I have an unreasonable number of exotic and far-off destinations on my travel bucket list. Iowa isn’t one of them.
Yet, when I was invited by Iowa Corn to visit the Quad Cities, I decided it was about time I made my first trip to the mid-west. I flew into a little airport in Moline, Illinois and crossed the Mississippi into Davenport, Iowa.
I had just enough time before dinner to swap out my standard traveling clothes for an outfit I deemed “business casual” and head down to the hotel lobby. I ran into Connie of Urban Bakes in the elevator, reunited with Becky (The Cookie Rookie) and Katerina (Diethood) in the lobby, then had a chance to meet everyone else on the ride to the Mississippi Distillery. It was such a pleasure to get to know Isabel from Family Foodie, Michelle from A Dish of Daily Life, Kristen from Make the Best of Everything, Justine from Cooking and Beer, Jenny from In The Kitchen with Jenny, and Mandy from Mandy’s Recipe Box!
The Mississippi Distillery smelled like heaven.
We all had a few cocktails, snacked on some appetizers, and then sat down to dinner in the… room where they do the distilling. Fermentation room? Someone please tell me what that room would be called.
Anyway, our meal was corn, corn, and more corn. I loved seeing corn prepared and served so many different ways! My favorite was the sweet corn ice cream with salted caramel sauce and crunchy kettle corn topping.
Heck to the yes.
The next day we got up early and had breakfast together at the hotel. The night before we met some members of the Iowa Corn Board as well as some local farmers, so they joined us the next morning to talk about farming practices.
Being from Portland, Oregon, I’m used to people around me having very strong opinions about food. I like to learn as much as I can about a topic before I form a position, so I was excited to talk about GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) on the trip. It really helped me to gain a better understanding of the practices used in agriculture. We met families who farm with and without using GMOs (and some that do both!), so I had LOTS of opportunities to learn.
I learned that many farmer’s use GMOs to help make plants less susceptible to pests, drought, and other problems which can damage crops. These practices help farmers save more soil due to the decreased need for tilling, which helps keep the watersheds clean and increases water quality in the area. It also means that farmers can spray less pesticides on the plants throughout the growing season.
I would encourage everyone to do their own research about GMOs before forming an opinion. You can find some fun facts about GMOs here, and watch this movie which shows real life farms talking about their experiences.
My very favorite part of the trip was heading out to the farms to meet the families that run them. It really made me think about where my food comes from, and appreciate the people who work so hard to farm the land.
Things that stood out to me the most:
Only 1% of corn grown in Iowa is the sweet corn that we eat. The remaining 99% is field corn used for things like livestock feed, ethanol production, or processed into oils, starches, and sweeteners.
I expected to see a LOT more equipment and machinery than I actually did. I was amazed by the number of multi-generational and century farms that we saw in the area. The farmers use some of the same types of equipment on their farms that I use on my six acres. Except, you know, their stuff is a lot bigger.
Everyone I met was an open book. No question was off limits! We felt so welcomed by all of the people we met, including our friends from Iowa Corn and local farmers and their families.
Our last night in town we had a tailgate dinner on the farm.
I completely stuffed myself with some of the very best ham and chicken wings I’ve ever eaten!
I was a very happy camper.
Disclosure: Iowa Corn Grower’s Association paid for my expenses to attend this year’s CornQuest event. As always, all opinions, thoughts, and weird ramblings are my own.