Iowa Food & Family aims to connect families with where their food comes from to help them understand the food cycle. Recently they hosted a farm crawl, Expedition Yetter, to allow people to get out and see where their food comes from. We were greeted by farmer and author Darcy Dougherty Maulsby and Aaron Putze, of the Iowa Soybean Assoc. It was a treat for many to be joined by Iowa Sports Foundation’s Executive Director Chuck Long, who played football for the Hawkeyes, Lions and Rams. The Iowa Sports Foundation and Iowa Food & Family have partnered in helping people live more active and healthier lives.
The Machine Shed restaurant, in Urbandale, hosted a breakfast to kick off Expedition Yetter. We were joined by about 40 other people from around Iowa and Omaha, NE. We all hopped on a charter bus that brought us to Bruce and Jenny Westling’s crop and hog farm hear Grand Junction. Bruce talked to us about how farming is a part of his family and has been for generations.
There have been tremendous changes in farming in the time that Bruce has been running the farm. Today the hog facilities and farming equipment are much larger than they used to be and all of the equipment is computerized, from the feeders to the GPS on the tractors.
We hopped back on the bus to visit the David Ausburger farm near Jefferson. The day before our visit the area received 3.5″ of rain, so we saw many streams and rivers out of their banks on the way to the farm. David received a 2014 Conservation Legacy Award from the American Soybean Association for his development of a plan that helps reduce nutrient loss and better manage inputs. We were able to see first hand how his no-till farming practices coupled with his crop rotation using cover crops prevented soil and nutrients from washing away in the hard rain.
We stopped at the West Central Co-Op in Jefferson. They can receive up to 500 trucks per day throughout harvest and have locations in many communities.
We visited the Higgins family farm near Lanesboro, somehow I missed talking a photo here. Bill, Pat and Mike Higgins raise cattle in a 500 head covered cattle confinement. We spoke about the feeding and the care of the animals. Cattle like to be out of the elements just like us. The confinement is much cooler for the cattle in the summer and it shows that the more comfortable the cattle are, the more productive they are.
Not to be forgotten as an agricultural product is the grape industry. We enjoyed a tour with a light lunch and wine tasting in Carroll at the Santa Maria Winery. John and Rose Guinan who lived in Omaha bought an old service station and a Model-T assembly plant in Carroll before moving to the area to start a vineyard.
John explained the different growing seasons of different types of grapes and gave us a tour of the processing facility. For some types of wine they actually have grapes shipped in because they can’t be grown in our shorter growing season, but a majority of the grapes used are grown on their vineyard. My favorite wine of the flavors we sampled was Rhuby Dooby. I have tried some of their wines on other occasions and especially like Edelweiss, a semi-sweet German-style wine.
We drove through Lake City, the community was hit by a tornado earlier this spring, they’ve done a great job of getting everything put back together. And as the name Expedition Yetter would suggest we drove through Yetter, a small community of fewer than 100 people. They still have a grain elevator and meat locker.
To finish the day Darcy welcomed us to her family’s century farm. DuPont Pioneer sponsored a dinner catered by Lidderdale Country Store and homemade pies for dessert.
The day concluded with everybody receiving certificates and a key to the Yetter jail. It was a great day to learn more about Iowa’s agricultural, the weather was beautiful, and and we were joined by great company. Iowa Food & Family will be offering more of these types of tours in the future, sign up for their newsletter so you don’t miss an opportunity to join in on the next tour.