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Nothing compares to the state fair

By Staff | Aug 19, 2011

Shea Hassebrock works on the mint melon smoothies while Lexie Schwerin flips a yogurt pancake during the junior competition of Cook This! 4-H culinary challenge on Monday at the Iowa State Fair.


Farm News staff writer

Des Moines – Cooking challenges are a hit for reality TV and have now inspired a 4-H competition at the Iowa State Fair.

Monday started the second year for the Cook This! 4-H culinary challenge at the Iowa State Fair.

Karen Frank, Iowa State Fair 4-H special events coordinator said the Cook This! 4-H culinary challenge is a spinoff of 4-H’s Stitch This! Sewing competition.

Gabbi Struchen measures milk for the yogurt pancakes.

“It’s these programs that are bringing the hands-on part of 4-H to the public.”

Other similar types of competition at this year’s Iowa State Fair include a robotics challenge and a film festival.

Teams for the cooking challenge are chosen through an application process and there are three classes – junior, intermediate and senior levels.

The junior competition was held on Monday with a total of 10 teams made up of three youths competing.

The competition is made up of three challenges: recipe preparation where each team prepares two dishes; a kitchen equipment and food identification challenge and a communication challenge where each team is given a topic and must prepare a three- to five-minute speech.

From left are Gabbi Struchen, Shea Hassebrock and Lexie Schwerin, all from Jewell, who competed in the identification section of the 4-H Cook This! 4-H culinary challenge at the Iowa State Fair on Monday.

Throughout the challenge, teams are judged on knowledge, food safety, food taste and appearance and teamwork.

The teams in the junior level are provided a list of the possible recipes ahead of time as well as the same rubric the judges are given so they also know what they will be judged on throughout the competition.

The intermediate level gets a slightly more challenging task. Those teams are given a recipe to prepare a main dish, but must come up with a side dish with the ingredients that are provided.

Competitors in the senior level are required to create a main dish and two sides on their own without a provided recipe.

A group of three, 11-year-olds from the Jewell area in Hamilton County put together a team for the Cook This! 4-H junior culinary challenge.

Hamilton County 4-H'ers, Shea Hassebrock, Lexie Schwerin and Gabbi Struchen made up the team, "We 3 Chefs!" competed in the Cook This! 4-H culinary challenge in the junior division at the Iowa State Fair on Monday. .

We 3 Chefs! was the team made up of Gabbi Struchen, daughter of Dave and Nikki Struchen; Lexie Schwerin, daughter of Brian and Tammy Schwerin and Shea Hassebrock, daughter of Alison and Eric Hassebrock.

The girls were first sent to the identification challenge of the competition where they had 30 minutes to properly identify a variety of kitchen utensils and fruits and vegetables.

“That was pretty easy,” said Schwerin.

To help prepare for the challenge, Hassebrock said they spent time at their local Hy-Vee grocery store studying foods and practiced all of the six possible recipes.

The girls were given recipes to make yogurt pancakes and mint melon smoothies to be completed in 30 minutes.

“We were glad for the pancakes, but didn’t want to do the smoothies. They take forever,” said Schwerin.

“I wished we had been given guacamole,” said Struchen. “I’m really good at cutting avocados.”

The team worked well together and figured out ahead of time which girl excelled at a certain task, so they knew just what their part was.

Thirty minutes isn’t as long as the girls would’ve liked to have to complete their recipes, especially with utensils and a stove they had not used before.

“It was a lot of pressure,” said Hassebrock.

“I thought it was going to be easy, but we got some of the most challenging recipes,” said Struchen.

“We had to work in a smaller area and the single burners were hard to use,” said Schwerin.

Presentation is also a big part of the challenge as well as taste.

Judges taste tested the dishes.

For the communication challenge, We 3 Chefs! were given the topic of beef.

Struchen spoke on the benefits of beef, while Schwerin presented tips on how to purchase it and Hassebrock finished on preparing beef.

Schwerin said her overall experience of the day was, “loads of fun,” while Struchen said it was a “learning experience,” and Hassebrock said it was “fun and challenging.”

Contact Kriss Nelson at jknelson@frontiernet.net.

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Nothing compares to the state fair

By Staff | Aug 19, 2011

Thousands of cans of food were used to create the Iowa-themed elements of the 'Together We CAN!" exhibit, including this market-sized hog.

By Darcy

Dougherty Maulsby

Farm News staff writer

Des Moines-From a market-sized hog designed with tuna cans to a larger-than-life replica of the iconic Iowa State Fair butter cow, sculpted from cans of vegetables, the ‘Together We CAN!’ exhibit in the south atrium of the Varied Industries Building stopped Iowa State Fair visitors in their tracks.

“We have up to 30,000 people a day who pass through this area, and fairgoers are captivated by this unique exhibit featuring thousands of cans of food,” Aaron Putze, director of external relations for the Iowa Soybean Association and coordinator of the Iowa Food & Family Project

Thousands of visitors at the Iowa State Fair stopped by the ’Together We CAN!’ exhibit, which showcased Iowa farmers’ commitment to providing healthy food for everyone and their willingness to help families struggling with hunger.

“‘Together We CAN!’ helps make the connection between the food everyone enjoys and the farmers who raise it.”

A committed team of volunteers converged at the Iowa State Fair from Aug. 11-21 to create this first-of-its-kind exhibit at one of the most popular celebrations of food, fun and agriculture in America.

The exhibit is designed to encourage conversations about farming, inspire greater awareness of Iowa farmers’ commitment to providing healthy food for everyone and help families struggling with hunger.

“Farmers are focused on doing the right thing, from producing food to serving their communities,” said Ed Ulch, a farmer from Solon who serves on the Iowa Soybean Association Board and volunteers with the Iowa FFP. “We hope this exhibit gives our urban friends a new appreciation of the farm.”

Visitors to the ‘Together We CAN!’ exhibit could participate in a variety of activities and contests while contributing to the Iowa Food Bank Association. They could also visit with farmers like Ulch to learn more about modern agriculture.

“While people hold farmers in high regard, they have sincere questions about farming and want to know more about the quality of their food and how it’s produced,” said Putze, who noted that through the first five days of the fair, the exhibit had helped raised more than $3,200 for hunger relief in Iowa.

“Farmers want to listen, engage in the discussion and, most importantly, demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement. ‘Together We CAN!’ will provide that opportunity.”

Fight hunger, build trust

The “Together We CAN!” exhibit, which featured depictions of Iowa’s corn and soybean fields, took four days to build and reflects the contributions of four architectural firms who volunteered their time.

Sponsors of “Together We CAN!” include the Iowa Soybean Association, Midwest Dairy Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Hy-Vee, Syngenta, the Iowa State Fair, the Iowa Food Bank Association (IFBA) and the United Soybean Board.

The inspiration for “Together We CAN!” came from Syngenta’s “Weeding Out Hunger” exhibit at the 2011 Commodity Classic, Putze said. “When I saw the ears of corn in that display, the first thing that crossed my mind is that we must do something like this at the Iowa State Fair.”

Following the fair, all food items used in the exhibit will be donated to the IFBA to help Iowans struggling against hunger.

“Action begins with awareness, and we’re pleased and grateful to the Iowa Food and Family Project for the substantial assistance the ‘Together We CAN!’ project will provide,” said Jordan Vernoy, IFBA’s state director. “Every dollar donated allows food banks to distribute up to $15 worth of food to hungry Iowans. The generosity of fairgoers visiting the exhibit will go a long way toward assisting the more than 380,000 Iowans who are food insecure.”

The ‘Together We CAN!’ project marks an important first step in what ag leaders hope will be a long relationship with the IFBA, Putze said. “We also hope that ‘Together We CAN!’will become an annual tradition at the Iowa State Fair, because it offers a powerful way to help build trust between farmers and consumers.”

You can contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by e-mail at yettergirl@yahoo.com.

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