Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cows, farmers and round bales (and a recipe!)--National Ag Day 2015

Where would we be without agriculture? Not making delicious recipes and meals, that's for sure! Stay tuned for a yummy cheesecake recipe to celebrate this great day!


Cows, farmers and round bales. That is exactly how I spent my day. It's very fitting that today is National Ag Day and I was surrounded by many facets of agriculture. I drove up to visit one of the great dairymen who is part of one of the programs I manage for work. Farm visits are my favorite part of my job. Small town charm, down-to-earth people and sweet animals...what could be better?

Another thing I love about being involved in agriculture is that no matter how long you are involved in farming, there is always something to learn. We only make small square bales (of hay) on our farm, so I'm always eager to learn more about what goes into making large square bales and round bales. Today I got to see how large round bales are wrapped together. When they are wrapped separately they look like marshmallows and that's usually what I call them.

I always learn a lot no matter whose farm I visit. Dairies are my favorite, but I've been fortunate to work with all kinds of farmers who are kind enough to teach me about their farms. One of my poultry farmers took me on a tour of his layer operation. A layer operation has chickens that lay eggs...so an egg farm. Biosecurity is extremely important on poultry and hog farms especially (but also other types of farms as well), so he had boots and disposable overalls for me to wear over my clothes. Biosecurity protects animal health from any outside threats to their health, such as infection or disease. Always better safe than sorry. Keeping the animals healthy and happy is pretty important.

National Ag Day is a day to celebrate all that is provided by agriculture and all of the people involved in it. Agriculture creates jobs for A LOT of people, not just farmers. Farmers are important, but there are a lot of other people who are also responsible for bringing that delicious food to your table. On the dairy side, dairy farmers work with animal nutritionists, veterinarians, numerous vendors, field reps from their milk cooperative and many others. Milk would not go anywhere without the dispatchers (usually at the milk cooperative) that coordinate milk deliveries from the farm to processing plant, and with that in mind, the milk truck drivers are super important. All milk is tested on the farm and samples are taken by the milk truck drivers and delivered to a refrigerator at the processing plant for testing by the cooperative. When the milk truck arrives at the processing plant, another sample is taken and tested for antibiotic residue. According to the recent FDA milk residue study, 99.3% of samples test negative for antibiotic residue. The small percentage testing positive is rejected at the plant, the farmer responsible for it does not get paid for it and also has to pay for the entire load of milk, which can be about $10,000 in some cases--not to mention the milk has to be disposed of, usually in a lagoon on the farm that holds liquid manure. Needless to say, this is something we in the dairy industry take very seriously.

At the processing plant, there are those that take milk samples and test them, folks that work in the lab doing other work, those working to make cheese, ice cream, bottle milk or produce whichever product the plant is making and those in sales, marketing, finance and all of those other areas. Once the product leaves the processing plant, drivers take it to the market. This can be wherever people purchase these products. Those working in those places make sure consumers have a good variety available to them on the shelves. After all, if everything was kept in the back, that's not helping anyone out.

All of these people are important, but there's one group of people that I haven't mentioned yet that are possible one of the most important groups. Without people like you who purchase these products, we would not be able to do what we love every day, whether that be working on the farm or working in the agriculture industry. So, thank you! We always appreciate you.

To celebrate, why not pick up some ice cream or whip up this delicious cheesecake?!

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • FILLING:
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) Cream Cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • TOPPING:
  • 2 cups (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Assorted candies or fruit

Directions

  1. Place an ungreased 9-in. springform pan on a double thickness of heavy-duty foil (about 18 in. square). Securely wrap foil around pan.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, pecans and brown sugar; stir in butter. Press onto bottom and 1-1/2 in. up the sides of prepared pan. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until smooth. Add eggs; beat on low speed just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour into crust. Place in a larger baking pan; add 1 in. of hot water to larger pan.
  4. Bake at 325° for 1-1/2 hours or until center is just set and top appears dull. In a small bowl, combine sour cream and sugar until smooth; spoon over hot cheesecake and spread to cover. Bake for 5 minutes longer or until topping is just set.
  5. Remove springform pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool 1 hour longer. Refrigerate overnight. Remove sides of can. Garnish with candies or fruit. Yield: 16 servings.
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 30 min. Bake: 1-1/2 hours + chilling




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