to participate and even more excited by the thought of similar events in the future! These are the events that spark those touchy conversations that ignite interest, but with a farmer on hand to meet that interest with correct, factual and current resources and information. Way to go, Bismarck Farms and Kansas Corn, you hit the nail on the head with this event!

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Farmers, chefs, nutrition professionals unite for downtown restaurant crawl

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

CommonGround Kansas joined nutrition professionals, chefs and fellow farmers for a restaurant crawl in downtown Manhattan, Kan., on Wednesday, March 30.

The event preceded the Kansas Nutrition Council’s annual meeting, which gathers up to 150 Kansas professionals actively involved in nutrition education and health promotion. Their work takes place in colleges and universities, government agencies, cooperative extension, communications and public relations firms, the food industry, voluntary and service organizations and with other reliable places of nutrition and health education information.

About 65 participants visited three restaurants to sample a pairing of spirits and cuisine representing the Kansas farmers and ranchers who help produce it. Each group was escorted by Kansas farmers, including Michael and Christy Springer, who raise pork and row crops near Sycamore, Bob and Mary Mertz, who raise beef and row crops near Zeandale, and Jeff Grossenbacher, who raises row crops near Bern.

At Harry’s Restaurant, guests sampled wine and a prime strip loin with baguettes. They heard from executive chef Cadell Bynum, managing partner Evan Grier and farmers Glenn and Jennifer Brunkow, who raise crops and livestock near Westmoreland.

Tallgrass Taphouse featured pretzel breadsticks with a cheesy beer dipping sauce with a sample of a fruit-infused wheat beer. Brewmaster Brandon Gunn discussed the brewery’s history and rapid rise to success and wheat farmer Ken Wood shared how he raises wheat near Chapman.

At 4 Olives, guests enjoyed red wine with a savory Duroc pork belly over grits and heard from farmers Craig and Amy Good, who raised the meat near Olsburg. Chef Benjamin Scott discussed his restaurant’s relationship with the Goods and the inspiration behind the dish.

The groups reunited at the Tallgrass Taphouse Firkin Room for door prizes, beer flights and conversation to conclude the evening.

Funding Partners included the Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Wheat. Planning Partners included Midwest Dairy, Kansas Beef Council, Kansas Soybean Commission and CommonGround Kansas.

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Bloggers meet farmers at Go Blog Social

Volunteers LaVell Winsor (left) and Laura Handke (right) chat with guests at the "Sip and Shop" event during Go Blog Social Apr. 3.

Volunteers LaVell Winsor (left) and Laura Handke (right) chat with guests at the “Sip and Shop” event during Go Blog Social Apr. 3.

Fashion and food brought new friends together at the Go Blog Social “Sip and Shop” event on Friday, Apr. 3. After a day of soaking up blogging tips, lifestyle bloggers from across the Midwest enjoyed an opportunity relax and sip on signature cocktails at the hip Berg Event Space near downtown Kansas City.

Attendees took a break from shopping and visiting with health and wellness professionals to ask their food and farming questions at the CommonGround Kansas table. Questions such as “Is grass-fed beef better?”, “Are there antibiotics in my meat?” and “Are hormones used in chicken?” were popular among attendees. Volunteers LaVell Winsor, Grantville, and Laura Handke, Atchinson, shared experiences from their farms and sent bloggers home with flexible cutting mats with food safety tips, as well as links to find science-based facts to help guide food choices.

This marks CommonGround Kansas’ second year attending the popular Go Blog Social conference, which helps attendees grow their blog and social media knowledge, connect with businesses and socialize with like-minded bloggers. Attendees had ample opportunities to learn about food and farming, as women from Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Farm Food Connection also supported the event.

 

 

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Volunteers answer food questions at KC women’s expo

Just for Her Expo

Volunteers LaVell Winsor and Laura Handke chat with attendees at the Just for Her women’s expo.

One booth stood out amid a sea of exhibitors offering beauty, fashion, home goods and health products at the Just for Her expo in Overland Park, Kan., May 30-June 1. With welcoming smiles and a variety of conversation-starting materials, the farm women of CommonGround Kansas offered a unique opportunity for attendees to ask questions about farming and food.

The annual Just for Her expo is a regional event attracting a diverse population of women. Volunteers LaVell, Laura, Kim, Katie, Lana and Sarah were on hand throughout the weekend to chat with attendees. They answered a variety of questions and conversed with consumers on hot topics such as organic foods, GMO crops, antibiotic use in meat production and family farms.

Do you have questions about how your food is raised? CommonGround volunteers farm in 16 states across the nation, raising fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock. They love sharing how they take care every day to produce safe food for consumers around the globe.

 

 

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Go Blog Social starts great conversations about food and farming

Go Blog Social

Katie Dosen of To Live for Style chats with Kansas volunteers Laura Handke and LaVell Winsor and CommonGround Missouri coordinator Luella Fischer.

What a weekend! The ladies of CommonGround Kansas and Missouri spent a beautiful, sunny Saturday filled with great conversation with truly lovely people in downtown Kansas City during Go Blog Social. We were so happy that we could help answer attendees’ questions about how we raise crops and livestock on our farms. We were especially excited about the genuine interest that so many of you expressed. The fact that you feel a personal investment in learning how your food is grown is really encouraging! We love to share our stories and convey what it means to be a farmer!

We wanted to give a little blog love to just a few of the fine folks who took time to chat with us! We know missed some! If you stopped by to chat with us and we didn’t get a chance to swap contact info, please shoot us an email at commongroundkansas@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to add your link here.

A special thank you to CommonGround Missouri, who partnered with our CommonGround Kansas ladies for this special event!

 

 

 

 

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We’re ready to get social!

We're excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

We’re excited to be a sponsor for Go Blog Social in Kansas City!

Go Blog Social may already be underway in KC today, but we’re getting really excited to meet bloggers and social media mavens at this special event in downtown Kansas City tomorrow, Apr. 5. We’re even more excited that we get to share our sponsorship with our next-door neighbors, CommonGround Missouri, to help answer questions about food and farming.

As farmers and moms, we understand how important it is to have confidence in where your food comes from. That’s why we’re excited to have conversations with some wonderful folks tomorrow about their most pressing questions about their food.

We love sharing the story of our farms and ranches. Most importantly, we are honored to be a part of the fact-finding mission that every consumer should embark upon to learn about how their food is raised. It’s like our teachers told us growing up, doing your homework (and doing your own homework) is important. We couldn’t agree more!

When we find out the real stories behind our food, we can make more informed decisions about what we feed our families.

Attending Go Blog Social? Stop by our booth and say hello! More importantly, bring your questions. Our farm moms will gladly answer them!

 

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