The Friday Five: Out of sight, out of mind

2013 soybeans, landscape

When it comes to food, many of us (myself included) have a tendency to take for granted all the choices we have available and the convenience of easily accessible ingredients.

Here’s a few tidbits fresh picked for this week’s Friday five that help highlight some of the marvels of our modern food system and some areas that you might not think about:

  1. What does it really take to make a sandwich from scratch? Try 6 months and $1,500! Check out this video series from How to Make Everything for a look at one man’s quest to grow and source the raw ingredients for a sandwich truly made from scratch.
  2. Transportation is an essential part of our food system, but not one most of us think about very often. Take a look at a few of the folks who haul food for a living in this article from NPR’s The Salt.
  3. Have you seen headlines about recently about a shortage of eggs? Or perhaps pumpkins? While things like avian flu and weather can cause supply issues (and maybe price increases), check out this perspective about how most of the ‘shortages’ we see in the United States tend to be overplayed, in an article from TIME.
  4. On the flip side, there are real differences in the cost of food in different areas of the country. A report on food costs called Map the Meal Gap 2015 from Feeding America shows differences in meal costs correlates with low-income and food-insecure families, as reported on MarketWatch.
  5. Even in today’s era of mechanized and computerized agriculture equipment, many fruit and vegetable crops are still harvested by hand. Here’s a look at a few of the more labor intensive crops in this article, also from NPR’s The Salt.

To meet some of the farmers who grow your food, check out www.watchusgrow.org

What do you appreciate most about your food supply?

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The Friday Five: Pumpkins!

soybeans, landscape

Looking for the perfect pumpkin for your front step? Or maybe some mums to fill out your fall flower bed? Central Illinois has plenty to offer!

pumpkinsAfter all, when it comes to pumpkins – Illinois is the cream of the crop! Illinois farmers grow 80-85% of the world’s supply of processing pumpkins (used to make canned pumpkin puree & pie filling) and the majority of those are grown right here in the central part of the state.

Check out a few upcoming opportunities to visit the country, experience a little taste of agriculture and maybe pick up a pumpkin:

  1.  Explore local farm history with the 2015 McLean County Barn Tour Sat., Sept. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring interesting barns, antique farm equipment and more. The self-guided tour and begins at the Chenoa United Methodist Church and is sponsored by McLean County Barn Keepers.
  2. Rader Family Farms opens this weekend (Sept. 12). Located just west of Normal (look for the pumpkin topped silo), Rader’s offers plenty of pumpkins, a corn maze, kid-friendly activities, food & special events throughout the season.
  3. Also this weekend, you can head south for the Route 10 Farm Crawl Sun., Sept. 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with activities at Mariah’s Mums & More, Timberview Alpaca FarmWagon Wheel Pumpkin Farm near Clinton, Illinois.
  4. For more pumpkin treats and festival fun, head to the Pumpkin Capital of the World for the Morton Pumpkin Festival Sept. 16-19, 2015. Sample the savory and the sweet with everything from pumpkin chili to pumpkin donuts & ice cream.
  5. And if apples are what you’re after, check out Country Mist Apple Farm near Heyworth, Curtis Orchard near Champaign or Tanner’s Orchard north of Peoria.

Just remember when you venture out into the country, watch out for farm equipment! Harvest is just beginning for corn & soybeans, so be alert for slow moving vehicles on the roads. Slow down, pass with caution & be safe!

What are your favorite ways to celebrate Fall?

No, I don’t raise Hot Dogs….

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Sometimes words we use on the farm can be confusing….and create funny conversations.

I’m a pig farmer and the other day I was talking to an interested mom who asked me “Do you eat the pork you raise?”

“No,” I replied, “I only raise weaners.” (which she heard as ‘wieners’)

“What!?!” she asked, a little bit shocked. “You only have wieners?”

After some nervous laughter and a bit of embarrassment, we sorted out the confusion. I wasn’t talking about hot dogs, and it wasn’t a euphemism!

Allow me to explain.  On my farm we have mother pigs (called sows) they give birth (called farrowing) to piglets. At 20 days the baby pigs (weighing 12-15 lbs.) are weaned, which means moved from their mother and transitioned to solid feed.

I don’t think it is actually a word in the dictionary but on the farm, we refer to each group of piglets moved from their mothers as “weaners” or pigs that have been weaned.

My farm is a specialized farrow to wean operation, so the piglets go to a different farm to grow to market weight (280 lbs.)  Because we don’t have pigs  ready for market, I don’t have pork (meat) straight from my farm

So if you ask me why I don’t eat my own pork it is NOT because I don’t have wieners it is because I only have weaners!! Get it?

And if you ask me for a wiener (hot dog), be sure to be clear or you may get a piglet that is no longer with it’s mother, also called a weaner!

Enjoy pork!