Agriculture 101: Specialty Crops

Iowa is well known for corn, soybean, and livestock production. Iowa is consistently the top producing state of corn, eggs, and pork, and the first or second ranked state in soybeans.  (Our neighbor to the east, Illinois, also produces a lot of soybeans.)  Iowa is also usually in the top 10 for the amount of turkeys, cattle, oats, alfalfa hay, milk goats, sheep and lambs raised here.

Although most of Iowa’s farm land is used for row crops and livestock, what is grown here is much more diverse than meets the eye. Specialty crops are big in Iowa, too!

Specialty crops are defined in law as “fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits and horticulture and nursery crops, including floriculture.”  So, a specialty crop is defined by what it is, not by how commonly it is grown in an area.  Crops considered specialty crops in Iowa are the same as those considered specialty crops in California or Florida.

California’s moderate climate, long growing season, and fertile soil enables farmers to grow over 200 crops, many of them year round.  Iowa’s short growing season and extreme high and low temperatures makes limits the number and amount of fruits, vegetables, nuts and horticultural crops grown here.

Even though our weather provides a challenge, Iowa’s specialty crop industry is strong and growing.   Here’s just a brief look at a few specialty crops grown here.

  • IMG_1189Christmas Trees.  Most fresh Christmas trees are sold within two weeks after Thanksgiving, but growing them takes 6-12 years and requires year-round work to maintain.  A typical Christmas Tree Farm in Iowa is 3 to 8 acres in size. Most farms sell trees by the “choose and harvest” method, where a customer comes to the farm to cut their own tree. According to the Iowa Christmas Tree Growers Association, there are approximately 100 choose and harvest tree farms in the state.  Real Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states. The top selling Christmas trees in Iowa are Scotch Pine and White Pine.
  • high tunnel greenhouseVegetables.  There are many small farms in Iowa that thrive by selling in-season vegetables at their farm-front, road-side stands, and farmer’s markets. Others sell directly to restaurants or wholesale to grocery stores.  Some Iowa farmers extend the vegetable growing season by planting in high tunnel greenhouses. Almost any vegetable can be grown in Iowa, but the vegetable crop sold in greatest volume here is sweet corn. However, less than 1% of the corn grown in Iowa is sweet corn. Most of the corn grown in Iowa is field corn, used for livestock feed, processed food, and ethanol.
  • Apples.  Iowa was once a top apple producing state, but the Armistice Day Blizzard in November 1940 killed or severely injured many trees and reduced the state’s apple production by 85%.  Because of the risk of another severe freeze, many farmers chose not to replant and converted these acres to growing corn or hay.  Although Iowa is still not a top apple producing state now, there are many orchards across the state. Most are you-pick farms, but sell to grocery stores or directly to processors, like Iowa Choice Harvest that cleans, slices, flash-freezes, and bags apples for sale in grocery stores.
  • 20190805_142858Grapes.  Iowa’s grape and wine industry has grown immensely in the last 10 years. There are more than 300 vineyards in the state, with 100 that make their own wine. Like other specialty crops, Iowa’s weather limits the quantity and diversity of great varieties that can be grown here. However, the increased interest in growing grapes in Iowa and other upper Midwestern states has led to more research on grape cultivars that with withstand severe winters and mature in short growing seasons.  According to the Iowa Wine Growers Association, more than 40 different types of grapes are currently grown in the state.

Traditional farm bill commodity programs that support grain, oilseed, cotton, and milk production do not serve specialty crop producers, who provide the country with fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts. The United States Department of Agriculture provides funding to support the production of specialty crops through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  The program began in 2004 and is designed to “enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops.”  In other words, it provides funds to encourage farms to grow specialty crops.  This in turn, helps to support economic development in rural communities and increase consumer access to fruits and vegetables.

-Cindy

 

 

 

What’s Cookin’ ? Homemade Salsa

I love attending the Des Moines Farmers Market. There are only a few more weeks left to enjoy the food, music, and produce offered. This farmers market is one of the largest venues that I have had the opportunity to enjoy. There are close to 300 vendors that come from all over Iowa to share their products. My family meets together to eat fresh breakfast items and check out many of the booths. This past weekend provided beautiful weather for a trip downtown to find fall favorites. Our purchased items come together to create this week’s blog: Homemade Salsa.

Searching for tomatoes was easy, as there were several booths that offered variations of ripe Roma tomatoes. The Roma tomato is a thick-walled, meaty, egg-shaped Romatomato that is less juicy and has fewer seeds than other varieties. They have a slightly sweeter tomato flavor. Due to the meaty flesh, the Roma is an excellent choice for fresh salsa and it blends well with garlic, cilantro and other items used in the making of salsa. Roma tomatoes are high in vitamin A and C and is a rich source of lycopene.

Onions and garlic are mainstays in our salsa. In a previous blogs, we touched on information about onions and garlic. Garlic and onions have been around for more than 5000 years. China is the largest garlic producer. Onions are a root vegetable grown commercially in more than 20 states.

Tomatillos, also known as Mexican husk tomatoes, are a small fruit native to Central America. The small fruit that is used as a vegetable comes wrapped in a husk and resembles a small unripe tomato and is usually green in color. The flesh is acidic and has a hint of lemon taste. Tomatillos in the United States are grown mainly in Texas. We add tomatillos for the addition of acidity and lemon flavors.

Now for the peppers. We like using banana peppers and jalapenos. Banana peppers are a member of the chili pepper family and have a milder taste. These peppers can be green, red and orange in color. The ripest ones are sweeter, while the less ripe will be a bit 3tangier. Jalapenos are a chili pepper pod that is round, firm, about 4-6 inches long, and shiny green in color. With the jalapeno, it is important to Remember that they can carry a lot of heat inside. It depends on how hot you like your salsa when it comes to leaving in the seeds and membranes. The more left in, the hotter the jalapeno mixture. Color is another important measure to hotness for peppers. As the jalapeno pepper ages, it turns from green in color to red. A red jalapeno can pack a lot of heat inside.

Cilantro, also called Chinese parsley, is the leaves of a coriander plant. It is grown mainly in Texas. The flavor of cilantro is strong and pungent. Quite often used for the taste, as well as for the garnish appearance. Not everyone cares for the strong flavor, but this little plant is completely edible and used in many recipes.

Here’s the ingredients we used for some great homemade salsa

30 Roma tomatoes

4 Vidalia onions

4 banana peppers

3 jalapenos

2 tomatillos

3 diced garlic cloves

5 tbsp. cilantro

1 cup lemon juice

5 green peppers

3 tbsp. salt

4 tsp pepper

 

Depending on the amount you want to make, you will need to adjust the amounts of the ingredients listed above. We are making a big batch to share. Feel free to try adding some of your favorite things to make your version of homemade salsa.1

  1. Wear gloves while preparing salsa!
  2. Prepare tomatoes by soaking tomatoes in boiling water for 2-3 minutes to split and loosen skins. Peel and chop all tomatoes, drain excess juices off in a strainer or colander before adding extra-large bowl.
  3. Once all the vegetables are in the bowl, stir in the lemon juice, garlic cloves, salt and pepper.
  4. Taste to see if it is as hot as you would like it.  Increase heat by adding 1-2 more hot peppers, tasting after each addition. Keep in mind that as the salsa sits for a while, it will get a little bit hotter.
  5. Bring all ingredients to a boil in large pot & simmer for 15 minutes. Stir often to prevent sticking.
  6. Fill clean pint jars with salsa, leaving about 3/4 inch at the top. Wipe off tops of the jars before putting hot canning lids on. Screw lids tight then turn back about 1/4 turn.
  7. Process jars in a steam canner or boiling water canner (not pressure cooker or vegetable steamer) for 15 minutes. (Recipe makes 12 pint size jars.)

Here’s to chips and homemade salsa. Try it for yourself!

Sheri

The Farmer Grows a Rainbow

Where does our food come from?  This is always the first thing I ask students when presenting a lesson for Ag in the Classroom in Mahaska and Marion counties.  When I first started, the answers were “the grocery store” or “the refrigerator”. Now every hand goes up with confidence as the say, “THE FARM!”  My reply then is, “Yes, because we know that farmers are growing plants and raising animals for our food.”

20160926_095610.jpgBecause so many of our students are removed from the farm, it seems that keeping it simple is the best approach.  I visit preschoolers through third grade in Mahaska County and third grade in Marion County.  I visit most of them once a month. At some point in the year, each of the grade levels have a lesson from “The Farmer Grows A Rainbow” which is based on the MyPlate.

It’s fun to ask the kids if they know that the farmer grows a rainbow for them. We talk about the MyPlate and all the many colors of the foods, a RAINBOW, and how all of the food comes from the farm.

For preschool, I have a large MyPlate mat that we lay on the floor.  Each of the students is given a food card to put in the correct food group.  They can check their answers by looking on the back of the card and the color is the same color as the food group.  The students then take turns looking at pictures of items that come from the farm and some of them we eat, like beans and broccoli and some we don’t eat like shirts and crayons but all of these are possible because of our farmers. The final activity with preschool is to put pictures from each of the food groups in categories using a traffic light with green being food to eat regularly, the yellow light being foods to eat once in a while as they are not very nutritious and high in calories and the red light represents products like chemicals, cleaning products and animal feeds that come from the farm but are unsafe to consume.

20161118_125949.jpgThe lesson for kindergarten discusses nutritious choices in each group.  For the grains group, which is more nutritious, whole wheat toast or a doughnut?  For the vegetable group, a tossed green salad or French fries? For the fruit group, an apple or apple pie?  For the dairy group, yogurt or a milkshake?  For the protein group, grilled chicken or fried chicken? By showing each of these choices, the students “vote” on which is the more nutritious choice.

Second grade has great visuals with talking about portion sizes.  It’s interesting to ask them if they have ever eaten something healthy but eaten too much of it and then they have a stomach ache like too many grapes or too much spaghetti. By showing them objects that represent foods, they see what the correct size should be. Some of the examples are chopped vegetables being the size of a computer mouse, string cheese the size of a tube of lip balm and meat being the size of deck of cards.  That one is always a big shock!  They are given a puzzle piece to match up with a friend to see if they remember which object represented which food.

Third grade gets very specific with what foods are in each food group, what nutrients are in those foods and what the health benefits to those nutrients are. The students then put pyramid puzzles together to check their answers.

Each of these lessons concludes with singing “The Farmer Grows A Rainbow” song.  I try to incorporate singing into many of my lessons as music helps to retain the material.

After each of my lessons, I leave them with some sort of snack to remember the lesson. With “The Farmer Grows A Rainbow” lessons, I leave the classes with a bag of carrots to enjoy. The second graders get a “computer mouse” which they think is funny since for the correct portion size of carrots, it should be the size of a computer mouse. I encourage them to look at their plates or school lunch trays when they eat to see if they have a rainbow of colors. That way they know they will be getting a variety of nutritional foods.

It’s always a good reminder to the students to thank the farmers for growing their rainbow of food!

-Karen Adams is the Ag in the Classroom lead for Mahaska and Marion Counties

What’s Cookin’? Rainbow Roasted Veggies

If you haven’t roasted vegetables, you are missing out. There are several vegetables that my kids won’t eat raw or steamed, but they devour roasted! Roasting vegetables in a very hot oven brings out their sweetness and gives them a whole new flavor. Roasting caramelizes the outside while keeping the inside moist and tender. It is tremendously easy too!

This recipe for Rainbow Roasted Veggies is a fun way to encourage kids to eat a variety of vegetables. A diet filled with colorful fruits and vegetables ensures we are getting the nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber we need.

My kids are more apt to try a new dish when they help make it.  Involve them in the process from start to finish. They can wash and dry the vegetables. Depending on their age, have them help cut some of the vegetables using kitchen shears or a kid-safe knife. They will love placing the vegetables one-by-one on the pan and “painting” them with olive oil. Be sure to have your kids help choose vegetables at the grocery store too. While shopping, ask them to guess what plant part each vegetable is. They will be surprised and delighted to learn that the produce section is filled with roots, stems, leaves and flowers!

Before I share the recipe for Rainbow Roasted Veggies, here’s a little agricultural “food for thought” about the veggies in this tasty dish!

red peppers

Bell peppers: Unlike other peppers, bell peppers have a characteristic bell shape, thick flesh, and are not hot. Their lack of hotness is due to a recessive gene that eliminates capsaicin. Bell peppers are found in a rainbow of colors. The variety of the pepper plant and the stage of the ripeness determine the flavor and color of each pepper. For example, a green bell pepper is simply an immature red pepper. As a bell pepper ages, its flavor becomes sweeter.  Botanically, a bell pepper is actually a fruit – the part of the plant that contains seeds. In culinary terms, unsweet fruits are considered vegetables.

carrots -dirtCarrots: Carrots are roots, or more specifically taproots. Carrot plants are biennial, meaning they flower and produce seeds during their second year of growth. However, the plants are generally harvested 2-3 months after planting, much before flowers appear. At this stage the top of the carrot is about 1-2 inches in diameter and still sweet and tender.

broccoliBroccoli: The edible portion of the broccoli plant is its unopened flower buds and tender stems. If not harvested, the green buds will open to form small yellow flowers. Broccoli is a cool season crop, closely related to cabbage, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. Cool-season crops are often planted before the last frost, and must mature while the weather is still cool. Hot weather and warm soil causes broccoli to flower too quickly, or bolt. Once the plant begins to bolt, anything harvested will be bitter.

beetsBeets: This often overlooked root, is one of the sweetest and most nutritious vegetables.   Most beets are dark purple outside with red flesh inside, but there are varieties with yellow, white, and even red and white striped flesh too. Beets can be steamed, boiled, pickled, roasted or eaten raw.   Because they contain more natural sugar than starch, they are particularly delicious roasted. Roasting concentrates the sugar and caramelizes the outside.

 

Rainbow Roasted Veggies

Ingredients:

1 red bell pepper, cut into 1½ inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1½ inch pieces

1 small head broccoli, cut into florets and stems chopped

2 medium beets, scrubbed and cut into 3/4 inch wedges

¼ C. extra virgin olive oil

Salt & Pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush a large baking sheet with olive oil.
  2. Arrange the vegetables in rows to create a rainbow of colors. Brush vegetables with remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Roast until the vehetables are tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Have fun and experiment with this recipe! Try adding other veggies like onions, zucchini, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, garlic cloves and cauliflower.

– Cindy

What’s Cookin’? Winter Brussels Sprouts

New year equals new resolutions. If you are anything like me and millions of other Americans your New Year’s resolutions include either eating better or exercising more (or both)!  Sometimes in the winter months I’m not as good about eating my veggies. With short days, when I get home from work the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time cooking. But, I need to stop making excuses. There are some great winter vegetables that are nutritious, delicious and easy to get on the table in as little as 20 minutes. Here is my new favorite side dish – Winter Brussels Sprouts – and the agriculture story behind it.

Brussels sprouts, close up

Brussels sprouts – This underrated vegetable might be loathed by kids, but is actually really tasty. A lot of people don’t like them because they can smell bad if overcooked. Overcooking can release a natural compound that contains sulfur which stinks, so be sure to only cook them until easily pierced with a knife. The plant is said to have been originally cultivated in the area that is now Belgium and was named after the capital city. They are very nutritious and a great source of vitamins A, C and K as well as folic acid, iron, magnesium, selenium, and fiber.

wild-mustard-plantBrussels sprouts are descended from the wild mustard plant Brassica oleracea just like cabbage, kohlrabi, kale, broccoli and cauliflower. Brussels sprouts were bred and selected to promote lateral buds that grow up along the stem. Other members of this family were selected for their terminal buds, large leaves or flowers. While not GMOs, this family of vegetables is a perfect example of breeding and selecting for desired traits. From one common ancestor agriculturists were able to make a variety of veggies we all know and love.

rustic cooked bacon

Bacon – Mmmm….bacon… This tasty pork product comes from the side and belly of the pig. Pork bellies are cured in a salt brine and flavorings to provide the rich taste. The curing process evolved before refrigeration as a way of preserving the meat. Iowa is the number one producer of pork in the U.S. Companies like Farmland Foods and JBS Swift have meat packing plants in Iowa and employ hundreds of Iowans.

Butter

Butter – We’ve covered butter a time or two before. It is an essential component for the richness of the dish. You could also substitute margarine in place of butter. Margarine can be made from canola, rapeseed, palm, or even soybean oil. Soybeans of course are grown right here in Iowa. These liquid vegetable oils are hydrogenated with water to make them into the more solid margarine that we are familiar with. Depending on the base ingredient they would have different melting temperatures than butter and taste slightly different. It is hard to say which is healthier – butter or margarine – but the key is to eat them in moderation.

Roasted cashews

Cashew nuts – Cashew nuts grow in tropical environments so you won’t likely find this tree in the U.S. Each nut grows out of the bottom of a cashew ‘apple’. These seeds provide proteins, fat and vitamins that contribute to a healthy diet.  Raw, cashews have a toxicity and so it is important to buy roasted nuts unless you know what you are doing to roast them yourself.

Salt and Pepper – Salt is not an agriculture product. It is one of the few minerals that humans mine for consumption. Besides being a great flavor enhancer a small amount is essential in your diet. Black pepper comes from the fruit of a pepper plant species which grows in hot and humid tropical climates. The unripe dried fruit, called peppercorns, are ground into the spice we call pepper. Pepper was one of the spices that early explores traded because of its high value. It came from the spice islands of southeast Asia which also were known for nutmeg, mace and cloves.

Ingredients:Brussel Sprouts with Ham

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 slices of thick bacon
2 Tbsp butter
1.5 ounce cashew nuts
Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Rinse and trim Brussels sprouts. Cook in boiling, salted water for 7 minutes or until easily pierced with a knife or fork. Drain and run under cold water to cool and stop the cooking process. Cut each sprout in half.
  2. Cut the bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. Fry bacon in a skillet until crisp. Drain off most of the bacon fat reserving approximately 1 Tbsp.
  3. Add butter and cashew nuts and saute for a couple of minutes until cashew nuts are lightly toasted.
  4. Add Brussels sprouts to the pan and toss. Cook just until the sprouts are warmed through. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Enjoy!

– Will

Groundhogs, Vegetables and More

Earlier this month the venerable weather forecaster Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and made the bleak prediction that there would be six more weeks of winter. The weather in Iowa seems to agree with him as the temperature rarely rises above 32 degrees F. But, spring will come! And that means planting! That means crops. That means flowers. That means vegetables and gardens and so much more! Teaching others about the magic of growing things is fun and easy. Here are our top 8 recommendations for starting spring on an educational high note:

  1. five_me_fiveGive Me Five! This fun and engaging lesson is perfect for an upper elementary classroom. Introduce students to the importance of eating healthy and including the five main food groups. You can do extension activities and talk about all of the different types of fruits and vegetables that can fit into a healthy diet. You can also have students plant different types of vegetable seeds and grow their own salad!
  2. Why are vegetables sold by the pound in a grocery store? Find out in teaching the upper elementary lesson By the Pound to students. This interactive lesson reinforces math skills like measuring, estimation, weight and volume, addition and subtraction. How else do we measure the food we eat?
  3. Vegetable-growing-cheat-sheetPlan your garden. The soil is still too cold to put seeds in, but use this time to make a plan. Figure out what seeds you want to buy. Decide when each seed should be planted. You can even draw a map of your future garden so that you’ll be able to maximize the space you have available whether that is a pot on the porch or a half acre in the back yard. Click here to follow some step-by-step planning.
  4. Read Eating the Alphabet by Lois Erlet with your lower elementary students. Even some adults might be hard pressed to name a fruit or vegetable for every letter of the alphabet. For families this can also be a great game to play on a road trip. Go around in a circle and every person in the car name a fruit or vegetable that starts with the next letter in the alphabet. How many times can you make it A to Z? Get stuck? Check this website out for a quick hint.
  5. GardeninGlove1-225x300Garden in a Glove. Just because you can’t grow things outdoors yet doesn’t mean you can’t continue the learning indoors. This is a great visual way of comparing seeds, comparing growth, and learning about everything from the first root to the first leaves. Follow the step-by-step found here.
  6. When Vegetables Go Bad. This work of fiction written by Don Gillmor is a great tool to introduce nutrition to younger audiences (and get them to eat their vegetables). So, the lesson is: eat your veggies and the nightmares will stop 🙂
  7. Who Grew My Soup Song. We all know that students learn in a variety of ways. Connect agriculture to music with this memorable sing along based on the popular book. Read the book first and then teach the song. Talk about fun!
  8. Re-grow food from kitchen scraps. Involving kids in the kitchen can be a great way of helping them learn about nutritious eating. Invite them to help you cook a meal. Then, take it one step farther and plant some scraps to start growing your own food. When I was in third grade I did this with a pineapple we bought. Many years later that pineapple was still a great addition to our house plants. It even inspired a vacation to Costa Rica and a pineapple plantation. So, what can you grow? And where will it take you? Check out the how-to here.

cover4 We hope that these few tips will get you excited and motivated to get planting! Leave a comment below with your spring inspired lesson. Or tell us how any of these lessons worked for you!

-Will

New Year, New Relationship: Food

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The holidays are officially behind us and the new year ahead. As we come out of our festive coma, we look at the past year and reflect. We remember the good times, the bad times and everything we didn’t accomplish or did (you go-getter you!). We also remember the savory meals, the delectable desserts and satisfying sweets, and how many pounds we gained eating grandma’s fudge. We resolve to do things differently, the first being that we will never eat sweets again. Well, until we pass the nearest ice cream shop. (And then we will only get one scoop instead of two.) The second typical resolution usually revolves around body image; we are going to get thinner, be healthier, lose weight, eat better, go on a diet, etc. We start the new year, focusing on food, what we will eat, what we won’t, which foods are healthy, which aren’t, fatty or lean, and it goes on and on and on. With so many options it’s no wonder that when we decide to change ourselves we start with what nourishes our bodies.

78321160Our bodies are rather wonderful things. What a body does with food is astonishing – breaking down components (carbohydrates, proteins, fats) to usable amino acids and sugars. It’s amazing how our cells absorb those amino acids and simple sugars to make energy that keeps our bodies going. What we put into our bodies is really important, and that’s why we resolve to cut back on the ‘bad’ foods and increase the ‘good’ foods. But, which is which? If you have a piece of pizza with kale, chicken, light sauce, cheese, and fresh tomatoes is that bad? What about gluten-free spaghetti noodles with turkey sausage and a tomato 485913907sauce? Or, are canned fruits and veggies better for you than fresh? Or, are free-range organic eggs more nutritious than their non-organic caged counterparts? Talk about first world problems. But what does healthy really mean? ‘Healthy’ means to be in good health. ‘Health’ means “the condition of being well or free from disease”. So when you eat a single Twinkie as a treat, and don’t get sick, does that mean it’s healthy? Or you eat an entire bushel of fresh peaches and get the runs, does that mean it’s unhealthy?

452591071With access to more information and a plethora of sources to get information from, deciding what you eat has become something of a hassle. Throw in economic status and household income and diets can drastically differ between people who live in the same city. Celebrities influence diets, doctors suggest a different diets and many have decided to eat like Neanderthals (know the Croods anyone?). Instead of trying to figure out what’s ‘healthy’ what’s ‘unhealthy’ and which diet will help you lose the most pounds, we should be developing a healthy relationship with food and understand how it affects our body. Maybe there is no such thing as ‘bad’ food. You can eat a variety of foods, considered healthy or unhealthy as long as you understand what it will do to you and for you. Everything in moderation. Those who have a good relationship with their food understand the balance one needs when managing diet.

Here are some tips to improving your relationship with food:

  • Know the difference between a treat and eating the entire pan of brownies (Too much of a good thing can actually be a bad thing.)
  • Eat breakfast every single morning (This jump starts your metabolism and helps you burn calories throughout the day.)
  • Eat when you are hungry, but don’t over indulge (Listen to your body. If your stomach growls it means you are running on empty and need to refuel.)
  • Stop eating when you are full (Eat slower so you can better determine when you are full. You can also measure out portions. Tip: most portions should be smaller than you think.)
  • Eat in servings, don’t eat the ice cream straight from the container (Portion control is huge. Simple tricks like using a smaller bowl or plate can really help.)

475901949As we resolve to do better, be healthier and make this year the best it can be, don’t shy away from losing those pounds or eating better. Go out there, get active! Research your foods and decide what you feel is good for you. Go see a nutritionist. Get educated about your food and how it affects your body. Eat in moderation, but don’t forget to treat yourself occasionally. May this year be the year of food and smart eating.

– Rheba Yost is a guest blogger for IALF. She works in ag media and holds a degree in agriculture from Kansas State University.