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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Story of Wheat: As Told by a 3-year-old

Even though Kansas wheat harvest is long over and the stubble is the only remnant of this crop left scattered across fields in the U.S., the story of how wheat goes from farm to fork has never been more exciting to me!

Let me rewind. I am visiting home for a friend's wedding and it is County Fair time in my home county. My life used to revolve around the Haskell County Fair and the events leading up to, during and after. As I pulled into town, I was quickly reminded that tonight was the night my nephews were going to visit the fair and see the animals. Of course I wanted to be involved and tag a long, purely for entertainment value.

Cameron and Gavin are my bright-eyed, energetic, beautiful 3 and 2-year-old nephews. Tonight standing in the cattle barn on the fairgrounds, Cam on one hand and Gav on the other, I may have had my proudest moment ever! We were talking about the different things that cows eat to make them grow. Cam asked if they ate wheat and before I could answer he proceeded to tell me the story of wheat, and it goes a bit like this:

(his words, not mine)
  1. Wheat starts as a seed and Papa puts it in the dirt with a tractor.
  2. It grows up green first like grass and then turns yellow like Mimi's hair.
  3. When it's yellow that means it is ready to be cut by the big big combine.
  4. The combine puts the wheat in the bin thing and the auger thing comes out.
  5. Then it's all dumped into the grain cart.
  6. Then the grain cart dumps it into a semi-truck
  7. Then the semi-truck takes the wheat to the elevator.
  8. Then the elevator weighs it and puts it on the train.
  9. My daddy helps fill the trains. I like trains.
  10. Then the train takes the wheat to the trade house. (Chicago Board of Trade maybe? Oh yeah, he's 3!)
  11. The trade house sells it to the food makers.
  12. The food makers make food for us to eat!
  13. Then wheat starts as a seed again and Papa can put it in the ground.
  14. He would've continued in a round had it not been for the cow that stood up to defecate. That caused quite a bit of ruckus and a sudden fascination with fecal matter.

So that is how wheat goes from farm to fork according to my nephew. I'm sure most of that was told to him on one of his countless tours of the inside of Papa's combine this summer - especially that part about the Chicago Board of Trade! Either way, his fascination, memory and love for the process of growing food for people made me the proudest Aunt ever. No doubt about it, Cam's going to make an amazing agriculturist some day. If you want to learn more about wheat from a grown up, check out this post I wrote a few months back!

Take your kids, nephews, nieces, siblings, friends, etc. to a County Fair near you. It is an amazing opportunity to learn more about agriculture and the food industry!



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cargill and 4-H Team Up

Cargill, an international leader in food production and marketing, has recently written a large check to the National 4-H Council – a check in the amount of $500,000.

The funds will help to develop, strengthen and implement 4-H science programming in five key states. Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska will be the states affected by the grants. The funding will be delivered through multi-year grants, to help provide 4-H with the ability to reach even more young people with innovative, after-school programming in the fields of science, engineering, technology and applied mathematics.

A lot of times, “Big Ag Companies,” come under fire in the media for monopolizing the food industry and hurting the smaller, more local businesses. Today, Cargill will get a lot of positive press for their large contribution to the 4-H program and continual promotion of science and mathematics. This lends more to the idea that “Big Ag” simply means “Big Opportunities”. I commend Cargill on their continued dedication to youth in this country. By providing more opportunities for youth programs like 4-H - Cargill doesn’t just help feed us, they inspire us.

All my best,

Tera Rooney

Friday, July 9, 2010

Foodie Feature: Fast Food Facts

You can't drive down the main street of a decent sized town and not see 4-7 marquee signs luring you in to indulge in a calorie-ridden meal on the go. Fast Food - it's everywhere, it's convenient, it's tasty and it's cheap. No where else in the world could you get a double patty hamburger for $1!

There are a lot of instances when fast food is the only way to fit in a meal for your family. There are also a lot of instances when fast food is over-implemented into a family meal plan. This is not a "preaching" post about cutting fast food out of the diet, I like my quarter pounder just like the next guy. This post is about a new tool I found to be very useful when choosing just what it is you want to eat off the fast food menu. 

This is a neat internet tool that gives nutritional labels to any fast food menu item you could think of. Just type in what you would like to know. You can search different menu items and sort by nutritional content. It's a super helpful way to make eating out just a little bit better for you and yours. 

Back to that Quarter Pounder I was talking about earlier. At McDonald's I always order a #3 with ketchup and pickles. After visiting this site, I realized that I could nix the cheese on that burger which takes the calories down by 110 and the sodium down by 470 mg. I don't need that cheese now that I see the difference it would make.

Let's talk about French Fries. Man alive those are delicious! If you order a meal they come with it, so avoiding them is next to impossible(for me too!). The problem with these little suckers is portion size. If you eat only half of the fries served up with most value meals, it cuts the sodium, calories and fat down to a decent enough level that your meal can really find a place in a person's daily intake - as long as we're not looking at every day!

The other interesting thing I found by searching on this handy site is that salads, while they may make you feel better about fast food, aren't any better at all! Wendy's Chicken BLT salad has almost 500 more mg of sodium than a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger. 

Play around on this site for a bit, see what interesting things you can find about the food that is served up fast to Americans every day. I know that I will be making more informed decisions at the counter.  Post a comment about interesting things you find on Fast Food Facts!


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Open Minds and Full Stomachs

It always amazes me how opinions change when people take the time to talk with others who don’t necessarily share their same experiences. That’s exactly what happened to Ryan Andrews, a vegan who recently took it upon himself to visit a Colorado feedlot.

Ryan quickly realized that things he had thought about feedlots before weren’t necessarily true. For example, the classifications of “factory farm” and “family farm” fell apart when Ryan realized most production agriculture operations – including the larger ones – are in fact family owned and operated.

In addition, Ryan’s perception that cattle in feedlots eat only corn changed when he saw the rations at the Gabel’s feedlot were made up of anywhere from 0 to 50 percent corn.

Click here to read the full reaction straight from the vegan who visited the feedlot.

After criticism, Ryan clarified his position. In no way is he advocating for meat production. He is a vegan after all. Rather, Ryan is simply encouraging people to open their minds and talk to others with varying opinions about the best way to fill your stomach. In particular, he recommends reaching out to hear from the people producing the food. In doing so, you will definitely learn something and your perceptions may even shift. Ryan’s certainly did.


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