Expedition Farm Country Showcases How Forks and Farms Meet

Two-day event invites food-minded consumers to explore modern agriculture in northwest Iowa

 Ankeny, Iowa – The Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa FFP) hosted the fifth-annual Expedition Farm Country on Aug. 23 and 24. The two-day tour gave curious consumers the chance to meet farm families and gain a better understanding of modern agriculture in Iowa.

Hosting more than 40 participants, tour stops included soybean, corn, beef, dairy and pig farms in northwest Iowa, as well as the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend.

“The Iowa Food & Family Project connects consumers and farmers to grow understanding and confidence in today’s food system, says Kelly Visser, consumer engagement manager for the Iowa Soybean Association and lead organizer of Iowa FFP.

“Expedition Farm Country brings that mission to life. It’s amazing to see the many ‘light bulb moments’ participants experience while learning directly from farmers about family farming legacies, modern equipment, regulations, livestock care and business practices.”

Participants represented a variety of industries and backgrounds including healthcare, food banks, administrative services, communications, real estate, education and business. They were selected in part by their intent to share the expedition experience with personal and professional networks.

“This eye-opening experience brought so much together for me,” says Linda Gorkow, executive director of the Iowa Food Bank Association. “Better understanding the work and concerns of our state’s farmers impacts my perspectives as a voter, consumer and professional who is dedicated to helping feed the food insecure through the six food banks serving Iowa.”

Starting at the Wetter pork farm in Rinard, participants met with fifth-generation farmer Jonathan Wetter who works alongside his father to grow 2,000 acres of row crops and market 4,800 pigs each year. Following the pork farm and a visit to the Grotto of the Redemption in West Bend, the group toured Jones Family Dairy in Spencer. Milking more than one thousand dairy cows, the dairy is family-owned and sells milk for cheese production. Patrick and Nancy Jones work alongside two of their eight children to continuously strive for more efficient and sustainable production.

Saturday morning began with a visit to Jeff and Ellen Frank in Auburn who farm corn and soybeans using cutting-edge technology. An early adopter of drone and precision planting technology, Jeff works with his son and wife Ellen who owns and operates Little Green Truck Coffee Co. Participants had the opportunity to climb into the cab of a tractor at the Frank farm before setting out for a tour of Cookies Food Products in Wall Lake. Owned and operated by Duane “Speed” Herrig for more than 40 years, Cookies has become home to some of America’s most-loved sauces and seasonings. Employing 17 full-time workers, Cookies produces around 6,000 gallons of sauce each day. With customers in 34 states and three countries, Cookies offers five different barbecue flavors, a wing sauce, taco sauce, salsas and seasonings.

Expedition Farm Country concluded with a visit to the Albright beef farm in Lytton. Feeding 1,600 head of beef cattle, Ben and Nick Albright are fifth-generation producers who also arise raise corn, soybeans, hay and have experimented with cover crops since 2012.

Iowans interested in participating in future farm tours or other Iowa FFP initiatives can subscribe to the Fresh Pickings email newsletter at iowafoodandfamily.com.

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About the Iowa Food & Family Project

The Iowa Food & Family Project invites Iowans to explore how food is grown and raised around the state and meet the farmers who make it happen – 24/7, 365 days a year. The initiative networks with nearly 35 food, farm and healthy living organizations who are proud of Iowa’s homegrown foods and hometown values. 

Funded in part by the soybean, pork, corn, beef, dairy, egg and turkey checkoffs.

Photo Cutline: Patrick Jones visits with members of Expedition Farm Country last week at his family-owned dairy in Spencer. Expedition Farm Country is an annual two-day event that invites 50 participants to tour farms, meet farm families and have honest conversations about modern agriculture.

Photo Credit: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association

Kelly Visser