Last week I traveled to Des Moines, Iowa with 9 other food bloggers. We were part of a three day foodie tour aptly named, Iowa CornQuest. This is the third annual such tour and it’s sponsored by the Iowa Corn Growers Association. We were given the chance to meet some of Iowa’s farmers and their families, learn a little bit about alternative fuel while zooming 120 miles per hour in an Ethanol fueled race car, have the pleasure of speaking with a Doctor of Nutrition and asking her anything and everything in regards to the corn industry and how it effects the foods we eat today, AND, we had the opportunity to tour Better Home’s and Gardens Headquarters, located in downtown Des Moines. Of course, all of they above couldn’t go down without plenty of new friendships, eating good food, and lots and lots of laughter!
First up was breakfast at The Machine Shed. With only a handful of restaurants across the state, it’s like a big ol’ country farmhouse and they serve up food to match. No egg white & spinach omelets here. Just a good ol’ farmers style breakfast. Bacon, biscuits and gravy and sweet rolls the size of my head. In the spirit of fueling up before a long days work, I dug in and enjoyed every bite of it! I also had the pleasure of sitting next to a 3rd generation pig farmer and all the while noshing on swine, we discussed GMO and farming today and how it’s so vastly different than even 20 years ago. Gotta love it!
After breakfast we headed to another family run farm, that of Bill and Nancy Couser. Together they have two grown boys- one in the film industry living in Seattle and their youngest, at home helping manage the farm. They have over 1000 acres where they grow soy beans, harvest corn and raise cattle. The farm, over 100 years old, is constantly evolving. They take a great amount of pride in the way the steward their land. Whether it be their involvement in the community, working along side University of Iowa students, or implementing greener practices, Bill Couser is passionate. Passionate about farming and passionate about tailgating- he’ll tell you all about it! He’s also pretty passionate about making his land that best that it can be. A total firecracker, that man runs his farm like a well oiled machine. Speaking of machines, we also got to ride in a combine and see first hand how efficient this machine was at harvesting. Pretty darn incredible. And as it should be for the small price tag of $250,000……….
After a lunch of perfectly seared flat iron steak with an amazing Espresso and Bourbon Glaze and a fun lesson for our taste buds from Nancy Degner of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, we were off to the Speedway to learn about Ethanol and let’s be honest, GOING FAST!!! A trip to the Iowa Speedway was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. We had a quick lesson on Ethanol and how it plays a vital role in the Speedway- all of the cars that race are done so with the help of Ethanol which is essentially fuel made as a bi-product of corn. It’s such a cool concept and one that I won’t go into too much detail here but am definitely committed to learning more about. A little tidbit- 10% of all the fuel we put in our cars is made with an Ethanol blend. Everyone was chomping at the bit to get into a race car. Being married to a stuntman, this wasn’t my first rodeo……I was happy to let everyone else go first. It was so much fun to watch all the girls faces as they got out of the car. Some dizzy but all smiling! If I’m being completely honest, I wanted to go faster. Blame it on a husband that isn’t afraid to go fast and has no problem letting loose in a rental car.
We capped off the day with dinner on a rooftop over looking the Capital building that seemed to glow in the sunset. I again had the pleasure of sitting next to a gentlemen who was a third generation farmer born and raised in Iowa. We talked a little farming but mostly about his kids and his two grandchildren. I couldn’t have asked for better conversation. The food was great and it was a pretty special evening.
Without a doubt, the most memorable moments for me on this trip were the relationships created. Whether it be sitting next to a fellow food blogger I’d never met on the bus and chatting about canning for an hour straight or sitting next to the 3rd generation farmer and chatting about GMO and grandkids. At the end of the day, we all have a story. If I learned anything on this trip, it’s that these farmers care. Each one that I had the pleasure to talk to, the bottom line was the same. They all have families to support and they are all working as hard as they can to give you what they think it is the best and most efficient product out there. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about doing something you’re passionate about and taking pride in what you do. We should all be so lucky to say that at the end of hard days work.
Please be sure to check back next week and you can hear all about day 2- We toured the Better Homes and Gardens kitchens……it was like Christmas morning for a bunch of foodie bloggers! There just might be a giveaway involved as well!!!
Disclaimer: The Iowa Corn Association payed for my traveling expenses as well as hosted me while in Iowa. I was in no way compensated for writing this post. Thoughts, ideas and photos are all mine.