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Women In Ag: The Iowa #TourDePork

About a month ago I got the opportunity to attend an amazing two day event put on by our own Iowa Pork Producers Association. The Iowa Pork Producers selected a handful of Iowa bloggers to come and spend two days in Des Moines full of all things pork. The bloggers got to see first-hand little pigs being born and learned about our industry. They truly received the farm to fork experience. There were a wonderful mixture of pig farming bloggers and bloggers who have never stepped foot on a modern pig farm before. I felt honored that I was able to help answer questions and talk about our practices on our farm. It was an event full of learning, laughs, adventure, and growth.

Our first day started off with a wonderful welcoming put on by the marketing ladies at the Iowa Pork Producers Association. They made us feel so welcome and passionate about what they do for Iowa Pork. We had a brunch/snack and learned a little about how pork is a large part of our economic industry here in Iowa. We also learned how the Iowa Pork Board operates, and about its affiliates like the Pork Check-Off.

We then headed for a tour at Brenneman Pork in Washington, Iowa. Brenneman pork is the biggest family operated swine farm in Iowa. I have gotten the privilege to meet Erin Brenneman of Brenneman pork through some other work with the National Pork Board. She is a wonderful agriculture advocate and she is a part of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance! Erin is the daughter in-law of Rob and Char Brenneman, owners of Brenneman Pork. She works as their Public Relations and Day One Farrowing Specialist. Erin is very passionate about sharing what they do on their farm. She believes in sharing her story and opening their barn doors for the public to tour. She is changing the way people think about large pig operations on tour at a time. As a fellow producer, I learned so much from their operation. I was so excited to come home and share what I learned on their farm and the things we can do to make the lives of our sows, newborn pigs, and our lives easier. Brenneman Pork is the premiere example of what every pig farm in Iowa should strive to be. You can read more about their operation in an article from U.S. Business Executive. They did a wonderful article that fully in capsule’s everything Brenneman Pork stands for.  After our wonderful tour we headed home for the Iowa Pork Blogger Tour 4 Course Dinner at Splash in downtown Des Moines.

Splash is seafood restaurant but Chef Dominic Ianarelli, Executive Chef of Splash and Jethro’s restaurants, has a passion for pork. Throughout this wonderful meal we had wine pairings to go with each course! I’m no stranger to pork-centric dinners, but the courses were unique in flavor and Chef Ianarelli took me to a pork place I have never gone before. We began our night with a ham tasting, it included a ham that was aged for 400 days and they were paired with this wonderful lemon parsley pickle spread. The next plate was rare but surprisingly tender pork cheeks braised and served with shrimp and tortellini in an herbed goat cheese fondue. This was by farm my favorite course! Whenever cheese is paired with meat it’s a winner in my book! Other courses included lobster stuffed pork tenderloin with maytag Havarti potatoes, deconstructed pork shoulder scented with porcini mushrooms and creamed zucchini and for desert we had the most amazing confetti birthday cake with house-made white chocolate ice cream. It took me days to eat anything out of fridge after this… Nothing at the store looked appetizing and my Great Summer #PorkOff burger series seemed so lame. I quickly got over this as I eventually got hungry again and had to settle for what was in my cupboards. Thank you Chef Ianarelli for rocking my pork world! It was scrumptious and I have to say, I expanded my pork eating horizons!

The next day, we headed off to The Country Club Market, owned by Chef Terrie Kohl. If you haven’t met her, she is the cutest, and zestiest little chef I have ever met. She boasts a long and accomplished chef resume; she even got to meet Julia Child! I about fell over when I saw the picture of her and Julia. With Chef Terrie we made our lunch and each group took a dish to make, we learned new techniques and recipes. We also had a food stylist workshop with a photographer from Meredith Corporation. She was so skilled and showed us unique techniques on how to photograph our food for our blogs. After cooking and talking and having a wonderful time we sat down to enjoy the lunch we cooked together. It was a great time to sit and enjoy ourselves and reflect upon the last day and a half together.

This blogger tour was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever been on. I loved watching other people experience the wonder of helping a sow give birth for their first time. I learned from them as well, and how they as consumers that do not have direct influence from farms make their food choices. We had so much fun together and we all have the wonderful ladies at the Iowa Pork Producers Association to thank for it. They pulled out all the stops, and were very thoughtful. I also have Erin and the Brenneman family to thank. Biosecurity is number one on our farm as it is theirs, and I thank them for allowing me to come to their farm and experience how they run their operation. Thank you Shawnie Wagner the Consumer Outreach Director of Iowa Pork, Josie McQuillen Iowa Pork Producers Association Checkoff Intern, and Cristen Clark of Food & Swine for putting this experience together!  

Has your state’s pork or beef producers done a tour like this for local online influencers?

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