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.
Coming up with creative gifts for everyone on your list can be exhausting, but there’s one thing you can always count on: people love food. Especially foods made proudly in South Dakota. Putting together a personalized gift basket of delicious, local goodies is a thoughtful way to make people feel special.
To kick-start your creativity, we gathered a few of our favorite products made by local hands with ingredients South Dakota farmers played a part in growing. For example, these meats and cheeses come from local livestock and dairy farmers who take good care of their animals by monitoring their health and comfort, day and night. An important part of keeping animals healthy is providing a balanced diet with all the necessary nutrients, so farmers prepare tasty meals for their livestock who indulge in local products too. In fact, soybeans are one of South Dakota’s top crops and are a key ingredient in chicken, pig and dairy cow diets because they’re packed with high-quality protein.
To build your own South Dakota-inspired gift, mix and match these local treasures and keep scrolling for tips on how to pull them all together for your own Instagram-worthy charcuterie board.
Our Favorite South Dakota-Made Food Products
Explore local shops like The Meat Lodge and put together an assortment of specialty cured meats and sausages. The Meat Lodge also makes items like beef jerky, beef sticks and a host of sauces and rubs to choose from.
A sampler of various cheeses is an exciting adventure for the palate and a gift that’s fun to share. Dimock Dairy makes a variety of spreads and cheese blocks in flavors we love like blue cheddar and garlic and parsley. Stensland’s Farms also makes fun, flavored cheese curds like onion and chive, and raspberry chipotle.
There’s something about breaking fresh bread that’s good for the soul, which is why the artisan loaves at Breadico are one of our favorite holiday gift basket additions. From a sweet raisin bread to a classic French loaf, they have something for every personality you’re buying for.
Specialty jams, preserves and mustards are gifts that keep on giving with a shelf life that will keep your friends and family thinking of you every time they crack open the jar. Prairie Berry makes a few jams we drool over like spiced orange cranberry, and Laughing Eyes Apiary harvests local honey that goes great with toasts of all kinds.
How to Style a Charcuterie Board
Hosting this year? Here are five tips to help you build the perfect charcuterie board for your guests featuring our favorite South Dakota-made products.
Vary Textures and Flavors. Offer both soft and firm cheese options and meats ranging from mild to spicy. Thinly slice and roll your cured meats for a neat presentation.
- Balance Salty With Sweet. Fresh fruit like grapes, melon balls and berries elegantly break up the heavy, salty meats and cheeses. Jams and preserves play a similar role by adding another texture and a bit of sweetness.
- Include a Hearty Base. Crunchy crackers and toasted baguette slices create a sturdy base for piling on the toppings.
- Garnish With Accent. Charcuterie boards sure taste good, but the real fun comes in making it look pretty. Once you have your key ingredients in place, fill empty spaces with flavorful nuts, pickled vegetables, dark chocolate squares or eye-catching herbs such as rosemary, basil or thyme.
- Pair Local. Complement your beautiful board with your favorite Prairie Berry wine or beer from Miner Brewing. Or, add a less traditional element like deviled eggs using eggs from local Dakota Layers.
Bonus Tip: Store your board in the refrigerator but take it about out 20 minutes before serving. The meats will taste better closer to room temperature.
Wondering where to shop for gifts like these? Kirsten Gjesdal, owner of Carrot Seed Kitchen, fills her cute shop with local goodies year-round, but this blog might help you realize buying local is easy no matter where you do your shopping.
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 Ed Munce started cooking for family events, he had no idea it would eventually turn into a full-time business grilling up some of the best meat in Sioux Falls. The requests started innocently enough. With 11 brothers and sisters, there were plenty of holidays, backyard barbecues and weddings to keep them hopping. By 2001, Ed and his son Matt grew their hobby into a retail store and catering business.
Today Uncle Ed’s is anything but typical. The high-quality food keeps people coming in for more. Each week, 500 to 2,000 people flock to the store buying everything from 40 flavors of brats to Iowa chops, St. Louis ribs, smoked pulled pork and their number #1 seller: rib-eye steaks.
Matt and Ed buy their meat from a USDA-certified vendor in Iowa that sources animals from several U.S. farms. Since South Dakota is fifth in the nation for raising beef cattle and ninth in raising pigs, it’s likely the meat they purchase is raised by local farmers and fed a balanced diet of corn, soybeans vitamins and minerals. Soybeans are especially important to the growth and health of livestock because they provide the protein that builds strong, lean muscle.
Ed and Matt feel comfortable purchasing meat that’s been given a healthy start with soybeans. From there, it’s in their hands to create the foods people crave.
“We’re a unique business because we do most of the processing and crafting ourselves. It’s really a labor of love,” explained Matt. “We are passionate about giving people the very best.”
At Hungry for Truth, we’re all about making sure you have the right intel for food shopping success. We asked Matt to share some tips to help you select the best beef and pork for your next meal. Hint: If you head over to Uncle Ed’s, they’ve already done your homework.
The USDA grades beef using quality standards to determine whether it falls into the prime, choice or select category. All are safe to eat, but prime and choice lead the race in terms of marbling and overall taste. Typically, you find the grade on the package or by asking someone behind the counter. Uncle Ed’s only sells the upper end of choice and prime cuts of beef.
For pork, only the highest grade is sold in stores so expect top quality no matter where you shop.
Age to Perfection
Just like most of us, primal cuts of beef are better with age. Three to four weeks can mean the difference between eating steak that tastes like a piece of shoe leather and beef that melts in your mouth. Look for the packing date to choose cuts with some age that are dark red in color. This is different than the expiration or sell-by date, so if you can’t find it or aren’t sure where to look, talk with the expert behind the meat counter.
Pork is easy since fresh is best. Look for pinkish color and use the sell by date as a guide. You can eat pork one to two days past the sell by date, but freezing is the best way to make it last longer.
Fat is flavor. Marbling refers to the lines of fat running through beef, and it’s key to flavor and tenderness. The best cuts of beef and pork have a mix of marbling and muscle.
Now that you know what to look for, it’s time to learn more about how South Dakota soybean farmers raise the animals that produce your favorite meats:
Whether it’s date night at the theater or a cozy family night on the couch, movies have a way of bringing us together. When it’s warm in South Dakota, it can be fun to take the movie magic outdoors and gather under the stars. Here are our tips for planning a night that’s sure to please family and friends.
A projector, audio speakers and computer are essential technology. A free projector might be tough to track down, but they are available at most rental companies and easy to purchase. Need a portable screen? No worries. Just hang a white sheet or painter’s drop cloth. You could also skip it and project onto the side of a building if it’s clean and light colored. Don’t forget extension cords.
Pay attention to sunset and plan your festivities accordingly. You want to start the movie when it’s dark, so this could be 9 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., depending on the time of year. Starting later gives you time to host dinner and play yard games. Starting early may mean you can squeeze in two movies; family-friendly first for the kiddos and then one for the adults after they go to bed.
Comfy and Cozy
Keep your audience comfy by providing blankets and pillows for lounging or ask them to bring their own. Hang bistro lights to set the mood, segment food from the theater seating and make sure your guests can see where they’re going. Set out mosquito repellent spray and fire up citronella candles to protect your guests against bugs and other pests.
The best part of any movie night is the food. Snack stylishly by creating a buffet table out of pallets or cement blocks and plywood. Cover with a cute tablecloth and add a flower centerpiece for a touch of greenery.
When it comes to the menu, keep it simple. Finger foods like kabobs or meats and cheeses paired with crackers work well for flexible dining. A popcorn bar with butter and assorted toppings transforms the traditional snack into a bold, salty or tangy mix. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, a selection of classic movie candies or toasty s’mores are two of our favorites. In fact, we have the perfect recipe for campfire ice cream s’mores.
No matter what’s on the menu, South Dakota soybean farmers have you covered. Pigs, cows, chickens and turkeys love to eat protein-packed soybeans as part of a balanced diet. Healthy animals mean you’re serving up quality milk, eggs, cheese and meats for your guests.
Select your movie based on your guest list. The classics or a comedy are always a great bet. Depending on who’s there, it might be “Grease,” “8 Seconds” or “The Goonies.” When it comes to kids, you can’t go wrong with anything Pixar or Disney. “Jurassic Park” or “Jaws” might be fun if you’re feeling adventurous, but watch out. Your backyard may never feel the same again.
Now that you have the basics for hosting an outdoor movie night, it’s time to get the invites out and start planning the menu. Here’s a recipe for Green Chicken Souvlaki Kabobs that’s sure to please. See our recipes for more ideas.
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:
Summertime is an excellent opportunity to get together with family and friends to kick back, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. A cookout featuring your choice of meat and tasty summer sides is key to keeping the crowd fueled for fun activities. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorites to make your meal prep a snap.
South Dakota soybean farmers enjoy hanging out with their loved ones, too–after the chores are done, of course. Farmer Morgan Kontz from Colman says she loves hosting people on her farm because of the opportunity for fellowship and conversation. “As a mother, when it comes to food, I enjoy being a part of the farm because I know where the quality food I put on our table comes from and feel confident feeding it to our family and friends.”
She enjoys telling people about how the corn and soybeans they grow in the field become feed for their beef cattle that eventually end up on the dinner plates. Now she also has chickens to feed so it’s a good thing soybeans are also one of their favorite healthy treats.
Speaking of treats: It’s time to plan your menu!
Top Five Summer Sides
Bacon-wrapped asparagus is grill friendly, kid approved and only calls for three ingredients.
If your guests are looking for a light, yet flavorful side dish, try this tangy Caprese salad with soy walnut pesto.
Trust us: Deviled eggs are a favorite choice year-round. We’ve got a hot take on this classic.
Fresh fruit salsa is the perfect side to suit just about every palate and age level.
Slushies are a sweet way to cool off at any age. There’s even an adult version for the 21-and-over crowd.
We’ve got recipes to jazz up your meats as well. Remember to have a meat thermometer on hand to cook it to the ideal temperature for safety and flavor.
GMOs continue to be a hotly debated topic, especially when it comes to the safety of the food we feed our families. While you may be undecided about GMOs, the scientific and medical communities have deemed them to be just as safe as non-GMO crops after more than 20 years of research and review. Even Bill Nye the Science Guy, who once questioned their environmental impact, has changed his position and is an advocate.
Many South Dakota farmers choose to plant GMO crops because of their advantages in the field, but the fact is GMOs benefit our lives in some pretty cool ways. Let’s examine a few of the facts.
GMOs Save Lives Through Medicine
The same technology used to create GMO crops in the 1990s started in the medical community in the 1970s. Scientists used genetic engineering to make biopharmaceutical drugs from bacteria. In fact, the very first GMO approved for use in 1982 was insulin, which is currently used by 1.25 million Americans today to manage type 1 diabetes. To date, genetic engineering has led to the development of more than 100 drugs used to treat cancer, arthritis, hemophilia and seizures.
GMOs Benefit Consumers
The fact is genetic modification has been happening in nature for centuries. The sweet potato is just one example of a new food created by its genes mixing with bacteria in the soil. It wasn’t until recently that scientists developed a way to precisely edit gene sequences to create apples that resist browning, soybeans with improved nutritional content and rice with increased beta carotene to help combat vitamin A deficiency. While South Dakota children get plenty of vitamin A, Golden Rice has the potential to save the lives of 1.15 million children annually around the world who suffer from the lack of this essential nutrient.
GMOs Help Protect Our Environment
GMO technology helps farmers improve on-farm practices to be more environmentally sustainable. According to a study by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, the use of biotechnology in soybeans, corn and cotton has decreased soil erosion by 93 percent, herbicide runoff by 70 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 326 million lbs. across the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Protecting the environment is important to everyone in South Dakota. We all need to work together to preserve it for the next generations.
GMOs Keep Produce on Our Shelves
Without GMO technology, we probably wouldn’t have papayas anymore. In 1992, papaya ringspot virus was discovered in the Puna district of Hawaii where 95 percent of the state’s papayas grew. Three years later, the crop was in a state of crisis and would’ve been wiped out on the island if scientists hadn’t bred disease resistance into the papayas. Yellow summer squash and zucchini are other foods that would be difficult to find in produce sections today if they hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand diseases. Scientists are also developing orange trees that resist citrus greening, plum trees that resist plum pox virus and potatoes that resist potato blight to keep these foods stocked on produce shelves.
Regardless of your thoughts on GMOs, what you feed your family is ultimately your choice. The most important part of a healthy diet is eating a blend of fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins while limiting sugars and fats. Living a healthy lifestyle benefits everyone, and that is something we can all agree on.
Have a GMO-related question for a South Dakota farmer? Leave it in the comments below. Here are some resources you can use to learn more.
It’s been more than 20 years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) required food companies to add the Nutrition Facts label on all packaging consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Our knowledge changes over time of how food, nutrition and our diets impact our health. As a result, the Nutrition Facts label is showing its age.
In May 2016, the FDA rolled out a fresh new look with information better aligned with what we know today to help us make more informed choices about what we eat. Most food and beverage processors are required to adopt the new label by July 26, 2018, while smaller companies have until 2019 to comply.
Charlotte Rommereim is a registered dietitian nutritionist and farmer from Alcester, South Dakota, who appreciates the simplicity of the new label. When her patients have questions about the nutritional benefits of foods, she instructs them to look for the facts in basic black and white.
“I encourage people to get beyond the marketing on the front of the package to read the Nutrition Facts label for information they can use,” says Charlotte. “All food products use the same label so it’s easy to compare one product with another.”
You might start seeing the new label on foods in grocery stores sooner than you think, so here are six changes you should note:
1. More Realistic Serving Sizes. Have you ever looked at a serving size on a nutrition label and thought to yourself, “Who only eats THAT much?” New serving sizes will be more aligned with what we typically eat. They will be clearer and listed at the top of the label. Packages that contain more than a single serving will be required to list dual columns showing per serving and per package nutrition content. The type will also be larger and bolder for information at a glance.
2. BIG and BOLD Calories. It will be more difficult to ignore the calorie count on those fudge brownies since calories will now be the biggest, boldest information on the label. There’s room for it because …
3. No More Calories From Fats. No, that doesn’t mean the food you’re eating no longer has fat calories. It means research shows the type of fat consumed is more important to living a healthy lifestyle than the amount.
4. Added Sugars Required. The only sugars that occur naturally in foods are lactose (milk) and fructose (fruit). All others are considered “added sugars” that can be incorporated during processing or packaging. New labels require added sugars to be listed in grams and percentage of daily value so you can keep track. Research show it’s difficult to meet nutritional needs and stay within calorie limits if you get more than 10 percent of your total daily calories from added sugars. Think of it as the difference between eating an apple vs. applesauce. The applesauce has the added sugar, and now you will know exactly how much.
5. Updated List of Nutrients. Say goodbye to vitamins A and C as deficiencies of these nutrients are rare today in the U.S. Say hello to vitamin D and potassium, which we sometimes lack in our diets. Calcium and iron are still required. Daily values have been updated to align with new data and now include a percentage instead of just milligrams.
6. Footnote Facelift. The footnote language is updated to provide more context and better explain how the product fits within a recommended diet.
Even though the updates might seem small, they have potential to have a big impact. For example, with the new label, you can determine how much sugar in the product occurs naturally and how much is added. That’s the transparency people crave.
“Just as consumers like farmers to be transparent about food production, they also want to read a food label and feel like they understand it,” Charlotte explains. “Consumers have concerns about healthy eating patterns and appreciate a label giving them the facts about the foods they choose.”
Charlotte encourages anyone who has questions about nutrition or the Nutrition Facts label to ask a local dietitian. Another great resource she uses is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. You can learn more about what food labels really mean and how to tell fact from fiction with these blogs:
Buying local is a great way to support family farms and businesses, and it’s why so many South Dakotans look for local products when shopping. The great news is you don’t have to look hard to put locally grown food on your table. It’s in the aisles of grocery stores, shelves of downtown shops and stands at farmers markets. No matter where you choose to buy your food, it’s likely you are purchasing a product with local roots.
Marc Reiner is a farmer who grows soybeans, corn, wheat and alfalfa near Tripp. His family has been raising cattle since they homesteaded the land in the 1880s. They also raise pigs.
“Everything we feed our animals is grown on our farm,” says Marc. “The hay, silage, soybean meal and corn is all grown here. My family enjoys eating the meat from the animals we raise and the products we grow.”
Marc’s family sells his crops, pigs and cattle to local grain and meat processors. They transform the soybeans and corn into nutritious animal feed and the animals into choice cuts of beef and pork served in restaurants and sold in grocery stores across South Dakota and the U.S.
Though he doesn’t know where all the food products grown and raised on his farm end up, he knows that farmers throughout the nation no matter the size have the health and safety of consumers in mind.
Dakota Layers is an example of a business serving South Dakotans that purchases feed made from locally grown soybeans. The family-owned operation located north of Flandreau processes and packages 90,000 dozen eggs each day! It purchases 10,000 tons of soybean meal annually to feed its 1.3 million hungry hens. You can purchase their eggs at South Dakota grocery stores. Some local businesses, such as Oh My Cupcakes! in downtown Sioux Falls and Royal River Casino in Flandreau use their eggs for baking and cooking.
So the next time you’re looking for locally grown foods like eggs, pork, beef or chicken, don’t stress if you don’t see a label. There’s a good chance it has a local connection or was grown by a farmer who has your family’s health and safety in mind.
Love learning about local? Milk is another food that has South Dakota roots. Read about its journey farm to shelf.
Whether you’re manning the grill at a family cookout or making dinner in your kitchen, the only thing worse than overcooking meat is serving meat that’s so undercooked it looks like it could walk off your plate. Meat thermometers are a simple technology you can use to balance flavor and food safety.
Farmers also use technology to make sure the meat you purchase in the grocery store gets off to a safe and healthy start. Today’s pig, poultry, cattle and dairy barns are temperature controlled to protect animals from the elements and predators. Many also have automated systems to provide fresh water and a nutritious blend of feed made from soybean meal throughout the day. This gives farmers more time to monitor the health of their animals through personal visits and with cameras they can control via applications on their computers and phones.
You don’t have to be high tech to use a meat thermometer. Here are some tips for selecting and using thermometers to make this your safest grilling season yet.
Choose Your Thermometer
- Ovenproof thermometers often include a digital readout that keeps you from opening the oven door throughout the cooking process.
- Microwave-friendly thermometers are made just for use in microwave ovens.
- Digital and dial instant-read thermometers provide a quick, convenient gauge of temperature when inserted into cooking meat.
- Pop-up thermometers like those often found in poultry can be purchased for use in other meats.
Whatever style you choose, be sure it’s a meat thermometer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Don’t try to repurpose a thermometer designed for candy making or other cooking applications.
Once you have your meat thermometer, be sure to prepare your meat according to the minimum temperatures deemed safe by the USDA.
Where you place the meat thermometer is key to your success. Position it in the center of the cut of meat, or where it is thickest. This holds true for burgers or a meatloaf made with ground beef too. Avoid bone, fat and gristle. Be sure to test your thermometer for accuracy before using.
To test, simply insert the first two inches of your thermometer stem into a pot of boiling water. It should read 212 degrees Fahrenheit, unless you’re atop South Dakota’s Harney Peak, where water boils at around 202 degrees. Altitude is just as important as attitude when it comes to great results on your grill.
Watch this video to see how to use a meat thermometer in three easy steps.
For more grilling safety tips, read this blog. Here are some great recipes to try on your grill:
Pesticide residues on your food can be a scary thought. Maybe the topic crossed your mind while making dinner or as you shopped the produce aisle in your grocery store. Pesticides are used to protect crops as they grow, but do they remain on plants after they leave the field? And, more importantly, should you worry about feeding your family those crops?
If you’ve spent time online reading lists like the Dirty Dozen, you may think your family’s health is at risk. The truth is crop protection products like herbicides and pesticides must meet safety standards before they can be used in the field. The farmers who use them are required to attend educational classes and become certified so they apply them in the right amount, at the right time and only when needed. They use precision technology to make sure their application is accurate. After all, they feed their families the same foods you do and want to make sure they’re safe for everyone.
So what is the right amount? Well that depends on the crop, product and pest problem, but the average farmer applies only about a coffee cup’s worth of pesticides per acre of crops. An acre is approximately the same size as a football field. Most of the spray that goes on the field is water. Any pesticide residues that may remain on plants in the field decrease considerably as crops are harvested, transported and exposed to light.
By the time food reaches the grocery store, it has gone through testing with the USDA to ensure it meets requirements set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is safe to eat. Pesticide residues allowed on produce are so small they’re measured in parts per billion. In fact, the average child could consume 7,240 servings of carrots in one day without any effect, even if the carrots have the highest pesticide residue allowed by USDA.
Most fresh fruits and vegetables test below the threshold levels set by EPA, so you shouldn’t be worried about their safety. The best way to protect your family from unwanted residue, dirt or surface microbes is simply washing all fruits and vegetables before serving. This is also true for foods grown organically. Rinsing fruits and veggies is an easy task. For most foods, a quick water rinse should do the job. Thick-skinned produce such as carrots, potatoes and squash should be scrubbed. With leafy greens, toss the outer leaves.
Watch this video for a quick review.
You can also create your own produce wash by mixing one tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar with two cups of water in a spray bottle.
Have you ever calculated how much fruits or vegetables you’d have to eat to feel the effects of pesticides? Try this calculator. You might be surprised at the results. Learn more about how farmers responsibly use crop inputs like pesticides by reading these blogs:
Walking through the aisles at your local grocery store, you may have wondered how many of the foods you eat contain GMOs. For as much as you hear about them online and in social media, you may have questioned if GMOs are safe. The quick answer is there are only 10 GMO crops approved and grown in the U.S. today, many with nearly 20 years of research proving they are safe to eat.
Let’s start with the basics: What is a GMO? GMO stands for genetically modified organism. The term refers to plants that have been bred through a process called biotechnology, which adds naturally existing genes into a plant to achieve certain characteristics like disease resistance or drought tolerance.
Some benefits from GMO crops are easy to spot, such as healthier soybean oils for cooking, apples that don’t turn brown and potatoes that resist bruising. Others are less apparent, but help farmers grow food more sustainably. Since the introduction of GMO soybeans more than 20 years ago, farmers have reduced pesticide use by 37 percent.
The number of GMO crops is relatively small because they require a significant investment in research to ensure their safety. Each GM seed variety takes an average of $136 million and 13 years to bring to market. Learn more about the approval process here.
So which foods made the list? You may be surprised to learn that wheat, rice, milk and most fresh fruits and vegetables are not GMOs. Here’s what’s approved:
GMO corn was first planted in the mid-1990s as a way to use less pesticides. Today, about 89 percent of field corn in the U.S. is a GMO variety. While most of the corn is processed into feed for animals, it can become corn syrup and cornstarch, which are found in many foods you find at the grocery store.
GMO soybeans have been around just as long as corn and for many of the same reasons. Pest-resistant soybean seeds allow farmers to grow more and improve their productivity. In 2016, approximately 94 percent of the U.S. soybean crop was genetically modified. However, most soybeans are processed into animal feed.In the grocery store, soy can be found as vegetable oil used in mayonnaise, dressings, margarine, cookies, cakes and snack foods. High-oleic soybean oil used in some foods is high in unsaturated fat, low in saturated fat and contains no trans fats. Tofu and edamame are produced from food-grade soybeans and are mostly non-GMO.
GMO cotton accounts for about 89 percent of the total U.S. cotton crop. Its main benefit is the ability to protect itself from a pest called the cotton bollworm. Most cotton is used for textiles and clothing, but a small portion is processed into cottonseed oil for food use.
About 90 percent of the U.S. canola crop is genetically modified. Canola oil is used in cooking.
Alfalfa is the fourth largest crop grown in the U.S. Farmers feed it to beef cattle and dairy cows. Milk, butter, cheese, beef and many more foods come from these animals, but like other types of animal feed, alfalfa doesn’t affect the foods that end up on grocery store shelves. Alfalfa’s genetic modification protects it from the herbicides sprayed during the growing season.
About 55 percent of the U.S. sugar supply comes from sugar beets and approximately 95 percent are grown from GMO seeds that help protect them from diseases. A high percentage of this crop is grown near South Dakota in the Red River Valley region of North Dakota and Minnesota.
The GMO papaya was originally designed to protect the crop from ringspot virus, which nearly wiped out the entire crop until the creation of a GMO variety. Today, 75 percent of Hawaii’s crop is genetically protected from the disease.
Squash and Zucchini
GMO varieties of these delicious garden vegetables were developed in the mid-1990s to defend against the cucumber mosaic virus, zucchini yellow mosaic virus and watermelon mosaic virus. Though the actual acres grown in the U.S. are small, the yellow straightneck, yellow crookneck and green zucchini squash are genetically modified.
The Arctic apple by Okanagan Specialty Fruits™ is the newest GM food set to arrive at select stores in 2017. It took 20 years to bring the flavor and freshness of these non-browning, golden apples to produce aisles. Learn more about their journey to harvest by watching this video.
Innate potatoes were developed with consumers in mind. These GM varieties resist bruising and black spots, reducing the potential for post-harvest potato waste by up to 400 million pounds per year. Innate potatoes are also healthier than regular potatoes. They are also better for the environment because they’re grown using 20 percent less water, fertilizer and pesticides.
Continue learning about GMOs and their safety by checking out these resources:
How much do you know about GMOs? Take the quiz.
Are GM foods safe to eat?
Read this study “Will GMOs Hurt My Body?” from Harvard University, which features research from South Dakota State University: http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/will-gmos-hurt-my-body/
Have questions about GMO labeling?
SPOILER ALERT: Cuteness overload!
It’s time for our latest episode of Across the Table. Host Melissa Johnson from Oh My Cupcakes! shares some of her favorite kid-friendly cupcake toppings with local farmer John Horter and his son Dane for a fun, springtime activity. Plus, Melissa talks with John about why sustainability matters so much in farming.
As a fifth-generation farmer who wants to pass on the farming tradition to his kids, John knows how important it is to take care of his land so he can leave it for future generations. From using new technologies to implementing advanced farming practices, farmers like John continually find new and more effective ways to ensure their farm is in better shape than they found it.
Watch the full episode to find out about how John uses some of those technologies and practices, like GMOs, responsible pesticides use and conservation practices, on his farm.
If you can’t get enough of Dane’s cuteness, you can watch his adorable harvest crop report from last fall.
Don’t forget to check out our other Across the Table episodes here.
Even if you’ve heard a lot of talk about GMOs, you might still wonder why farmers choose to grow them and how they actually help crops. We have three examples showing how GMO technology helps farmers and all of us have a safe and healthy food supply.
Want to know more about the process of creating a GMO? Read all about it here. If you have any questions about why farmers use GMOs, be sure to leave them for us in the comments.
Product dates such as “use by,” “best by” or “sell by” listed on food packages can be confusing. When the date on the package comes and goes, does that mean the food is no longer safe to eat and needs to be thrown out? Find out what you should do.
According to the USDA, the date listed on food packages is only meant to be an indicator of quality, not safety. Whether you use a product before or after the date listed, be sure to always check for signs of spoilage before assuming it’s safe to eat. The USDA and other federal regulators do not require food dating labels. It is up to the manufacturer or retailer to include them.
While there aren’t federal regulations directing this, excluding infant formula*, manufacturers and retailers often choose to provide a date on packaged and fresh foods. If they choose to include a date, then the Food Safety and Inspection Service requires that those labels are not misleading and include the day, month and year for shelf-stable and frozen products. They also must include a “best by” or other phrase along with the date.
Some states have their own requirements. For example, some states do not allow for the use of a sell-by date on egg cartons.
Here are a few common phrases and what they mean:
While these dates can be helpful for knowing when your food is at its best quality, they don’t mean you necessarily have to throw out food once it passes that date or that you should still eat foods that show signs of spoilage before the date listed. Want to know how long you can trust different foods in the fridge? Check out: Food Safety 101: How Long Can You Store Foods and Leftovers?
Recently, two large grocery trade groups, the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, announced they’ve adopted standardized, voluntary regulations for product date labels. While these labels are voluntary and won’t show up on your grocery store shelves until 2018, be on the lookout for these new changes.
Want to know about food safety and expiration dates? Check these out:
*The “use by” date on infant formula is required by the FDA. Formula past the use-by date should not be consumed.
It’s the moment of truth in the grocery store. You’re trying to decide between organic or non-organic. The organic strawberries and chicken cost a couple dollars more, but you’ve heard that organic foods are better for you. Is it worth the extra money?
It’s important to understand what the term organic really means. Organic refers to how a product is grown, not its nutritional value. While farming techniques might vary, there’s no nutritional difference between organic and non-organic foods.
Another thing to keep in mind is that organic doesn’t necessarily equal local. If you want to buy local products, it’s important to know that “local” is not a regulated term and has no clear definition or guidelines. Organic foods don’t always come from places closer to home. You might be surprised at how little many foods in the grocery store travel to get to you, organic or not. Milk is a great example of that. You can see its farm-to-shelf journey here.
The USDA regulates the use of the organic label and outlines specific requirements farmers must meet in order to be certified as organic. Many conventional farmers also use these practices, but the big difference with organic comes from what you can’t do. Here’s the rundown on the main points of certified organic farming:
1. Preserving natural resources and biodiversity
Organic farmers add compost, animal manure and green manure to give the soil nutrients from natural sources in place of synthetic fertilizers. Soil conservation is also part of organic farming standards.
2. Supporting animal health and welfare
Organic farmers try to prevent disease with a healthy diet, a low-stress environment and plenty of exercise to build up strong immune systems in their animals. They may also use certain approved vaccinations and other preventative measures to try to prevent illness.
3. Providing animals access to the outdoors
Livestock on organic farms must have access to the outdoors, including shade shelter, clean drinking water and direct sunlight. Grazing animals, like cattle, sheep and goats, need to have access to pasture during the grazing season.
4. Using only approved materials
To be certified organic, farmers may not use most synthetic fertilizers for soil nutrition, or pesticides for controlling insects, weeds or diseases. Some approved products may be used, but many rely on the PAMS method: prevention, avoidance, monitoring and suppression.
5. No genetically modified ingredients
Organic farms may not plant GMO crops, and livestock may not have any feed that includes GM ingredients. Not sure if GMOs are something you should be worried about? You can get all the facts here.
6. Receiving annual on-site inspections
The application process for becoming certified organic is extensive. In fact, land must be in organic production for three years before it can be certified. USDA inspectors visit the farm each year for recertification.
7. Separating organic food from non-organic food
Organic crops can’t come in contact with unapproved substances, and the seeds and foods of organic and non-organic must not mix. All equipment used for non-organic products must be thoroughly washed each time before it’s used for organic products.
If organic farming practices are something you feel strongly about, then you’re probably comfortable paying more for organic foods. But if your decision is based on nutritional value and safety, there’s no need to pay extra.
According to dietitian and local farmer Charlotte Rommereim, RDN LN LD, “Both organic and conventionally raised foods adhere to standards from the USDA to ensure their safety. Studies show little to no difference in the nutritional content between organic and conventionally raised foods.”
When it comes to making healthier choices, “The goal for a healthy diet pattern is to increase the fruits and vegetables you consume,” said Charlotte. “The health benefits from adding fruits and vegetables to your diet outweigh any difference in the methods by which they were raised, and studies show it is negligible at best. So, increase fruit and vegetable consumption with what you can afford and know that the foods are safe and nutritious whether you buy organic or non-organic.”
Hungry for Truth supports choice. No matter what you pick up at the grocery stores here in South Dakota, you can feel confident it’s safe for you and your family. What questions do you have about how you can make healthy decisions for your family? Leave us a comment here or send us an email to get your answers.
Get more information about organic farming practices and sustainable farming:
Soybeans are a resilient plant. They’re able to thrive in South Dakota’s demanding climate to produce a crop used to feed people and livestock the world over.
But, like the rest of us, sometimes they can use a little help.
Soybeans are tasty, nutritious seeds that are key feed ingredients for poultry, hogs, cattle and fish. The plant is also pretty tasty, at least if you’re a soybean aphid, spider mite or other critter that likes to feed on soybean plants. Millions of insects and even fungi attack soybeans each year to steal their nutrients, causing plants to get sick or even die.
Soybeans also have some pretty rude neighbors at times. Weeds like pigweed, waterhemp and kochia try to crowd out soybeans to steal their sunshine, nutrients and water. If that happens, soybean yields can be dramatically impacted.
Like people, soybean plants face diseases that threaten to make them sick, or worse.
Farmers know this so they take steps to protect plants by fighting off soybean snackers and pushy neighbors. One of the ways they do this is by using products that kill weeds, pathogens and insects.
Crop input products, like pesticides and fertilizers, have come a long way in our lifetimes. Today, we can be confident they are safe for people and do not affect the food we eat. Pesticides, which include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, are specifically designed to target bugs, weeds and diseases that are invasive to our crops.
You’ve probably seen farm equipment like sprayers traveling across many of the state’s soybean fields, and maybe you’ve had questions about what is in those tanks. You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of what’s inside is water. In fact, to protect one acre of cropland, which is about the size of a football or soccer field, the amount of pesticides farmers use would fit in a cup of coffee. That’s not very much.
Farmers also have technology on their side. They can control the amount and size of the droplets being sprayed on the plants to make sure it’s effective while using as little as possible. Farmers also have technology that prevents them from spraying an area that’s already been sprayed, or from applying products over water or a waterway. That precision helps to ensure pesticides are only put where they are needed and not overused.
Farmers do all of this because soybean crops can’t fight for themselves. They are careful with the products they use and how they are applied because farmers live and raise their families on the land. They also want to pass their land on to the next generation in better shape than they found it.
Want to learn more about how farmers use pesticides? Check out these resources:
Just how long is too long to store leftovers, raw meat or eggs in the fridge? Is it safe to eat that leftover dinner from a few days ago or should you throw it out? What about making a sandwich with week-old lunchmeat? It’s time to take the guesswork out of those decisions. Read on to find a helpful chart that can serve as a guide for safe food storage.
Before you check the chart, don’t forget these basic fridge safety tips:
• Always keep the temperature at or below 40° F
• Don’t pack too much in the fridge. Make sure there’s room for air to circulate.
• Refrigerate perishable foods within two hours.
• Don’t thaw frozen foods at room temperature. Put frozen food in the fridge to let it thaw out.
Never leave your food safety questions unanswered again. Bookmark this page and print out this helpful chart so you always know how to answer “Is this OK to eat?”
Looking for a food item that’s not on the list? The USDA has a handy FoodKeeper app that lists out even more storage times for different food categories. Check it out here.