Two Iowa farm families that manage diversified crop, livestock and turkey farms will help the winner of a national contest experience firsthand the state's leadership in food, fuel and fiber production.
The two Iowa farm families are Betsy and Nathan Hill of Ellsworth and Kevin and Julie Van Manen of Kellogg. They will be the hosts for the "It Starts in Iowa" campaign launched last December by the Iowa Soybean Association with the support of other state commodity organizations.
The campaign includes the "Be Our Guest, Be a Farmer" contest, in which people 21 years of age and older can register for the chance to win an expense-paid trip to Iowa in August 2011. The contest winner, accompanied by up to three guests, will tour farms and visit with farmers, feed livestock, enjoy dinner served and hosted by a farm family and enjoy an afternoon at the Iowa State Fair.
These two farm families will host the "It Starts In Iowa" campaign
The Hills, along with sons Collin and Conner, grow soybeans and corn and have raised turkeys since 1994. They're third generation farmers, active leaders in the Iowa Turkey Federation and own shares in West Liberty Foods, a cooperative supplying meat to Subway, Costco, Walmart and Denny's. They also raised the turkeys that received the Thanksgiving pardon by President Bush in 2008.
"My grandfather began raising turkeys in the 1950s, and we've always strived to farm in an environmentally sustainable manner with animal health and food safety at the top of the list," Nathan Hill says. "We provide food from the farm all the way to the plate and, like other farmers, are proud of the way we do things."
In addition to providing a tour of their turkey farm, the Hills will host an evening dinner. Turkey prepared on the grill will be the main entrée, of course.
They feel need to be involved in public relations for their industry
The Van Manen farm dates back to the late 1920s. Kevin and Julie and their children, Jacob and Emily, raise hogs and cattle and grow corn and soybeans. Each member of the family helps out with chores, fieldwork, gardening, mowing and preparing meals. Julie teaches at Sully Christian School and the family has hosted numerous tours and open houses to enhance awareness and understanding of farm life. Jacob and Emily also oversee a successful sweet corn business.
"It's important that farmers be involved in public relations activities in addition to the day-to-day farm work," says Julie Van Manen, whose family was a recent recipient of "The Way We Live" Award sponsored by the Iowa State Fair. "We want people to know what we do and how we do it. It's always preferable that they learn about food and farming from us rather than relying solely on what they read in magazines or see on the television.
"After all, we have a great story to tell and no one is more qualified to share it than the Iowa farmer."
Nearly 100 people from 27 states have registered for the "Be Our Guest, Be a Farmer" contest. Registration deadline is Friday, April 29. Ten semi-finalists will be selected from all registrations in early May and will be asked to submit a short biography and three reasons they are most interested in learning more about farming and agriculture. The grand prize winner will be named in early June.
To enter the "Be Our Guest, Be a Farmer" contest log on to www.itstartsiniowa.com.