Monday, October 31, 2016

#FarmFoodTour or Bust 2016

A few weeks ago I woke up before the sun and drove to KC to meet a group of wonderful women (bloggers, nutritionists, and farmers) for a road trip through Kansas.  The #FarmFoodTour was hosted by Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Soybean Association and they did an excellent job allowing us to see farming in Kansas and spoiling us along the way!  During the 3 day trip through Kansas we visited 8 different farms that allowed us to learn about where our food comes from and to ask lots of questions. 

I'm a city girl and I have never really been around farm life and I learned SOOO much on this trip. To be completely honest this "modern hippie" was a little worried about the trip because I knew we would be visiting non organic farms (including those growing and feeding animals GMO crops).  I went with an open mind and willingness to learn and was blown away by the openness & understanding of everyone on the trip.  We all have our own thoughts and opinions but we all listened and learned from each other! 

Prepare yourself for lots of pictures in this post. But seriously who doesn't want to see pigs, cows, and beautiful KS crops!!!

The first stop was Good Farms and it was an awesome first stop on the trip. It was one of my favorite places we visited, maybe raising a pig is in my future!!  The Goods' specialize in raising hogs and sell their specialty pork to Heritage Foods.

What is more fun than digging in the mud?!?! 

We got to go inside the "maternity ward" and see the smallest piggies on the farm.  How adorable!!!!

I will take this view every morning with my coffee please!
Once our tour of the farm was complete the Goods' welcomed us into their beautiful home for a catered lunch by 4 Olives in Manhattan, KS. All the food was amazing and our salad included their very own pork.

The 2nd stop for the day was Sawyer Land & Cattle in McPherson. Derek and Katie Sawyer were great hosts.  As soon as we stepped off the bus we were immediately greeted by sounds of calves that had just been separated from their moms.  They were not quiet! The Sawyers run a great operation and care deeply for their animals.  While there they taught us about antibiotics and hormones used for cattle.

Imagine lots of loud calves.....this isn't even half of the calves that you see behind me! 

We ended the day eating with the Sawyers at Marigolds in downtown McPherson. It is a farm to table restaurant that I have had on my list to try and it was awesome.  I will be going back!

Day #2 we headed to Garden City.  At our first stop  in the middle of nowhere KS this view was next to the gas station.   Have you ever seen these large piles of harvested crops?  Well this is how the grain elevators store the crops when there is no more room in the elevators.   Amazing, I even learned something at the gas station!  

The first "real" stop on day #2 was Forget-Me-Not-Farms in Cimarron, KS  Honestly this is one stop I was not looking forward to because I do not drink dairy and feel that large dairy farms may not be the best for the animals, but my thinking was quickly changed.  Not in the fact that I will be drinking milk or that I feel dairy is the healthiest but in the fact that this family owned dairy farm loves these mama cows and takes amazing care of them!  The dairy was SUPER clean, animals looked very happy, and those mammas knew how to get on and off the milking carousel.  This was actually my other favorite farm visit.  The family was awesome and answered all of our questions, including questions on growth hormones.  Forget Me Not Farms does not use growth hormones, as they do not feel it is the best for their mama cows. They have an animal nutritionist visit the dairy often to make sure the feeding regime the cows eat is the best and healthiest.  Besides those things that impressed me about this dairy operation, the majority of their workers do not speak English as their first language.  They offer all their employees English classes FREE of charge and hold the classes in the dairy which shows they not only care for their animals but also care about all of their employees!

Wondering why these cows look skinny? Some of use wondered that to so we asked. It is because dairy cows are built and are fed in a way to not bulk up. We are all used to seeing cows that are fed and raised for meat so they are NOT skinny.  So no worries, it is ok they look so skinny!  

Yummy, we love eating our food so we can provide America milk! 
Cows and more cows

This is the carousel where they are milked several times a day.  

Standing in the middle of the milking carousel was a fun experience, looking at all these cows as they are looking down on you was impressive! 
The next stop was Reeve's Cattle Company in Garden City.  This was a feed yard that has an amazing sense of business and entrepreneurship. They have grown, changed, and adapted to the changing times and markets over the years all while keeping family and care of the animals at their core. Thinking outside the box and doing what is best for the animals and community is a top priority.  To be honest this was one of the few stops that I was dreading because of their main purpose, bulking up the animals before taking them for slaughter.  And after being here, once again, my eyes were open to the fact that the business is run by a family that cares for the cattle and does everything in their power to make them comfortable.

We were all impressed with what was used for the flooring the cattle walk on as they go through the barn for treatment of antibiotics and other things needed---recycled tires!
Cows and more cows!

For dinner, we of course had to do Mexican while in Garden City and Las Margaritas was really good!!!  We even had one of the town's prior mayors stop by our table to see what we were in town for and he invited us to his home to see his art gallery in his basement.  We did not go of course, but it sure led to a lot of laughs and stories of what could have happened if we went to a stranger's basement, I think we all watch way too many crime shows like Criminal Minds!

The final day of our trip we headed to Scott City to visit Nu Life Market.  They are sorghum producer that is a dairy, gluten, peanut, and soy free facility.  We were able to see some fields of sorghum and tour the facility.  The test kitchen was my favorite part to see since we all know I love being in the kitchen! They mainly sell their products to food manufacturers but do offer a few food products as retail on their website.

A few of the products that they produce and package for retail
Yummy lunch served by Nu Life Market
We ended our last day in an awesome corn field that was being harvested.  The Winsor family live in the Topeka area and LaVell joined us on our trip as one of the farm wives. Her and Stacey (the other farm wife that joined us) answered so many of our questions and they were so fun to have on the trip. The Winsor family spoiled us with homemade apple cider and pies that we enjoyed while sitting on a handmade quilt lined flat bed trailer in the field while the sun was setting!

I was honored to be picked for this trip.  I met a group of amazing women and we enjoyed lots of laughs along the way.  We may not all agree with each other regarding growing and raising food, but coming together from all walks of life with an open mind and willingness to learn is how we all come to understand topics surrounding food and farmers! There are tough issues in the US about our food system and we discussed a lot of them.  

Farmers wake up before the sun and do not stop until the work is done.  They provide us the best and safest food they possibly can and they are not told thank you enough.  I was so impressed by every farmer we met. It allowed me to see there are families behind all the food we eat. They are all highly innovative and are constantly learning and changing how they do things to provide the best for both their animals and family.  I may not agree with all farming methods but there is need and room for all kinds of farms.  That is the amazing thing about living in America, we have the freedom to choose and are offered a choice in our food options.  Farmers love to answer questions and talk about what they do, so just ask your questions the next time you meet a farmer (and don't forget to tell them thank you)!

**Small Print: The #FarmFoodTour was sponsored by the Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Soybean Association who paid for my expenses and compensated me for this post. Although, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog post are my own.

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