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That’s right, I said local and vodka in the same sentence. Since eating local food is the trendy thing, I thought maybe I should drink local alcohol too. One of the cool things about not only being married to a farmer but also working for the farming community, is you learn a lot about where food comes from.
And I learned a few weeks ago that if I drink vodka (or any clear liquor), I have a high probability it came from corn grown in either Indiana, Illinois or Iowa. So, bring on the vodka.
But, in all honesty, corn gets a bad rap. Michael Pollan gave it a bad name in Omnivore’s Dilemma. Then for some reason cane sugar folks gave HFCS (High Fructose Corn Sugar) a bad name. Oh wait, I know the reason. So they could sell more cane sugar. And now people think corn fed beef is less desirable than grass fed. Seriously people have you never had a good steak???
Part of me just shakes my head in frustration for how gullible the general consumer is on these marketing schemes. Because most of the time that is exactly what they are. Someone villainizes the competition to make their product look superior or more desirable. It is marketing people.
But, while touring Grain Processing Corporation, I realized it is all about access for most people. When was the last time people were given access to major food processing companies?
We have all started showing pictures of our farms and trying to show everyone just how good of a job the farmers are doing. But, the problem isn’t with the farmers job. It is really about what happens when the commodity leaves the farm.
So, let me take you through the process of getting locally grown vodka.
It all starts in the spring. Or early summer if you get near record rains like we did this year. The hope of getting in the tractor to plant is what gets farmers through the cold, long winters. The rush to the field is what keeps marriages together too. Seriously, have you ever lived with a farmer who wakes up every morning and then is quickly disappointed when the weather is just not going to cooperate? Wives are happy to see the farmers skip with joy to their tractors. They have their sanity back with them no longer cooped up inside.
Some farmers no till plant (top picture with weeds and dead plant stubble) and some work the fields before the corn or soybeans are planted (bottom picture with the soil all neat and tilled). Both have pros and cons. Each farmer knows their soil better than anyone else and will do what has the best results. We can all make claims that one type of planting is better than the other, but honestly it is sort of like parenting advice, don’t judge my decisions and I won’t judge your decisions.
And then we watch the corn grow. Literally.
Then we watch the corn almost die when we don’t get rain for six weeks. And then we watch the corn blow down with 70 mph wind gusts. And then it starts raining again. And finally…
The corn is dried out and the combines start rolling. The wives do the happy dance and go into their fall farm widow mode. But, our children, oh our children love this time of year. It means they get to shadow the farmer in their life. And this is the ultimate fairytale for a farm kid.
And then, it is off to climb in the semi and haul the corn back to the farm for storage until it is time to take it to market or deliver to the elevator, corn processor, or livestock farmer right away. For us, a lot of our corn goes directly to pig farmers. But for some lucky folks they will haul their corn to a processor or elevator.
The corn processor…you know the high fructose corn syrup factory or the ethanol plant or the food grade ethanol plant. And then fun process of making all this really cool stuff begins, including vodka and hand sanitizer which both come from food grade ethanol. Because, after all ethanol is alcohol it has just been blended with gasoline, so who would think of drinking it.
So, the next time you have a French martini remember how great it feels to know the vodka came from corn plants grown right here in the Midwest by some of the most salt of the earth folks. And drink an extra one in their honor!