Celebrating “Food for Life” with Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture

Option 4American agriculture isn’t just about producing more. It’s about producing everything better.

The entire agriculture industry – from genetics and seed companies to farmers and food manufacturers – are vital links in a chain that brings food and fiber to U.S. citizens and millions of people worldwide. Because our industry has gotten so efficient, it’s easy for Americans to take agriculture for granted.

National Agriculture Week, March 10-16, helps bring awareness to the importance of our industry. With the theme of “Food for Life,” Ag Week 2019 is helping showcase how important agriculture is to our nation’s health, wealth and wellbeing.

“National Ag Week is an opportunity to celebrate the people who make agriculture so successful. It’s an opportunity to meet with young people and show them the career options that are available in ag,” says Julie Kenney, who in 2018 was appointed Iowa Deputy of Secretary of Agriculture.

Ag Week promotions started late last week when Julie was a guest on WHO Radio’s “The Big Show” with Cristen Clark, who celebrated International Women’s Day by featuring influential women in ag. (Click here to download that podcast.)

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Photo Courtesy of Iowa Corn

Iowa’s Deputy Secretary started this week by giving a keynote speech at the National CommonGround conference in Kansas City. On Tuesday morning, Julie was part of a panel discussion for the Nuffield International Scholars. Tuesday evening she attended the Ag Leaders Dinner where Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig recognized organizations for leadership in innovation, community, education and advocacy. This week Julie also has spoken at an FFA banquet and conducted media interviews. We’re especially grateful that she made time for this feature on “The Field Position.”

All of these Ag Week activities are in addition to Julie’s full-time duties. As Deputy Secretary, Julie is responsible for the operations of Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS). She is specifically responsible for overseeing policy, budget and personnel.

“I have always been interested in politics and government. So much of what we do in the ag industry is dependent on our freedom to operate. It’s so important for us to build relationships, speak up and engage with our elected officials so they can advocate on our behalf,” says Julie.

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Photo Courtesy of Iowa Corn

Julie says she appreciates the opportunity to work with Secretary Naig and to help represent the industry that has meant so much to her family. She gets to help make an impact by working to build markets, promoting soil conservation and water quality, and addressing workforce challenges facing our industry and our state.

“It’s an honor to serve farmers and all Iowans,” says Julie. “Secretary Naig and I are focused on building markets for Iowa products by promoting trade, animal agriculture and renewable fuels. We are also laser-focused on soil conservation and water quality. Farmers and landowners statewide are implementing conservation practices. We are working to build capacity and get more conservation practices on the ground, including cover crops, wetlands, saturated buffers and bioreactors. Finally, we are working to encourage the next generation to pursue careers in agriculture – right here in Iowa.”

Before joining IDALS, Julie worked for 15 years in the agribusiness industry. She believes every job she’d held has helped prepare her for her current position.

“I walked beans, worked at the Lake City movie theater and waitressed at The Red Top,” says Julie, who grew up on a farm outside of Lohrville in West Central Iowa where her family raised corn, soybeans and pigs. “The jobs I had in high school and college taught me how to balance my time between school, activities and work. They taught me how to dig in and work hard to get things done – even when it’s not always fun.”

After college, Julie worked in Public Affairs and Marketing at a large ag company for 10 years.

“I’ve had so many great mentors, who taught me how to bring people together to solve problems,” adds Julie. “I also had a consulting business for five years where I got to work with a wide range of ag associations, checkoffs and businesses. Our farm also brings a much-needed perspective to my work at the Department.”

Julie and her husband, Mark, have two children and farm in Story County. As the parents of a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son, they’re busy running kids to practice or cheering for them from the bleachers. When she has the time, Julie enjoys experimenting with new recipes.

Today Julie is sharing with us one of her family’s favorite recipes for Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins. Click here to download her recipe for Harvest Pulled Pork, which appears in an Iowa Food & Family Project cookbook. Harvest Pulled Pork has become one of my go-to crockpot recipes on busy days, any time of the year. It’s so flavorful, moist and delicious!

Banana Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1⅓ cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Generously spray 2 mini muffin pans with baking spray or line with mini paper muffin liners.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer. Blend in the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir just until combined. Fold in the bananas and chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the tops are lightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

Nutrition per serving: 185 Calories, 8g Total Fat, 32mg Cholesterol, 181mg Sodium, 27g Carbohydrate, 1.g Fiber, 2g Protein

Recipe courtesy to: https://www.iowafoodandfamily.com/food/recipes/dessert/banana-chocolate-chip-mini-muffins