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New Jersey family to experience Iowa farm life as national contest winners

By Staff | Jun 22, 2011

ANKENY — The owner of a family-operated food market and catering business in suburban New Jersey has been named the winner of the Iowa Food & Family Project’s “Be Our Guest, Be A Farmer” contest.

Nancy Conturso of Wayne, N.J., was one of more than 100 contestants from 31 states who competed for the chance to win the four-day, three-night trip to Iowa to renew their connection to food’s origins, experience farm life and meet and converse with farm families.

The “Be Our Guest, Be A Farmer” contest, launched last December in New York City’s Times Square by the Iowa Soybean Association, involves a variety of farm, food and retail partners. The goal of the contest is to inspire positive relationships between farm families and consumers by demonstrating the many ways farmers continue evolving and improving to provide healthy food for everyone.

“We’re absolutely thrilled and consider this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Conturso, who served as a management consultant for several Fortune 500 companies before launching a successful food and catering business with her husband, John. “When I saw the chance to have my family experience being a farmer, I had to enter.

“I want my children to experience a different culture away from the hustle and bustle of the Northeast,” she adds. “Iowa is the heartland of America, home to beautiful farmland led by generations of families and farms that are vast and bountiful. It’s also a place where families work together. This trip will provide that opportunity, and we’re grateful to the Iowa Food & Family Project and everyone who’s made it possible.”

The Contursos will be accompanied on the trip Aug. 17-20 by two of their three children, John, 9, and Grace, 8.

“My daughter had been asking me in the days leading up to the announcement if we had won,” Nancy says. “Needless to say, we’re all extremely excited to visit Iowa and meet the farmers who provide our food.”

The Contursos will tour farms of Kevin and Julie Van Manen and Nathan and Betsy Hill. The Van Manens and their children, Jacob and Emily, raise cattle and hogs and grow corn, soybeans and sweet corn near Kellogg. The Hills farm near Ellsworth with their sons, Collin and Conner, and grow corn and soybeans and raise turkeys.

The “Be Our Guest, Be A Farmer” itinerary also includes tours of John Deere Des Moines Works, REG Newton, Channel’s Circle of Science near Huxley and Living History Farms. In addition, the Contursos will enjoy a visit to the Iowa State Fair, an evening meal at the Iowa Beef Steak House and breakfast at the Machine Shed Restaurant.

“Iowa’s turkey farmers and the farming community welcome the Contursos and look forward to involving them in all aspects of farm life,” says Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation. “Farmers and consumers have so much in common, and events like this provide a wonderful opportunity to learn from each other and have conversations about healthy food, farms and communities.”

Contest sponsors and participants include the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Turkey Federation, REG Newton, Comfort Inn & Suites at Living History Farms, Iowa Office of Tourism, Living History Farms, Iowa State Fair, John Deere Des Moines Works and the Machine Shed Restaurant.

For more information about the contest and the grand prize recipients, log on to www.iowafoodandfamily.com or www.facebook.com/foodnfamilies.

The Iowa Food & Family Project celebrates Iowa, the miracle of food and the men and women who provide it. It involves nearly 20 farm, retail, food and food relief organizations and is dedicated to inspiring positive relationships between farmers and consumers through personal engagement and advocacy. It is funded in part by the soybean checkoff.

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