Posts Tagged With: groceries

Campus conversations focus on food & farming

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Volunteers from CommonGround, the Kansas Pork Association and K-State’s Food for Thought organization handed out free bacon and spoke with students and faculty in the Kansas Memorial Union on Apr. 1.

Bacon and buzzwords enticed curious visitors to pause at the University of Kansas on Wednesday, Apr. 1, to learn how Kansas farmers raise their food.

The Kansas Memorial Union lobby hummed with conversation as students, faculty and staff sampled free bacon and posed their questions on modern farming practices to volunteers from Kansas State University’s Food for Thought organization, the Kansas Pork Association and CommonGround Kansas. Some visitors posted their questions publicly to receive a “baconologist” or “baconista” T-shirt from the Kansas Pork Association.

Events connecting food buyers with farmers are becoming more common as interest in food production practices grows. Many consumers find they have more questions than answers.

“We’re faced with more choices than ever, which can be very overwhelming. Our goal is to forge connections where shoppers can feel comfortable asking tough questions of the folks growing their food,” said Shannon Krueger, CommonGround Kansas coordinator. “Everyone deserves to have the information they need to be confident in their food choices.”

Common questions addressed concerns with biotechnology, animal welfare and organic foods. Visitors learned about pig farming while viewing a model barn and received information with links to research on common food concerns.

Connor Needham, sophomore from Dallas, Texas, said making smart food decisions became more challenging once he started college.

“I grew up in a family that emphasized healthy food choices,” he said. “When I’m grocery shopping, I’ll call my mom for advice.”

Many shoppers find it difficult to find trustworthy sources for food information. In an increasingly noisy online space, it can be tedious to decipher which sources are based on sound science. In addition, few consumers personally know a farmer they can ask about production practices.

The widening communication gap requires cooperation from both sides.

“It is vital that farmers create opportunities to connect with consumers and listen to their concerns. It’s equally important that consumers seek out factual information to help guide food choices,” said Jacob Hagenmaier, Food for Thought outreach coordinator.

The event’s sponsoring organizations have a shared mission to connect grocery shoppers with the farmers who grow their food.

Visitors had the opportunity to share their questions publicly and received a "Baconista" or "Baconologist" T-shirt from the Kansas Pork Association. The responses filled two sides of our white board.

Visitors had the opportunity to share their questions publicly and received a “Baconista” or “Baconologist” T-shirt from the Kansas Pork Association. The responses filled two sides of our white board.

“We enjoy connecting with folks who are passionate and want to learn more about their food,” said Jodi Oleen, director of consumer outreach for the Kansas Pork Association. “Partnering with Food for Thought and CommonGround allows us to offer a wide variety of perspectives and information to our visitors.”

Volunteers included, from Food for Thought: Chance Hunley, Riverton; Lindi Bilberry, Garden City; Jacob Hagenmaier, Randolph; Bruce Figger, Hudson; Karly Frederick, Alden; from the Kansas Pork Association: Jodi Oleen, Manhattan; from CommonGround Kansas: Karra James, Clay Center; Laura Handke, Atchison; and Shannon Krueger, Abilene.

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Kid’s Reading List: Hungry Planet

Each evening at our dinner table, my family sits down for a meal and conversation that inevitably involves picking playfully at one another. I rarely thought about how my family’s evening meal experience differed from Hungry Planetother families around the world.

This changed when I read the seventh book in our Kids’ Reading List series, Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio.  The book profiles 600 meals of 30 families in 24 countries by detailing weekly food purchases. Each portrait includes the family surrounded by a week’s worth of groceries. Photo-essays also give readers a look at international street food, meat markets, fast food, and cookery.

This book is best suited to give older children a glimpse into the forces that impact the dinner tables of families around the world. Readers begin to understand the influence poverty, conflict and affluence have on the nutrition of the family diet.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Kids’ Reading List: Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth’s Recipe for Food

What’s your favorite recipe?  Maybe it’s your mother’s apple
pie or your neighbor’s banana bread that gets your mImageouth watering.  There is one ultimate recipe that makes all these dishes possible.

The sixth book in our Kids’ Reading List series is Seed, Soil, Sun: Earth’s Recipe for Food by Chris Peterson.  This American Farm Bureau Foundation’s Agriculture Book of the Year celebrates the yearly planting, growth, and harvest of our plant food.  The simple ingredients to Earth’s recipe, seeds, soil, and sun, all combine to create much of the food we each and some food for animals. Read on in the book to discover more about the wonder that is Earth’s recipe.

Young readers, from four to seven years old, will enjoy the colorful photographs by photographer David R. Lundquist. They will learn from Peterson how seeds use soil and sun to grow into the fruits and vegetables they enjoy at the dinner table.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Kids’ Reading List: Pig 05049

It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Our fifth book in our Kids’ Reading List series is Pig 05049 by Christien Meindertsma. The book uses photographs to follow a single pig through its life cycle and how every part of the animal is used to produce products from the expected meat products, like ham and bacon, to the more unexpected, like paintbrushes and marshmallows. This book is best suited to give older children an artistic and educational look at how a single animal influences many facets of our everyday lives.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Why Santa (and You) Shouldn’t Fear Milk and Cookies This Christmas

Note: This post comes to us from CommonGround volunteer Beth Chittenden, a dairy farmer in Schodack Landing, NY. 

Beth Chittenden is a dairy farmer in New York.

Beth Chittenden is a dairy farmer in New York.

While it seems like the holidays come earlier and earlier every year, one time-honored tradition always waits until Christmas Eve. Each December 24, just before heading off to bed, millions of children participate in the ritual of leaving cookies and milk for Santa to snack on. As a dairy farmer, my family and I are proud to serve not only Mr. Claus, but millions of American families, with safe and healthy milk. We work hard each and every day to make sure ALL of our consumers, not just the jolly ones, can enjoy milk without any need to worry about safety.

As a farmer and a mom, I know that between Christmas lists and grocery lists, December can be especially tricky to coordinate. And with all of the added labeling and information found on milk products, the dairy aisle can be particularly confusing. This Christmas, I want to give all moms the gift of peace of mind, because they have absolutely nothing to fear at the dairy case. Here are the facts:

  • Hormones occur naturally in farm animals like dairy cows and even some produce, like cabbage. They are present in our food even when animals haven’t been given supplemental hormones – it’s a natural part of life. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says there is no need to worry about hormones in milk.
  • According to the World Health Organization and the FDA, pasteurization destroys 90 percent of hormones in milk and the rest are broken down during digestion. Pasteurization also destroys harmful bacteria that may be present, including salmonella and E. coli.
  • All milk, whether organic or conventional, is strictly tested for antibiotics on the farm and at the processing plant. Any milk that tests positive cannot be sold to the public.
  • No research shows that milk or other dairy products play a role in early puberty. In fact, girls today drink less milk than their mothers did. Some scientists believe that childhood obesity may lead to earlier onset of puberty, according to a report published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Happy Holidays!

Beth Chittenden, Dairy Farmer
Schodack Landing, N.Y.

To learn more about hormones as they relate to milk products, please visit the Food Facts page at findourcommonground.com. As always, please send your questions our way. We’ll be happy to share how we operate our farms.

 

About Beth

Beth Chittenden is highly qualified to teach folks about farming and their food – especially dairy. She grew up on a dairy farm, studied animal husbandry at Cornell University, worked as an animal nutritionist, obtained a Master’s degree in Education, and now helps operate a 600-cow dairy and 2,000-acre farm in Schodack Landing, New York. Beth’s goal is to open a full-time education center at Dutch Hollow Farm to teach students and the public about modern agriculture. Her extensive knowledge of agriculture and education give her the skills to explain modern farming in terms urban neighbors can understand.

Beth knows how important it is to answer tough questions about food because her farm is situated near the cities of New York and Boston. “Many topics such as animal care, biotechnology, and antibiotics are sometimes misunderstood by my city neighbors. But, once I explain how we do our best to raise great food and show them around the farm, my urban friends walk away confident in our abilities and commitment as farmers.”

 

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Life on a Kansas Farm

Ever wondered what it’s like to live and work on a farm?

The America’s Heartland TV program recently featured the Brunkow family from Westmoreland, KS. The show shares the story of daily life on their family farm, from providing constant care for their cattle and sheep herds to salvaging what’s left of their crops in the drought-stricken Great Plains. The show recently aired on RFD-TV.

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Kids’ Reading List: The Beef Princess of Practical County

The Beef Princess of Practical CountyDon’t get too attached, her father warns. But Libby Ryan can’t help herself.

Our fourth book in our Kids’ Reading List series is The Beef Princess of Practical County by Michelle Houts. The novel tells the story of Libby, who chooses two calves to raise to show and sell at the Practical County Fair. Despite her father’s advice, she names her animals Piggy and Mule with hopes of winning the title of grand champion. She doesn’t realize how difficult it will be to auction them off once the fair is over.

At the fair, Libby must face the pressure of competition and the reality that her calves will be sold and harvested for meat. Luckily, her family and friends are there to help.

Readers in grades 4 and up will be touched by this tender story of growing up while learning about the care and respect that beef producers practice daily.

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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Guests Enjoy Fine Dining on the Farm at Feast of the Fields

Feast of the Fields

Feast of the Fields guests gather outside to hear about the Mertz family’s work at River Creek Farms. Guests enjoyed a four-course dinner inside the 136-year-old barn.

The sun retreated into the rolling Flint Hills, casting its glow over the historic rock barn at River Creek Farms. In the twilight of the Kansas River valley, guests mingled amid over wine the crisp autumn air. Inside, chef Noah Reagan and staff prepared to put the finishing touches on the first dinner course awaiting guests in the regal 136-year-old structure.

Guests and volunteers of CommonGround Kansas were among the privileged few to experience a world-class dinner on a working farm at Feast of the Fields – Barn Edition on Saturday, Sept. 29. In only its second full year, the event has amassed its share of supporters seeking a unique dining experience and a taste of modern agriculture. The biannual event was started in 2010 by the Mertz family, which raises sheep, cattle and crops at River Creek Farms near Manhattan, KS.

“Everything was so well done, from the flute and violin music by K-State students during the appetizers and wine to the four-course meal,” said volunteer LaVell Winsor. “It was lovely. Each course served with a different wine served by K-State hospitality student volunteers.”

The perfect weather and beautiful lighting in the 100-year-old barn created an elegant atmosphere to enjoy agriculture at its finest, she added.

Feast of the Fields and CommonGround share similar missions. Many Americans underestimate the importance of agriculture in their lives. With the majority of Americans several generations removed from the farm, agriculture has become unfamiliar territory. Most consumers’ only exposure to the industry is via the media, where misinformation can be quickly perpetuated. It can be challenging to sort through the myriad messages littered with hype and hoaxes. Many folks have questions, yet don’t know a farmer to serve as a resource for making informed decisions about the food they eat. That’s where Feast of the Fields and CommonGround unite.

“Today, 98% of farms in America are family operations. We’re a fourth-generation family grain and livestock operation,” said Mary Mertz, event organizer and member of the family farm. “Across our nation, farmers are producing the finest quality and most abundant foods in the world. Many people, however, do not truly understand agriculture and its significance in their lives.”

The Mertz family tells the story using meats, produce and wines from the Flint Hills region of Kansas. Guests come from across the region to enjoy fine dining and a taste of the farm.

“Feast of the Fields highlights farm-fresh foods in a natural setting,” Mertz noted. “It is our goal to provide participants with an authentic culinary adventure that leaves them feeling positive about Kansas farms and foods.”

The barn edition followed the tradition of offering cuisine prepared by an accomplished chef. Noah Reagan, owner and chef at downtown Manhattan’s della Voce, prepared a menu featuring fresh meat and produce from the area (menu at right).

Thanks to Mary Mertz and her family for allowing CommonGround to host our guests at this wonderful event! For more information on Feast of the Fields, please visit http://feastofthefields.yolasite.com or contact Mary directly at marytmertz@gmail.com or (785) 456-9201. Feast of the Fields features two editions each year. The summer event features the same fine dining and entertainment amid a growing corn field. Events sell out quickly, so mark your calendar for the 2013 editions.

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Kansas Volunteer Discusses Drought with The Weather Channel

CommonGround Kansas volunteer LaVell Winsor and her family farm in northeast Kansas, where the drought has significantly reduced the amount of corn and soybeans the Winsors expect to harvest this fall.

CommonGround Kansas volunteer LaVell Winsor has been getting a lot of national attention after being featured in a story about the drought on The Weather Channel’s website.

She says the corn and soybeans growing on her family’s farm in NE Kansas will likely only yield about 25-35% of what a normal crop would be.

Check out the full article on Weather.com.

Keep up with LaVell and her work on the farm via her blog,  http://growingfortomorrow.wordpress.com, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GrowingForTomorrow or Twitter @growing4tomorro.

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Kids’ Reading List: Farmer George Plants a Nation

George Washington Plants a NationDid you know George Washington was more than our nation’s first president and a general of the U.S. military? He was a farmer!

The third book in our Kids’ Reading List series is Farmer George Plants a Nation by Peggy Thomas and illustrated by Layne Thomas. As George Washington was forging ahead to form a new nation, he was also creating a self-sufficient farm at Mount Vernon, Virginia. Did you know the president planted trees, bred mules and experimented with many crops including wheat? He mixed his own fertilizers and compost to help grow shrubs and vegetables. He designed a barn where his workers could thresh grain indoors. He even invented a plow that not only tilled the soil but also planted seeds!

Ideal for kids in grades 3 through 5, the book includes excerpts of the president’s writings, a timeline, resource section and essays with beautiful oil-painted illustrations of Farmer George at work in Colonial America.

Check back next week for another fun read!

Thanks to Holly Spangler for compiling this list, which was featured in the March 2012 issue of Farm Futures magazine.

Check out the past selections in the reading list.

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