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.
Do you have a question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Don’t forget to scroll down and sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to get delicious recipes and local farm-to-table stories delivered to your inbox.
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.
Dane’s back in the fields, and he’s taking a quick break from planting to explain how they use pesticides on his family’s farm. Dane and his dad, John, apply pesticides to protect soybean and corn crops from weeds, insects and diseases.
Like many South Dakota farmers, the Horters spray a pre-emergence herbicide to keep weeds from growing immediately after planting. This helps prevent problems throughout the growing season. Safety is important so they mix the herbicide with water according to label instructions. They use the precision technology in their sprayer to apply just the right amount.
How much do they use? How big is an acre? What is auto-steer? Dane answers all those questions and more in our latest crop report video.
Cheers to spraying smart! Interested in hearing what happens on the farm during planting season in South Dakota? Watch our pint-sized reporter to learn more.
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.
Bradee Pazour has always been passionate about farming. She grew up on a family farm just outside Chamberlain and married into the farm life. Today, she grows soybeans, corn and wheat alongside her husband, Joel and his family, near Pukwana, South Dakota. They stay busy raising cows and two spunky kiddos on the plains.
Bradee cherishes her role helping Joel manage the day-to-day demands of farm life. “We care tremendously about growing safe food for families and protecting the environment,” she explained.
This includes assisting when she can with planting and controlling early-season weeds that can threaten the health of their crops. Just like many South Dakota farmers, the Pazours take steps to carefully select the types of pesticides to use and apply them safely. The strategy of using just the right amount to get the job done is important to Bradee, who wants to grow healthy plants without sacrificing the safety of her family, neighbors and the environment.
“Weed control is similar whether you live in town or on the farm. For example, many people want to protect their yards from crabgrass. One of the best ways to prevent it is to apply a pre-emergence herbicide in the spring to keep it from ever coming up,” explained Bradee. “It requires strategic pre-planning but translates to healthier plants down the road.”
Applying a pre-emergence herbicide to stop weeds on the Pazour farm means crops don’t have to compete for resources like water, sunlight and nutrients from the soil. Since the tiny seeds are resistant to the herbicides thanks to genetic modification, the plants can put all their energy into growing strong and healthy.
Selecting the right product is just one part of the equation. Farmers like the Pazours also have to attend classes to get certified to apply all types of pesticides. They also learn when to spray and how to mix the product for optimal performance and safety.
“The precision technology in our sprayer allows us to apply the right amount down to the inch across the field,” explained Joel. “The goal is to use pesticides accurately, efficiently and responsibly. It’s just better all the way around.”
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.
You have probably heard it said, “Eat more fruits and vegetables.” Health experts agree increasing plant-based foods in your diet has important health benefits. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and soy protein sources have nutrients that help prevent heart disease, stroke and some cancers. In addition, making lower calorie foods like fruits and vegetables a larger portion of your diet may help you manage your weight.
With these positive benefits, we should be increasing our consumption of plant-based foods, but because of confusing messages about the safety of conventional and organic foods, studies show shoppers buy fewer fruits and vegetables.
As a dietitian, I encourage a healthy diet with a variety of fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and protein sources like lean meats and soy protein. It’s concerning to me that fear may be keeping people from safe, affordable food. Because I am a family farmer, a dietitian and I also listen to scientists, I know we have a safe food supply. We should let facts, not fear, guide our food choices.
So, what are the facts?
Pesticide residues are not a safety concern in the U.S. food supply.
Both conventional and organic farmers rely on synthetic or natural pesticides as a tool to control pests and diseases on their crops, and these pesticides are regulated to ensure the safety of our food. They apply them very carefully and use just the right amount to protect crops. With all produce, follow the FDA recommendation and take this simple step: Just Wash It. You will be removing any dirt, bacteria and pesticide residue, if there is any, that may be on your produce.
A pesticide residue calculator found on the Alliance for Food and Farming website gives a great perspective on any concerns about pesticide residue you may have. It shows, for example, my grandson could consume 181 servings of strawberries in one day without any effect, even if the strawberries had the highest pesticide residue ever recorded for strawberries by the USDA. I want my grandson to benefit from the vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber and antioxidants in strawberries, and know I can safely share my favorite fruit with him.
The fact is the health benefit of increasing your fruit and vegetable intake should far outweigh any concerns about pesticide residues. Fruits and vegetables can be consumed in any form to provide you with the nutrients you need: fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent fruit or vegetable juice. The amount of fruits and vegetables you need daily depends on your age, gender and level of physical activity. However, aiming for half of your plate to contain fruits and vegetables is a great place to start.
Still concerned about potential pesticide residues? We’ve got tips on how to properly wash your produce. Be sure to leave any questions for Charlotte in the comments.
Thirteen years ago, Rebekah Scott was a young farm wife struggling to make ends meet. In an effort to give Christmas presents on a budget, she leaned on a lifelong passion for sewing and designed handbags as gifts for her family. They loved them and soon her favorite hobby blossomed into a business: Rebekah Scott Designs.
Today, she employs 20 South Dakota women who sew bags, process orders and respond to customer inquiries from her home in Valley Springs. But Rebekah isn’t the only entrepreneur in the family. Her husband, Nick, is a fifth-generation farmer. Together, they grow corn and soybeans, and raise cows and pigs.
“People often don’t think of farmers as entrepreneurs, but they really are,” Rebekah said. “Nick and his dad, Glen, are always trying new seeds and farming techniques in order to grow the best crops while preserving the land for the next generation.”
Doing what is right for the environment is a top priority for the Scotts, who have four children. Continuously improving the land means their kids will have the ability to farm alongside them one day.
Rotating crops is one way they reduce soil erosion and improve soil quality. Growing the same plants on the same land continuously can deplete the soil of certain nutrients. When you rotate crops, you give the soil an opportunity to recover and build up nitrogen through soil-enriching plants like soybeans.
Just like soybeans help support other plants by enriching the soil, Rebekah has made it part of her mission to support and inspire other rural women who want to start or grow businesses. She holds regular workshops and produces a podcast called “The Encourager” to help women develop strategies to manage the demands of work and family.
“Rural women make great entrepreneurs because you have to be creative and resourceful when you’re out here in the country and can’t go to town every time you need something,” Rebekah said. “My mission is to equip them with the tools they need to execute their long to-do lists and achieve their dreams.”
This includes connecting her fellow entrepreneurs with initiatives like Hungry for Truth, which is dedicated to bringing farmers and families around the table to have honest conversations about how food is grown and raised.
Do you have a question for a farmer? Share it in the comments below. Then read about another farm woman who uses cover crops to make her family farm more sustainable.
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.
For more than four generations, the Casper family has grown soybeans and corn near Lake Preston. Paul and his wife Korlyn use sustainable practices to take care of their land and water so they can pass it along to their children and grandchildren. This includes safely and responsibly applying pesticides to protect crops.
Certification is key. Like other farmers, Paul must go through training to determine how much and when to apply. You might be surprised to know that the amount of pesticide used on an acre of crops, approximately the size of a football field, is roughly equivalent to a large cup of coffee. By using less, today’s farmers are doing more for the environment.
Hear why taking care of the land is so important to Paul and his family.
Safety is the first step in pesticide application. What are the others? Get the scoop.
When it comes to food and choices in the grocery store, it’s tough enough to decide what to make for dinner. The last thing you need to worry about is pesticides on your produce. To help keep crops and your food safe, South Dakota farm families use technology to apply just enough pesticides to protect crops and get the job done. They are always looking for ways to improve how they farm to be good neighbors.
For Lake Preston soybean farmer Paul Casper, this translates to planting GMO crops, driving a sprayer equipped with automatic shut-offs and using large nozzles to ensure more product stays on the plants. These tools help him apply less pesticides in a more effective way. Like all farmers, Paul goes through training so he knows how to mix and spray safely.
We’ll let Paul explain how he uses technology to protect his family and yours.
Interested in learning more? Get a deeper look at the crop protection technology on Paul’s farm.
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.
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:
Music and agriculture are two of Moriah Gross’ great loves. Six years ago, her passions intertwined when she founded Pierre’s first youth orchestra and invited students and their families to her farm for a sunflower-themed photoshoot.
“What makes our orchestra truly unique is that we live in God’s country, and our county [Sully County] is the top sunflower producer in the U.S.,” said Moriah. “It made sense to combine the two in celebration of the beauty that surrounds us in the fields.”
Since then, it’s become an annual tradition. She decides on a marketing theme for the year, invites her students and their families out to the farm for the photoshoot, where the families also pick sweet corn. Moriah and her husband, Austin, a fourth-generation farmer from Onida, feel it’s a great opportunity to answer questions about food and farming.
“Conversations about how we grow food can happen 30 miles away or sitting next to someone at a baseball game. I always look forward to the opportunity,” explained Moriah.
Combines and Violins
Moriah grew up on a family ranch near Mankato, Kansas, growing milo, wheat and sunflowers, and raising Angus cattle. She spent summers with her family custom harvesting wheat for other farmers, traveling from Texas to the Canadian border. She learned how to drive a combine, grain cart and tractor. Her time in the cab and caring for cattle turned out to be helpful for her career as a musician.
“I remember singing with my mom in the combine to bluegrass and country western music,” said Moriah. “Later, my dad added a radio to the barn, so we listened to music during calving season.”
Moriah began playing the violin when she was 7 and joined the orchestra in middle school. By the time she graduated from college, she had mastered the violin, viola, cello, double bass, guitar and piano. With all this experience and a love for wide open spaces, it just made sense to move to Pierre to start The Pierre Youth Orchestra, eventually becoming its executive director. What she didn’t plan on was meeting and marrying Austin.
“I never thought I’d be lucky enough to marry a farmer,” said Moriah. Since Austin’s family regularly opens the farm to youth and hunting groups, Moriah knew he’d welcome the orchestra with open arms.
Questions and Conversations
The annual orchestra photoshoot generates interesting questions about everything from how they grow crops to the equipment they use on the farm. Some families are surprised to find out that most of the sweet corn they grow is GMO.
“We still grow one traditional sweet corn variety for sentimental reasons, but the other five are GMOs,” explained Austin. “It’s fun to explain how each one has been carefully bred to enhance its color or flavor.” GMOs make up 94 percent of the soybean and 89 percent of the corn crops grown in the U.S. They also happen to be two of South Dakota’s top crops.
This year, the orchestra held its first community fundraiser at the Fort Pierre farmers market. Austin and Moriah donated 1,500 ears of sweet corn for the event. Naturally, shoppers asked about different types of sweet corn and if it’s organic.
“People think organic means the corn is healthier in some way. The truth is it doesn’t matter,” said Moriah. “The sweet corn we grow is nutritionally the same as organic and both are safe to eat.”
One day, she hopes to turn the photoshoot into a concert to bring more people to the Pierre and Onida communities to enjoy music on the farm. Until then, she and Austin continue planting seeds of knowledge whenever they can and watching them grow.
If you have questions for Moriah and Austin, share them in the comments below. Love reading stories about South Dakota farm families? Here’s one about Eunice who’s been growing crops and irises on her family farm for nearly 90 years.
Photos Courtesy of Grandpre Photography & Moriah Gross.
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.
Did you know South Dakota farmers will join others across the U.S. this fall to harvest more than 4 billion bushels of soybeans? While most of those soybeans will be used to feed animals, they eventually end up on your table in the form of farm-fresh foods like meat, eggs, milk and cheese. South Dakota farmers David and Miriam Iverson look forward to each fall as an opportunity to continue the family tradition of sustainably harvesting food and cooking meals like Coconut Curry Chili to warm up after cool days in the field.
“I’m the fourth generation on our operation. I’ve been farming for 37 years here in northern Brookings County,” David said. “My family has been here for 120 years. My dad still actively helps out.”
It’s vital to keep things moving during busy seasons, especially on the Iverson’s 1,500-acre farm. The drought this summer has taken its toll on yields across South Dakota, and extra attention is needed to ensure the crops are harvested with care. Using sustainable practices throughout the growing season pays off when it’s time to combine.
The Iversons plant a rotation of soybeans and corn every other year. David says they rotate their crops for many reasons, but ultimately it protects their plants from being affected by plant-specific pests.
“Corn and soybeans have different weeds, diseases and insects that affect yields,” he said. “By rotating the crops, we keep those numbers low and, hopefully, our yields high.”
David uses other sustainable practices to grow food, like applying fertilizer at a rate that matches soil and plant needs, and implementing minimal and no-till practices in their fields.
“Our sustainability methods improve soil health immensely and prevent soil erosion,” he said.
With harvest just around the corner, we’ll see how their efforts pay off. Since family time can be pretty limited in the fall, meals are important to bring people together. Coconut Curry Chili is one of David and Miriam’s favorites to help warm up after a long day in the combine.
Read the Story of Soybean Harvest to learn more about what farmers are thinking this time of year.
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.
For many in Sioux Falls, the average Saturday starts with a cup of coffee and a walk down to the local farmers market around 8 a.m. For local farmer Dale Hebda of Hebda Farms, preparing his stand at the market starts at 5:30 a.m. on Friday morning.
“We start with picking produce and packing it up for Saturday morning,” Dale said. “We usually finish Friday by packing our cooler with our baked goods at 11 p.m.”
Long hours are just part of the job at Hebda Farms, a produce farm in Mission Hills that started off as a 4-H project for Dale’s oldest son, Steven.
“He began with two or three acres that supplied our stand at the little farmers market in Yankton,” he said. “He bought the seed, paid for the water and paid me rent. He really took care of his finances and ran an excellent business.”
In addition to Steven’s efforts and purple ribbons accrued at the county fair, the community also provided the support Hebda Farms needed.
“Our community really came together and rallied around him to support his local business at our farmers market,” Dale said. “With Steven’s proven success and our seven younger children coming into 4-H down the road, we needed to expand our business.”
As luck would have it, a property came up for sale just as the Hebda family considered expansion. They purchased the land and went from two to three acres to 45 acres and have been growing ever since. In addition to adding products and produce to their line, they also began growing soybeans, corn and alfalfa on an annual rotation.
“We rotate crops yearly for weed control, as some weeds are more prevalent in some crops than others,” he said. “Some of the harvested crops are sold, and some are kept to feed the cattle we raise for our family.”
Introducing new products and produce is a regular occurrence for the Hebdas. Dale said they test them for about two to three years to see if they’re viable, then decide if they’ll continue growing them in future seasons. Hebda Farms also now has a commercial kitchen for pickling and canning their 36 varieties of jellies and creating delicious baked goods from scratch.
“We have about six to seven varieties of pies,” said Dale. “Our Latino workers have contributed their family recipes, so we now sell flan and other traditional Mexican foods.”
Even though there are challenges in owning a small businesses and farming, Dale enjoys growing food and connecting with South Dakota families.
“It is a fun time. At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily get satisfaction from the revenue,” he said. “I’m happy when I see happy customers leaving our farm or stand with healthy and fresh food for their families.”
You can visit Dale and the Hebda crew on Saturday and Sunday mornings at Lewis and Clark Lake in Yankton, Saturday mornings in Sioux Falls and by appointment at their farm in Mission Hills.
Farmers markets are a great place to meet with the people who grow your food. If you can’t make it out to a farmers market, ask a question in the comments, or check out our blogs below to learn more about connecting with local farmers: