A Fair Day for FarmerChefs

29 Aug

On Sunday, we found our way to the Minnesota State Fair.  We had a specific goal in mind.  No, it wasn’t to discover how many “foods” are served on sticks. Although we did see more than a few.

Photo of Lamb Chop on Stick

Our aim was to see the good folks at River Rock Coffee in St. Peter. They were invited to cook in a day long event created by the Minnesota Farmers Union called Minnesota CooksSteve and I, along with his parents, were excited to attend this 10th annual event for our first time.

We wandered in and out of the event throughout the day.  The food samples were outstanding and we appreciated the creativity and discussion on the impact both from a sustainability and a health perspective for using locally sourced foods whenever possible. We left at the end of day with calendar featuring the recipes and lots of inspiration for our own little FarmerChef project.

Photo of 2012-13 Mn Cooks Calandar

The event took place on an outdoor stage with two chefs on the right side of the stage and four or five celebrities and/or farmers on a tasting panel to the left of the stage.

It was hard to really see what the chefs were cooking, but we were entertained from the interaction provided by morning emcee Mary Lahammer from Twin Cities Public Television and afternoon emcee JD Fratzke of The Strip Club Meat & Fish.

A memorable discussion from the morning sessions was about questioning the sustainability of eating meat, especially beef that is fed grain rather than grass.  For those that didn’t study ruminant nutrition, like my husband Steve did, grass is a cow’s natural food. 

Todd Churchill at Thousand Hills Cattle Company reminded us that when we eat grain fed beef our bodies are getting  more Omega 6 fat than Omega 3 fat.  Omega 3 is considered more difficult to attain than Omega 6 fat.  Both are considered necessary for optimal health.  Omega 3 is often called the “healthy fat” and is more abundant when cattle eat grass. If you want to know more about this subject, here is a link to a good article from Cooking Light magazine.

Todd also predicts that in the future we will not be able to raise grain fed cattle because of the economics.  Steve, who is my resident expert on the cattle business, explains: 

“Because grass is the beef animal’s natural source of energy, feeding cattle grain is most feasible when grains are relatively inexpensive.  Cattle are the least efficient animals when it comes to converting grain in order to consume animal protein in our diets.  An increase in the use of corn for ethanol production and overall world grain demand has made corn very expensive and therefore grain fed beef expensive.”

Mike Phillips of Three Sons Meat Co. prepared Salami Bread Salad using pasture raised pork from Lori Brinkman of Elm Brink Farm.  Mike expressed his belief that at first seems strange for a meat purveyor, “We use too much animal protein!”  He designed his recipe to use salami as one favorable, but small component of the dish, not the dish itself. This is a healthy trick we have been teaching our cooking class attendees.  We will continue to feature recipes that are closer to vegan than the french fries and hamburgers we have been eating for years and selling when we operated our restaurant.   The more we read and learn, the more we realize this old diet was not serving its true purpose, to nourish our bodies.  There is so much to share about this idea so we’ll expand in later posts.

One highlight from the afternoon was seeing Paul Berglund of The Bachelor Farmer preparing what he called Bachelor Farmer Summer Harvest Salad, Soft-Boiled Farm Egg with The Bachelor Farmer Rooftop Herbs featuring produce from Dayna Burtness of Laughing Loon Farm.  (Wow, that is a long description but I didn’t want to leave anything out.)  We liked that he was a expressing  what we call his “FarmerChefiness” in the most extreme ways by growing herbs on a rooftop garden in urban Minneapolis.  This picture is from the restaurant’s website of the garden.

Photo of Rooftop Garden at The Bachelor Farmer

Another interesting discussion aligned with our new business focus.  Stephanie Meyer, a writer/blogger was on one of the afternoon discussion panels .  She mentioned her frustration with the gluten-free product boom. We agree and see what she is seeing, a steady stream of overly processed new foods now slapped with a gluten-free label.

While we are working on producing gluten-free and reduced allergy products ourselves, we feel there is a niche in the marketplace for items made from real food, not additives, that compliment a whole foods plant based diet.  We encourage our students and readers to be careful not to transfer an overly processed food diet to the gluten-free world.  We look forward to following Stephanie’s blog for continued inspiration.

We had a great day at the fair!  There were so many interesting people we heard and saw.  In our opinion, our time spent at the Minnesota Cooks event was much more fruitful than eating fried fruit on a stick or standing in line for Sweet Martha’s Cookies.

How about you, does your local or state fair have an event that highlights healthy cooking and sustainability?

What have you done lately to express your FarmerChefiness?

4 Responses to “A Fair Day for FarmerChefs”

  1. Corrine August 29, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    WOW!! sounds like you had a wonderful day! So inspiring and educational…. so many things to learn about. Can’t wait to hear more. Thanks for sharing.

    • realocalcooking August 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

      Hi Mom, It was. Wish we could have had you right along with us. :)

  2. Rachel@hammeringourwayhome August 29, 2012 at 11:28 pm #

    I’m really interested to learn more about meat (perhaps a bit scared, too). I’m interested in cutting back on meat intake in my meals– and reducing it to dinner only. I haven’t really sorted it out just yet, but it’s a goal. I had no idea about the grain/grass issue. I wish ‘meat knowledge’ was talked about more. I’m glad you guys touched on it– would love to learn more!

    • realocalcooking August 30, 2012 at 9:50 am #


      We love your energy toward this subject. There are a lot of food documentaries out during the last 5 to 10 years. People are re-thinking what we eat. Have you seen Forks Over Knives or Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead? Both will give you food for thought on eating more of whole plant based diet. You are off to a good start with the garden Drew created for you!

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