Hungry for Truth’s annual Farm-to-Fork dinner is an opportunity for farmers and South Dakotans to gather around the table, share a meal and engage in conversations about how food is grown and raised. Our 2018 event took place at the Country Apple Orchard near Harrisburg, where more than 180 people came together to talk about topics such as environmental sustainability, pesticide use and food safety.
“The Farm-To-Fork dinner really brings the mission of the Hungry for Truth initiative to life. It’s a great way for us to personally share the truth about how we do things on our farms and honestly address questions or concerns,” said Vermillion farmer Jerry Schmitz. “Despite public perceptions, 98 percent of farms are still family owned in South Dakota, and we’re making more sustainable choices to ensure that tradition continues for generations to come.”
Let’s look at a few highlights from the evening, which included delicious local fare.
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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.
When you imagine a South Dakota farm, you probably think of soybeans, corn and wheat. While row crops comprise most of our state’s agricultural production, South Dakota is home to farmers who safely and sustainably grow and raise some pretty surprising things. For many, sustainability is a priority because farm families want to do the right thing for the environment and improve the land and water for future generations.
At Hungry for Truth, we love connecting families with the farmers who grow and raise their food and digging into the truth behind what happens on today’s farms. Let’s explore some of the unique products that come from farms across our state.
1. Fish Food
Soybeans are a great source of protein and amino acids. They’re typically fed to farm animals such as chickens, turkeys, pigs and dairy cows as part of a balanced diet. However, in the last decade they’ve also become popular with farmers who raise fish because they’re a sustainable source of food.
Two South Dakota State professors noticed the opportunity a few years ago and founded Prairie AquaTech, a company in Brookings that transforms soybeans into fish pellets.
“Making fish food out of locally grown crops helps lessen the environmental impact of fish farming, while providing a protein-packed, nutrient-dense fish meal for healthy, tasty fish,” said Dennis Harstad, vice president of operations.
Hops are the ingredient that gives beer its bitter flavor. If you’re a fan of craft brews, you know the taste.
Ryan Heine transitioned from engineer to farmer when he and wife, Michelle Donner, established 6th Meridian Farm near Yankton, South Dakota, in 2014. They grow five acres of crops and process them into pellets for breweries.
Ryan uses his background to grow safe, quality crops. “Growing up on a corn and soybean farm taught me that farming is a science,” said Ryan. “I’m always checking the weather and walking the rows to check for any signs of pests or disease.”
You can taste 6th Meridian hops in select beers at these South Dakota breweries:
- Crow Peak Brewing Co., Spearfish
- Ben’s Brewing, Yankton
- Lost Cabin, Rapid City
- Haycamp Brewing Company, Rapid City
- Remedy Brewing Company, Sioux Falls
There’s nothing sweeter than local honey, according to beekeeper Nic Hogan. This South Dakota native has over 5,000 colonies stretching from Wagner to Vermillion.
His bees travel with him all over the country to pollinate almond groves in California and vegetable fields in Texas. Nic knows that working with farmers is an important part of protecting his bees.
“Bees pollinate approximately 75 percent of the food grown in the United States, so it’s important that we keep them safe,” explained Nic. “Beekeepers can help farmers make key pesticide decisions to protect pollinators like bees.
Wave “hi!” as you pass fields of sunflowers grown by Moriah and Austin Gross while driving through Sully County, the sunflower capital of the United States. The Grosses love to host the public at their fifth-generation family farm for pheasant hunting, sweet corn picking and, of course, sunflower field frolicking.
“I host an annual photoshoot in the sunflower fields for my students,” said Moriah, who teaches music in Onida and Pierre. “Their parents are always happy to see how we care for the land while running our business.”
In addition to sunflowers, the Grosses grow corn and wheat, using sustainable practices like conservation tillage. Conservation tillage is when a farmer leaves corn stalks or other crop residue in the field after harvest, which reduces soil erosion while conserving water and energy.
5. Goat Meat
Goat meat might not be something you regularly put on your table, but this lamb-like meat is a staple in cuisines worldwide. Goats can be raised on relatively little land, making them a sustainable choice for people who may not have access to beef.
Leslie Zubke of Watertown has been raising goats since she was five years old. She regularly cares for more than 20 female goats, or “nannies,” and one male goat, a “billy goat.” Most of the goats she raises are sold at sales barns and transported to grocery stores outside the U.S.
While you might not be adding goat meat to your meal plans soon, it’s a safe bet others are enjoying nutritious goat meat raised on the Midwestern plains. But that’s only if Leslie can catch them.
“They’re Houdinis!” exclaimed Leslie. “They can jump out of their pens and get in a bunch of trouble.”
Do you know a local farmer who grows or raises something unique or unexpected? Let us know in the comments below. Keep your sustainability knowledge growing with these myths and truths.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth so much more. Here’s a look at the exclusive Hungry for Truth Farm-to-Fork dinner festivities, which brought farmers and community members together during an unforgettable summer evening on the farm. From the local food and the chic décor to great questions and conversations, the evening set the table for sharing stories about South Dakota agriculture.
This video gives you a glimpse at the annual event, which brings real South Dakotans and farmers together to enjoy food that’s grown safely and sustainably on real local farms.
Our next dinner is coming up in June. Stay tuned to find out how you can get an invite to this event from South Dakota soybean farmers. We’ll be sharing news soon with our newsletter subscribers and on social media. Be sure you’re part of our community so you don’t miss out. In the meantime, see photos and read about activities from past events in these blogs.
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.
Jamie Johnson doesn’t like to use the word sustainable to describe her family farm because taking care of the soil is just part of doing business. Like many South Dakota farm families, Jamie and her husband, Brian, are committed to using environmentally friendly practices like rotating crops, practicing no till and planting cover crops. They know the choices they make today have a big impact on the future of their farm and neighbors.
“It’s important to me to use the best practices for our kids and the families who depend on us for food,” said Jamie. “Healthy food comes from healthy soils. We can’t deplete our resources if we want our children to continue eating safe and healthy food.”
Jamie grew up on a ranch in Nebraska raising Angus cattle. She met Brian during a college internship, and they were a perfect fit. Soon, she found herself moving to Frankfort, South Dakota, to join Brian and his parents – Alan and Mickie – on their family farm. After 12 years of marriage and four kids, they are the fourth generation to take on the daily duties of running the farm.
This includes growing soybeans, corn and wheat, expanding their herd of Angus cattle and keeping their four chickens happy and healthy. Thanks to Brian’s parents who began practicing no till in the 1980s, the Johnsons had a sustainable foundation when they began experimenting with cover crops.
“We’re the experimental farmers you hear about who aren’t afraid to try new things,” said Jamie. “I believe in lifelong learning, embracing new practices and being open to change. Nothing stands still in farming so we have to be good at adapting.”
For the past eight years, those experiments have yielded good crops and healthier soils. They even use cover crops to feed their cattle for part of the year to give the pastures a rest.
“We use two types of mixes for our cover crops. One is for grazing and includes radishes, turnips, millet, and sorghum sudangrass. Our cattle eat it, and it’s also good for the soil,” said Jamie. “The other mix includes radishes, vetch, and lentils. We plant it in rows with our planter after harvesting wheat. The precise placement of our cover crop in rows is a great way to prepare the soil for planting corn the next growing season.”
They typically plant the cover crops in early August and let them grow throughout the fall until they freeze.
Sustainable practices also help the Johnsons reduce their use of pesticides.
“We do still spray to control weeds and insects, but we noticed that the more we keep our ground covered, the less issues we have. We only spray when necessary and are careful to use just the right amount,” she said.
Spending a little less time in the field means more time for the other chores that pop up. According to Jamie, there’s always something to do, but the work is her favorite part of farm life.
“I know it sounds strange, but I love the work,” said Jamie. “I love that we all do it together as a family. We all want to be here raising cattle, producing healthy crops, and working together. No matter the season, there’s always something to look forward to.”
Did you know South Dakota farmers and ranchers lead the nation in enrollment in the USDA’s Conservation Stewardship Program? Read about their efforts and dig into the sustainable practices Jamie uses on her family farm.
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.
On June 15, urbanites and farmers from across South Dakota gathered on the farm for an evening of conversation and outdoor dining at the second annual Farm-to-Fork dinner. The event was hosted by Hungry for Truth to encourage open discussions about how food is grown and raised on the scenic Bones Hereford Ranch, Hexad Farms and MDM Farms near Parker.
The farm chic décor, cattle and calves in the pasture, historic barn and music by The Hegg Brothers created the perfect backdrop for summer dining. South Dakota blogger and mom Staci Perry noted how the location really set the tone for great conversations.
“You could see the camaraderie among the farmers, and everyone was so excited to share stories about how they grow our food,” said Staci.
Local farmers took time throughout the evening to thank attendees for coming and share their farm stories. They talked about animal care on their farms, why they might choose to grow GMO crops, and improved farm practices that benefit the environment.
“The most important thing on our farm is sustainability,” said Bradee Pazour, a cattle farmer from Pukwana who provided the beef for the appetizers. “My husband and I are raising our two boys on our farm, and one day we hope they may want to continue on the farming legacy. We are truly farming with the future in mind.”
“It’s so nice to meet the real, actual farmers who raise the animals and see the farming processes,” said Kirsten. “It’s important to me to be able to see the farm where the animals are coming from, and these farmers were so open to talking about what they do and why they do it.”
The Farm-to-Fork dinner is just one of the ways Hungry for Truth connects South Dakotans with the people who grow their food. Special thanks to everyone who attended, and to Chef Jeni and Company, The Event Company, Flower Mill and The Sampson House for creating such an elegant and memorable night.
Of course the event wouldn’t be considered “Farm-to-Fork” without featuring some truly delicious local foods. In case you’re wondering what was on the menu, here’s a rundown of some of the tasty local fare:
- Wine from Prairie Berry
- Beer from Miner Brewing Co.
- Artisan cheeses from Dimock Dairy
- Devilled Eggs from Dakota Layers
- Bacon from Greenway Pork
- Honey from Laughing Eyes Apiary
- Individual bread loaves from Breadico
- Beef from Creekstone Farms
- Mini apple and Rhubarb Pies with rhubarb from Chef Jeni’s garden
- Ice Cream from the South Dakota State University Dairy Bar
Don’t worry, if weren’t in attendance at the dinner, you can still find a lot of these local products by simply shopping at your grocery store. Peggy Greenway from Greenway Pork shared that the pork from her farm goes to Costco. If you buy pork at Costco, it very well could have been raised by her! You can also find Dimock Dairy and Dakota Layers at local Hy-Vee stores.
Have you ever met a real South Dakota farmer? Get to know a few of them by reading their stories:
We’re daydreaming of warmer days and our beautiful Farm-to-Fork Dinner from last summer! It was such a fun night connecting the food on our table back to the farm and hearing from local farmers about how they raise their crops and livestock. Today, check out a few more photos from that amazing night and pretend like we’re still enjoying the summer breeze and sunshine. You can see a full recap of the event here and read Sioux Falls blogger Kaylee Koch’s post about her experience at Apple of My Ivy.
P.S. We will host our second annual farm-to-fork dinner again this summer, so be on the lookout for more info this spring!
The Thompson Farm in Colton, South Dakota, set the scene for the Farm-to-Fork Dinner where guests talked with farmers about how food makes its way from their farms to the table. They discussed topics like GMOs, pesticides, organic and conventional farming, sustainability and much more. Many guests shared that they left the experience feeling a stronger connection to the people who grow and raise their food.
What would you like to learn about farming? We would be happy to connect you with a local farmer or answer any of your food or farming questions. Just leave us a note in the comments section.
You can learn more about our Farm-to-Fork Dinner here.
The first Hungry for Truth Farm-to-Fork Dinner on June 24 was the perfect night, from the delicious local food to the conversations between South Dakota farmers and their Sioux Falls neighbors. The dinner took Sioux Falls residents outside the city limits to Jeff Thompson’s farm in Colton, South Dakota. Dinner guests enjoyed alfresco dining overlooking the Thompsons’ fields while talking with local farmers, exploring questions about everything from family life on the farm to antibiotic use in livestock.
Monica McCranie, a Claremont farmer involved with Hungry for Truth, was excited to have the chance to talk with other South Dakotans about how she and other local farmers raise crops and livestock.
Monica talked about her passion for farming while greeting dinner guests. She shared the legacy that’s been passed down through generations, drawing herself and others to continue the farming tradition.
“Many people were surprised to learn that so many farms in the state are multigenerational. For me, farming has always been a family affair,” said Monica. “My grandfather was actually one of the farmers who helped establish the first soil conservation district in South Dakota.”
The goal of this event, and the Hungry for Truth initiative as a whole, is to spark conversations between South Dakotans and the farmers who grow their food. South Dakotans learned about how their food gets to their plates and farmers heard what people care about when it comes to food and farming. Those conversations build greater community connections around two things we all have in common: food and family.
“A lot of guests I talked with didn’t know most South Dakota farms are family owned or that farmers always strive to be more sustainable so they can leave the land even better than they found it,” she said. “It was great to have the opportunity to visit with our neighbors about what we do. The setting and food made the whole event wonderful.”
Prepared by Sioux Falls Chef Jeni, the four-course meal featured foods sourced from the same local farmers who sat next to guests that evening. The dinner event ended with ice cream made nearby at South Dakota State University.
If you want to read more about the dinner, check out local blogger Kaylee Koch’s Apple of My Ivy blog. Find out what she loved about the event and her conversation with a Mitchell farmer. Have questions of your own about food and farming? Let us know in the comments, and check out our other blogs to learn more about everything from GMOs to sustainability.