Growing Community, Feeding Minds: The Illinois Farm Families
In what may be one of the tastier “assignments” I’ve had in a long time ~ I was invited to a cooking demonstration courtesy of the Illinois Farm Families. The event was the culmination of a year long “Field Mom” program that was created by the IFF as a way to connect farmers with everyday moms who are interested in learning how their food is produced. I love this idea because, as I found out from my work with the National Dairy Association, there are a lot of untruths out there about food, farming and the farming industry so anything that helps dispel those false beliefs is not only valuable and worthwhile but also fabulous! As I always tell JRB, knowledge is power!
So over the past year, the Field Moms have been invited on “field trips” to various local farms in Illinois. The farms varied from corn and soybeans to beef, pork, and dairy. While at the farms, the field moms got to meet the farmers and learn about life on the farm which included learning how food is planted / harvested /readied for market, etc. Pretty cool right? The best part is that these moms start out knowing very little about the agriculture community and economy but leave as experts in their “field.”
Armed with knowledge, the moms are better able to make good decisions when shopping, eating and blogging. I had the chance to meet many of the field moms the other night at the cooking demo and I was blown away by their stories and experiences. For example, check out this blog post from Amina of the Blog: MommaMina, who after visiting a Dean Foods processing plant came to a startling (and money saving) conclusion about organic milk. And here is a very cool post from Breast Cancer survivor Christa Grabske of the blog Lemon Drop Pie who learned important truths about raising cattle, hormones and baked potatoes. (hint: There’s more estrogen in a baked potato than there is in a 3oz serving of beef) ~ who knew??
So the field mom experience is informative and fun, or as field mom Maggie B put it, “like living in a PBS show,” but it’s dedication to social good is what most impressed me. As part of the field mom program, the field moms were given an acre and pen, meaning an acre of corn and soybeans and a pen of pigs. The moms were able to watch the crops from seed to harvest and see the pigs from birth to market. After the crops and pork were sold, the money raised was used to buy pork for a local food bank. This is key because food banks have a very hard time getting adequate protein sources such as beef, pork and poultry ~ as they are harder to transport and store compared to canned good and non-perishables. On November 9th, the field moms visited the Northern Illinois Food Bank where they donated 780 pounds of pork! Yes, 780 POUNDS! I had a chance to talk with some of the moms who were at the event they all seemed in awe of the entire experience. (Read a terrific recap here by Sharon, Mayor of Crazyville).
In fact, I have to say, EVERY field mom I have met so far has raved about the experience and what it has meant to her family. Check out these quotes:
“My main job as a mom is to feed my children’s minds and bodies and that means I need to be educated about where our food comes from and how it is made. I feel like there are a lot of people with megaphones with conflicting information and my job is to sort through the muck and decipher truth from fact.” ~ Sharon
“I signed up to be a field mom because I was intrigued with the idea of field trips for moms but I discovered the program offered so much more. I now have a new appreciation of food, farmers and the agriculture community.” ~ Maggie
“There was sooo much that I enjoyed about the Field Mom Program that it’s hard to choose a favorite component of the program. I enjoyed meeting the farmers who were always gracious hosts and very transparent in sharing their craft with us. The Field Mom Staff members were incredibly organized and thoughtful; providing Moms with transportation to the farms as well as lunch and snacks throughout the day to take the “prep” and stress out of a day-trip. I can’t begin to share with you how much I learned from the experts in the field from farmers, to vets, to seed specialists and dairy bottling plants. I think its fair to say I’m a huge fan of the program!” ~ Amina
If you’re interested in becoming a Illinois Farm Family “Field Mom” or just want to learn more, visit this link, and if you live outside of Illinois and are interested in bringing a similar program to your state, send me an email and I can help connect you to people who can help connect you with the right state agency. And be sure to stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where I share recipes from Chef Michael Maddox’s cooking demonstration!
Disclosure: I am working with the Illinois Farm Families to help spread the word about Illinois farmers and the field mom program. All opinions are my own.