Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Iowa Corn. My travel expenses were paid by Iowa Corn, but all opinions are my own.
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Iowa for the Iowa CornQuest. I haven’t been to Iowa since my college days, when I was running cross country for the University of Colorado. I always remembered it as a beautiful state and friendly people.
Things haven’t changed.
I flew in very early in the morning from a short vacation trip to Florida to celebrate my mom in law’s 75th birthday. I think I was the first one to arrive and had the entire day to enjoy the historic Blackhawk Hotel in Davenport Iowa.
That evening we met in the hotel lobby for a trip to the Mississippi Distillery for cocktails and a dinner. We had a chance to mingle with local farmers, as well as members of Iowa corn organizations. Several people spoke. There was a lot of information to take in, but one thing that really resonated with me was the talk from Angela Tin, the Vice President of Environmental Health for the American Lung Association in the Midwest on corn ethanol production and the benefits of using it versus other fuels.
Our dinner was held in the distillery room.
Our meal was absolutely amazing…every item on the menu was made with corn, including sweet corn ice cream which was out of this world! If I had to pick a favorite though, it would probably have been the Chilled Corn and Coconut Soup. My picture does not do it justice.
The next morning, we attended a presentation by Dr. Ruth McDonald, who is an RD and PhD, as well as Professor and Chair at Iowa State University. We then had a “corny” meal at the Hy-Vee (so delicious!) and then toured some local farms.
The topic of discussion? GMOs. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism.
I live in the Northeast, where GMOs are often a hot topic. People tend to have pretty strong opinions.
I didn’t grow up around farms. My experience with farming is limited to picking vegetables at my local CSA farm share and supplementing with purchases from the farmer’s market.
What I learned was that many farmers use GMOs because it makes plants less susceptible to pests and drought; allows for less tilling which helps retain more of the soil, and helps with water quality; and reduces the use of chemicals. In fact at our breakfast during the presentation, one farmer told us he now only sprays once a season. Another thing that was discussed was that GMOs allow farmers to increase their yields, which in turn helps keep prices down and allows them to feed more people.
I was amazed at the size of the machinery. I’ve never seen anything like this at farms around here.
Clearly the friendly little farm kitty that followed us around the tour does not find the machinery daunting at all!
I was surprised to learn that sweet corn only accounts for 1% of the corn grown in Iowa. 99% of the corn grown is used for ethanol / fuel, animal feed, or products.
I was even more surprised to learn that very few crops are actually GMO. As of right now, only soybeans, corn, canola, sugar beets, papaya and squash are GMO. Soy and corn crops are mainly used for animal feed; canola is used for oil, and it is absent of the DNA that was modified. Papaya became GMO when it was necessary to save the crop from the Papaya Ringspot virus.
I came home from Iowa with a greater understanding of GMOs. Certainly I still have questions, but I think we owe it to ourselves to be educated and get the facts when we are talking about GMOs. The farmers we spoke to mostly raised GMO crops, but some also had organic crops. There are members of the Iowa corn organizations that farm both ways, and we listened to farmers talk about the pros and cons of both sides. Everyone we spoke to was very open, genuine, and willing to answer any questions we had.
My favorite part of the trip was actually meeting the farmers, and seeing where our food comes from. I have always had a lot of respect for farmers, but seeing their farms gave me a new perspective as well.
On the way to dinner, we stopped off to check out this gorgeous mural on one of the farms!
My fellow bloggers, from left to right: Connie from Urban Bakes, Kristen from Make the Best of Everything, Jenny from In the Kitchen with Jenny, Isabel from Family Foodie, Anetta from The Wanderlust Kitchen, Mandy from Mandy’s Recipe Box, Katerina from Diethood, Becky from The Cookie Rookie, Justine from Cooking and Beer, and me.
The last night in Iowa we were invited to a tailgate dinner. We were treated to one of the best tasting meals I have ever had. Check out that smoker! The ham and chicken wings were AMAZING!
Thank you to Iowa Corn for inviting me to join them for the 2015 Iowa CornQuest! It was a great learning experience, and I enjoyed meeting some new blog friends as well!
To learn more, here are some sites you may find helpful: