After I visited the pig farm with my fellow Illinois Field Moms, I heard from a couple of the field moms that they had a difficult time eating pork. It was just so hard to see those adorable baby pigs and then think of them being dinner.
Just over a year ago, Mayor Crazyville approached me at a MOPS meeting. (Back then, I knew her by her real name, Sharon.) She asked me if I would be interested in becoming an Illinois Field Mom, and was surprised when I said “YES!” without hesitation! The Illinois Field Mom program through IL Farm Families takes suburban moms like me out of the city and into the country to talk to real farmers.
This past year as a Field Mom has been such a great experience. Here are just a few reasons why.
1. I’ve been able to visit my farming roots.
My dad worked on the farm when he was young. He worked in the fields and cleaned chicken coops. He drove a John Deere tractor. While I didn’t grow up on a farm, I grew up in a small town of about 800 people. I ate fresh, local produce in the summer and canned or frozen produce in the winter, made by my mom.
2. Technology has changed farming for the better.
A lot has changed since my dad drove a John Deere back in the 50’s. Farmers now use GPS, mapping systems and soil testing to give their fields exactly what is needed. This technology helps give the farmer higher yields and also helps the farmer to be environmentally friendly. Read what I learned about applying fertilizer here: Fascinated with Fertilizer.
3. I don’t have to be afraid of GMOs.
Before I became a Field Mom, I wasn’t even sure what GMOs were. GMO corn (field corn, not sweet corn) is pest resistant, which means the farmer doesn’t need to apply as many pesticides. It’s highly unlikely that you would find GMOs in your local grocery store produce section. For more about which genetically modified seeds our farmers are planting, read this article: GMO 101: The View from Our Farm.
4. I can feed my family healthy foods on a tight budget.
When I left my job to become a stay-at-home mom, my husband and I knew that we would have to live on a tight budget. This means I can’t always afford to buy organic foods. I have learned that freshness matters (which is why I believe in buying local produce when possible), and that conventionally raised produce is just as nutritious as organic produce.
I also used to worry about hormones and antibiotics being used in meat. Through the Field Mom program, I’ve learned that Federal law prohibits hormones from being used in pork and poultry, and the hormones used in beef are much less than the hormones you eat in a baked potato. Only animal who are sick are treated with antibiotics, and they are removed from the herd population until they are well. They are not allowed to be sold as meat until the antibiotics have been cleared from their systems. Read more here: Let’s Talk About Hormones in Meat.
5. Farmers genuinely care for their livestock.
My visit to a cattle farm convinced me! Throughout the visit, it was obvious that the Martz family cared for their livestock. They are continuously improving their cattle barns to make life better for their cattle. They have started using moveable curtains as opposed to wooden slats on the sides of the barns, and rubber floors as opposed to concrete. Although the cattle are with them for a short time, they want their cattle to be content.
6. Most Illinois farms are still family owned.
Just like you, I’ve heard about “factory farms” and big farming corporations. In Illinois, over 94% of the farms are still family owned. I have been privileged to meet some of these farmers through the Field Mom program. Conventional farmers and organic farmers; farmers’ wives and farm journalists; cattle farmers and grain farmers; I’ve been able to talk with all these people and ask them my questions through this Illinois Farm Families program! You can “meet the farmers” as well on the Illinois Farm Family website, Watch Us Grow.
This Saturday, I’ll be visiting a hog farm. I’m looking forward to learning more about how pigs are born and raised in Illinois to become part of our food chain. Next week, I’ll show you what I’ve learned.
Is there anything you would like to know about farming in our country today? I’ll try to find an answer for you from the people who can answer the best! Thank you for tagging along on my journey as an Illinois Field Mom.
A couple weeks ago, I joined the Illinois Field Moms for a day out. Part of our day included a visit to the Northern Illinois Food Bank. The food bank is located in Geneva, IL, and is a large distribution building in the middle of an industrial area. The Field Moms were able to take a tour of the new building, which includes a clean room to repackage bulk food donations, and also a freezer docking area, which keeps frozen donations from thawing during the unloading process. Northern Illinois Food Bank distributes food, which is mostly donated, to network partners including soup kitchens and food pantries in thirteen Illinois counties. They also have a mobile pantry program, which brings food to areas that need it.
After our tour, it was time for the Field Moms to get to work. The profits from our Field Moms’ Acre and Pen provided 780 pounds of ground pork for the food bank! Presenting the pork to the Food Bank was the easy part. Then we were put to work sorting various frozen meats into 20 pound boxes. Natasha from Houseful of Nicholes and I assembled boxes like maniacs while other field moms sorted, relabeled and weighed the meat.
One of the things I learned while at the food bank is that protein can be difficult to get at a food pantry. Our local high school had a food drive last week, and so I kept this in mind and included some cans of chicken in my donation.
I’m so grateful that the IL Field Moms program ended on such a high note! If you are in the Chicago area and have children under the age of 18, now is the time to apply to be a 2014 Field Mom! Find out more on the website, Watch Us Grow.