500 Come Together to Share Food and Farming at the Fair
The opening line of the program for the first ever Farm to Fair meal at the Iowa State Fair couldn’t be more true. This past weekend, I was one of the lucky 500 gathered at the largest dinner table ever set at the Iowa State Fair.
To bring this event together, state fair coordinators posted an open invitation for fairgoers to apply to be at the table. Just over 400 were awarded a seat with the remaining seats reserved for willing Iowa farmers to attend, share stories and answer questions about how the food started on the farm and arrived at the dinner table at the fair.
Dinner guests were greeted at check-in by none other than Iowa’s own Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and Deputy Secretary Julie Kenney. Fitting hosts for a meal that celebrates Iowa agriculture. My seat was at the center of the table. A table so long I couldn’t see either end!
The meal was prepared by The Machine Shed restaurant. An organization that strives to source Iowa-grown products and promote the hard work of everyday Iowa farmers. Each course featured a different commodity grown here in Iowa and was served by Iowa FFA student volunteers. These high school students are enrolled in agriculture education classes around the state with many aspiring to be future farmers or ag professionals. As a past FFA member myself, I couldn’t be more proud to have them be part of such a great event at the fair.
As the meal got underway my table wasted no time introducing ourselves. I was seated with couples from the Perry area and Waukee – both communities in central Iowa. We talked about their favorite parts of the fair, what they do for a living and things they were looking forward to with the remainder of summer. Then came the questions for me. For the most part, none of the questions were surprising as most of them stem from topics often misconstrued in the media. Do you use antibiotics? What about hormones? How much land does it take to raise cattle? Do you farm alone? Are the tariffs going to make it hard for you to continue farming? My favorite topic, where do you market your beef?
With each question we were able to piece together more of the puzzle as to how beef starts on my farm and ends on plates across Iowa. We talked about how beef that we market direct to family allows them to fill a freezer and have meat high in zinc, iron and protein at the ready for their kids fueling their bodies for sporting events. We talked about how the beef we market direct to local restaurants creates economic activity locally – from the family farm, to the local locker to the family-owned restaurant. We also talked about how part of our herd is marketed at a regional sale barn. Where buyers from larger labels like Tyson come to purchase market-ready beef to process and package for grocery store sale. So even though the package may not have our SkyView Farms name on the outside, beef available at the grocery store is often raised by a family farm.
I so enjoyed this opportunity to join the largest table ever set at the Iowa State Fair. And for the opportunity to answer consumer questions about my part in raising healthy beef for Iowa tables. Each course of the meal also came with a recipe! So I thought it fitting to share one with you all today. It’s sweet corn season! Make a pit stop at a local sweet corn stand or seek it out in the grocery store and give this corn casserole recipe a try. I recommend!
1 can of sweet corn (drained)
1 can of creamed corn
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp parsley (fresh or dried)
Mix first 3 ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place in 2 quart baking dish.
Melt butter and add bread crumbs and parsley; place bread crumb mixture on top.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes at 325 degrees.