Illinois Farm Families Blog

Oct 22 2014

What's Cooking Wednesday: Pumpkin Pancakes

Regular readers will know that agriculture is a major part of the economy of Illinois, but did you realize that Illinois is the number one pumpkin growing state in the U.S.? When you pick that portly squash for fall decorating or open a can of Libby's for Thanksgiving pies, you're probably using a product grown and processed right here in our state. Pumpkin is low in calories and high in antioxidants like vitamin A. Here's one more way to enjoy fall's favorite flavor:

Pumpkin Pancakes

These pancakes can be prepared Butternut Squash, Hubbard Squash or other variety of winter squash. Use canned pumpkin puree, freshly prepared puree, or frozen puree which has been thawed. Cold leftover pancakes are an appetizing snack.


  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup molasses or maple syrup
  • 3-4 tablespoons buttermilk or milk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or hazelnuts, optional
  • Powdered sugar for dusting


  1. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, beat egg slightly. Add pumpkin or squash puree, molasses or syrup, milk or buttermilk and melted butter or margarine. Mix until smooth.
  3. Blend in the dry ingredients all at once. Mix until batter is smooth. Allow batter to rest for 30 minutes or more.
  4. Stir nuts into batter, and add additional tablespoon of buttermilk or milk if batter is too thick.
  5. To make pancakes, spoon a heaping tablespoon of batter onto a lightly greased preheated griddle or heavy skillet. With the back of the spoon, flatten batter to about 1/2-inch thickness. Cook slowly until bubbles appear on top and bottom is golden brown. Lift edge to check. Turn and cook until other side is golden brown.
  6. Place on a platter and set platter in a warm oven. Continue making pancakes until all batter is used. Makes about 24, 3-inch pancakes. Serves 4 to 6 people. Garnish with powdered sugar or serve with corn syrup, maple syrup or your favorite pancake syrup.

Recipe courtesy of the University of Illinois Extension Service. Find more great pumpkin recipes on their Pumpkins and More website.



  • 2 cups complete pancake mix (such as AUNT JEMIMA® Buttermilk Complete)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2/3 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Lite pancake syrup, if desired


  1. COMBINE pancake mix, water and pumpkin in medium bowl. Stir just until moistened. Batter may be lumpy. 
  2. SPRAY griddle or large skillet with nonstick spray. Heat over medium heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle; cook until batter bubbles begin to burst. Turn and continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes or until golden. Repeat with remaining batter. Serve with syrup.

Makes 6 servings, about 12 pancakes total

Recipe courtesy of Very Best Baking by Nestle, the parent company of Libby's Pumpkin. Find more pumpkin recipes at

Oct 21 2014

Modern Farming Myth: Seed company contracts force farmers to plant GMO crops

There's a lot of information and misinformation out there about modern farming, and it may be hard to tell the facts from the exaggerations, half-truths and straight out nonsense. We're collecting some of the myths we hear time and time again and asking our farm volunteers to explain how things really work on their farms. Krista and Brett Swanson are both farmers and seed dealers, so we asked them to explain how seed contracts work. Here is their answer:

Just like you choose what brand and type of toothpaste to buy, farmers can choose their seed. Contrary to the misconceptions floating around, farmers can choose from many seed companies offering different brands of seed, and a selection of GM and non-GM seed hybrids or varieties within those brands.

As a seed dealer we are linked to a single seed company and only able to sell that brand of seed, but even we, as farmers, are not bound to plant only that brand on our farm. In fact, we do buy seed of other brands to plant in plot comparisons in different locations so we can continuously monitor how our products compare to products of all our competitors. Obviously, it is beneficial for our farm to support our seed business, and we want to plant the products we sell on most of our acreage, but nothing prohibits us from purchasing any brand or type of seed we feel is the best choice for our farm.

Decades ago farmers could save seed each fall and replant in the spring instead of buying new seed. When plant breeding methods escalated in the 1990s, companies made huge investments in seed technology and began patenting the seed they developed. Just as a computer company patents their products, seed companies use patents to ensure they are paid for their products and the investment needed to develop the products. The protection of patents also encourages privately-owned companies to pursue and re-invest in innovation. Again, the same principals apply to privately-owned companies in other industries.

Regardless of whether the seed is GM or non-GM, and regardless of the seed company producing it, almost all seed is now patented. Even if the seed does not contain GM traits, it still has valuable, top-notch germplasm resulting from the company’s investments in conventional breeding methods.

When farmers purchase patented seed, again regardless of brand/seed company, they sign a “technology use” agreement. In this agreement the farmer pledges they will not save and replant seeds. Period. There is absolutely no mention of requirements for purchasing that brand of seed in the future. Farmers are smart businessmen and women who research the selection of seed products available every year and make the best selection for their farm.

Our customers are more than willing to sign the agreement. They understand the purpose of the agreement and the fact that purchasing seed annually allows companies to continue making investments in research. All of us – farmers and consumers – benefit from the resulting selection of seed and therefore, the variety in types of food we can choose from.

Krista Swanson

Oct 20 2014

Images of Harvest: Amber waves

Danelle Burrs of Dixon captured this beautiful field ready for harvest. 
Oct 17 2014

It’s YOUR turn…..

Have you ever stopped to wonder how your food goes from farm to table ? Have you ever read a story in the newspaper regarding the safety or ethics of food and farming ? As a Mom and a consumer, and as someone who LOVES to eat… I did. So I made it my mission to research  those things I often wondered about. Things like antibiotics in our meat, GMOs, farming as a business AND a passion.  No matter how much I read, and wrote, and learned, I still felt as if I never received both sides of that proverbial coin. I had questions, I had concerns, but I had no way to get those answers I craved.  Little did I know, fate was about to step in….

A friend and I were talking about what our plans were for the upcoming year and she told me she was about to embark on an amazing journey meeting farmers and learning about the food we feed our families. That was ALL I needed to hear. I KNEW that I had to be a part.  I sent in my application to become a City Mom (then known as Field Moms) for the Illinois Farm Families. And so began my love affair with farming.

As a child who grew up in the city, as a Mom who was raising her children in the city, I knew it was my responsibility to teach them about where their food comes from. After all, my middle daughter once saw a chicken at a park district barn, and was completely bewildered when I told her THAT was how we got eggs, and her beloved chicken tenders. There was a definite disconnect somewhere along the way. A disconnect I felt the need to repair. I wanted my children to know, that food doesn’t just appear, wrapped in plastic, onto our local grocers shelves. Someone, somewhere, gave their time and their passion to provide for us.

Now, I had never visited a farm, and I was by no means in any position to teach what I simply didn’t know. So this amazing opportunity that had been handed to me, was a gift that would go far beyond my own four walls. I knew, that my responsibility was to educate as many people as I could, about the many topics I now had the means to discuss. I was thrilled to know that I was going to get the chance to sit down face to face with farmers of today, and ask them all of those questions I had been carrying.

My vision of farming was one of times past. What I was immersed in, went far beyond my wildest dreams. Technology is now at the forefront of modern day farming. But the backbone of farming is still the farmers’ love of their land. Farming is an amazing world that allows modern day conveniences to intersect with proud traditions at the perfect crossroads. To be a part of a harvest, riding in a combine powered by GPS, is pure magic.  I was part of a community, if even for that moment, that I knew nothing about.

I learned much more than what I had set out to. I learned about both science and conscience. I learned about both profit and providing. But mostly, I learned the value of hard work.

I hope that any Moms who may be reading this blog, will seriously consider becoming a CITY MOM. It was an experience I will build upon forever. Get out there, get your hands dirty and get your questions answered.

Shake the hand of a farmer.

Pass it on and pay it forward.

If you are interested in becoming a 2015 CITY MOM follow the below link for the application :

Katie Grossart, 

Katie was one of the Illinois Farm Families 2013 Field Moms. Throughout the year she visited several Illinois farms to learn more about where food comes from. Following each tour, the Field Moms shared their thoughts by blogging about what they experienced on these farms, including five things they found most interesting. Want to learn more? Read Our Story: Chicago moms meet farmers.

Oct 16 2014

Images of Harvest: Throw back Thursday

Michele Aavang of Willow Lea Stock Farm shares this picture of a corn harvest from 1955.
Oct 15 2014

What's Cooking Wednesday: Black Bean Chili

Perfect for game night, or any night, this slow cooker chili makes it easy to put a hearty meal in front of your family even on a busy day.

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 hours, 30 minutes
Servings: 4


  • 1 1/2 pound boneless sirloin pork roast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 15 1/2-oz cans black beans, drained
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup salsa, thick and chunky
  • 1 15 1/2-oz can diced tomatoes, do not drain
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • sour cream, garnish
  • Cheddar cheese, shredded (garnish)

Cooking Directions

Combine all ingredients except garnishes in 3 1/2-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat setting 7 to 8 hours. Top individual bowls with sour cream and Cheddar cheese.Serves 4

Serving Suggestions

Basic ingredients that go together easily. Let slow cook during the day and come home to a hearty chili. Serve with tortilla chips and a green salad.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 446 calories
Protein: 47 grams
Fat: 9 grams
Sodium: 654 milligrams
Cholesterol: 85 milligrams
Saturated Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 44 grams
Fiber: 14 grams

Recipe courtesy of Pork Be Inspired

Oct 14 2014

Images of Harvest: Almost done

Andrew Bowman, Oneida
Oct 13 2014

Top 10 things I love about October

October in my book, is one of the best months of the year. And with the help of our Pinterest page, here is why:
  1. Pumpkins – This seems to be one of those things that people either love or hate. I’m on the love side here. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cheddar mac & cheese, the list goes on and on and on. How could you NOT like pumpkin, it’s so versatile! 
  2. Pumpkin farms – We are lucky to have an amazing pumpkin farm right down the road from our office and I take my daughter there every year. Rader Family Farms is fun for all ages, it’s especially great for those families that aren’t from farm. They get a chance to spend the day on a farm and learn a few things while having fun.
  3. Cooler Temperatures – While I love summer, it’s just not as great as fall. When the temperature drops and you can wear jeans and a sweatshirt while sitting around a campfire – nothing beats it.
  4. S’mores and Cookouts – Cooking over a campfire makes some of the best food and it’s just downright fun. Kids can even get involved by roasting hot dogs and s’mores! What kid doesn’t love a s’more?
  5. Soup – What goes great with lower temps? Soup of course. It’s not very appetizing to me to eat a blazing hot bowl of soup when it’s also blazing hot outside. But when it’s nice and cool out? Oh yes, bring on the soups!
  6. Fall Decorations – Indian corn, burlap, pumpkins, squash, acorns, pine cones, the list goes on of great decorations.
  7. Halloween – It doesn’t matter how old you are, get dressed up and have fun on Halloween! Who needs a costume party? Put on your best mummy or witch makeup and scare the neighborhood kids as they come to your front door for treats! And I would be remiss if I left out Halloween candy here. Eat as much as you want, it’s the one time of year that candy is fat and calorie free… right?
  8. Bow-hunterBow season – October 1st marks the beginning of bow season! There really is no way to feel closer to nature than sitting in a tree stand as the sun rises and waiting for the perfect deer to come across your path. Filling your freezer with enough meat to get you through the year is a nice perk as well.
  9. Piles of Leaves – Come on, do I even have to explain this one?
  10. Harvest – Of course, I saved the best for last…. Such a great feeling comes with harvest. It’s the time when all of a farmer’s hard work is coming to fruition. The sights and smells of harvest are the best of the year.

Did I leave one of your favorites off? Tell me what you love most about October!

Becky Finfrock
ICGA/ICMB Communications Assistant

This blog originally appeared on Corn Corps, the Illinois Corn Farmer's blog.
Oct 12 2014

Food for Thought - What's in Milk?

Oct 10 2014

What I wish people knew about pig farming

Recently, I participated in an online video discussion with an Animal Welfare class from an eastern U.S. university. The purpose of the class was to give class attendees a farmer’s perspective on pig issues concerning animal welfare. There were two of us, myself and another farmer from Indiana. We were given a few questions ahead of time, but we also answered questions directly from the class. By the end of the class period, it was apparent there was a definite flavor of animal rights views within the classroom. Later, as I pondered about how the class discussion went, I thought very hard about the animal right’s perspective and agenda. I really wanted to “see” animal welfare issues through their eyes. I struggled and frankly, I just don’t get it. I think what is most frustrating for farmers is how do we communicate our experiences so others also feel the same experiences and compassion we feel. Thus, this is what I wish people knew about pig farming

I wish people could experience the things we experience. I wish they could see the fights that sows have which are a natural response to their innate social hierarchy that determines who is the “king” sow. The fights that result in injuries such as bites to body parts including ears, snouts, legs and vulvas. And sometimes these injuries are lethal. I wish people could hear the ear piercing screams we hear when a sow is attacking another. No, we don’t rush to grab our phones to videotape the pig attacks. Instead, we attempt to break up the fights, assess and care for the injuries, all while hoping not to be injured ourselves.

I wish people could see the utter contentment sows experience when they are housed in gestation stalls. I wish they could see how pigs respond when they no longer fear for their lives and are safe. I wish people could see the “night and day” difference between sows that are housed outdoors and sows that are housed in gestation stalls because we can give them specialized individual care.

I wish people were on our farm to see the looks on our faces after the drowning of newborn piglets who were savagely placed there by another pregnant sow. The horrified looks when we discovered a total of 10 baby piglets laying at the bottom of a mud puddle, a mud puddle created by a recent thunderstorm. I wish they could experience our heartbreak as we removed each baby pig from the mud puddle. And I wish they also had my memory as I still remember it like it was yesterday. Or the frustration when an unruly sows bites at her newly born pigs or accidentally lays or steps on one. I wish people understood this is why sows are housed in farrowing (birthing) stalls to prevent these heartaches. And, yet, the animal rights agenda thinks farrowing stalls are cruel. They honestly haven’t seen cruel until they see deaths that could have been prevented.

I wish people could see the realities of disease. Diseases that cause nearly 100% mortality of newborn pigs for 4-5 weeks. I wish people could walk in barns and see nothing but dead baby pigs and knowing there is absolutely nothing you can do about it and the despair that follows. I wish people were on my farm that Thanksgiving Day when my determined husband was going to save newborn pigs who were doomed for an imminent death because of a virus. A virus with no vaccine or a treatment drug. Only to realize his heroic efforts went to waste. I wish people could see the look on his face upon the realization that he didn’t succeed, and yet, managed somehow to look forward to the next day because “it will be a better day.” Farmers live in reality, not ideology.

I wish people realized that “natural” behaviors are not always best for pigs. “Natural” that can result in bullied animals, injuries and death. But animal rightists look past and turn their heads to the painful consequences when pigs are allowed to exhibit their “natural” behaviors towards each other. In their eyes, natural is best. Natural is not always best. Comfortable and content pigs are what is best.

It’s easy and feels good to reach for ideology. It’s pleasurable to visualize the sunny 70-degree days where pigs roam pastures under trees and never hurt one another. You know, the whole Charlotte’s Web scenario. Who wouldn’t love a world like that? But we don’t live in Charlotte’s Web’s book, we live in reality.

As a farmer, our main goal is to eliminate or reduce stressors in a pig’s life. Stressors such as thirst, hunger, disease, unsafe environment, temperature extremes, weather conditions, unclean air and pig behaviors. Our challenge is to create a balance where we reduce/eliminate as many stressors as possible that results in making a pig’s life as comfortable as possible. That is real pig farming.

I think it’s easy for outsiders to tell us and insist on how we should or shouldn’t raise pigs. But the problem is most of these people do not experience the same things we do. They do not see what we see. They do not hear what we hear.

And it’s particularly frustrating when large corporations, who use pork from our farms in their stores, also tell us how to raise pigs. Evidently, they also think they “know better” than we do, but until they experience, see and hear what we do, they really don’t “know better.”  

Farmers raise pigs in many different ways. One way is not better than another. I truly believe pig farmers raise pigs in the way that works best for them. And we need every pig farmer.

Farmers work diligently to improve their farming practices continually. We take better care of our pigs than we did yesterday. And tomorrow, we will do better than today. Are we perfect? Not by a long shot, but we really do care about what we do.

Despite what others may say.

Wanda Patsche is a wife, mom and grandmother. She and her husband grow about 1000 acres of corn and soybeans and raise about 4400 hogs a year on their farm in Southern Minnesota. They use modern farm technology to improve farm efficiencies. Wanda is passionate about agriculture and rural life living.  Her ultimate goal is to give an accurate picture of today’s farms and rural Minnesota living by telling her story and connecting with consumers. Follow her on her blog, Minnesota Farm Living, on Twitter @MinnFarmer or on Facebook.

This post originally appeared on Minnesota Farm Living, and is reprinted with the author's permission.

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