Life’s busy. Hungry for Truth has you covered with quick and easy Mason jar meals perfect for students, working moms and farmers taking a break in the field. Prep on Sundays to grab and go throughout the week or layer in leftovers as you go. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your favorite flavors. Here are three options for breakfast, lunch and dinner to help get you started.
You may notice we couldn’t help but include a dash of dairy in all three recipes. Not only does it taste amazing, it’s also a homegrown part of a balanced diet. Did you know South Dakota is home to approximately 117,000 dairy cows that eat 31,000 tons of soybean meal each year? That’s right! Protein-rich soy delivers important nutrients that fuel healthy cows to produce the nutritious dairy foods we enjoy around the table and on the go.
Make your Mason jar meals using the recipes below and watch the video for step-by-step instructions. Looking for other easy to prep meals? Try these Cuban Sliders!
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
No one can say no to an ice cream sandwich, especially if it’s drizzled with tasty salted caramel sauce! This frozen treat is the perfect dessert for your next gathering. Customize this recipe by switching up the flavor of ice cream or keep it classic with vanilla.
When you treat yourself to ice cream, you can feel good about the impact you’re making on the environment. The dairy industry is getting more sustainable every day. Sustainable farming means doing what’s right for the environment and continuously improving practices for future generations. The industry has done just that by reducing its carbon footprint by 63 percent since 1960 and producing three times more milk with half the cows. By 2020, dairy farmers aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by another 25 percent, the equivalent to taking 1.25 million cars off the road.
Not only are farmers sustainable, they also focus on treating their animals right. Now more than ever, farmers understand what cows need to produce healthy milk. Building climate-controlled barns and feeding them a nutritious diet are just two ways farmers take care of their animals. Each year South Dakota dairy cows eat approximately 18,000 tons of soybean meal and we enjoy the benefits!
Now that you’ve learned more about the sustainable side of your ice cream, it’s time to create mouthwatering Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches. Watch the video below for step-by-step instructions.
Want to learn more about what happens on today’s dairy farms? Visit the SDSU dairy with us and see how cheese is made in this episode of Across the Table.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
Sustainability is a trending topic among South Dakota farmers and families. Farmers want to take care of the soil and water for future generations, and consumers want to know the food they’re eating is grown and raised with the environment in mind.
Morgan and Jason Kontz are no exception. Jason is the fourth generation in his family to grow corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and raise beef cattle near Colman. Morgan recently added a few free-range chickens to the mix.
Keeping up with the demands of the animals, crops and two young kiddos can be challenging, but they make time to explore new opportunities to enhance sustainability on the farm.
“We feel very privileged to have a role in growing safe and nutritious food for families. We’re making decisions today we hope translate to better soil and healthier crops and animals so our children have an opportunity to farm in the future,” said Morgan.
For example, they use no-till for growing all crops. No-till is just like it sounds: not tilling the field after harvest. By leaving plant stalks and roots in the ground, they keep the soil in place and enrich it with organic content and beneficial bugs. Over time, healthier soil translates to nutritious and productive crops.
Another way to improve soil health is through cover crops. These are crops planted before or after harvest that can increase organic matter and fertility, reduce erosion, improve soil structure and limit pest and disease issues. Morgan and Jason are planning to start using cover crops this fall. First, they need to test the soil to determine the right mix for their fields.
Their commitment to doing the right thing for the environment extends to the cattle barn. The deep-pit beef barn safely collects manure from cows in a large pit through grates in the floor. Then they apply the manure to their fields using a tanker truck and a drip line. Precision technology allows them to apply the right amount of fertilizer per crop, per acre.
According to Morgan, this is a perfect example of sustainability and recycling because they’re using waste to precisely fuel plant productivity.
“We want to be able to come full circle on our farm. We like that we can apply manure to feed our crops and then we use those crops to feed our cattle,” she explained. “Sustainability is more than a trend on our farm. It’s something we plan to continue growing for the future.”
Did you know that when it comes to being environmentally friendly, the size of the farm doesn’t matter? Test your knowledge with this blog on the truth behind five sustainability myths.
Hungry for Truth is an initiative about food and farming funded by the South Dakota soybean checkoff. The goal is to connect South Dakotans with the farmers who grow and raise their food.
Eggs are a staple ingredient in so many of our favorite dishes, from protein-packed breakfasts to comforting chocolate chip cookies. South Dakota hens lay almost 700 million eggs a year to fill that spot in our refrigerators, but rarely do we stop to think about how they’re raised.
One farmer who spends a lot of time and energy taking care of those amazing birds is Jason Ramsdell of Dakota Layers in Flandreau. His family-owned farm processes about 1 million eggs every day. Leveraging technology helps the farm be more efficient, which keeps the operation sustainable and boosts the quality of life for his chickens.
For farmers like Jason, sustainability is an important part of doing business. It means continuous improvement and doing what’s right for the environment and the birds he cares for. Many farmers strive to leave the land in better condition than they received it to benefit future generations.
“We make sure nothing is wasted,” said Jason. “We have water lines feeding into each of the barns, so the chickens have just the right amount of water readily available to them. We also feed them out of a trough, so they don’t have the opportunity to waste any of the feed by scattering it on the ground.”
Dakota Layers isn’t the only environmentally friendly egg farm. Since 1960, American egg producers have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 71 percent, used 32 percent less water and about half the amount of feed today as they did back then.
Advances in technology help farmers waste less water and feed, but improvements in the quality of feed have also made a big difference. Today’s chickens are fed protein-rich soybean meal, corn, distiller’s grains and added vitamins and minerals. The eggshell is made out of calcium, so chickens need a diet rich in that nutrient in order to create healthy eggs.
“Anything that’s taken in by the bird is used to produce the eggs,” explained Jason. “Since eggs are one of the best sources of protein out there, layers need a protein- and calcium-rich diet.”
Everything Jason does, from choosing a blend of nutrients to feed his hens to designing barns to house them, is centered around creating healthy, safe food for your family.
“One of the most interesting things many consumers might not pay attention to is how our grandfathers moved hens from a cage-free environment to cages specifically to keep them healthier and to ensure the safety of the eggs,” Jason stated. “Because our hens are in a closed environment, we can keep a closer eye on their health.”
Newer chicken facilities have what’s called “belted high rises” that ensure manure is quickly removed from the cages via a conveyer belt. This improves air quality and reduces the chance of cross-contamination between manure and the eggs.
Laying facilities also have temperature controls to make sure hens are comfortable. Farmers like Jason are constantly checking the temperature of their barns, as well as the air quality and the amount of water and feed available to the chickens to make sure their hens are healthy and happy.
Want to try Dakota Layers eggs? You can pick them up at Hy-Vee or County Fair Foods locations in the eastern part of the state. After you pick up a carton, check out this tasty egg bake recipe to fuel your morning.
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.
Many South Dakota farmers would say their favorite part of farming is working with their animals. Local farm animals are well-loved by their owners, which shows in the quality of the eggs, milk and meat they create for your family.
Take the happy cows at Marty Neugebauer’s farm, just north of Dimock. Marty’s farm is one of four dairies that provide the milk to make Dimock Dairy’s delicious assortment of cheeses, curds and spreads South Dakotans love.
Marty knows delicious cheese comes from happy, comfortable cows that are fed a healthy diet. Most of South Dakota’s 117,000 dairy cows enjoy a protein-rich diet of soybean meal, 31,000 tons of it each year to be exact. This nutritious feed typically comes from GMO soybeans. Both GMO and conventional crops are nutritionally equal, and planting GMO seeds allows farmers to grow food more sustainably by using less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Cows aren’t the only animals living the sweet life on South Dakota farms. Jamie and Brian Johnson raise chickens and Angus cattle on their soybean, corn and wheat farm in Frankfort. Chickens eat a diet of soybeans, corn and grains with added vitamins and minerals. This protein- and calcium-rich diet helps them laying healthy eggs for your favorite meals.
Treating animals right means treating the land right, too. Pig farmers Peggy and Brad Greenway keep their pigs comfortable in a high-tech pen that ensures the animals have a constant flow of fresh air and are fed just enough fresh, nutritious feed. These advancements help them use the right amount of water, feed and land to keep their pigs healthy and reduce their environmental footprint. The Greenways aren’t the only pig farmers practicing sustainability. In the last 50 years, pig farmers have reduced their overall carbon footprint by 35 percent.
At the end of the day, farmers appreciate having a best friend with them through it all. The farm wouldn’t be the same without the family dog. Spending time with their favorite pooch makes the work more enjoyable.
Farms just wouldn’t be the same without the animals that give us safe and healthy food. Find out more about how ranchers sustainably care for their cows with a visit to Shawn and Kristy Freeland’s home.
Shawn and Kristy Freeland are one of the many ranch families in South Dakota who make animal care and sustainability a priority for their business. Though Shawn was the first in his family to live the ranch life, Kristy is continuing a tradition spanning multiple generations. Together, they feed and take care of more than 400 cows that have room to roam across close to 10,000 acres of land near Rapid City.
Taking care of so many cows across so many acres is challenging no matter the season, but Shawn doesn’t mind the work.
During the growing season, the Freeland’s rely on rotational grazing and daily moves. “Spending regular time with the cattle is the best way to look at each cow regularly and monitor its health,” said Shawn. This is especially important from May to December when the cows spend their days grazing away from the ranch.
At the end of haying season, Shawn sends samples of his hay crop to a lab for quality testing. This information is sent to a nutritionist to formulate a healthy mix of feed for the cows. They have access to plenty of water through natural springs and the Rapid Creek running along their property.
In December, Shawn and Kristy bring the cows home to watch them closely for nutritional requirements during the harsh winter weather and through calving. According to Shawn, cows do a pretty good job of finding shelter on their own when it snows but they also set up portable windbreaks for extra protection. Pregnant cows stay close to the barn so they can calve inside where it’s warm and safe.
For the Freelands, focusing on cow care and nutrition ensures they deliver quality meat to families through local businesses like Integrity Meats in Belle Fourche. Now they’re amping up their environmental game by planting cover crops to improve soil and animal health.
They plant a mix of cover crops including brassicas, warm season grasses, sunflowers and legumes such as soybeans to feed their cattle and protect the soil. Soybeans aren’t typically used as a cover crop, but they work well for the Freelands because they’re rich in protein, amino acids and replenish nitrogen in the soil. The plants hold moisture in the ground, reduce erosion and help the cows produce nutrient-dense meat.
“Cover crops are opening up a whole new world for us,” explained Shawn. “Raising quality meat has always been important to us. Now we can do it along with taking better care of the land and conserving water.”
They’re also reducing pasture sizes and the overall number of their herd so they aren’t grazing every acre all the time.
Kristy is excited about the future since these changes mean less labor-intensive work for Shawn so she and their girls can dig into more of the daily activities of running the ranch. “It’s not just better for our land, animals and the people who buy our meat, it’s also a way for our family to keep doing what we love.”
The Freelands aren’t the only ranchers west of the river who are doing their part to take care of the land. Get the scoop on stewardship at the Jorgensen Family Ranch.
With a name like “laying hen,” you might think the chickens at Dakota Layers near Flandreau, South Dakota, are just sitting around all day. Well, technically, they are, but they have a pretty important job that requires them to stay off their feet. The 1.3 million hens are responsible for laying more than 90,000 dozen eggs each day (at full capacity), which means they need healthy food to fuel their bodies.
According to Brandon Gibson, manager for Dakota Layers, there’s a science to keeping hens happy and consistently laying high-quality eggs. It all starts with what they eat. No off-the-shelf feed brands will do for these ladies. They get their own special blends delivered right to them daily, which requires teamwork up and down the ag supply chain.
Brandon works with poultry nutritionist Stacey Roberts at Provimi North America Inc. to select the right mix of feed. “Feed is formulated to meet each flock’s needs. It’s adjusted weekly based on egg production, age of the hens and how much each one is eating,” she said. “We’re very precise. In fact, the hens eat better than I do.”
The foundation of the feed for Dakota Layers’ hens comes from corn and soybeans grown by farmers in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa that is processed locally into meal. Other ingredients depend on what the hens need to be healthy.
So what do chickens eat? Let’s take a look:
- Soybeans. Soybean meal is about 15 percent of the feed mix and provides hens with important proteins and amino acids they need to lay nutritious eggs.
- Corn. Ground corn is an excellent source of energy for the birds and contributes to the yellow color of the pigment in the egg yolk. Corn contributes more than 50 percent of the feed mix. The next time you crack open an egg with a vibrant yellow yolk, you know the chicken enjoyed a diet rich in corn.
- Distillers grains. In addition to ground corn, chickens also eat corn in the form of distillers grains – 5-10 percent of the mix – which is a byproduct from creating ethanol. It turns out corn that doesn’t become a renewable fuel is a great source of nutrition for animals.
- Calcium, vitamins and other minerals. The remaining ingredients in chicken feed, about 10 percent, are the same vitamins and minerals you take in a daily multivitamin. The only exception is vitamin C, which is a deficiency unique to humans. One mineral that’s especially essential to hens for egg laying is calcium because that’s what eggshells are made of.
“Since hens typically lay in the morning, the shell is the last thing put on at night while they sleep. Large particle limestone is really important to make sure it’s a good shell,” said Stacy. Just in case you’re wondering, it typically takes just over 24 hours to make and lay an egg.
Once Brandon and Stacey settle on the feed formula, she sends the recipe to Darren Ponto at New Vision Co-op in Worthington, Minnesota, for testing, mixing and delivery. He makes sure they check each ingredient to confirm its quality before blending the feed.
Since New Vision is the sole feed provider for Dakota Layers, Darren is also in charge of making sure it gets there on time. New Vision Co-op hauls approximately 3-5 trucks of feed per day, five days a week with each load weighing approximately 31 tons! A missed or late delivery could throw off the egg laying schedule and ruffle the feathers of those hungry hens.
The next time you grab a carton of Dakota Layers’ eggs at Hy-Vee in Brookings or eat a bronco omelet at the Phillips Avenue Diner in Sioux Falls, consider the precision that keeps the hens behind those eggs happy and healthy. There’s no time to “lay” around when it comes to feeding a hungry flock.
Want to read more farm-to-table stories? Here are some journeys from the farm to your fork.
Even with all the fun memories we’ve made this summer, we’re still talking about the fun we had on the farm for the Farm-to-Fork dinner on June 15. It was a great night and the perfect setting to have conversations about how food is grown and raised in South Dakota. What did people talk about? We asked Sioux Falls school board member and mother of three, Cynthia Mickelson, to share a little bit about her experience.
Why did you attend Hungry for Truth’s Farm-to-Fork dinner?
My husband Mark and I received an invitation last year, but were unable to attend. Afterward I checked out Hungry for Truth online and I loved it! The initiative does a great job of proactively communicating with families. We were so excited to be invited again this year.
What kinds of questions or fears do you have about food?
As of now, none, but I used to! The hysteria over GMOs hit when we lived in the suburbs of Chicago and I totally fell for it. I read a lot online and thought I will never feed my family foods made with GMO ingredients. I thought they were some sort of poison. But, after I researched them further and realized that GMOs have been around for more than 20 years, I learned just how safe they are and there was nothing to worry about.
What conversations did you have at the Farm-to-Fork dinner?
One conversation that stood out was with a Yankton farmer who is having issues expanding his family hog facility. He had pushback from people in the community and it’s kept them from growing their business.
Policies and perceptions about growth like this are interesting to my husband and me. We feel strongly about farmers being able to expand their operation if they wish. People think it keeps some big corporate farm from coming to town, when it actually keeps the little family farms from growing. From our interactions with farmers across South Dakota, we know no matter the size of the farm, farmers take care of their animals.
What do you think about the dinner?
The dinner was so nice! The farm was beautiful, the decorations, the food, everything was wonderful. It was even nicer than some weddings I’ve been to! It was also neat to see the diversity in the operations – there were pig farmers, cattle farmers, soybean farmers, everyone! Agriculture across the country, but especially in South Dakota, is so interconnected—pig and cattle farmers rely on soybean farmers to provide quality feed for their animals, and we rely on pig and cattle farmers to raise high quality, safe meat for us to eat. Everyone at dinner had the chance to ask questions and learn about food right from the source. It was the perfect environment for open dialogue, and it was great to see this community become more comfortable with their food and who raises it. I think we can all learn something from farmers. Hopefully I can come again next year!
See what Cynthia and so many others enjoyed about the Farm-to-Fork Dinner with these blogs about past events.
June may be dairy month, but if you’re anything like us, cheese is a year-round obsession. In South Dakota, Dimock Dairy is known for some of the best handmade blocks, curds and spreads you’ll find anywhere.
The journey for these delicious cheeses starts seven miles northwest of Dimock on Marty Neugebauer’s farm. Marty grows corn and soybeans, and raises beef cattle in addition to operating a dairy. He started selling milk to Dimock Dairy in the 1980s as a junior in high school when he his mother Anita expanded the family farm. When his mother retired in 1998, his brother Darin joined the operation. Marty knows dairy products don’t get any better than what’s right down the road.
Today, his family business is one of four family farms selling milk exclusively to Dimock Dairy. He’s proud to support a local business and enjoys knowing their products get their start on his farm. He claims their butter is the best ever made with the aged cheddar a close second.
Marty gets going every morning at 5:15 a.m. Before bringing the cows in around 6 a.m., he sanitizes the milking equipment and pipes to make sure the milk is clean when it reaches the bulk tank. Keeping things clean is Marty’s number one priority so he can send the best quality product to town.
He brings eight cows into the barn for milking at a time. Each cow goes into the same stall on the same side of the parlor every day. According to Marty, “Cows need routine. If you change anything, they won’t give the same amount of milk. Keeping them comfortable and happy is important to milk production.” He sanitizes the cows before attaching the milkers, which suction right to the cow. The milkers are equipped with a sensor to detect the flow of milk and stop pumping when the milk stops flowing.
Marty says cows have their own unique personalities and pump different amounts of milk. They can provide anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds per session, and it only takes about five to eight minutes to milk each cow. After the milkers shut off, they detach automatically and he disinfects the cows so they’re clean. Within 15 minutes of coming inside, the cows head back outside for the day.
Next, the fresh milk flows into a receiving jar and is pumped through a plate cooler to reduce its temperature by 20 degrees within seconds. It is then collected in a bulk tank where it’s chilled to 38 degrees F until a Dimock Dairy bulk milk truck picks it up.
Marty repeats this process at 4:30 p.m. every day. It takes three hours to sanitize and milk about 90 cows each morning and afternoon. In between milkings, he takes care of his beef cattle, tends to his crops and completes other tasks on the farm. “There’s always something to do,” Marty said.
Cow Comfort and Nutrition
For many dairy farmers like Marty the key to good milk production is keeping cows comfortable, giving them plenty of access to water and feeding them a nutritious diet. While Marty’s cows eat mostly distillers grain made from corn and silage, many dairy farmers in South Dakota also feed theirs soybean meal. Did you know there are approximately 117,000 dairy cows in South Dakota that eat 31,000 tons of soybean meal each year? Good thing soybeans are the state’s second largest crop.
Dimock Dairy Delivery
Every other day, approximately 10,000 pounds of milk leaves Marty’s bulk tank to take on a whole new shape and flavor. We’ll explore how Marty’s milk becomes the delicious cheese at Dimock Dairy in part two of this blog so stay tuned.
What about the gallons of milk you find at the grocery store? Ever wonder how it gets from the farm to the shelf? Read about its journey.
In greater Yankton, South Dakota, a new era of farmer is making headway in the agricultural industry. Young millennial farmers, working on and off the farm, are shaping a new definition of farming. The tactics they use to produce food for families across the state prove to be as efficient and sustainable as their larger counterparts, despite not farming full time.
Nate Hicks and Brandon Wagner are two of the dozens of farmers in southeastern South Dakota who work a day job and then run their family farms on nights and weekends. Despite the long hours, it’s worth it to them. They manage to raise healthy beef cattle and crops with efficient practices on about 1,100 acres, which is a little smaller than an average farm size in South Dakota.
Nate grew up east of Utica, South Dakota, on a cow/calf farm and learned the tricks of the family business from his father. When it came time for college, he told his parents he was more interested in farming, but first pursued a mechanical engineering degree at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. He returned to the farm with his wife Kristen in 2015.
Nate says if he hadn’t left home and earned his degree, he wouldn’t be where he is today. The experience and knowledge gained during college and working off the farm helped him improve practices on the farm, such as fine-tuning an electronic record-keeping process originally created by his mother.
“We raise and record all our cows instead of buying new ones each year,” Nate says. “We use the records to determine which cows are top producers and keep calves from those cows each year. This ultimately provides more efficiency in our production practices, leading to lower prices and better meat quality for consumers.”
Nate’s friend, Brandon, also grew up on a family farm and shares a similar story. After graduating from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion with a teaching degree, he married his wife, Ashely, and returned to work on the farm and teach at Yankton High School. His teaching role expanded to help the school rollout its new FFA program.
When not at school, Brandon spends nights and weekends working alongside his younger brother, father and uncle to run the family farm. One of his duties is monitoring the herd during calving season, which is more efficient thanks to technology.
“We recently installed IP (internet protocol) cameras in our barn for remote monitoring of heifers that are calving,” Brandon says. “This is important because we work jobs off the farm and are multitasking in the evenings. With the cameras, we’re only minutes, or seconds, away if there is a problem.”
Brandon also creates better beef for shoppers. “Our family enrolled in a program with the American Simmental Association, which gives us USDA reports listing information from our previous cows,” he says. “We can tell which ones genetically create more flavorful meat. We can use the reports to get the traits we want so the entire herd produces higher quality beef.”
Brandon and Nate believe sustainability is an important part of any size operation. They use much of the same technology and practices as their full-time counterparts. This includes crop rotation for soil health, variable-rate planting so they don’t waste seed and minimal tillage to reduce soil erosion. The also rotate their grazing cattle so there is about one pair for every four acres of land to minimize their impact throughout the summer.
Nate and Brandon are excited about the potential of millennial and entrepreneurial farmers. They believe that if more young people see the opportunities with operations like theirs, they may decide to give farming a try as well. This gives South Dakota families even more choices when it comes to the food they find in grocery stores and farmers markets.
“I think showing young people how technology affects the industry is one of the most important issues in agriculture today,” says Brandon. “I heard a quote once that really resonated with me. It said, ‘The fastest way to lose money is to do it the way Grandpa did it. The fastest way to lose everything is to forget the way grandpa did it.’”
Read more stories about South Dakota farm families and how they care for the land and animals:
About the Guest Writer
Kristen Hicks, a farmer’s wife and director of marketing and communications at Mount Marty College, moved to Yankton in 2015. In addition to her day job, she helps her husband with his cattle and crop operation, and serves on the board of an entrepreneurial development group called Onward Yankton, and helps businesses with marketing strategies and digital solutions. In her free time, she explores the outdoors with her @southdakotadog, an Aussie-heeler mix named Tucker.
Cattle have been part of Reiner Farms since the family homesteaded land near Tripp, South Dakota, in the 1880s. According to Marc Reiner, who is the fifth generation to run the family business, animal care is a priority and an important part of raising quality meat. As you can imagine, the way Marc cares for his animals today is very different than how his grandfather did. He’s gone high tech, which is especially helpful during calving season.
“It all starts with selecting the right genetics,” says Marc. The Reiners raise Simm-Angus cattle. They choose genetics for good maternal abilities and performance that will produce the lean and high-quality cuts of meat consumers demand.
Just like with humans, preparing for a new, healthy calf begins with the health of the mother. Marc uses an ultrasound machine to verify pregnancy and the stage of pregnancy so he knows when to expect a cow to give birth.
Proper diet and nutrition is important during this time. Marc feeds his cows a balanced blend of hay, silage, and soybean meal made from crops grown on his farm along with vitamin and mineral packets to keep them healthy. He also vaccinates them to prevent major diseases like scour. Vaccinating the mother passes the antibodies along to the calves so they are protected at birth.
Marc not only personally interacts with his cows, he also uses cameras when he’s not around to monitor animal comfort throughout the year. He can watch them from his TV screen, computer and mobile phone. This is especially helpful during calving. As a cow nears the end of its pregnancy, he can bring it closer to the barn and watch for signs of distress. It’s key to have shelter with controlled temperatures for cows to use during bad weather since calving starts in February.
“Cows have great natural instincts and can usually handle giving birth without assistance, but sometimes we have to step in,” says Marc. When that happens, he’s happy to have his family and employees by his side. “Calving can be an intense time. It takes teamwork to keep the newborns safe.”
After a calf is born, the most important things are its first meal and spending time indoors to grow healthy and strong so it can join the herd. Marc continues to monitor its weight, provides a nutritious diet and vaccinates as necessary until it’s time to be harvested. Beef cuts are sold to restaurants and grocery stores for South Dakota families to purchase and enjoy.
For Marc, that cycle of growing food and feeding people is one of the most satisfying things about being a farmer. “We feed our animals the crops we grow on the farm and enjoy eating the meat from the animals we raise.”
Read more about how farmers and livestock specialists use technology to raise healthy animals:
You may have recently seen soccer moms discussing GMO foods on your TV screen as part of Hungry for Truth’s latest commercial. While two of those moms are actors, one is a local celebrity, South Dakota farmer Bradee Pazour. She found out about the commercial through an old-fashioned casting call and a couple weeks later found herself on set. We sat down with the newest star of the small screen to find out more about her life and what it was like behind the scenes.
HFT: Tell us about you and your farm.
Bradee: I grew up on a farm south of Chamberlain. I always say I was blessed to be a farmer’s daughter, farmer’s wife and now a farmer and farm mom. I married my husband, Joel, in 2010 and moved to his family’s farm south of Pukwana. There we farm alongside his family, growing soybeans, corn and wheat, while raising a cow-calf herd and managing a feedlot operation.
HFT: How did you find out about the opportunity to star in the commercial?
Bradee: My mother-in-law found a blog post for auditions for female farmers across South Dakota and encouraged me to audition. I filled out the form and, a few days later, had a call back. They had me record myself saying a few lines. A couple weeks later, I received a call saying I was their pick.
HFT: As a mom and a farmer, why do you feel it’s important for South Dakotans to know more about where their food comes from?
Bradee: I am concerned about the quality and safety of the food we serve our children, just like any other mom. That’s why, on our farm, we raise our crops and livestock in a safe and sustainable way. I think it’s important that everyone knows our story as farmers. I hope that I can personally help answer any questions South Dakotans have about food and farming.
Because of the great world we live in, we have so many choices when we go to the grocery store. GMO ingredients are just as safe and nutritious as non-GMO ingredients, and I think that’s important for other moms to know. As a farmer and a mom, I want to open up that conversation with people so they’re confident in the choices they make.
HFT: What advice would you give other South Dakota moms who want to learn more about their food?
Bradee: The Hungry for Truth initiative is an awesome program. It has so much information. Follow Hungry for Truth on social media for the latest updates. I would also point them to the website where they can ask questions of real farmers like me and explore everything from food safety and GMOs to pesticides and sustainability.
You can check out Bradee’s commercial here.
Have questions for Bradee about her experiences shooting the commercial? Leave them in the comments.
Todd Hanten would put his wife, Monica’s, cooking up against anyone’s in a contest. She’s been honing her skills on their Goodwin, South Dakota farm for about 30 years.
“I’m pretty sure that’s why my employees continue to work here. They enjoy Monica’s cooking,” jokes Todd.
The Hantens both grew up on farms and developed strong ties to the land. In fact, Todd’s family has lived on the same farm for more than 100 years.
It’s obvious they love the lifestyle, which includes growing crops and caring for their 900-head of cattle. They encouraged their children, Brittany and Brock, to spend a few years working off the farm with the hope that someday they may return to continue the family legacy. It should also come as no surprise that they get asked questions about the food they grow and how they care for their animals.
They point out that it’s great to have so many choices when it comes to food. Despite operating a dairy for many years, Monica says she occasionally enjoys almond milk. However, she also understands how having so many choices, labels and terms on food packages can be overwhelming.
During trips to the store, Monica checks nutrition labels and seeks out foods that are high in fiber and low in sugar. She’s learned over the years that words like “natural” can make something seem premium or healthier, but that it contains no real value. “Hormone-free chicken” is another example. Hormone use is not allowed in poultry at all, so there’s no reason to pay extra for that label. She and Todd have also done their homework on GMOs and feel they are safe and healthy for people and animals.
“We choose to grow biotech crops because of the science in the seed,” explains Todd. “Seeds with these traits allow us to grow more food on the same amount of land in difficult weather conditions like drought. Many times, the traits help us grow crops in more sustainable ways, like using less products to control insects and weeds.”
The Hantens have seen the benefits firsthand. They know that, in addition to the agronomic value GMO crops offer farmers, there are also direct benefits for consumers, like soybeans with an increased nutritional profile or non-browning apples that last longer. They put food with genetically modified ingredients on their own kitchen table with pride.
Monica and Todd encourage people to ask questions and have conversations with farmers about how their food is grown. One great resource for those who live in South Dakota is the Hungry for Truth initiative and its website hungryfortruthsd.com. It features farmers and families who can help separate fact from fiction when it comes to food, animal care and farming.
“It’s an opportunity to learn more from real farmers,” explains Todd. “We enjoy having honest conversations about these topics because we all eat, we all care about our families, and we’re trying to do our best to make healthy choices when it comes to food.”
Amanda Eben is a livestock specialist who works with farmers every day to ensure the health of their animals. Amanda and her husband are active in each of their family farms, helping with their corn, soybeans and pig operations. We sat down with Amanda to learn more about her career and how she connects food and farming every day.
HFT: Tell us a little bit about your career path.
Amanda: My career is in the field of animal health. I work at an animal practice in Pipestone, Minnesota, which is a veterinary clinic but also a swine management company. I work within the swine team, where we help pig farmers get the right products they need to care for their animals. That includes everything from boots to vaccines to coveralls.
HFT: What does a typical day look like for you?
Amanda: A typical day for me involves traveling throughout the Midwest – mainly South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska – to meet with our pig farmer customers. Some days I spend in the clinic, consulting with farmers to decide what products they need to keep their livestock comfortable and healthy.
I love working one-on-one with farmers to make sure their animals get the best quality care possible. If they have a question or a problem I can help with, the feeling I get is incredibly rewarding. I do what I do in order to help farmers do what they do.
HFT: What motivated you to become a livestock specialist?
Amanda: That’s an easy one. On a daily basis, I get to work with pig farmers who remind me of my dad. He is a farmer and the very reason I fell so deeply in love with livestock and agriculture. He taught me the importance of respecting and caring for animals, whether it’s a pet in your home, or livestock in the barn.
HFT: What is the best part of your job?
Amanda: The best part of my job is the people. The pig farmers I work with feel like family. I enjoy learning about the history of their farms or how they got involved in pig farming, but the best part is when I get to know their families and they get to know mine. I value those relationships because those are the kind of people I want to work for. They make it easy for me to strive to do the best in my career.
HFT: Tell us more about the pigs. What do farmers do to take care of them?
Amanda: The main three factors are shelter, food and health. Unlike the past, pigs today are raised in well-ventilated, comfortable, climate-controlled barns where they stay cleaner and are kept away from predators, flies and the environment. Most farmers work with animal nutritionists to set up strict diets, which are high in soybean meal, the number one source of proteins for hogs in South Dakota.
When it comes to health, just like people, if animals get sick, farmers give them antibiotics to help them get better. Antibiotics can also prevent infections so the animals stay healthy. According to government regulations, if an animal receives antibiotics, the meat from that animal cannot enter the food supply until the medicine has fully passed through the animal’s system.
HFT: What is your educational background?
Amanda: I have a B.S. in animal science from South Dakota State University, but most of my hands-on experience comes from growing up on a pig farm and working on a swine farrowing farm where mother sows have baby piglets. I also picked up experience and exposure to the industry through my internships at Ralco Animal Nutrition and Pipestone Systems, where I now work.
As an animal specialist, Amanda works with farmers every day to ensure that their pigs get the highest level of care and comfort. Healthy livestock means healthy food and Amanda plays a major role in making that happen with pigs across the Midwest. Do you have questions for Amanda? Leave them in the comments!
Do you ever wonder how your gallon of milk got to the grocery store? Milk goes through several steps before you can find it on the shelf. It might surprise you that many dairy products start out not far from home. Dairies are in all 50 states so it makes it easier to have locally produced dairy products in your grocery. Even those without a “local” label often start within driving distance of your kitchen. For example, when you pick up a gallon of milk from your local Hy-Vee, it’s likely coming from within a 60-mile radius of Sioux Falls. Let’s take a look into the journey your gallon of milk takes to get to your local grocery.
Before your gallon of milk can be enjoyed, dairy cows must produce the milk. Most dairy cows are milked twice a day. The milk is then cooled in a large storage tank on the farm and, within 24 hours, it is taken to a local processing plant in an insulated truck that keeps it cold. For example, a dairy farm in Garretson may drive their milk 55 miles to a processing facility in Brookings.
After a short road trip, the milk arrives at the local processing plant and is tested for safety. Dairy farmers and milk processing plants want to ensure the milk they deliver and use is safe. Next, the milk goes through a process called pasteurization. Pasteurization kills pathogens with heat and is just another step to ensure the milk is safe for consumption. After pasteurization, milk is packaged and sent 60 miles to grocery stores in Sioux Falls and beyond.
Isn’t it interesting to know that the entire farm-to-shelf trip for a gallon of milk can take only two days and 115 miles? The next time you’re at the store, remember that cows right down the road likely made that milk that is in your shopping cart. Local farmers and processors work to bring that gallon of milk from the farm to your home quickly and safely every day.
Check out this great video about milk’s journey.
Organic, natural, non-GMO and free range are just some of the terms we commonly see on our food packaging. It can be hard to keep track of all the different food-related terms. Hungry for Truth has put together an easy-to-use guide with definitions of some commonly used terms.
The USDA regulates some of these labels, and each has its own unique set of criteria. However, it’s also important to know that some terms are not regulated or officially defined.
While this guide can be a valuable resource to help make informed decisions at the grocery store, the best advice is not to get too hung up on terms on the front of the package. Instead, flip it over and check out the nutritional facts panel. That’s where the most important information lives. Check out Understanding Nutrition Facts to learn more.
Feel free to share this graphic with your friends to help them understand food labels too. Have you seen any confusing terms that aren’t defined here? Comment below, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.
Having grown up on a family farm outside Sioux Falls, Amanda Eben has always loved sharing her experiences with agriculture. Today, as a stepmom she gets a lot of questions from fellow moms about modern farming and how it affects our food. She is passionate about farming and wants to help others make the connection from the farm to the grocery aisle.
“Farmers do many things differently today than they did in past generations,” Eben said. “When I was younger, we fed our pigs in dirt lots and in wooden A-frames outside. Today, we use a larger enclosed building that allows our animals to be kept safe from diseases and predators, and allows us to monitor their environment to keep them comfortable and happy.”
Eben, who lives with her husband and stepson in northwest Iowa, wants to share these changes, especially with other moms. That’s why she decided to join CommonGround, a grassroots organization that works to bridge the gap between women who purchase food and the women who grow it.
“Through different media events and activities, a group of farm women will get together to have honest conversations with women who are on the consuming side,” Eben explained. “We share what we do and why we do it and try to be as transparent as possible.”
Eben sees opportunities to talk about agriculture in every day life as well. “I try to have these conversations with anyone I can,” she said. “Whether I’m on a plane or in the grocery store, wherever I have the opportunity. Everybody eats, so everyone should be able to connect with their food.”
Most recently, Eben has lent her support to the Hungry for Truth initiative. She is one of eight farmers featured on the Hungry for Truth website with videos answering some of consumers’ most frequently asked questions.
“The Hungry for Truth website brings you across the table from real farmers,” Eben said. “It feels like you’re really there in person, having a conversation. I think oftentimes people think they can’t ask farmers about what they do, but we love talking about how we care for our crops and animals.”