Published Nov 7, 2014

Celebrating food at PFI events

By Tomoko Ogawa

There is always something special about sharing a meal together. At Practical Farmer events, we consider food to be an important part of the broader conversations that happen during a meeting or event, whether it’s the annual conference, Cooperators’ Meeting or field days. This past fiscal year (October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014), Practical Farmers spent $8,229.47 to purchase food from 40 PFI farms to serve at our events. Since I started to keep track of our food purchases a few years ago, we’ve been intentionally increasing the amount of money spent on food from our members, as well as a number of farms we purchase from (Last fiscal year, we spent $6095.61 on food from 39 farms).

Not only has it been exciting to see people enjoy the food at our events, it has also been very rewarding to see and hear the reactions of chefs and their kitchen staff at hotels or conference centers when they prepare meals with the food we provide from our members. They often tell me, with quite a bit of enthusiasm, how excited they are to work with such fresh and high-quality vegetables and meat, or how excited they are about the taste of chicken. For me, it’s been a rewarding and fun part of my work with PFI to get to know our farmers better. It’s a collaborative effort to find and purchase from PFI farmers – people reaching out to us or responding to my requests for certain foods on the PFI email discussion lists, or us keeping our eyes and ears open for opportunities to purchase from you – and I’ve gotten to discover the diversity of members first-hand, through seeing all the varied products our members produce.

If I have trouble finding certain ingredients, some aggregated online ordering places have also proven to be extremely helpful “go-to” places. These online ordering markets include Farm to Folk in Ames, Iowa Food Coop in Des Moines and FarmTable Delivery in Harlan, a new business started by Daniel Rosmann and Ellen Walsh-Rosmann.

While chefs and kitchen staff are excited to cook with our ingredients, it also means extra work for them, as they often have to modify their recipes (e.g. flours reacting differently for baking) or spend more time on processing (e.g. cutting up whole chickens as opposed to cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts). We always have to remember to remind them, “Yes, salad greens need to be washed,” or “please remember the meat has bones when estimating the amount of meat you need.” Even though all the people we’ve been working with on our events have been great, each time I send off ingredients from our members I feel anxious until I actually see them on my plate. I know the ingredients I send are high-quality, and I worry whether the dishes these chefs prepare will adequately represent this – or complement their special attributes. Thankfully, my worries usually vanish as soon as mealtime comes, and I feel happy to see and taste delicious dishes, and also to see everyone enjoying the food.

Here is the list of farms and the food we purchased this past fiscal year:

7 Pines Farm – Maxwell – salsa
Berry Patch Farm – Nevada – apples
Bobolink Prairie Farm – Cherokee—beef
Buffalo Ridge Orchard – Central City — apples
Early Morning Harvest – Panora – flour, cornmeal, honey
Earth Biscuit Farm – Tipton – vegetables
Frantzen Family Farm – South Hampton – pork
Frog Hollow Farm – Walker – goat
Genuine Faux Farm – Tripoli – turkey, vegetables
Global Greens – West Des Moines – vegetables
Griffieon Family Farm – Ankeny – beef
Grimm Family Farm – North English – dry beans
Grinnell Heritage Farm – Grinnell — vegetables
Growing Harmony Farm – Nevada – vegetables
Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy – Hudson – milk, ice cream, cream
Hawkeye Buffalo Ranch – Fredericksburg – buffalo
Heartland Fresh Family Farm – Donnellson – pork
Iowa Choice Harvest – Marshalltown – apples, frozen sweet corn
Iowana Farm – Crescent – vegetables
Jumping Beans Farm – Nevada – jams
Jung Poultry Farm – Colwell – chickens
Lacewing Acres – Boone –vegetables
Lee’s Greens – Nevada – salad greens
Madsen Stock Farm – Audubon – pork, ham
Nature Road Farm – Boone – vegetables
Northwest Greenhouse – Boone – vegetables
One Step at a Time Gardens – Kanawha– vegetables
Onion Creek Farm – Ames – vegetables
Organic Greens – Kalona – vegetables
Picket Fence Creamery – Woodward– milk, cream
Pin Oak Place at Rosmann Family Farm – Harlan – eggs
Prairie Quest Farms – McGregor – beef (meat from Dan Specht’s herd, supplied by his nephew, Jonathan Specht)
Red Earth Gardens – Tama – vegetables
Scattergood Friends School – West Branch – vegetables, beef
Small Potatoes Farm – Minburn—vegetables
Story City Locker – Story City—meat
TableTop Farm – Nevada – vegetables
Trinity Farm – Nevada – pork
Troublesome Creek Cattle Co. – Exira – beef
Wilted Leaf Farm – Cambridge –vegetables

In addition, the following farms and businesses generously donated food for our events. Those with an asterisk in front are Practical Farmers members:

Agri-Cultured – Dallas Center – sauerkraut and kimchi
Burgie’s Coffee and Tea Company – Ames – coffee
*Grain Millers, Inc. – St. Ansgar – oatmeal
*La Quercia – Norwalk – prosciutto, sausage
*Niman Ranch – Thornton – bratwurst
*Organic Valley – La Farge (WI) – butter pats, mozzarella cheese sticks
*Rosmann Family Farms – Harlan – popcorn
*Wheatsfield Cooperative – Ames – tea

We are always looking to purchase food from more PFI members. If you have any meat, produce, eggs, dairy, etc. that you can sell to us, or have ideas for tasting field days, please contact Lauren Zastrow, our membership and event coordinator, at 515-232-5661/