By: Bob Meyer
The Wisconsin Soybean Marketing Board hosted a “Pod to Plate” tour on Monday, October 14th. A collection of dieticians, dietician interns, foodservice providers and some media people visited Arndt Farms and MacFarlane Pheasants of Janesville and the DeLong Company at Clinton, Wisconsin.
Arndt Farms is a fourth-generation livestock, crop and vegetable farm with more than 1,600 beef cattle and 3,000 acres of corn and soybeans. Allen Arndt first took the visitors to the beef barn where more than 700 head of cattle are being fed-out. While they have a herd of cows which produce some of the animals, they also buy feeders. The cows are outside year-round grazing on pasture, corn stalks and even turnips which are seeded over the corn by airplane. From there the visitors were shown the farm’s feed storage facilities and then taken to a field of soybeans which many had never seen up-close before.
The second stop on the tour was MacFarlane Pheasants, the largest pheasant farm in North America. Hatching 1.7 million birds per year, Bill MacFarlane explained that about 600,000 of the birds, ringneck pheasants and partridges are raised to maturity and sold live for release across North America. They also raise a unique white pheasant for meat. They have complete control of the process from hens laying eggs through the hatch and raising the birds. The birds grown for eventual release are raised in a series of net-covered pens on the property while the white pheasants for meat are raised indoors. Public tours of the farm are available and MacFarlane maintains a website and a blog to let people know what it’s like to run a pheasant farm.
Lunch for the group was a pheasant-and-soy foods salad at the Janesville Country Club with Mark Messina, PhD, MS, Executive Director of the Soy Nutrition Institute presenting the latest health and nutrition research including addressing the concerns some have expressed regarding consumption of soy products.
After lunch, it was on to the DeLong Company in Clinton. In over a century of operation, this family-owned crop supply business and grain elevator has become a major exporter of soybeans with 14 elevators and six trans-loading operations across the country. Bo DeLong explained how the soybeans get from the farm to one of their shipping containers, he talked about the importance of quality and how it is stressed every step of the way and he explained how international marketing works and is constantly evolving.
One of the dieticians on the tour was Andrea Erickson, Registered Dietician with Hy Vee at their store in west Madison, Wisconsin. She said she learned a lot about what is all involved in getting food from the farm to the plate and that will help in Hy Vee’s goal to help educate consumers. “Anytime we can learn how to make something that is healthful for people and show them how to use it and have additional information to support what we’re making that’s beneficial for us and for our customers.” She found the information regarding concerns with soyfoods and the use of antibiotics in cattle and pesticides in crops was most helpful in alleviating consumer fears. “They were able to put it in relatable terms” in how those products are used to protect the crop or protect the health of the animal.