Grit

Where Does Your Food Come From?

Do
you know where your food comes from? Have you considered the care that goes
into your Thanksgiving plate? Not by the hands that cooked it, but by the
farmers growing your food.

One
of the nation’s leading food and farm advocates, Michele Payn-Knoper, says that
farmers in America today are
actually a minority group that represents about 1.5 percent of the U.S.
population. The majority of Americans haven’t been on a farm in more than five
years, and most people are living and eating each and every day without knowing
where their food really comes from.

“Get
to know a farmer,” she says. “You’ll be amazed and gratified to know the real
people who are at the very source of the food we all eat.”

Michele
offers a look at where some of the favorite items on the menus for the upcoming
holiday meals actually come from:

Turkeys – Grand
Rapids, Michigan

A
plump, juicy turkey is the traditional centerpiece of most tables. Harley
Sietsema is a family farmer in Michigan
who wants to be sure that turkey is safe, delicious and affordable. In the
course of farming for more than five decades, he has seen practices evolve to
keep turkeys more comfortable and healthier.

Sietsema
built a business that is self-sustaining and local. Sietsema Farms grow the
majority of grains his turkeys need to be healthy, added an elevator to process
the grain into feed, helped start a co-op with other farmers to process the
meat humanely and, most recently, built a biomass system that converts turkey
litter into energy that powers the grain elevator.

Harley’s
two sons, daughter and grandchildren all farm with him in the family business.

Dairy – Fresno, California

Love
the richness that milk adds to your mashed potatoes, real butter on your dinner
roll or whipped cream on your pie? These tasty dairy products come from milk,
produced on dairy farms across the United States under tight
regulations. For example, all Grade A milk is tested to be antibiotic-free
multiple times before it ever hits the dairy case. Californian Barbara Martin
is one of the dairy farmers caring for cows 365 days per year.

Martin
farms with her husband of 26 years in the San Joaquin Valley.
She is a mom who cares deeply about her family, their farm, their dairy cattle
and helping feed people. Due to historically low milk prices of the last two
years and a desire to connect with customers, Martin recently began making
cheese under the “Dairy Goddess Cheese” label.

One
of the most common questions is about how the cows are treated. Consider this;
dairy farmers work with their animals every day – you can’t do that unless you
have deep appreciation for cows. And, as far as mistreatment, it’s logical that
cows have to be content or they don’t give milk. Any mother who has breast fed
can attest to that – milk doesn’t come out if stress is involved. The same is
true with cows.

Potatoes – Fargo, North
Dakota

Mashed
potatoes are a favorite of young and old.

Black
Gold farms is a family-owned and operated business that was started on a 10-acre
plot of land by the Halverson family in the Red River Valley
more than 80 years ago.

Eric
Halverson says that technology has had a major influence on the farm potato
operations and is now utilized in everything from optical sorting machines, to
tractors that steer by GPS, to the facilities in which the potatoes are stored.

Potatoes
have the best nutritional value for the dollar compared to any other food.
Black Gold today is a global food production company that farms in 11 states
and is the largest supplier of potatoes to the largest potato chip company in
the United States.
If you love Frito’s then you love Black Gold potatoes.

Black
Gold ships more than 500 billion pounds of potatoes each year.

Wheat Bread – Kansas City, Kansas

Homemade
dinner rolls or a fresh loaf of bread are popular items on our table. Flour
made from wheat is the staple ingredient in breads and is mostly raised in the
plains states.

Darin
Grimm is one of the modern day family farmers who grow wheat in Kansas, along with
sunflowers, corn, soybeans and beef cattle.

Grimm
farms with his father, serves on his children’s school board and is active in a
variety of national organizations that help farmers, such as the AgChat
Foundation.

Pumpkin – Chicago, Illinois

Pumpkin
pie is the crowning glory or most Thanksgiving meals.

Those
pumpkins don’t just appear magically in a can; they are grown by farmers like
Rick Vance in Illinois, which, as the top
pumpkin producing state in the United
States, provides 90 to 95 percent of the
nation’s processed pumpkins.

Vance’s
3,500-acre family farm also grows green beans, sweet corn, soybeans, popcorn,
peas, field corn and seed corn.

Cranberries –
Freehold, Massachusetts (south of Boston)

Cranberries
offer a tangy burst of color on your Thanksgiving plate, not to mention the
health benefits. This fruit dates back to use by Native Americans, who used
cranberries for medicine and preserving meats.

The
Freetown Farm LLC Cranberry Farm, in southeastern Massachusetts, is a multi-generational,
90-acre farm with 27 acres of cranberry bogs.

Dawn
Gates-Allen is the mother in charge, and her twin teenage daughters, shown here
with two friends in one of the cranberry bogs, are the fifth generation to be
involved in the family farm.

Their
farm now makes significant utilization of technology. The cranberry bogs are so
isolated that there isn’t electricity available. So the family now uses solar
power to keep batteries charged so they can monitor the bogs, soil moisture and
temperature remotely and irrigate automatically to correctly supplement what
nature brings in just the correct manner.

Learn
where your food comes from!

One
of the best ways to understand food production – and the challenges – is to
know the people behind your food plate. Talk to the people working the land and
taking care of animals. Farmers care deeply – and they feed their families the
same food you eat.

Get
to know a farmer. Learn more at Payn-Knoper’s website, Cause Matters.

Michele
Payn-Knoper grew up on a farm in Michigan
and has become one of the nation’s leading farm and food advocates. She is on a
personal mission to help people understand the connection between the farmers
who grow food and the people who enjoy it.

She
created the Gate to Plate program to help connect those two groups and teach
them more about how food is created and delivered to Americans.

Try
one of these holiday dinner recipes from ‘Straight from the Farm’ (recipes from
Michele Payn-Knoper’s kitchen).

French Bread

2 ccups water

1 package yeast

1 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoon salt

5 1/2 cups flour

Dissolve
yeast in warm water. Add salt, sugar, flour. Let rise until doubled. Shape.
Rise 1 hour. Bake at 425°F for 25 to 35 minutes until loaves are golden. Yields
2 loaves.

Pumpkin Custard

3/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon
pumpkin spice

1/2 teaspoon
cinnamon

2 eggs

2 teaspoon
vanilla

1 tablespoon
cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon
salt

2 cups milk

1 can (15 ounces)
canned pumpkin

Mix
together in blender, pour into individual cups or bowl. Put cups/bowl in pan
with 1 to 2 inches boiling water in bottom. Bake at 400°F until set (approx 45
minutes for large bowl). You can also use this to make a pumpkin pie – just add
custard to a pie crust.

Cranberry-Waldorf
Molded Salad

1 small package
(3 ounces) lemon-flavor gelatin

2 cups boiling
water

2 cups fresh
cranberries

1 large (about
3/4 pound) orange, peeled and seeded

1 large (about
1/2 pound) red apple, cored

3/4 cup chopped
celery

1/2 cup chopped
almonds

Creamy yogurt
dressing (recipe follows)

Mix
gelatin with boiling water, stirring until dissolved; chill until thick, about
20 minutes. Meanwhile, coarsely chop cranberries; chop orange and apple into
about 1/4-inch cubes. Mix fruit with thickened gelatin; add celery and nuts.
Spoon into a 5- to 6-cup mold or fancy glass bowl. Chill for at least 4 hours
or until the next day.

Remove
salad from mold, dip mold in warm water and wait until salad breaks away from
side of mold when gently shaken, about 2 minutes. Invert serving platter on top
of mold. Holding tightly together, flip mold over onto platter; remove mold. Or
serve salad directly from fancy bowl. Offer yogurt dressing to add as desired.

Creamy Yogurt
Dressing

Combing
1 cup nonfat unflavored yogurt, 2 tablespoons honey and 1 tablespoon grated
orange peel. Chill until ready to use, up to 2 days.

(from Sunset
Magazine 1994)

Mashed Potatoes

Peeled potatoes,
boiled until tender

Warmed milk

Chicken broth

Sour cream

Mozzarella cheese

Salt

Butter

For
a 2-quart saucepan of boiled potatoes, add approximately 1 cup warmed milk, 1
can chicken broth, 1/2 cup sour cream and 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Add salt and
butter to taste. This recipe can be altered to taste, just adjust ingredients.
You can also add a package of ranch dip mix for additional zest.

Grilled Turkey

1 turkey (about
1 pound per person)

Fresh herbs
(rosemary, basil, thyme and oregano recommended)

Garlic cloves,
peeled (to taste)

1 onion, peeled

Large sheet of
foil

Place
washed, thawed turkey on foil large enough to fully wrap bird (this sometimes
requires seaming two pieces of foil together). Wash herbs and place in cavities
(stems on are O.K.), reserving 2 stems of rosemary. Cube onion and add to both
cavities.

Score
bird with small paring knife and insert garlic cloves. Add remaining one
rosemary stem on each side of the bird. Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper to
taste. Wrap foil around bird completely, sealing edges.

Place
on 350°F grill for 3 to 4 hours for 12 pound-plus bird, 2 1/2 to 3 hours for
less than that (typically about 3/4 of oven time). Open foil towards end of
baking time for a more golden bird. Allow to sit for 15 minutes when removed
from grill. Remove foil and herbs. Carve and enjoy!

  • Published on Oct 26, 2010
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