Get a First-Hand Look at Where Food Comes From

“Musings of a Pig Farmer”
by Larry Sailer

The Iowa State Fair provides many wonderful opportunities to get a first-hand look at how food is produced from Little Hands on the Farm and the Ag Magic Show in the Animal Learning Center to Farm Bureau Park and the Back to the Farmer exhibit in the Varied Industries Building.

Take a day – pack up your whole family – and head to Des Moines.  If you visit the fairgrounds today, stop by Farm Bureau Park between 8 a.m. and noon to visit me.  (Sorry about the misprint in last week’s blog post when I mentioned that I’d be at the fair on Thursday, Aug. 16!)

Between now and Aug. 19, will farmers like me will be talking about we do and why we do it. We’ll answer (or at least try to!) questions that people, who are unfamiliar with current farming methods ask.  Plus, visitors to Farm Bureau Park can register for drawings and even health screenings.  Games can be played to test your knowledge of agriculture.  And on particularly hot days, Farm Bureau Park is the best place to sit on a park bench in the shade!

Just a short walk from Farm Bureau Park is the Varied Industries Building.  Enter on the building’s south side where you’ll find the Iowa Food & Family Project’s exhibit entitled, “Back to the Farmer.”  This exhibit features a very unique creation made of canned and packaged food.  Also register for chance to win Casey’s pizza for a year and a $250 Hy-Vee gift card.

Another “must see” at the Iowa State Fair – regardless of whether you were raised on a farm – is the Animal Learning Center where you’ll find everything from newly hatched chicks to newborn pigs.  (The Animal Learning Center is conveniently located just east of the Midway between Ye Olde Mill and the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit.)  The Animal Learning Center is one of my favorite spots to interact with fairgoers as people line up for hundreds of feet, all day long, to see the farrowing display.  A two-hour shift here feels like it’s about 20 minutes long; time passes quickly because there are so many people who are enjoying themselves and asking questions.

In addition to the newborn animals, the Ag Magic Show is a popular attraction in the Animal Learning Center. Magician Rhonda Renee Ross starts off her show by telling kids the magic words are not “abracadabra,” but instead, “Thank a farmer.”  Rhonda grew up in Chicago, the first of six generations in her family to not grow up on the farm.  Because she understands the importance of educating urban folks about agriculture, she reaches her audience in the most unexpected yet relevant ways.  For example, Rhonda holds up a tube of lipstick and explains that lipstick is creamy because of an ingredient called glycerin.  “Glycerin is made from the fat of cows, sheep and my favorite…pigs!  So the next time your mom, sister or grandma puts on lipstick, tell her she is as pretty as a pig,” she says with a laugh.

Speaking of pork, be sure to grab a Porkchop on a Stick from the Iowa Pork Producers stand.  It’s one of the tastiest and most nutritious fair foods – and a personal favorite of mine.  Did you know you can eat three, square meals on a stick?  It’s true!  There are 50+ foods on a stick at the Iowa State Fair.

“Square meals” reminds me of school lunch programs.  Thursday, during the Franklin County Farm Bureau Board meeting, I’ll have an opportunity to speak with area superintendents and learn more about how new regulations impacting school lunch programs.  I’ll look forward to talking about this topic in an upcoming blog, so stay tuned!

On Friday, Aug. 17, I’ll be one of the speakers in Ames at the AgIowa 140 Conference.  It’s not too late to buy your ticket!