URBANDALE – When Chris and Nicole Domino stopped by the Iowa Machine Shed restaurant earlier this spring, they weren’t just there to eat.
The northwest Iowa farm couple fielded guests’ questions about turkey production, which ranged from “what do turkeys eat” to “do you name your turkeys?”
“We understand that people have questions about their food,” said Chris Domino, who farms north of Early and raises turkeys for Hillshire Brands in Storm Lake.
“As a farmer, I want to be a resource for them. I also enjoy talking about why I like farming and raising livestock with my family.”
The Dominoes were part of the Iowa Food and Family Project’s popular Talkin’ Farming at the Shed program, which is held quarterly at the restaurant. The event was inspired by Iowa soybean farmer Lindsay Greiner, a soybean grower from Keota, who serves on Iowa Soybean Association’sFarm and Food Ambassador Team.
In September 2012, the IFFP partnered with the ISA to bring Greiner to Urbandale for the first Talkin’ Farming event. In December, the Iowa Pork Producers Association partnered with the IFFP for the next meeting with Aaron and Trish Cook, pork producers from Winthrop.
The ISA and IFFP plan to partner with more commodity groups in the future to highlight the full spectrum of Iowa agriculture, said Lindsey Haley, ISA’s communications program coordinator. “Consumers want to be able to put a face on the people producing their food. Iowa farmers are uniquely qualified to engage in conversations about the practices they use to provide wholesome food for everyone.
“Their values are shared values – a commitment to being responsible stewards of the land, caring for the well-being of their livestock and improving the quality of life today and for generations to come.”
Gobbles up ag facts
It’s intriguing to see the restaurant’s guests’ interest in learning about modern farming, Haley said. “Their questions express a sincere interest in farming – ranging from ‘what do you like best about being a farmer?’ to ‘how did last summer’s drought impact your business?’ to ‘what steps are you taking to take care of our environment?'”
Glenda Edwards, of Guthrie Center, said she appreciated the opportunity to ask Chris and Nicole Domino some questions about turkey production.
“It was very informative,” said Edwards, who visited with the couple while she and her family enjoyed their meals.
Dennis Wendt, of Kansas City, Mo., is also glad his family had the chance to visit with the Dominoes. “It’s especially interesting for my grandkids, and they learned a lot about food and farming,” said Wendt, who worked for the Dahl’s supermarket chain for 32 years.
Creating this farm-to-fork connection is important, said Haley, who appreciated the Iowa Turkey Federation’s support of this spring’s event. “Chris and Nicole are the perfect fit for Talkin’ Farming, because they are passionate about their work.
“They take great pride in the care they provide their turkeys and the quality food they produce.”
Every day is turkey day
Iowa’s turkey industry has been expanding in recent years. Iowa growers have the capacity to produce more than 14.5 million turkeys each year, and the industry provides an annual economic impact of $1.5 billion in Iowa.
“We work in a sustainable cycle of buying local soybeans and corn to feed our turkeys and working with a processor in Storm Lake,” said Chris Domino, who manages nine turkey barns and markets the birds when they reach 40 to 45 pounds. “It’s a great story that I’m happy to share.”
To mark the Dominoes’ visit, the menu included sun dried tomato portobello mushroom-stuffed turkey breast with shallot cream sauce.
“It’s an honor to host farmers like Chris and Nicole, because they help our guests understand how food gets from the farm to the plate,” said Steve Britton, general manager of the Iowa Machine Shed.
These partnerships help producers create positive connections far beyond the farm gate, Haley said. “Mike Whalen, the founder of the Iowa Machine Shed, notes that there’s a true renaissance of interest in food.
“We can’t think of a better way to celebrate agriculture than for folks to meet some of Iowa’s hard-working, dedicated farmers and have a celebration.