Just a few miles north of Sioux Falls lies Lynn Boadwine’s dairy farm. Homesteaded in 1874, Boadwine Farms is home to more than 2,000 dairy cows and 2,000 acres of corn, alfalfa and sorghum. Lynn is the fourth generation to farm this land, along with his employees who keep the family-owned operation running smoothly.
Heidi Zwinger is one of those employees. She’s worked on the farm as a herd manager for 16 years, helping care for the dairy cows and managing the other farmworkers. Heidi, who grew up on a dairy farm, is passionate about producing great milk while taking great care of the animals.
“Even though I’m not the farm owner, I still call it my farm because I take pride in it,” Heidi explained. “I love working with our cows and helping them grow and produce milk. I also love working with my coworkers to make sure we’re doing what’s right for the animals.”
On farms large and small, everyone who works together is passionate about ensuring the animals are well cared for so they can create delicious, high-quality food.
“There are real, passionate people behind large farm operations,” Heidi said. “I’m a member of the Boadwine farm family and so are my coworkers, who are just as dedicated as I am.”
One way Heidi and her coworkers take care of the cows is by feeding them a high-quality diet. Dairy cows need a protein-rich diet to produce delicious, nutritious milk. The cows at Boadwine Farm are fed hay and silage grown right on the farm, supplemented with soybean and corn meal from the local grain elevator. Soybeans are a great source of protein so dairy cows across South Dakota enjoy eating approximately 18,000 tons of soybean meal annually.
“We harvest everything we plant as feed for the cows, so nothing is wasted,” Heidi said. “Our cows eat locally,” she added with a laugh.
After a long day tending to animals, there’s nothing like curling up with a hearty plate of Cheesy Tater Tot Hotdish, an upper Midwest specialty.
“For me, tater tot hotdish is an old standby, something my mom used to make. Every family does it a little differently,” Heidi said. “Ours is simple, made with browned ground beef, green beans, cream of mushroom soup and some cheese to add a little gooiness. You can mix it up by experimenting with different kinds of cheese and seeing what your family likes.”
Dig into Heidi’s cheesy tater tot hotdish! Need another classic dinner option? Try this classic meatloaf.
Ram Farrell grew up around the world. His dad’s military career took the family everywhere from Hawaii to Panama to North Carolina. When it came time to literally put down roots, the Farrell family knew South Dakota felt like home.
Ram, now a 32-year-old father, is the third generation to farm in South Dakota. He grows soybeans, corn, wheat and cover crops near Parkston with his wife, Ashley, and their one-year-old daughter, Rosalie.
“I’m glad my daughter will have the opportunity to grow up on the farm. So many kids in big cities just don’t know very much about where their food comes from,” said Ram. “I can’t wait to teach her more about ag as she grows up. Maybe we’ll even farm together some day.”
As a young dad, Ram knows how important it is to protect the environment while growing nutritious, safe food to feed families. That’s why he practices precision agriculture. Ram leverages data and technology to determine exactly where to apply fertilizer and pesticides. Resources are applied only where they’re needed to limit waste.
Precision agriculture makes it possible to use a small amount of pesticide – about a coffee cup’s worth diluted in water – to cover an entire acre, which is about the size of a football field. To cover about 70 acres, it takes 18 gallons of pesticides diluted in 1,000 gallons of water.
“Some people think farmers are out here spraying pesticides every day and that’s just not the case,” Ram explained. “Farmers only want to apply as much as they need to grow a healthy crop. It saves money and, more importantly, it helps preserve the land for the next generation.”
In fact, Ram doesn’t apply insecticides to his crop. Insecticides are a type of pesticide that specifically target insects. Instead, he uses GMO seeds equipped with technology to defend against pests. GMO soybeans have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent, according to the American Council on Science and Health.
Ram also practices a form of conservation tillage called “no-till” to keep his soil healthy. After harvest, he leaves corn stalks and wheat stubble in the field. This reduces soil erosion, improves soil quality and conserves water and energy. No-till farming also helps suppress weeds, which means Ram uses less herbicides to grow healthy crops.
“We’re really treating the land the way God intended,” Ram stated. “The soil microbiology and everything happening below the surface, invisible to our eye, helps us grow healthy plants. It’s important for us farmers to understand how everything we do affects our crop and the land.”
Now you know how farmers use pesticides safely and sustainably. Go deeper with this blog post about how farmers apply pesticides.
Farmer Matt Bainbridge tries to make each planting season better than the last. This means growing healthier crops, higher yields and improving his farm practices to take care of the environment for future generations. It’s a tall order, but he has technology and farm data on his side.
“On our farm, we have access to online data from farms across the country and track everything we do on our own land. It helps us be more efficient with seed, crop nutrients and pesticides. We can manage a large piece of land like it’s small,” said Matt.
While Matt and his family use several sustainable practices to grow crops and raise cattle, today he’s focused on planting.
“We plant about 150 acres in a day, driving at a speed of 5 miles per hour. It’s important we take our time to make sure it’s done perfectly. Planting and caring for crops is something we only get to do about 50 times in our lives. We want to get it right.”
Let’s explore the steps he uses to make each growing season more sustainable.
1. Review field data. The first step is looking at the data from the last harvest. Thanks to precision technology, Matt knows exactly how well crops grew in each field. He can tell which seeds did well, which ones didn’t and what factors may have contributed to the results. He uses this information to inform his seed selections for the next growing season.
2. Select high-performing seeds. Next, he chooses seeds he thinks will work best for his farm. Matt grows soybeans, corn, wheat, alfalfa and forage crops for cattle, which means planting a combination of GMO and non-GMO seeds. Matt chooses seeds based on the data from his own fields, what he’s seen growing in other fields around him and information he’s found online. He typically purchases seed in December.
3. Load field maps. As spring approaches, Matt works with a local expert to digitally map out each field. This helps him plant the right amount of seeds and apply the right amount of crop nutrients for optimal growth based on the soil type. Soils that are light and rocky get fewer seeds, while black, heavy soils receive more. The maps help the planter limit waste and improve efficiency.
4. Set up planter. Before heading out into the field, Matt makes sure the soil map software syncs with the GPS system guiding the planter. The software and hardware need to communicate so seeds are planted in straight rows with the right spacing at a precise depth.
5. Check seed placement and depth. Once he gets out into the field, Matt periodically checks to make sure everything is working properly. How? Good old-fashioned digging in the dirt. For the first few hours each day, he physically gets out of the planter and digs near the freshly planted seeds to ensure everything is happening as it should. Sometimes the way his grandparents did it is still the best.
Interested in learning more about precision technology? Read this blog that compares Fitbits and farming.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to food in South Dakota grocery stores and farmers markets. “Low fat,” “gluten free” and “non-GMO” are just a few of the labels companies add to packaging to stand out and appeal to your dietary preferences. While they may be helpful, these labels can also lead people to wonder about the safety and health of foods without labeling claims.
“Organic” is a great example of this because foods grown using organic and conventional practices are equally safe and nutritious, but organic foods receive a little extra attention. That’s because organic farmers go through a certification process that requires them to use some different practices. However, you may be surprised to know that conventional and organic farmers are more alike than you think.
In the past, we’ve explored ways organic farming is different than conventional, so today we’re looking at some of the top similarities.
Families own and operate 97 percent of the farms in South Dakota. There are approximately 31,000 farms in the state and about 103 are certified organic. Whether they use organic or conventional methods, there’s almost always a family behind the food you eat.
Conventional and organic farmers can both use pesticides to control harmful insects. The difference is that organic farmers can’t use most synthetic substances, while conventional farmers can use any type of pesticide deemed safe by the USDA. No matter what they use, by the time the food reaches grocery store shelves, it’s safe to eat. In fact, a woman could eat 850 servings of apples in a day with no effects from pesticides. See for yourself.
Farmers who use conventional and organic methods seek ways to improve their farm practices each year to protect the land for future generations. Environmentally friendly practices like crop rotation, no-till farming and cover crops protect and preserve the land, and aid in improving soil quality. Composting and applying animal manure also fertilize the ground.
Organic and conventional farmers who raise animals care about their safety and want to keep them healthy and comfortable. They protect them by providing shelter in barns, making sure they have access to water and feeding them a healthy diet of soybeans, corn and vitamins. Soybeans – grown organically or conventionally – are a favorite protein-packed meal for pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows in South Dakota. Farmers work with veterinarians to treat sick animals. Though organic farmers cannot use antibiotics to treat them like conventional farmers, they can use some vaccines and pain medications.
Foods raised organically and conventionally must meet safety standards set by the USDA. South Dakota farmers grow and raise foods that are healthy for your family and theirs. The methods may be different, but safety is a top priority for all family farmers.
The next time you’re in the grocery store trying to decide between the organic and conventionally raised strawberries, you can feel confident you’re making a safe and healthy choice no matter which carton you pick. Keep growing your food-shopping knowledge by reading about meaningless food labels and if paying a little more for organic is worth it.
If you’ve ever helped your kids with their science homework or cared for a plant, you might think that crops just need soil, water and sunlight to survive. While true, it turns out they really thrive with 17 essential elements. Three come from air and water, while the rest are absorbed through the soil.
That’s why fertilizers play such an essential role in farming. They provide the elements needed to grow healthy plants in the field. South Dakota farmers understand the balance and use technology to apply the nutrients in sustainable ways. Let’s explore three of the foundational elements, how they contribute to plant health and what technology farmers use to protect and improve the environment.
Nitrogen is considered the most important element for growing healthy plants. It’s essential to creating protein, helping plants grow and it accounts for 80 percent of the air we breathe. Nitrogen is a big contributor to making food nutritious.
Unlike corn and wheat, soybeans create their own nitrogen. Soybeans and other legume crops have a special ability to transfer nitrogen from the air to the soil. Just like you might use a probiotic to improve your digestion, soybeans work with bacteria in the soil to convert nitrogen into the fuel they need to grow. For crops that can’t create their own, farmers apply nitrogen fertilizer in the form of a liquid, solid or gas.
This element helps plants use and store energy. It also aids in photosynthesis and contributes to normal development. The phosphorus used in most farm fertilizers comes from phosphate rock, but it can also come in a liquid form.
Potassium helps plants resist diseases, activates enzymes and improves its overall quality. It also protects the crop in cold or dry weather and helps to build a strong root system. Potassium is typically applied as a solid.
How do farmers know how much of which nutrients they need to use to grow corn, soybeans and other crops? Through the results of research conducted by scientists at universities and ag businesses. Many farmers work with local experts who help them take soil samples from their fields, analyze the results, recommend products and create digital soil maps.
Farmers load those maps into the software in their tractors and precisely apply the right mix of nutrients per crop, per acre. This helps them minimize waste and fuels a healthy growing season. It also means they’re making continuous improvements on their family farms to do what’s right for the environment. Leaving the land in better condition for future generations.
Who knew farmers had to pay so much attention to chemistry and the environment? Here’s a look at more farm technology that helps John Horter be sustainable in the field.
While a lot of college students may say taking care of the environment is important to their future, most aren’t as deeply committed to improving the land and water as South Dakota State University student, Cassius Pond. Cassius, who studies agronomy and precision agriculture in Brookings, spends much of his time in the field or classrooms exploring ways to make his parents’ soybean, corn and wheat farm more sustainable.
After Cassius graduates, he’ll be the fifth generation to return to the Pond family farm near Ipswich.
“We’re on the same ground we originally started with. The original homestead is about a mile south of the house where I grew up,” Cassius said. “It’s kind of neat to see where it all started and to carry on that legacy.”
Though he’ll be caring for the same land his great-great-grandfather did, Cassius plans on doing things differently than previous generations. When he went to college, his dad urged him to take classes in precision agriculture to learn all he could about technology so he could bring that knowledge home. The Ponds recognize precision agriculture is here to stay. Almost 43 percent of U.S. soybean farmers are already using precision technology to improve efficiency.
“Technology is getting integrated into every facet of the farm. It lets farmers know more details about their crops, which helps them be precise,” Cassius said. “The computers we have in the planter, for example, allow us to understand how much seed to plant and where. We have a lot more control over where things are going.”
Technology isn’t just useful while planting. It also helps farmers understand exactly how much water, fertilizer and pesticides their crops need to be healthy. This ensures nothing is wasted, which helps protect the land for future generations. The numbers show it’s working. In the past 30 years, U.S. farmers have increased soybean production by 46 percent while using 35 percent less energy.
“Using technology is just second nature to me and my siblings. When we’re working on an ag program or software, it’s easy for us to pick up how the software works,” Cassius said. “As more millennials come into farming, you’re going to see more and more technology on the farm.”
Technology aside, his time at college also taught him that farming is complex and there’s always room for improvement. For many farmers that’s what sustainability is all about: Paying attention to the most basic elements – the soil, water and sun – to leave the environment in better condition for the next generation.
“When I came to South Dakota State, I had no idea there was so much you could learn about dirt!” Cassius said. “I was like, ‘Oh, it’s just dirt; the stuff that covers the ground.’ Now I’m like, ‘No, it’s soil, not dirt.’ I took whole classes on chemistry and soil that made me think, ‘Wow, I never would have thought twice about this.’”
Want to meet another young farmer who is shaking things up in South Dakota? Read this profile of 29-year-old farmer Morgan Holler from Pierpont.
Being environmentally friendly is an important part of today’s family farms. Thanks to advancements in technology, adoption of conservation tillage and other factors, more than 90 percent of U.S. soybeans are grown sustainably. Most South Dakota families may not realize how much farmers focus on making improvements to care for the land and water, while growing healthy food, because it happens behind the scenes.
Think you know the truth about farms and sustainability? Test your knowledge below with five common myths and the truth behind them.
Myth: Farmers are becoming less sustainable.
Au contraire, farmers are becoming more sustainable. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance estimates soybean farmers today are growing nearly 50 percent more soybeans now than just 30 years ago with a third of the water and energy and just under half the land. They’ve also cut greenhouse gas production and soil loss by nearly half.
Myth: Only small, organic farms are sustainable.
When it comes to sustainability, size really doesn’t matter. It’s all about making smart choices for the land and water. For example, the tillage that some organic and conventional farmers do to avoid using pesticides and create a good seedbed can disrupt soil health. Reducing tillage is something family farms of all sizes and practices can do to be more environmentally-friendly.
Myth: GMOs are not sustainable.
GMO seeds allow farmers to grow safe crops that are more resistant to certain pests, diseases and environmental conditions than plants grown from traditional seeds. Because GMO crops are better at defending themselves, farmers can use fewer pesticides. The American Council on Science and Health estimates GMO soybeans have helped reduce pesticide use by 37 percent.
Myth: Pesticides are not sustainable.
Pesticides are used by many farmers, organic and conventional alike. When used responsibly, they help protect crops from devastating pests. South Dakota soybean farmers must be educated and certified to mix and apply pesticides. They also use technology and equipment to ensure they’re using just the right amount to get the job done.
Myth: Sustainability is about choosing the environment over people.
Sustainability is all about making the right environmental choices now so families continue to enjoy safe and healthy food in the future. It’s choosing the environment and people. For South Dakota farmers, families are the key reason to protect the land and water for the future.
So how did your knowledge stack up against the facts? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Continue learning how South Dakota farmers go green by reading this story about a farmer near Colton.
Sustainability is becoming a priority to everyone, especially when it comes to purchasing food. At Jorgensen Land and Cattle and Lazy J Grand Lodge, sustainability is at the forefront of every decision they make.
“Everything we do on each acre of our land is focused on maintaining and advancing soil health,” said Bryan Jorgensen, general partner at Jorgensen Land and Cattle and Lazy J Grand Lodge in Ideal.
Bryan and his brother Greg, his nephew Cody, and son Nick are partners in their family’s Leopold Award-winning 12,000-acre land and 900-head cattle farming operation. When they say they’re focused on soil health, they mean it.
Crops and Cattle
Every aspect of their business is intertwined to bring the best results for the land for years to come. On the crop side of the farm, 100 percent of their 12,000 acres are no till. This means they leave the crop stalks and roots in the soil instead of mulching them into the soil. This practice helps keep the soil in place, and adds to the plant material in the soil, bettering soil health. They plant a rotation of harvestable crops and cover crops. In addition to soybeans, the Jorgensens raise other crops to feed their cattle with including winter wheat, spring wheat, oats, peas, alfalfa, milo, cane sorghum, and corn.
Bryan said all of their crop decisions are based on the feed needs of the cattle. When the feed yard is full, it requires 225,000 pounds of feed per day. Purchasing that feed they need can be extremely expensive, so they choose to grow 90 percent of it. While they plant traditional grain crops like corn and soybeans, they also include a variety of other crops in their feeding rotation to provide a well-rounded diet to their cattle, as well as maintain the health of the soil in which the crops are planted.
“Everything we plant is dual purpose. Corn can be harvested for grain, but we can also chop the crop for silage,” he said. “We plant cover crops to increase organic matter in the soil and to feed our cattle from time to time. When the cattle are out on the land, they replenish the soil through their manure. Everything comes full circle.”
When they’re not managing the land and cattle, the Jorgensen family also operates the Lazy J Grand Lodge, a hunting lodge positioned near their farm offering all-inclusive, four-day hunting trips.
“While visitors stay with us, we feed them, house them and give them the chance to see our farm,” said Bryan. “Most of the people who hunt with us aren’t from the farm, so it gives us an opportunity to tell our farm’s story.”
Their hunting business is in the Golden Triangle area of South Dakota, making it the premiere spot for hunting wild birds like pheasants. To maintain the wild bird population on their grounds, they plant roughly 700 acres of food plots with crops in the bird’s natural diet.
“For us, it’s not about farming or hunting for the business. We don’t make our plans around the bottom line,” Bryan said. “We try and look at the land as a resource we take care of, make better and give back to the next generation.”
Just like the Jorgensen family, Hungry for Truth aims to connect consumers with South Dakota farmers to create an open dialogue about food and farming. Check out how other small businesses and organizations, like Kirsten from the Carrot Seed Kitchen in Brookings, connect customers to the farms supplying her store.
Did you know October is Pork Month? We’re celebrating by making our favorite pork dishes, including Rosemary Apple Butter Pork Chops. Plus, local pig farmer and registered dietitian Charlotte Rommereim gives us the scoop on how she raises pigs, the truth about hormones in pork and the many nutritional benefits of the other white meat.
Tell us about your family farm.
My husband Steve and I are the fifth generation on our farm near Alcester. Our farm has been in my family since my great-great grandfather, Gustav Nilson, emigrated from Sweden in 1874. Our family farm has raised pigs for more than 100 years. We also grow corn and soybeans. My husband operates the farm, and I work as a registered dietitian.
How do you keep your pigs comfortable and safe?
Our farm operation uses many types of housing to keep our pigs safe and comfortable. Steve and I choose to raise our pigs indoors in a barn where we can control the environment and protect them from the weather. Our pigs have food and water available at all times, and we visit them daily to monitor them.
What do you feed your pigs to keep them healthy?
Swine nutritionists formulate our pigs’ diets to make sure they have the optimal nutrients for each stage of their growth. This includes eating some of the soybeans we grow on our farm. As a dietitian, I compare it to how our children’s diets change as they grow to adulthood. Pigs require different feed formulations for each stage of growth.
Do you ever use hormones to help them grow?
The truth is hormones are never allowed in raising pigs or poultry. The federal government prohibits it and actually states this on the meat packaging labeled “hormone-free” in the grocery. We never give our pigs hormones because it is against the law.
How does pork fit into a healthy diet?
Protein is a very important nutrient and many are trying to include more of it in their diets. Pork provides high quality, nutritious protein at a reasonable price that fits into a healthy dietary pattern. As a dietitian, I recommend Pork’s Slim 7, which is a list of lean pork cuts. This includes my favorite, the pork tenderloin, which is leaner than a skinless chicken breast. Pork is also an excellent source of thiamine, selenium, niacin, phosphorus and vitamin B6.
Time to sizzle up some delicious and hormone-free pork chops for dinner. Just watch this video to learn how. Looking for another pork option? We also have a pork tenderloin recipe that’s sure to please.
It’s harvest time in South Dakota, and our favorite pint-sized crop reporter is back to give us the scoop on what’s happening on the Horter family farm near Andover. An important part of harvesting the crop is transporting it from the field to the local elevator. Today, Dane and John are on location at the elevator waiting in line to sell the soybeans that will become food for animals in South Dakota and around the world. Read about the journey.
Dane is in the driver’s seat sharing a recap of the growing season, how harvest going, what keeps them busy in the winter and brightening our day with a joke. Hint: Watch to the end if you want a chuckle.
We will check back with Dane when he gets out in the combine. In the meantime, you can learn more about how the season started with this crop report from planting season.
Between school, work and sports, it can be difficult to find time together as a family around the table. Baking a caramel apple cheesecake is one way to bring your family to you for some much-needed face time. With harvest time for apples running alongside with soybean harvest, farmers use meal time in their combines to spend time with their families.
Did you know the animal agriculture industry consumes 98 percent of soybeans grown in the United States? Soybeans are part of a healthy, balanced diet for many animals. Pigs, chickens, turkeys and cows eat soybeans for protein to keep them happy and healthy. Healthy animals create healthy foods! One example is the dairy cows that gave milk to supply the cream cheese for this recipe.
If you don’t have time to bake, we suggest heading to Country Apple Orchard to pick up a fresh baked sweet treat. Bring your kids along and make some memories by picking apples or pumpkins and enjoying other activities. Read more about how the Kroger family business connects with the community.
Harvest is when farmers and gardeners alike enjoy the results of their labor. We checked in with our dynamic gardening/farming duo Ken and Vonda Schulte from Geddes to find out how their crops and garden produce fared. They also talked about harvest plans and Vonda shared a tip on how to make preserving garden-fresh produce a snap.
Q: What was the growing season like on your farm?
Vonda: This year, things started off slow. After planting, it didn’t rain for a long time. The ground was hard and most of the seeds didn’t germinate. I had to replant. We had rain in August, so the weeds popped up. My garden looks like a jungle right now. Every year is different. It can be frustrating, but I try to learn from it and do something different next year. Mother Nature is always in control.
Ken: It was very hot and dry in June and July, which slowed corn pollination and kernel growth. When rains came in August, it helped our soybean plants form and fill pods, so they look good now. Overall crop growth is behind so we’ll start harvest a little later than usual.
Q: What types of pests did you experience and how did you manage them?
Vonda: Squash beetles. They’re nasty. They burrow into the plant, kill it and move to the next variety. I don’t like to use pesticides unless necessary, so next year I’ll plant my squash in a raised bed with different soil. That should keep them from coming back.
Ken: Kochia (weed) was a big problem in our fields. We sprayed pesticides, but the dry weather means they didn’t work well. Grasshoppers were also an issue, but I just sprayed the border around the affected fields with some insecticide. My sprayer is equipped with technology that keeps me from overlapping pesticide applications. I only like to spray when necessary so the technology helps a lot.
Q: When do you harvest crops and how long will it take? Does anyone help you?
Vonda: I plant and harvest fruits and vegetables all the time. Lettuce, radishes and spinach like cool temperatures and only take six weeks to grow. I pick those in May, then plant a second round in September. Next up are potatoes, string beans and broccoli in the middle of the summer. Then it’s peppers, tomatoes and celery in early fall. Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes are last. They like a freeze; it makes them sugary. Onions, herbs, beets and carrots can be harvested throughout the season.
I harvest everything myself, but our daughters and grandchildren love to pick and eat foods right out of the garden, so I guess they help too.
Ken: My brother-in-law and neighbor help me. Typically, harvest begins during the first week in October. If the weather cooperates and we don’t have to repair any equipment, we finish in 30 days.
Q: How do you prep your garden and fields for winter?
Vonda: I clean it up by pulling all the plants out. Then I amend or improve the soil and cover with peat moss and leaves. In the spring, it’s ready for me to dig in. I don’t till up the soil; tilling just makes weeds.
Ken: After combining, we apply herbicides to control weeds. We don’t till our soil, which helps manage erosion and protect it during the winter. Then we clean up the equipment, park it in storage and go hunting. That’s our incentive for being safe and efficient in the field.
Q: Do you have any tips for preserving all that fresh produce?
Vonda: Keeping it simple is the key. People make canning a big deal and try to pack too much into a day or weekend. I keep a small tote of canning supplies ready to go in the kitchen and just pull it out throughout the summer when I have time. You’ll be surprised how quickly a little bit adds up.
Canning Tote Supplies
- Jars, cleaned in dishwasher
- Canning lids
- Canning funnel
- Magnetic lid lifter
- Jar lifter
Ready to try your hand at canning? Here’s how to make Vonda’s raspberry jam.
There’s no doubt that many South Dakota families have questions about how their food is grown and raised. They know what it looks like on grocery store shelves, but aren’t necessarily familiar with where it came from and want to know more. Kirsten Gjesdal, owner of Carrot Seed Kitchen, has witnessed the disconnect firsthand when visitors to her store thought an ornamental pepper plant was a carrot plant.
“I received the plant as a gift from a friend, who put a carrot seed card into the plant to honor the name of the store,” she said. “I am shocked to see how many people ask if that is actually how carrots grow.”
The Carrot Seed Connection
Hungry for Truth helps facilitate genuine connections between South Dakotans and farmers who grow our food, and Kirsten also shares that same passion. She opened Carrot Seed Kitchen two years ago to help people in Brookings connect with what they eat through quality kitchenware. She spent the previous two years working as an event planner and was tired of sitting at a desk planning meals for corporate functions.
“I wanted to be involved in the community, working one-on-one with cooks and foodies,” Kirsten explained. “I started off selling cooking items, but always dreamed of expanding one day to include food,” she said. “I just wasn’t sure how to do it.”
Food And Farmers
After introducing the “Follow Your Food” event series to help customers learn more about how local food is grown and raised, she realized just how passionate the people of Brookings were about connecting with the farmers.
“Our pizza night event was a crowd favorite. Everyone made their own pizza and chatted with the farmers about what it takes to grow produce,” Kirsten said. She enjoys learning about what happens on today’s farms and sharing that experience with others in the community.
When she attended our Farm-to-Fork Dinner in June, it was the first time she’d been on a farm with animals. She learned about cow comfort and how they eat a healthy, balanced diet including soybean meal, silage and corn. She also had the opportunity to ask the farmers directly about the processes on their farms.
“It’s so nice to meet the real, actual farmers who raise the animals. They were so open to talking about what they do and why they do it,” said Kirsten. “Many people don’t think about the connection crops like soybeans have with the food we eat. I had no idea South Dakota farmers harvest about 250 million bushels of soybeans each year! Those soybeans go on to feed chickens that lay eggs, cows that give us milk and cheese and of course bacon and pork chops from pigs.”
Expanding the Kitchen
When the opportunity came to buy the space next door and expand Carrot Seed Kitchen to include local foods, she jumped at it. Now the store includes a large area featuring milk, cheeses, butter and ice cream from Stensland Family Farms, as well as local meats and produce from the Dakota Fresh Food Hub.
She’s already planning for further growth to support other small businesses by adding an incubator kitchen and opening it up to entrepreneurs who need extra cooking space and a place to sell their products. Kirsten hopes Carrot Seed Kitchen can help others succeed.
“I needed something I could really be proud of that adds value to my life and the lives of others,” she said. “I’m so lucky. I get to help people connect with their food and learn more about where it comes from through my store.”
Create a farm-to-fork journey in your kitchen by reading these farm stories and making their favorite recipes:
You may be surprised to know that the farmers you see on Hungry for Truth billboards along South Dakota roads aren’t models. They’re real local farmers. Some have farmed their whole lives and others recently discovered a love of the land. All of them are committed to growing safe and healthy food for your family.
We thought we’d take you behind the scenes to learn more about the farms behind those friendly faces and why they’re involved with Hungry for Truth.
Morgan and Jason Kontz
Though she was not a farmer, Morgan met Jason online through farmersonly.com when she was a student at Purdue University in Indiana and he was farming in Colman, South Dakota. After getting to know each other through phone calls and online chats, they finally met in the summer of 2008. Morgan had car trouble on the drive out so she arrived later than expected. Within minutes of meeting Jason for the first time, she also met most of his family at a reunion.
That might’ve scared off some women, but not Morgan. She loved his family and the wide-open spaces for adventure on his farm. Soon, she transferred to South Dakota State University and one year after that first in-person date, they married. Today, they have two children who all work together to grow food on the farm.
“Until I moved to the farm, I had no idea just how much effort goes into making sure the food we grow and the practices we use on the farm are safe,” said Morgan who also blogs about her experiences. “Being involved in Hungry for Truth gives me the opportunity to talk with other moms about how we make safety a top priority for our kids and theirs.”
John and Dane Horter
John and Dane Horter are a father/son duo who enjoy growing food for South Dakota families near Andover. Dane may be young, but he already knows and loves the ins and outs of farm life. He feeds cows and helps during calving. He rides along in the tractor during planting and in the combine during harvest. He’s even become a budding newscaster, giving crop reports from the field, sharing what he’s learned about the safety of GMO seeds, the latest farm technology and how to care for animals from his dad.
It may seem like a lot of responsibility, but that’s part of being the sixth generation to continue the family legacy. Learning from the past and improving practices for the future are important for feeding their friends and neighbors.
“Hungry for Truth is a way for me to share our farm story,” said John. “Farming today looks much different than when my grandpa farmed, and it’s going to change even more by the time Dane grows up. We want South Dakotans to know how food is grown and raised, and that we make choices every day to become more sustainable so all of our families have a bright future.”
Monica and Mike McCranie
Monica McCranie is another city gal who moved from Denver, Colorado to South Dakota to build a life on the farm with her husband Mike. For more than 30 years, they’ve worked side by side in Claremont to grow soybeans, corn and raise two sons. They are also well-traveled and love learning about agricultural practices in different parts of the world. All this experience translates into confidence in the grocery store when Monica selects foods to feed their family. Understanding labels is key.
“As a consumer and a mom, I understand how confusing it is to look at a label and understand what it does and doesn’t mean,” Monica said. “What is important to know is that, no matter what the label says, whether that food was grown conventionally or organically, whether it’s a GMO or not, it has the same nutritional value.”
Monica and Mike believe there’s a lot of great information to share about food labels and what they mean to help moms make the right choices for their families. Hungry for Truth is one way they can reach across the table and have those conversations.
Get to know more about the farmers who grow and raise your food by reading these stories. Or if you have a question for any of our farmers, let us know.
If one thing is true about South Dakotans, we love making memories outside with our families. One of our favorite places to visit in the fall is the Country Apple Orchard in Harrisburg. Kevin Kroger, general manager, knows exactly what that’s like since he’s been working at the orchard with his own family for 12 years.
“All of my eight children pitch in, even my youngest,” said Kevin. Kevin’s stepfather and grandmother are the primary owners, making it a true family affair.
“The first year was a little sticky, but every year it gets easier,” he said. “We learn more and get better. We know we are investing in success with 100 acres of prime South Dakota farmland.”
Running a farming business has been a trial-and-error process. Kevin’s family felt that firsthand when they began maintaining their trees. “We were hit with a hard frost right off the bat. It was hardly the optimal season to start with an orchard,” he chuckled. “We almost went without enough apples that season. Now we can’t grow enough of them!”
That’s great news for Americans everywhere, who eat an average of 55 pounds of apples annually. In addition to pruning their 4,500 trees, the Country Apple Orchard sprays their apples with linseed oil before they blossom to ensure a plentiful harvest of healthy apples for families to pick and enjoy.
“No one likes biting into an apple with insects in it,” Kevin said. “Like other farmers, we only spray pesticides when the apples need it.”
While the Kroger family doesn’t have a typical South Dakota farming background, Kevin did walk beans as a child. That means walking through soybean fields and picking weeds for Sioux Falls area farmers. It’s a chore many seasoned farmers remember, but is no longer needed on most farms thanks to technology.
“I was exposed to hard work in the older days of farming, and I didn’t think I wanted anything to do with it,” Kevin said. “Now, with technology, it’s so much easier and much more enjoyable.”
Today’s farmers use different types of technology, including GPS, drones and computer-generated soil maps to grow healthy food more efficiently. Over the past 30 years, soybean farmers grew 46 percent more soybeans using 35 percent less energy thanks to technology and more sustainable farm practices.
Being more efficient means farm families might have a little extra time to enjoy an afternoon at the Country Apple Orchard. Kevin and family pack weekdays with school field trips and weekends with festivals. Even Santa takes a break from his work at the North Pole to stop by and say hi before the busy holiday season.
“In today’s world, it can be really hard to slow things down,” he said. “Here, families go on wagon rides, pick apples and pumpkins, and enjoy delicious local foods. Slowing down to take in the outdoors makes family time more memorable.”
Cooking together is another way to create memorable moments. Try out one of these recipes with your family this fall.
Whether it’s date night at the theater or a cozy family night on the couch, movies have a way of bringing us together. When it’s warm in South Dakota, it can be fun to take the movie magic outdoors and gather under the stars. Here are our tips for planning a night that’s sure to please family and friends.
A projector, audio speakers and computer are essential technology. A free projector might be tough to track down, but they are available at most rental companies and easy to purchase. Need a portable screen? No worries. Just hang a white sheet or painter’s drop cloth. You could also skip it and project onto the side of a building if it’s clean and light colored. Don’t forget extension cords.
Pay attention to sunset and plan your festivities accordingly. You want to start the movie when it’s dark, so this could be 9 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., depending on the time of year. Starting later gives you time to host dinner and play yard games. Starting early may mean you can squeeze in two movies; family-friendly first for the kiddos and then one for the adults after they go to bed.
Comfy and Cozy
Keep your audience comfy by providing blankets and pillows for lounging or ask them to bring their own. Hang bistro lights to set the mood, segment food from the theater seating and make sure your guests can see where they’re going. Set out mosquito repellent spray and fire up citronella candles to protect your guests against bugs and other pests.
The best part of any movie night is the food. Snack stylishly by creating a buffet table out of pallets or cement blocks and plywood. Cover with a cute tablecloth and add a flower centerpiece for a touch of greenery.
When it comes to the menu, keep it simple. Finger foods like kabobs or meats and cheeses paired with crackers work well for flexible dining. A popcorn bar with butter and assorted toppings transforms the traditional snack into a bold, salty or tangy mix. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, a selection of classic movie candies or toasty s’mores are two of our favorites. In fact, we have the perfect recipe for campfire ice cream s’mores.
No matter what’s on the menu, South Dakota soybean farmers have you covered. Pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys love to eat protein-packed soybeans as part of a balanced diet. Healthy animals mean you’re serving up quality milk, eggs, cheese and meats for your guests.
Select your movie based on your guest list. The classics or a comedy are always a great bet. Depending on who’s there, it might be “Grease,” “8 Seconds” or “The Goonies.” When it comes to kids, you can’t go wrong with anything Pixar or Disney. “Jurassic Park” or “Jaws” might be fun if you’re feeling adventurous, but watch out. Your backyard may never feel the same again.
Now that you have the basics for hosting an outdoor movie night, it’s time to get the invites out and start planning the menu. Here’s a recipe for Green Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs that’s sure to please. See our recipes for more ideas.
Walking through the aisles at your local grocery store, you may have wondered how many of the foods you eat contain GMOs. For as much as you hear about them online and in social media, you may have questioned if GMOs are safe. The quick answer is there are only 10 GMO crops approved and grown in the U.S. today, many with nearly 20 years of research proving they are safe to eat.
Let’s start with the basics: What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. The term refers to plants that have been bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics like disease resistance or drought tolerance.
Some benefits from GMO crops are easy to spot, such as healthier soybean oils for cooking, apples that don’t turn brown and potatoes that resist bruising. Others are less apparent, but help farmers grow food more sustainably. Since the introduction of GMO soybeans more than 20 years ago, farmers have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent.
The number of GMO crops is relatively small because they require a significant investment in research to ensure their safety. Each GM seed variety takes an average of $136 million and 13 years to bring to market. Learn more about the approval process here.
So which foods made the list? You may be surprised to learn that wheat, rice, milk and most fresh fruits and vegetables are not GMOs. Here’s what’s approved:
GMO corn was first planted in the mid-1990s as a way to use less pesticides. Today, about 89 percent of field corn in the U.S. is a GMO variety. While most of the corn is processed into feed for animals, it can become corn syrup and cornstarch, which are found in many foods you find at the grocery store.
GMO soybeans have been around just as long as corn and for many of the same reasons. Pest-resistant soybean seeds allow farmers to grow more and improve their productivity. In 2016, approximately 94 percent of the U.S. soybean crop was genetically modified. However, most soybeans are processed into animal feed.In the grocery store, soy can be found as vegetable oil used in mayonnaise, dressings, margarine, cookies, cakes and snack foods. High-oleic soybean oil used in some foods is high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and contains no trans fats. Tofu and edamame are produced from food-grade soybeans and are mostly non-GMO.
GMO cotton accounts for about 89 percent of the total U.S. cotton crop. Its main benefit is the ability to protect itself from a pest called the cotton bollworm. Most cotton is used for textiles and clothing, but a small portion is processed into cottonseed oil for food use.
About 90 percent of the U.S. canola crop is genetically modified. Canola oil is used in cooking.
Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the U.S. Farmers feed it to beef cattle and dairy cows. Milk, butter, cheese, beef and many more foods come from these animals, but like other types of animal feed, alfalfa doesn’t affect the foods that end up on grocery store shelves. Alfalfa’s genetic modification protects it from the herbicides sprayed during the growing season.
About 55 percent of the U.S. sugar supply comes from sugar beets and approximately 95 percent are grown from GMO seeds that help protect them from diseases. A high percentage of this crop is grown near South Dakota in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota.
The GMO papaya was originally designed to protect the crop from ringspot virus, which nearly wiped out the entire crop until the creation of a GMO variety. Today, 75 percent of Hawaii’s crop is genetically protected from the disease.
Squash and Zucchini
GMO varieties of these delicious garden vegetables were developed in the mid-1990s to defend against the cucumber mosaic virus, zucchini yellow mosaic virus and watermelon mosaic virus. Though the actual acres grown in the U.S. are small, the yellow straightneck, yellow crookneck and green zucchini squash are genetically modified.
The Arctic apple by Okanagan Specialty Fruits™ is the newest GM food set to arrive at select stores in 2017. It took 20 years to bring the flavor and freshness of these non-browning, golden apples to produce aisles. Learn more about their journey to harvest by watching this video.
Innate potatoes were developed with consumers in mind. These GM varieties resist bruising and black spots, reducing the potential for post-harvest potato waste by up to 400 million pounds per year. Innate potatoes are also healthier than regular potatoes. They are also better for the environment because they’re grown using 20 percent less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Continue learning about GMOs and their safety by checking out these resources:
How much do you know about GMOs? Take the quiz.
Are GM foods safe to eat?
Read this study “Will GMOs Hurt My Body?” from Harvard University, which features research from South Dakota State University: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/will-gmos-hurt-my-body/
Have questions about GMO labeling?
In honor of National Ag Day, we talked with local South Dakota farmers about what they love best about family farms. Did you know that 98 percent of farms in our state are family owned and operated? Your neighbors work hard to make sure the food they raise that ends up on your table is safe and healthy. Check out what they had to say about their favorite parts of farming as a family affair:
“For me, it’s such a privilege to watch my kids grow up on the farm. To see the excitement in their actions and expressions is priceless. My kids will be the sixth generation on our farm, and you can tell their passion for agriculture comes from within. There’s nothing more rewarding than teaching my children what has been passed down to me through the generations and see them grow to appreciate the land that provides for us.” – John Horter, farmer from Andover
“One of the things I love most about being part of a family farm is the interaction with the land and animals. I believe there are no more beautiful pictures than that of calves running in a green, flowing pasture; combines harvesting soybeans from the fields on a brisk, colorful fall day; or a litter of piglets simultaneously nursing from the sow. These “office views” are awe inspiring and make a day on the farm that much sweeter.” – Amanda Eben, livestock specialist who is active on her family farm near Rock Rapids, IA
“From the time our children could talk, they would watch out the window every morning and we would hear “Grandpa’s here!” as they ran out the door to greet him as though they hadn’t seen him in years. Though retired, he has always been protector, teacher, trainer, baby sitter, disciplinarian and confidant. No amount of money could buy that opportunity for our children. The family farm is the only institution I am aware of that can provide that opportunity and solid foundation for life.” – Jerry Schmitz, farmer from Vermillion
“What I enjoy about farming is being able to work alongside my husband every day with our kids playing around us. It’s what I love most about the life that we live.” – Morgan Kontz, farmer from Colman
“No amount of money could equal the pride I feel when my parents and grandparents tell me I’m doing a good job of managing our family farm. It’s a joy to work alongside all the generations of our family. We have so many memories that make me smile when I think about them, like laughing about lessons learned the hard way, our children talking to the animals, and me shouting, “Come boss!” to the cows as I bring them from the pasture to milk, just like my Grandpa. I love remembering the smile on his face as I gave it my first call, and wished he was here to see my kids and me doing the same thing today.” – Todd Hanten, farmer from Goodwin
“I love being a part of a farm passed down through four generations and working to pass it on to the fifth. The best part of it all is passing on my passion for farming to my children.” – Josh Kayser, farmer from Emery
Read more about family farms in South Dakota: