Food and the Olympics

With the Winter Olympic Opening Ceremonies coming tomorrow night, it’s time we start talking about the food of the Olympics.

Interested in learning about what foods this year’s athletes enjoy munching on?  The Huffington Post compiled this list pairing athletes with their pleasure foods.  My favorite?  I like the fact that Snowboarder Kelly Clark drinks chocolate milk.  After all, chocolate milk is a great re-fuel food.


Kelly Clark and Chocolate Milk | Photo Source

Fitness Magazine interviewed some Olympic nutritionists and asked them about their top tips.  I was happy to hear that skipping breakfast is a bad idea.

Russia, the host country of this year’s Olympics, boasts a rich food culture.  During my visits to Russia during my high school years, I enjoyed some delicious food.  You can find a list of classic Russian foods here.  I plan on kicking off the opening ceremonies with a bowl of borscht!

Categories: From the Field to Your Fork | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Bean Chili Surprise

Photo Source: VeryBestBaking

Photo Source: VeryBestBaking

On Wednesday, I shared that our office recently held our annual chili cook-off.  Six chilis were entered in the contest, and I so enjoyed tasting all of the different flavor and texture combinations that my colleagues experimented with.  The various recipes featured everything from bison and spaghetti to turkey and cinnamon.

Although all of the recipes were tasty, I was not surprised when the judges announced that Dennis Henry’s Black Bean Chili Surprise won.  I loved the dimension that the chipotle powder added to the chili and the corn bread topping added the perfect amount of sweet to balance the spice.  And, I had never had a pork-based chili, so that was a special treat.

If you’re looking for a hearty one-dish winter meal with interesting flavors, I think you’ve found what you’re looking for.

*Dennis Henry’s Black Bean Chili Surprise


  • 1 lb. of bacon
  • 2 lb. of pork loin
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ C chili powder
  • 1 ½ t ground cumin
  • 12 oz. beer
  • ½ C ketchup
  • 1 ½ t dried oregano
  • ¾ t salt
  • ¼ t pepper
  • 3 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes with chipotle
  • 2 boxes of Jiffy Corn Muffin mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 C milk
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 2 C shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz. of diced chilies
  • 4 oz. of Pimiento, drained


  • 1 T seasoned salt
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 T chipotle chili powder
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 T granulated garlic
  • 1 t cayenne pepper
  • ½ T ground cumin
  • ½ T ground ginger
  • ½ T ground mustard


Cut the pork loin into 4 to 5 equal pieces.  Combine meat rub seasonings in a large zip lock bag.  Add the meat to the bag and make sure all sides are covered with the rub.  Store in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, preheat the oven to 275*F and lightly oil a Dutch oven or covered oven safe pot.  Place the pork and onion (cut in quarters) in the greased Dutch oven, and cover the pork with the bacon strips.   Cover and bake in the  oven for 3 to 4 hours, until the internal temperature of the pork is 145 degrees.

Once the meat has finished cooking, shred the pork and dice-up the onion and bacon.  Add the diced onion and bacon to a large pan on a medium heat.  Add chili powder and cumin and cook for 1 minute.  Add beer, ketchup, oregano, salt, pepper and beans.  Cover, and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer over low heat 30 minutes.

Transfer to a large casserole dish.  Mix corn muffin mix according to the directions on the box and add the chilies, cheese and pimientos to the mixture.  Layer the muffin batter on top of the chili mix.  Bake in a 425*F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

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Chili, the sweet and spicy way (a crockpot recipe)

Source:  Jake Przespo

Source: Jake Przespo

On Monday, the staff of our office gathered for the ISDA chili cook-off.  Every year in the dead of winter, a handful of ISDA staff sign-up to bring a unique chili recipe to be tested by a panel of judges.  We assemble in our conference room, place chili in bowls to ensure anonymity, and let the judges begin testing.  This year, there were three prizes that were up for grabs:  Grand Prize, People’s Choice, and Most Indiana Sourced Products.

Although I didn’t take home the Grand Prize, my chili recipe did win People’s Choice and Most Indiana Sourced products.

I created this recipe from scratch.  Stopping by Wal-Mart on my way home from visiting my fiancé, I picked up a few things that sounded good to me (namely Red Gold’s Petite Diced Tomatoes with Chipotle).  When I arrived home, I took a pound of ground beef from the freezer and raided the pantry to find the ingredients I wanted to use.

Too my dismay, I couldn’t find any chili powder in my pantry!  So I modified this recipe I found on Pinterest.

In my opinion, chili is the perfect winter food: hearty and hot while offering endless possibilities in terms of taste and texture.

Here’s my prize-winning (never thought I’d ever be able to say that about my cooking 🙂 ) recipe for my Sweet & Spicy Chili.  (Indiana sourced ingredients are in italics)


  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. of ground beef
  • 46 oz. of Red Gold Tomato Juice*
  • 14.5 oz of Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes
  • 14.5 oz of Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with chipotle
  • 32 oz of Bush’s Chili Beans, medium sauce
  • 1 ½ T of sorghum
  • 2 T smoked paprika
  • 2 t oregano
  • 1 ¼ t cumin
  • 1 ¼ t garlic powder
  • 1 t cayenne pepper**
  • 3/4 t onion powder


  • Brown the ground beef with the diced onion.
  • Combine all ingredients in a crockpot, and cook on low for 8-10 hours.
  • Serve over rice and topped with cheese and sour cream, if desired.

*Feel free to use any brand of tomato products you like.  Red Gold is my favorite, and what helped earn me my Indiana !

**One teaspoon of cayenne pepper was a bit too much for me.  When I make this recipe again, I’ll reduce the cayenne pepper to ½ – ¾ of a teaspoon.

Categories: From the Field to Your Fork | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eating your fruits & veggies in 2014

A few weeks ago, the Indianapolis Star published an article by Karen Fernau about new year’s resolutions and eating.  Fernau noted that diet resolutions often focus on foods we shouldn’t consume, and she goes on to recommend a different route.  Instead of focusing on foods to cut out of one’s diet, why not strive to incorporate new, healthier foods into your daily eating habits?

Photo credit: Christman

Photo credit: Christman

In the article, Fernau encourages people to add kale, canned sardines, garbanzo beans, tofu and almond milk.  While all those are practical suggestions worth noting, I started to wonder what Indiana agricultural products I should focus on adding to my diet.  Indiana is home to more than 30 fruits and vegetables that would make healthy additions to almost any diet.  Here are my top five.

Blueberries: Blueberries are the perfect low-calorie, antioxidant-packed snack.  In 2011, Indiana produced 1.6 million pounds of these scrumptious berries.  Best Health notes that blueberries help reduce the risk of colon cancer, prevent hypertension, reduce belly fat and fight off disease.  Sprinkle blueberries on your cereal, munch on them at work and/or mix them with some plain yogurt and drizzle with honey.

Watermelon: Obviously, Indiana watermelons won’t be found on the grocery store shelves this time of year, but make sure they’re on your list this summer!  Indiana is a top producer of this crispy pink fruit.  Watermelon is a personal favorite and helps keep me hydrated during our hottest months.  Not only is watermelon an excellent source of vitamins A, C and B6, it also has the highest concentration of lycopene of any fresh fruit or vegetable, according to Discovery Fit & Health.

Apples:  An apple a day keeps the doctor away… or so the saying goes!  But what are the health benefits of the apple?  Eating Well  explains that apples aid weight loss, help keep the heart healthy and serve as a source of soluble fiber.  In 2011, our state produced more than 20 million pounds of apples.

Tomatoes: As a leader in tomato production, look for Indiana  tomatoes throughout the summer and don’t forget to purchase Red Gold tomatoes (an Indiana ag-business) for your canned tomato needs.  Tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, and cooking tomatoes enhances their nutrients.

Cucumbers:  Full of vitamins C & K and potassium, cucumbers are a refreshing and hydrating vegetable choice.  Personally, I enjoy slicing up half of a cucumber and putting it in a cold pitcher water for a satisfying beverage option.  Cucumber is also a great dipper for hummus.

These are some of the fruits and vegetables that I’m planning on eating more of this year.  What foods are you interested in eating more of in 2014?

Categories: From the Field to Your Fork, Informational | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

What winter means for farmers


Photo credit: Ott

Have you ever wondered what farmers do in the winter?  Even the most casual observer can see what farmers keep busy with in the warmer months of the year.  Crops need to be planted, tended and harvested.  Hogs, cattle, poultry and other livestock go to local and state fairs.  All of those outside projects that came up during the winter (and were put-off until warmer weather) are finally completed.

Although the work of farmers may not be easily seen in the winter, the work of a farm never stops.  Winter is a time of wrapping up loose ends from the previous season and preparing for the upcoming one.  And like all farmers in Indiana, Rob Richards of Indy Family Farms is keeping busy this winter.  I had the opportunity to correspond with Rob and talk with him about what operations look like at his farm during the cold moths.

Rob said that his farm’s typical winter operations include fixing the equipment used during the harvest, organizing and cleaning the shop, hauling stored grain to elevators, and prepping for taxes.  Like any business, farms have assets they need to maintain and business operations to perform.

Winter offers a challenge to farmers because of the unpredictable conditions.  “We haul a lot of grain in the winter, and weather conditions can play havoc with travel and some of the equipment we use,” he explained.

Indy Family Farms Photo obviously not taken this winter :)

Indy Family Farms
Photo obviously not taken this winter 🙂

Additionally, the folks at Indy Family Farms spend a good portion of their winter finishing the 2014 crop budget, selecting and ordering various input items (seed, fertilizers, chemicals, etc…) and completing the 2014 crop plan by field.   Farming isn’t a simple matter of waking-up on the first morning of spring, pulling out the tractor and planting the fields.  Careful scheduling is involved to make sure farmers have a plan for planting their fields at the proper time of the year with the right supplies.

Although winter means busy days finishing 2013 business and preparing for the 2014 planting season, Rob noted there are advantages to the change in seasons.   “Work hours are more regular and there is less need to work extra late hours, like during planting and harvest,” he said.  He added that the winter season comes with more flexibility for family activities, and offers the opportunity to visit the landowners they work with, and sit down with employees to get their input about farming operations.

What do farmers do in the winter? Plenty.  The activities completed post-harvest and pre-planting are the nuts and bolts of a successful operation.  Colin Powell once said: “There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”  For the farmer, this is what winter is all about: working hard to learn from the previous season and to prepare for the next one.

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, From the Field to Your Fork, The Faces of Modern Agriculture | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Laura’s Links: Ensuring Your Ag-Tech Literacy

Twice monthly, Agriculture Technology and Innovation Program Manager Laura Buck will provide a series of links that touch upon emerging technologies and advances in agriculture. Topics will range from robotics to genetic engineering and everything in between. If it involves agriculture and technology, we want you to know about it (and sound smart when talking to your friends). For questions or comments, contact Laura Buck at

Spotlight on UAV’s (a.k.a. drones):  Last month, Amazon made a splash in publicly speculating about the future use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for package delivery. Although the private-sector adoption of UAVs seemed strange to some, they’re an accepted technology in the ag world. UAV’s hold immense potential in agriculture, and this potential is starting to be realized. Read and click on…

Drones, Drones on the Range 

Next Farm Tool: Drones

Underground Drone Economy Takes Flight

As mentioned in the above articles, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently limiting the commercial use of UAV’s, but this year, six “test bed sides” will be allowed to move forward with some commercial testing. Unfortunately, Indiana is not one of those six sites, so we will have to wait until 2015 when official FAA commercial use regulations are to be implemented.

FAA Selects Unmanned Aircraft Systems Research and Test Sites

And on a completely different note – what do Subway napkins, U-turns and seed technology have in common?  Click the link below to find out.

Corporate Espionage Strikes Iowa’s Agricultural Technology

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Farming: A job for all seasons

I found myself perusing Facebook while I was cooped up in my house last weekend (thanks to #PolarVortex), and this picture and accompanying caption popped up in my newsfeed from a college friend whose family operates a dairy farm in northern Indiana.


“It is hard to describe how challenging this day is on a #dairyfarm.”

Too often, I forget that the farmer’s work is never finished.  While I was in my sweats drinking tea and watching television, farmers like the Troxels continued to do their daily work of stewarding creation.  Agriculture can’t take a snow day.

Farming is a 24/7/365 job that requires a vision for the future and sacrifice.  I’m a fan of the writings of James Herriot, a British veterinarian who worked in the mid-20th century.  With a practice in an English town, Herriot worked closely with the local agricultural community.  I think this anecdote he shares sums up the farming work-ethic:  “A farmer once told me one of the greatest luxuries of his life was to wake up early only to go back to sleep again.”

Since I’ve been working in agriculture, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the work to which farmers and ag businesses devote themselves.  Not only are farmers concerned with being good stewards of the earth and caring for their animals, they also want to create an agricultural system that is sustainable for generations to come.  These people are often heavily involved in their communities; they work with parent-teacher associations, volunteer at their churches and serve on various boards.  Their work spans the breadth and depth of society, and touches the world.

Their work is also dependent on factors outside of their control.  Not enough rain at one time of the year and too much at another time can be the difference between a good crop and a bad one. And that’s just one example.  Talk to any farmer, and he/she will tell you of dozens of instances when farm operations were impacted by weather, disease, etc.

Farming.  It truly is a job for all seasons.  I’m thankful that farmers work year-round to put food on our tables and clothes on our backs while taking care of the earth.

Categories: Farming in the 21st Century, From the Field to Your Fork | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laura’s Links: Ensuring Your Ag-Tech Literacy

Twice monthly, Agriculture Advancement and Promotion Program Manager Laura Buck will provide a series of links that touch upon emerging technologies and innovations in agriculture. Topics will range from robotics to genetic engineering and everything in between. If it involves agriculture and technology, we want you to know about it (and sound smart when talking to your friends). For questions or comments, contact Laura Buck at

“Moving Beyond Agricultural Pesticides”

Australian scientists are exploring how fertilizers can be used to control agricultural pests. You read that correctly – fertilizers as a form of pesticide. Plants are most vulnerable to pests when they are “ill” – either too much or too little nutrients – so maintaining a correct balance of nutrients improves a crop’s resistance to pests.

English: Pea plant One of thousands growing here.

English: Pea plant One of thousands growing here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“New, Disease-Resistant Pea Lines Developed”

Help is on the way for pea growers. USDA scientists have developed peas tolerant to a particularly troublesome form of root rot. There is currently no fungicide available for peas that is capable of tackling this form of root rot, which can result in crop losses up to 100%. Researchers hope the tolerance trait will be introduced to commercial pea varieties soon.

“Air, Water, Energy and Food in a Nutshell: Space Exploration as a Driver for Sustainable Robotic Agriculture”

The following article explores the relationship between agriculture and space exploration. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a farmer in outer space, this read is for you. Perhaps someday in the not-too-distant future, Major Tom will be Farmer Jon.

“Science of the Times: NASA Sows Seeds of Science for Children”

Speaking of farmers in space, NASA has launched a new program to engage children in agriculture. Once again, you read that right – NASA engaging students in agriculture. Classrooms around the country will be encouraged to create “growth chambers,” which will be used as controls for the experimental growth chambers NASA will be sending to the moon in 2015. Basil and turnip seeds will be used in the experiment, which should tell us a lot about the potential of lunar greenhouses.

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Visiting Indiana Agriculture (ISDA’s Holiday Gift Guide)

Need a last minute gift idea?  Indiana agriculture comes in many forms and it may be the present you’re looking for to finish your Christmas shopping. To celebrate the season, I compiled gift ideas from some of the staff here at ISDA.

Christmas lights 2010

Christmas lights 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of my favorite presents to receive is the gift of a shared experience.  For Christmas one year, my childhood friend treated me and some of our other friends to ice skating and Starbucks, and then had pictures from the evening printed for us.  It was a perfect gift: we made a memory together and enjoyed Indianapolis at Christmastime.  That present was far more meaningful than any trinket.

The agriculture and food scene of Indiana has countless experiences that fit the bill for anyone on your list.

Interested in learning about the farm-to-fork continuum?  Visit a farm!

Places like Fair Oaks and Kelsay’s Farms are great destinations for families, children, and friends to visit and learn about how food is produce, and have fun while doing so!

Want to learn more about Indiana’s ag history? Check-out Indiana’s food/rural attractions!

Here’s just a sampling of some of the events/attractions that offer visitors a look at how agriculture is related to Indiana’s cultural identity:

  • DigINdiana  is a food fest where Indiana’s farmers, chefs, brewers, vinters and foodies come together to taste and learn about the food grown right here in Indiana.
  • The Indiana Wine Trail of southeastern Indiana offers wine connoisseurs an opportunity to learn about Indiana’s wine heritage.
  • The Maple Syrup Fair of Parke County offers visitors an opportunity to learn about how maple syrup is made and taste the final product.
  • The Covered Bridge Festival, also in Parke County,  celebrates the history and importance of covered bridges in our state.  Nan Hammel, an ISDA resource specialist, wrote a wonderful blog post about the significance of these bridges.  Fun fact: Parke County is the covered bridge capital!

Looking for a low-key, fun outing with friends? Ag businesses have the answer for you!

Why not try out a soup, wine and music one winter afternoon at Mallow Run Winery?  Visit Apple Works and enjoy some snacks and their trails?  Or drive to Roanoke and eat at Joseph Decuis restaurant for a special evening out?  These are just three ideas; do a little searching online and you’re sure to find more!

How to gift an experience

Of course, it’s always a treat to open up a package on Christmas day.  Here are some ideas of how to package your experience to present it as a gift.

  • Include a tangible item that relates to the experience.  Going to take someone to the maple syrup fair?  Give them a small bottle of maple syrup with a note about your upcoming plans.
  • Make a gift certificate on your computer and wrap it in a box.
  • Give an empty picture frame, and write a note about how you’ll fill the frame with a photo from the event.

Have you visited one of the locations mentioned? What ag tourism destinations would you recommend?

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Drinking Indiana Agriculture (ISDA’s Holiday Gift Guide)

Need a last minute gift idea?  Indiana agriculture comes in many forms and it may be the present you’re looking for to finish

English: A Christmas Tree at Home

English: A Christmas Tree at Home (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

your Christmas shopping. To celebrate the season, I compiled gift ideas from some of the staff here at ISDA.

On Wednesday, I shared some ideas for edible gifts of Indiana agriculture.  Today, I’m excited to share information about various beverages you can find that are produced and/or processed in our great state


Did you know that Indiana was the site of the first commercial winery in the United States? The wine industry took root in our state in the early 1800s in Vevay, Ind.  Following the Prohibition, Indiana wine production significantly diminished.  However, the Small Winery Act of 1971 re-ignited the industry and today we have more than 75 wineries dotted throughout our state.  Check out this map and pick up a bottle of wine for someone on your Christmas list.

Indiana’s signature grape is the Traminette and it pairs well with pork, turkey, seafood and Asian cuisine.


Beer also has a long history in our state.  From what historians can gather, the first commercial brewery was established in 1816 near Richmond Indiana.  Like Indiana’s wine industry, our beer industry shrank during the Prohibition and began to recently re-emerge.  Visit Indiana Beer for a list of current microbreweries, and make plans to stop by one and pick-up a six-pack.


Milk and cookies are a natural pairing for the holiday season.  Did you know that when you buy milk from the grocery store, you’re supporting Indiana’s dairy farmers?  I think a milk and cookies basket would be the perfect gift for neighbors.

Coffee roasting/Tea blending

Although Indiana doesn’t produce tea or coffee, our state is home to a variety of processors who roast coffee and blend tea.  As an avid connoisseur of hot beverages, I’m somewhat familiar with the coffee and tea scene in Indiana.  Julian Roasters and Tea Pots ‘n’ Treasures are just two examples of Indiana’s offerings in this segment of agriculture.

Not only are these beverages wonderful gift ideas, they can also become the means of establishing traditions with family and friends.  For example, why not try a new variety of coffee from an Indiana roaster to serve Christmas morning when opening gifts with family? Or, open a bottle of Traminette to usher in the New Year?

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