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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Iowa Pork Tour 2016

Last month I attended the Iowa Pork Tour on behalf of the 
What an experience, read on for a full recap!

iowa pork tour 2016 (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

I'm an Iowa girl at heart, most of you now that, but I did not grow up on a farm.  Can you believe it? Yes, many, many of us Iowans grow up in towns and have nothing to do with farming.  My dad was a middle school principal and my mom was a speech pathologist. About as far away from farming as you can get.

When the Iowa Pork Producers Association invited me to attend their Iowa Pork Tour I happily accepted.  This 3-day event would give me the chance to see the farming industry from start to finish, not to mention the chance to hang with some other amazing bloggers.

This post will be overflowing pork {just throwing that out there!}.  If you are a lover of cute pigs, all things bacon, with a dash of good wine and great scenery, then you'll love what I have to show you.

iowa pork tour 2016 (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Can we talk food?  After all this is a food blog.  I had some of the BEST food of my life on this tour. Hands down some of the best.

Our first night in town we sat down to a private chef's dinner at the Pullman Bar & Diner. Pullman values three things: service, community and quality and boy oh boy was it evident. They take pride in proud Iowan's who have a deep passion for their historic area and their food.  

Our four course dinner featured, what else?  Pork!  From a fresh cucumber, tomato and crispy proscuitto salad to an antipasto plate to the BEST pulled pork over creamed kale and grits, it was heavenly delicious.

And guess what?  This fabulous restaurant is only 30 minutes from my home.  I will definitely be back.

iowa pork tour 2016 (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

On day two of our Iowa Pork Tour we headed to the farm!  The family we visited were beyond gracious to have us on their farm.  These people are BUSY, but you would have never have noticed. They want people to visit.  They want people to see the strict standards they follow.  They want to show you how your food lands on your plate.

The farm we visited receives pigs after they have been weaned {no longer drinking their mom's milk and about 3-4 weeks old}.  This farm then keeps these pigs until they head to market at around 6 months of age.  The baby pigs are born around 2-3 lbs and will eventually weigh in at around 280 lbs. Once the smaller pigs leave the nursery, they then move on to the finisher building where they are kept until market.

I was super, super impressed with the farm's security measures.  To say these farmers are invested in their hog's health is an understatement.  Showering in and out of each building and wearing protective gear is their first priority right after the pig's health.  These farmers are doing everything they can to prevent using antibiotics on their hogs.

It became evident that proper air ventilation is key to healthy hogs.  Alarms sound when the temperatures inside the pens get too hot or too cold, proper room is given to the pens {we visited hogs who would be moving to a larger pen the next day as they were getting too big for that area and they STILL had plenty of room to move around, have their space, eat, drink, etc.} and curtains move up and own to allow for fresh air in the warmer months to circulate as well as keeping the cold air out during the winter.

When the pigs are ready for market the farmer has the option to sell to smaller niche markets {restaurants, butcher shops, etc.} or sell to larger packing plants like Tyson. Regardless of where they sell all truckers, processors and butchers have to be certified in order to even get out of their truck to go to work that day.  Not only do the workers need to be clear, the hogs do as well.  No evidence of antibiotics can be in their system before butchering.  None.  

iowa pork tour 2016 (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

Later that night {after showering and cleaning up} we headed to Fireside Winery, one of the mainstay wineries in Eastern Iowa.  Another fantastic spread was put on for us from the moment we stepped foot in the door.

The husband and wife owners LOVE what they do, it shows in the way they handle their customers and make them feel like one of their own.  We were able to see all the behind-the-scenes action, from their vineyards to their food storage room {think thousands of pounds of fresh berries} to their state of the art bottling machine from Italy. 

Mosley's Barbecue catered dinner that night so between their mouthwatering pulled pork, sausages, cornbread, potato salad and baked beans, plus my favorite wine at Fireside, Glo, I was most definitely in a food coma by the time we left.

iowa pork tour 2016 (sweetandsavoryfood.com)

The next day it was time to move on to the Amana Colonies.  The Amana Colonies are a group of seven German villages located just west of present day Iowa City.  These German settlers came to Iowa after first settling in New York.  They came here to live out their beliefs of having a more isolated lifestyle and living a communal life.

For eighty years they did live an almost completely self-sufficient economic lifestyle {until the mid-1930's}, importing very little from the U.S. economy.  People worked jobs daily, yet did not get paid. Their work gave back to their community.  By doing this their community took care of them in the form of food, shelter, other provisions and their health.

Today the Amana Colonies are a major tourist attraction.  The area is filled with restaurants, craft shops, breweries and more, with many of the original buildings still in tact.  

I highly recommend their Cinnamon Swirl Bread at the local bakery {was fabulous in French toast}, their cream soda from Millstream Brewery {my kid's loved it} and the Rhubarb Streusel Pie from the Ox Yoke Inn {again, to die for...I may have personally asked for fresh whipped cream...it was granted}.

From the very beginning this trip was enlightening.  For a girl who did not grow up on a farm, nor is involved in any other food industry, it was a delight to see the work that goes into the food that we eat.  A big thank you from the bottom of my heart to the Iowa Pork Producer Association for sending me on this #IATourDePork!

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