In October, I met up with 9 other bloggers in Davenport, Iowa to get a little “corny.” We attended Iowa Corn Quest 2015, a blogger tour put on by Iowa Corn. We learned about corn, its development, its uses and talked with farmers who grow it.
First, a little bit about me and my connection to the farm. My family lives on a farm but my husband and I do not do the day to day farming of the land, tend to the pigs or cows. My father in law and nephew do that. I do, however, tend to our goats and ”farm” our garden and preserve our harvest. My husband helps out as needed during hay baling time.
On to the corn quest!
It was a brisk few days here in Iowa. October can be hot, cold, wet and as a senior in high school we had snow. It was enough snow my friend and I had to cancel the Halloween party we had planned. Yep, Iowa weather is fickle and can change so much in one day. It was definitely glove weather this time!
Our first evening we attended an opening dinner at The Mississippi Distillery in Le Claire, Iowa. We started off with appetizers and drinks. I could have scraped up all the creamy corn béchamel served with the stuffed mushrooms. The caramelized onions on the pizza were divine. I love caramelized onions!
The bartender offered us drinks made with gin or vodka made from, you guessed it, corn! I had a drink made with gin, pineapple juice and lemonade. I either don’t care for the taste of gin or it was too much for me in the drink. There were other bloggers who did like it. Maybe I’ll try it again some day.
We mingled with each other as well as the farmers who were also attending the dinner. It was great to talk to them and learn a little bit more about what they do as farmers and/or members of some Iowa Corn organizations. I must say that although we were there to hear about their associations with corn I found in our conversations that they had taken the time to visit our blogs and learn more about us and what we like to blog about. I liked that personal aspect.
In one of the conversations, I learned that my husband works at the same company that Mark, who is a farmer as well and part of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, does. Their employer, Kent Corporation, is a parent company for Grain Processing Corporation (GPC); Kent Nutrition Group, Inc. (KNG); Kent Precision Foods Group, Inc. (KPFG); and Kent Pet Group (KPG). They just happen to make many products with corn for animal, people and vehicle consumption and use. The most unique (I think) product they make is their World’s Best Cat Litter™. It’s an all-natural cat litter made from whole kernel corn. My husband tells me I could eat it. #imacrazycatlady but I’m not that crazy!
As we sat down to our corn themed supper we saw that on our tables they had some fun prohibition era jewels, headbands and hats for us to wear. We dined on chilled corn soup, London broil, grilled corn risotto and corn succotash. Our dessert was sweet corn ice cream with sea salt caramel and caramel corn. Sounds odd but the crunchy really worked with the smooth ice cream (which didn’t taste corny at all.)
We had a couple presenters to listen to. Angela, VP of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association. She gave an in depth talk about how corn ethanol is made and the benefits it has for our environment versus other fuels. Annette, a farming gal who raises crops as well as cattle.
They had a tour guide give us the low down on the corn based alcohol they make at the distillery. They make an “Iowish” Cream Liquer so I had to purchase a bottle. To my surprise in our gift bags I found a bottle Cody Road Barrel Aged Boetje's. Boetje’s is my favorite stone ground mustard to use, it’s from Rock Island, Illinois just across the river. I can’t wait to see that this barrel aged mustard has for flavor!
The next morning, we woke up to a breakfast and Q&A session with Dr. Ruth MacDonald, chair of the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition at Iowa State University. We were joined again by Annette, the farming gal and two other farmers, Bob and Craig, whom are also in Iowa corn organizations. This was our chance to ask them our questions about the corn industry -- which were mostly about GMOs. But also raised some questions about organic, sustainability, no till farming and sprays. I went in with an idea about it all and came out with much more information. As always there are two sides to the coin. I definitely need to do some more research
Off to Hy-Vee (our local grocery store chain) to have lunch and talk food. Chef Ashley served up a corny appetizer, one of the most tender and juicy pork loins I have ever eaten with a side of veggies and fluffy mashed red potatoes. She told us how she made them all and tips for each dish. Our dessert was creme brulee and we got to sprinkle on our own sugar and use a torch to melt and brown our sugar. Fun!
To top off the meal the Iowa Corn gals presented the bloggers with their very own cookbook comprised of OUR recipes! They each contained an element of corn whether is was whole, creamed, cornstarch or cornmeal. I made sure to get all the girls’ autographs on their respective pages.
Since we are on the topic of food…Did you know that very little of the corn grown in Iowa is actually the sweet corn we eat? Only 1%!! Our sweet corn here in Iowa is only available during a short time in the summer. There are ways to preserve sweet corn for other times of the year. The other 99% of the corn is what I would call “field corn.” If you catch at just the right time you could eat it but it’s a short window and will never be as good as sweet corn. It’s allowed to dry as much as it can on the stalk and then used for livestock feed, some human foods (like cornmeal, corn syrup, grits, alcohols), ethanol production, plastics. You can learn more about the uses of Iowa Corn at Iowacorn.org
We hopped on our fancy bus and headed to Washington, Iowa. That’s actually my neck of the woods.
We stopped first at a farm just north of town. We talked corn, soybeans and hogs. Kurt has grown up on the farm and continues the day to day farm chores as an adult. We also met his dad. He answered questions about everything from equipment to pigs’ diets. Some of the ladies were able to see a combine and wagon up front. I’ve seem them before since I live on a farm but never ones as large as these! When you farm thousands of acres you need it to get the harvesting done. Speaking of harvesting, we had a very dry harvest season and most of the farmers were done already. That isn’t common for Iowa. We tend to get rain off and on and it hinders the harvest period. Their fields were picked clean so there weren’t any fun combine rides to go on.
On the way to supper we stopped at Bob’s barn mural. It is a tribute to a family member and to farming. It was so beautiful. He had quite the story about how it came to be.
A brisk, windy evening didn’t stop the tailgating supper. Dick brought his “Louisiana Cooker” indoors. It was great for a little heat production too. I did a little research and the actual name is “Cajun Microwave” The coals are put on top and radiate the heat down into the box. How it doesn’t catch on fire, I’ll never know!
Would you like fries with that? Yes I would. Everyone has one of these fry makers attached to their truck hitch, right? Dick tells us he fries them up and then sprinkles a seasoning mixture of 45% garlic salt, 45% salt, and 5% pepper on his fries when they come out of the fryer. Either his math is bad or he’s keeping that other 5% seasoning part a secret!
We talked farming (and blogging) while we waited for the ham . No matter which side of the corn fence you sit you can’t argue that these families aren’t passionate or hard working. They are real, they are genuine, they are hard working and they are passionate about the work they are doing to feed the world while raising families of their own.
I didn’t personally know the farmers we were about to meet but after talking with the wives I found out they know part of my husband’s family. Dick’s wife made 7 layer salad with a twist. She lightens up the mayonnaise topping and I am going to try it the next time I make it.
Guess who popped in for supper? Erin from Brenneman Pork. I met her on an Iowa Pork blog tour in July.
Being only 10 minutes from home I thought about having the bus swing past my house since I forgot my personal pillow. I take it everywhere and I forgot it. I had a casual conversation with the house staff at the BlackHawk about the pillows. She told me they had feather pillows and would tell the housekeeping to bring one. Not only did they bring one but I had SIX to chose from! Feeling like the princess and the pea or maybe Goldilocks, I found one I liked and oh yes, it did the trick! I had a much better night’s rest
Up a the crack of dawn for some eggs Benedict and hash browns via room service. I am not sure I’ve ever had room service. It was quite relaxing. Then off to El Rio Spa in Le Claire, Iowa for even more relaxations. Thanks Iowa Corn for this treat. We had many treatments to chose from and my name was down for a facial. Teresa knew how to set the relaxation mood and I would highly recommend her if you are ever in the area.
We made some corn scrubs for home treatments. I had a facial already so I haven’t tried them yet but I will!
El Rio Spa had a box lunch for us, turkey with bacon and cheese paninis, corn chips and corn salsa, a tasty pasta salad and pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
Say hello to the bloggers who joined me on this tour!
From Left to Right: Connie: Urban Bakes, Kristen: Make the best of everything, myself, Isabel: Family Foodie, Anetta: The Wanderlust Kitchen, Mandy: Mandy’s recipe box, Katerina: Diethood, Becky: The Cookie Rookie, Justine: Cooking and Beer and Michelle: Dish of Daily Life.
We said our good-byes to those taking flights home and then back to the hotel for those close enough they drove. We learned a lot about corn and about blogging. I look forward to keeping in touch with these new blogging friends I made!
Want to learn more? Check out the Iowa Corn Website to learn about: Ethanol Production, Iowa corn products and their latest research.
This post has been sponsored by Iowa Corn. My travel expenses for this trip were also compensated by Iowa Corn, but all opinions are my own.