THE Iowa Food & Family Project (IFFP) recently hosted an exhibit at the Iowa State Fair to feed the curiosity of fairgoers who wonder where their food originates.
Kirk Leeds, chief executive officer of the Iowa Soybean Assn. (ISA), said, "Our goal this year was to create an eye-catching display that would inspire fairgoers to ask questions about food production."
A 12 ft.-tall, 50-ton sand-scape accomplished that goal, with farms and farm fields, grocery stores and restaurants. Various food and agricultural products were carved into the exhibit, which was titled, "What Farmers Grow Makes Iowa Go."
"If you look closely at the sand sculpture, you will see that all of Iowa agriculture works together to provide food and farm products," Leeds pointed out.
Some fairgoers were surprised to see a McDonald's restaurant storefront carved in the sand.
"We were pleased when McDonald's came to us asking if we could form a partnership that would help raise consumer awareness about how food is grown and raised," said Aaron Putze, IFFP coordinator and director of communications for ISA. He noted that "the state fair exhibit was just one of our partnership projects."
Four thousand children who participated in a coloring contest received vouchers for free ice cream cones from McDonald's, and longtime foodservice partner Machine Shed restaurants provided 2,700 complimentary dessert coupons to fairgoers who participated in other activities.
Ottumwa, Iowa, farmers Pat and Don Swanson volunteered at the exhibit to answer visitors' questions.
"People really are curious how their food is grown," the Swansons said. "We share firsthand information and hope to bring clarity to production issues they do not understand."
The Swansons host IFFP- and ISA-coordinated tours on their farm, where they often welcome first-time farm visitors.
"When hosting a tour, we do not just show them what we do; we listen to their questions and provide them with honest information. Being able to demonstrate how we produce agriculture products helps build their trust in our food system," they explained.
Besides the conversations and various activities at the display, fairgoers were asked to complete engagement cards that also entered them into some of the contests offered at the display. Nearly 10,000 people now will have the chance to further the conversation about food and farming by receiving IFFP's monthly "Fresh Pickings" newsletter.
The Iowa Pork Producers Assn., Farm Credit Services of America, Midwest Dairy, Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, Iowa Corn, Iowa Food Bank Assn. and Iowa Grocery Industry joined McDonald's, Machine Shed restaurants and ISA to power this display. More than 40 groups partner to support IFFP.
From hog farm to fuel
MagneGas Corp., a technology company with a patented process for converting liquid waste into a hydrogen-based fuel, recently announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with a large hog farm in Indiana.
Established in 1996, the hog farm raises more than 40,000 pigs per year, making it one of the largest in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The hog farm plans to offer a safer, sterilized pig manure to the surrounding agricultural community by using the MagneGas system while co-firing MagneGas with propane or natural gas to reduce energy costs.
Under the terms of the MOU, following a successful demonstration, the hog farm will buy a MagneGas sterilization system and will become an exclusive distributor for MagneGas products in the agriculture industry for Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. The hog farm will also serve as a MagneGas demonstration center for the agriculture sector that is expected to attract global interest in this new process.
"We are excited to do a live, 30-day demonstration at our facility. We want to sterilize manure waste, making it easier for us to bring to the field and have a very high-quality fertilizer that is nearly odorless," the hog farm owner said. "We see a huge market in not only the pig industry but in other industries like chicken and cattle as well. We also want to maximize the gas byproduct to co-combust with either natural gas or propane to maximize the positive environmental effect and further reduce costs."
The hog farm owner said the MagneGas technology will change farming throughout the Midwest and, ultimately, the world. "Our goal, as farmers, is to be good stewards of the land and to leave it a better place than we found it, and we believe MagneGas will help us do just that," he added.
"During my visit to the hog farm, I was very impressed by the cleanliness and progressiveness of their facilities," MagneGas CEO Ermanno Santilli said. "They have clearly employed the latest farming methods and technologies, which is led by their vision that as technology improves, so can procedures used in farming, resulting in a better, safer and cleaner environment."
The pork checkoff, along with co-sponsor National Hog Farmer magazine, has selected two pork farms to be honored as the 2014 Pork Industry Environmental Stewards. The award, now in its 20th year, recognizes producers who are dedicated to safeguarding the environment and contributing to their local communities.
The 2014 award recipients are Bruce and Jenny Wessling of Grand Junction, Iowa, and David and Sharon Stephens of Malta Bend, Mo.
The judges for the 2014 award represented pork producers and environmental organizations from across the country. The committee reviewed applications from pig farmers who are committed to upholding the ideal relationship between pork production and the environment.
The applicants' farms were evaluated based on their manure management systems, water and soil conservation practices, wildlife habitat promotion, odor control strategies, farm aesthetics and neighbor relations. The applicants also authored an essay on the importance of environmental stewardship on their farm and how they implement innovative ideas to create tangible actions to safeguard and protect the environment.
"The 2014 stewards clearly understand the comprehensive approach that producers need to take in raising pigs today," said Lynn Harrison, chair of the Environmental Stewards selection subcommittee and former president of the National Pork Board. "These farms clearly show how bright ideas can become innovative solutions. From relying more on solar power to giving back to their communities, the 2014 stewards have put their own stamp on raising high-quality pork for customers."
The Wesslings and their two daughters raise about 18,000 feeder-to-finish pigs annually on their farm, which also has 4,600 acres of corn and soybeans. Three naturally ventilated pig barns feature deep-pit manure storage and are surrounded by a natural vegetative buffer of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs.
The Stephens and three of their children work on a farrow-to-wean farm that produces about 190,000 pigs per year. They also raise 600 acres of corn and soybeans on the adjacent land. Tunnel-ventilated sow barns feature cool cells for animal comfort in hot weather, as well as shallow-pit manure storage and shower-in/shower-out facilities for enhanced biosecurity.
Like past stewards, the 2014 recipients manage their farms with an eye on sustainability and on their local communities and will be recognized by their peers at the 2015 National Pork Industry Forum next March in San Antonio, Texas. Videos featuring their farms can be viewed now at www.pork.org.