2014 Iowa CornQuest Recap!

So you may have read in my posts last week that I got to travel to Des Moines, Iowa. I was one of 10 bloggers who got the chance to travel for the Iowa CornQuest this year, hosted by the Iowa Corn Growers Association. It was a wonderful trip!

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Over a couple of days, we talked to farmers who grow corn, people from Iowa Pork and Iowa Beef, as well as some from Common Ground. It was probably the most educational trip I’ve ever been on. Did you know that 90-95% of farms are family owned and run? That’s a big number!

The farmers we met are some seriously passionate people who love what they do and are tasked with helping to feed the world. They believe in what they do and work hard to provide the best crops they can for their families and people around the world. One of the farms we visited has been in the Kenney family for more than 100 years and was 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans! I can’t even picture how big that actually is!

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One thing I didn’t know: sweet corn, the kind we buy and eat from the grocery store, accounts for only about 1% of the corn grown in the U.S. The rest is called field corn and is used for animal feed, ethanol fuel, other corn-based food, and more. It’s a very versatile crop that makes its way into many things.

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We had a chance to talk over lunch with Ruth McDonald, PhD, RD and a Professor and Chair of Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at Iowa State one of the days we were there and I left that conversation completely mind blown. I have heard conversation swirl about GMOs, but have honestly not paid that much attention until this trip. The questions some of the other bloggers asked were very insightful and Ruth took the time to answer all of the questions – questions I didn’t even know I had!

Some takeaways from that conversation:

1. GMOs have only been around for about 20 years, which isn’t really long enough to know if they are harmful or not and will have a long term effect.

2. GMO corn allows the corn growers to meet some of their primary objectives – to be sustainable, renewable and environmentally friendly.

No matter where you fall in the GMO conversation, it was great to be able to hear from people who really are knowledgable and at the end of the day, we all have to make our own decisions and decide what’s right for our families.

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After visiting the farms, we were off to the Iowa Speedway where we got to learn a little more about ethanol fuel and take a few laps around the speedway in a pace car. The Indy cars that race at Iowa Speedway use E85 – a fuel blend that is 85% ethanol and 15% gas. Did you know that the gas we use in our cars usually has a little less than 10% ethanol in it? Flex fuel cars can use fuel that has a higher ethanol content. I think it’s pretty sweet that corn can turn into fuel.

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From left to right: Erin, Becky, Liz, Stephanie, Me, Angie, Anna, Julianne, Tanya, Lisa

We also got the chance to visit and tour the test kitchens at Meredith Corporation, home to many great magazines including Better Homes & Gardens, Every Day with Rachel Ray, Fitness, Baby, Family Circle and more. The history of the company and magazines is awesome. The company began back in 1902, can you believe it?

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test-kitchen

It was really fun to learn and ask questions about Better Homes & Gardens test kitchen and tour their space. Would you look at this prop closet??? I could live in it! I want it! Sorted by type of dish and color? Amazing!

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We had the pleasure of some great meals provided by Iowa Pork and Iowa Beef. All the food was great – we are definitely pork and beef eaters in our house!

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The last thing we did before heading to the airport was lunch – made by us! The lovely ladies from Iowa Corn Association put together the cutest cookbook of one of each of our recipes that included corn, or an ingredient made with corn products, and we got to all cook/bake together! It was so much fun and all the food was awesome! It’s not every day that I get to spend time in a kitchen with fellow food bloggers. 🙂

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I shared my Cinnamon Sugar Swirl Cupcakes.

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I also loved getting to spend time with the other bloggers on the trip. Some I’d met before and others I met for the first time. It was an awesome bunch of ladies!

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This trip totally opened my eyes to the hard work that goes into farming. It’s amazing to think of the scale of it and the impact that what they do has on the world. I’m so appreciative that I was given the opportunity to attend. I had a ton of fun and learned so much!

Here are some additional resources if you’re interested in learning more:

BestFoodFacts.org – GMOs

Iowa Corn Growers Association

A Hard Look at Corn Economics and World Hunger

Disclosure: Iowa Corn hosted me on my recent visit to Iowa. I was not compensated for this blog post. All thoughts are 100% my own.