The Springtime Itch and Turkey Tacos

Hey guys! Long time, no see! With spring rolling around I haven’t had much time to write, but I have came up with some great new ideas to blog about! I was planning on a writing-spree during spring break, but that didn’t happen. Spring always gets me itching to clean out closets, barns, and all sorts of other things so I tried to disconnect from electronics for a little while. My dad and I actually cleaned out our saddle shed and built new saddle racks (which are awesome, by the way)! I tried to stay home, relax, bake with my grandma, and tag baby calves! I would say it was one of my more productive spring breaks that I have had over the years.

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One of the delectable pies made over spring break! Hoping to have a post about them soon, also!

If you are like me, spring brings visions of summer and all the events that take place during that wonderful season. It is hard to pull my mind from day dreaming of warm sun and days spent at cattle shows, specifically the Iowa State Fair. I have been many places, but nowhere can top my love for the Iowa State Fair. You can bet I am counting down the days. In fact, there are only 126 days left until the beginning of fair! There are bubble blowing contests, baked goods competitions, the Ag building, 4-H and FFA projects, food on a stick and the famous butter cow sculpture to keep you busy while at the fair. If you have been you know exactly what I am talking about. I go every year and try to soak up as much “fair” as possible! I usually exhibit cattle at the fair and spend most of my time in the iconic cattle barn. However, one of my favorite things to do is to indulge in the the treats and foods offered by the many vendors that come to fair. If you have been around me, or my sister Alyssa, at the fair it is no secret that we have an obsession with trying out new fair foods every year. From German chocolate and red elvet funnel cakes to fried pickle dogs, we have tried (and mostly loved) it. In addition to the Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters, one of our favorite places to eat is the Iowa Turkey Federation’s tent. Since we were little we would walk to the tent and buy huge turkey legs (drumsticks). I wish I had a picture of the two of us holding our turkey legs just to show you their size! I am not sure how the tradition started for the two of us, but we try to go together every year. This year it might be more challenging as she left Iowa for Boston and an awesome new job. I suppose we will get her back for a few days of the fair (hopefully)!

Anyways, being a beef producer myself if it is sometimes hard to admit that one of my favorite foods is actually not beef (big surprise, I know). I really love turkey, and do not eat it nearly enough. From my grammie’s turkey and noodles to turkey on Thanksgiving day, I can’t stay away! At the 2016 Iowa State Fair there was a new food introduced by the Turkey Federation called, “Not Your Mamma’s Taco.” That sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Well, it is as good as it sounds and even won the prestigious People’s Choice Best New Foods Contest. They are made of a fried, flour tortilla, shredded turkey tenderloin, veggie slaw, and mango salsa! They only cost $5, are packed with flavor, and under 600 calories. I am not even going to tell you how many I ate during the week I was at the fair. They seriously are addicting!

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“Not Your Mamma’s Taco”

So, along comes spring and this itch for all things summer. I kept telling my grandma how much I wished I could get my hands on the recipe for the “Not Your Mamma’s Taco,” and have them for dinner. Well, I got the nerve to actually Facebook messaged the Iowa Turkey Federation (seriously) and got the recipe. It is not the exact recipe used at the state fair as some of the ingredients are family recipes, but I sure do appreciate them fulfilling my craving. I got the recipe a few weeks ago and just had the opportunity to make them tonight. They were pretty well everything I had dreamed of and even Austin liked them. I highly recommend you like the Iowa Turkey Federation on Facebook and follow along as they post other recipes frequently! Below is the recipe that they gave me and are allowing me to distribute from my blog! I hope that if you haven’t tried them at the state fair that you will now! Turkey is such a great protein source and Iowa turkey farmers alone raise over 11 million turkeys annually, contributing $1.5 billion to the state’s economy. Just like beef producers they are stewards of the land, believe in animal welfare, dedicated to food safety, implement biosecurity and vaccinate against diseases to produce healthy birds. Something that I didn’t realize is that there are over 130 turkey farms in the state of Iowa which ranks Iowa 9th in overall production. I encourage you to check out their website to learn more because it is really interesting! Why not support other agriculturists like these turkey farmers?!

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Here is the recipe from the Iowa Turkey Federation. Season your turkey however you wish, and note that tenderloins can be hard to find. I used breasts which were equally tasty! Enjoy! 17409852_1337932496271886_490979775_n.jpg

Make sure to follow the Iowa Turkey Federation on Facebook and check out their website! Let me know how you liked the tacos.

Until next time,

Syd

I’ll Have The Steak!

Hello, “What’s The Beef With Syd?” Followers! I apologize about the delay in getting a new post up. It has been a crazy last few weeks with midterms at school. I thought it would be fun to write about how my family raises beef cattle and to share one of my favorite ways to cook steak! Here goes nothing!

Like I have stated before, my family has been raising cattle for 5 generations. Every now and again we keep a heifer or steer from our year’s calf crop to “finish out” and ultimately eat. This heifer or steer provides a plentiful amount of beef that is shared between my grandparents, my dad’s family and with other family members too! Home raised beef is definitely on my list of favorite things to indulge in and I take a lot of pride in the product we raised.

The process of raising a heifer or steer to eat begins in late spring and early summer when breeding season starts. Some of our cows are artificial inseminated and the rest are bred naturally by our bull. The gestation period of a cow is approximately 283 days or around nine months. It is pretty much the longest nine months of each year as the result of breeding season brings about my favorite time of year. The calves are finally born in late February and through March on our farm, and yes you guessed it, we are in calving season right now! Baby calves weigh anywhere from 60-80 pounds. Calves can be larger however, but we specifically select bulls to use that have low birth weights. This assures that we can rest easy and that our cows can have their babies on their own. We do have to help sometimes, but most of the time we are in the clear! The calves grow all summer long nursing off their mother’s milk and eating supplemental creep feed. The creep feed helps our baby calves grow and it makes the transition of weaning much easier when that time comes.

At 7 to 8 months of age the calves are weaned. This means that we separate them from their moms. We do this to help the cow recuperate before the upcoming winter and late gestation period. Weaned calves are brought into a lot near our house and fed a ration of corn, protein, vitamins, mineral and hay! We feed the calves until they weigh around 600-700 pounds. At this weight, we will begin to market our calves at the local sale barn where they will be sold to a feedlot. At the feedlot, they grow to approximately 1,200 pounds before they are harvested for meat and many other byproducts. Side note, there are HUNDREDS of beef cattle byproducts that are used. For example: makeup, shampoos/conditioners, leather and even chewing gum are all byproducts of beef. You can learn more at Facts About Beef.

Sometimes in the process of raising calves we have calves that may not weigh as much as others at the time we plan to market the group. In that case, we keep that calf back and feed them until market weight on our own. We then take that steer or heifer to our local butcher. Thankfully, we have a butcher in Afton who is actually a distant relative. His name is Kyle and he is great at what he does. If you’re in the Southwest Iowa area I would totally recommend using Weaver Meats. His grandpa is my grandma’s younger brother who also used to be a butcher. Apparently, it runs in the family! Depending on the season and how much of a workload Kyle has is when we get our beef back. You can actually ask for specific cuts of beef to be made, and our family always asks for jerky and dried beef in addition to the traditional cuts of beef like the chuck, rib, loin brisket, flank and round. A 1,200 pound calf usually yields around a 750 pound carcass which results in approximately 525 pounds of meat. You have to take into account bone, fat, water, etc. The meat is then wrapped into individual packages and BAM you have some steak to eat. You can store it for up to a year or a little more in a deep freeze! It is awesome and I would highly recommend trying to find a local producer that you could buy a ½, or ¼ beef from.

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Stanley, one of my 4-H market steers I raised and sold at county fair. He was fed to about 1,250 pounds, sold and provided a bountiful amount of meat to many people. In our county, after our cattle are sold we get carcass results back. Stanley had a remarkable 16 inch rib-eye, was a yield grade 2 (determine by cutability and fat thickness), and graded high choice (determined by marbling and palatability).

Now the part you have all been waiting for, my favorite way to cook steak! This method is super simple, quick and easy! All you have to do is pick out your favorite cut of steak. Mine is a thick, juicy rib-eye. If it is frozen, make sure to thaw it all the way. Then I would recommend making a marinade or seasoning the steak and throwing it in the fridge for 12-24 hours. I like to use a product called “Secret Seasoning” that comes from the Baldrige family in Nebraska. I actually just stocked up on this at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado, in January. Extremely nice people with an awesome product! Another favorite seasoning of mine comes from AllSpice Culinarium in Des Moines, Iowa. It is their Garlic-Pepper Steak seasoning and it is to die for, people! I then add the seasoning to some melted, and cooled butter with a little extra salt and pepper for good measure. I rub each side of the steak, place it on a plate, wrap it in Saran wrap and put it in the refrigerator.

The next step is to let your steak come to room temperature before cooking. This helps it cook more evenly (you wont regret this step). Then you need to turn on your oven’s broiler and find a good, oven-safe or cast iron skillet. Place your skillet under the broiler for 10 minutes or so. Grab some oven mitts and take your skillet out of the oven, place it on a stove-top burner and drizzle some olive oil on it. Place your steaks on the skillet and turn the burner to high heat. Using kitchen tongs, transfer your steak(s) onto the skillet and sear for 30 seconds on each side. You then place the skillet with the steaks back to the oven and broil each side for 2 minutes. This will yield a medium-rare steak. If you want to cook it a little longer add another 2 minutes to the cooking time. After you have reached your ideal degree of “doneness,”let your steak rest for about five minutes. I would recommend making a tent out of aluminum foil and covering it up. Then dig in for a super delicious, tender, and nutrient packed steak! My recipe follows below:

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Delicious Oven Steak

By: Sydney Weis

Adapted from Alton Brown’s Pan Seared Ribeye recipe

Ingredients

2 steaks, cut 1 to 2  inches thick (ribeye, T-Bone, Sirloin, Filet Mignon)

3-4 Tablespoons of your favorite seasoning

4-5 Tablespoons melted and cooled butter

Dash of salt and pepper

2 Tablespoons of olive oil

 

Equipment

Oven-safe  or cast iron skillet (large enough for two steaks)

Kitchen Tongs

Oven mitts

Aluminum Foil

 

Instructions:

  1. Thaw steak completely.
  2. Mix seasoning, salt and pepper with melted and cooled butter. Rub steaks vigorously, wrap, and refrigerate for 12-24 hours.
  3. Remove the steak from refrigeration and bring to room temperature (approximately 30 minutes)
  4. Turn on oven’s broiler and place oven rack 6-8 inches below the element. Place skillet on oven rack and heat for approximately 10 minutes
  5. Remove skillet from oven and place on a stove-top burner, drizzle with olive oil. Turn burner on high heat.
  6. Add steaks and sear for 30 seconds on each side. Flip with kitchen tongs
  7. Place skillet and steaks back under the broiler and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Add additional two minutes for a more done steak.
  8. Remove steak from the oven and let rest. Form an aluminum foil tent and cover for 5 minutes.
  9. Serve

Top 10 Ways FFA Translates Into Adulthood

With it being National FFA Week, I thought I would post about the top 10 ways FFA translates into being an adult. The National FFA is an organization that is very near and dear to my heart. Being a former FFA member myself, I can confidently say I would not be the person I am today without the help of this organization.

The National FFA Organization boasts a membership of 649,355 students from across the United States, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands making it one of the largest student organizations around. The FFA strives to create leaders and like the FFA mission statement says,

“FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.”

While often thought of as an organization filled with cows, sows and plows, the FFA is now about beakers, speakers and job seekers. My experiences in this organization are some of my favorite looking back and I could not be more grateful to have been a part of the blue corduroy gang.

1. FFA Taught You How to Keep Records

While not my favorite activity, keeping records on my Supervised Agriculture Experience (SAE) prepared me for success. You learned how to record assets, depreciation, and how to figure gains and losses. This really come in handy when you are out in the real world! Being required to keep records may have taught you how to use Excel which is extremely useful! Personally, this task helped develop organizational skills from tax season to coordinating notes from class.  My life is pretty orderly thanks to my old FFA record books.

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Mikayla, Erica and I all kept records for close to 5 years to earn our American Degrees!

2. FFA Taught You How to Tie a Tie

A skill that is taken for granted quite often, is the skill of tying a tie. While most young ladies got away with the scarf that clips in the back, it was important to know how to tie a tie when a certain male member of your parliamentary procedure team forgot. This skill comes in handy now and again whether tying your own tie before a big interview or just helping a buddy out!

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A few cousins (Jessica, Garrett, me, and Brad) hanging out at District FFA Convention. Notice the nicely tied ties of Garrett and Brad!

3. FFA Taught You How to Speak

From the very beginning of freshman year, you learned the FFA Creed. You learned how to articulate certain words and add emphasis where needed. Fast forward to the Public Speaking Career Development Event (CDE) and you learn how to write and present a speech. Perhaps you spent a day at the Legislative Symposium and had the opportunity to speak with your state’s leaders. The level of professionalism used and speaking skills developed through opportunities in the FFA probably helped you through a college speech class, and now help you excel at work, meetings and in casual conversation.

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A picture of me, right before entering the Creed Speaking competition my freshman year.

4. FFA Taught You How to Lead

Running your first meeting as chapter president, or leading a committee at state convention can get pretty nerve racking, but after all that preparation you probably nailed it. The hours you spent understanding effective leadership styles and communication through events like Chapter Officer Leadership Training or at the State Leadership Conference for District Officers really pays off after high school.  You are probably directing  a collegiate organization like Block and Bridle or heading regional committees, running board meetings, and even local or state governments with the leadership skills you gained through FFA.

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My first district officer team. Pictured here is Michael Knight, James Leonard, Kenton Lain, Stormy Baker, Myself, and Becca (Rebarcak) Bauer.

5. FFA Helped You Decide on a Career Path

If you were anything like me, deciding your college major, let alone your career, was no easy task. Through FFA you got the chance to experience many different types of careers inside and outside of agriculture. Through SAE’s, trips, contests, and more you were probably exposed to your current career through FFA. Who knew you might like floriculture and floral design? Maybe you found your passion for agribusiness through the agriculture sales CDE. The FFA is known for preparing students for agriculture related jobs like business, marketing, science, communications, education, horticulture, production, natural resources, forestry and more!

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District Soils Judging Team advancing to State. This competition let me explore a career I never thought of before!

6. FFA Gave You Lifelong Friendships

Of the 649,355 student members involved in FFA you were bound to make a few lifelong friendships. Whether you met them at Greenhand Fire-Up, State Nominating Committee, District Officer Gatherings, or even National Convention you made some darn good friends that share the same values as you. Great people come out of the FFA, and not to exclude our advisors. They still serve an important role after your days in the national blue and corn gold. Some of them even become lifelong friends, too! Everywhere I go, I run into someone who was an FFA member themselves. These connections turn have turned into a great networking community and have helped me obtain quite a few job opportunities.

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My friend Mikayla and I met through the FFA and have been friends ever since!

7. FFA Paid for Your College Tuition

No college debt? That is probably because the National FFA Organization awards around $2.2 million dollars in scholarships each year for its members. If you didn’t receive a scholarship from the National FFA specifically, you were probably awarded a scholarship for listing your involvement in the organization on your application somewhere. The National FFA has a pretty good reputation and most scholarship committees commend students for that.

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Scholarship competitions provide awesome opportunities for free money!

8. FFA Let You See the World

The FFA took me to places I had never dreamed of traveling to before. I could probably drive to Indianapolis blindfolded and backwards also. I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti with the FFA through a program called, “FFA to Haiti.” It was the experience of a lifetime and I gained tons global perspective. Students all over the country participate in activities like the Washington Leadership Conference which takes them to Washington D.C. to learn and explore at our Nation’s capital while defining leadership skills. Maybe you even traveled outside of the United States with the FFA through ILSSO, National Office, or the Stars and Proficiency Travel Experience.

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A picture of the group I traveled to Haiti with. All were FFA members, Advisors, or FFA Volunteers.

9. FFA Taught You How to Interview

Through preparation for chapter contests and more, the FFA definitely prepared me for difficult interview questions. My advisor used to bring in people from the community that may or may not have experience with the FFA and had them interview me. It was TOUGH, but it prepared me better than anything for scholarship and job interviews. While not only developing certain interview tactics I also gained confidence. My confidence radiates when I am sitting in front of an interview committee and I guarantee it would not be there without the help of the FFA.  I dare you to compare the interview of a former FFA member to someone who wasn’t involed in the organization. I imagine you would be impressed! Those skills stem from many hours spent in and out of the agriculture classroom preparing for a successful career.

 

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A group of past East Union students that have all been very successful!

 

10. FFA Helped You Learn How to Volunteer

Last and not least, the FFA taught us the importance of volunteer work. From small fundraisers to National Days of Service the giving spirit of FFA members shines through. I would say many of my volunteer opportunities and even ideas came from my FFA chapter. FFA members are some of the hardest working individuals and would give you the shirt off their back if you let them. This translates into a strong work-ethic in the workplace and dedicated community members. The FFA motto even states the dedication members have for service.

“Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve”

 

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A community volunteer activity called, “Buckle Up or Eat Glass.” It was focused on educating people to wear their seatbelts!

 

Can you relate to any of these? Let me know! I love hearing stories from other’s experiences in the FFA. Like I stated before I would not be the same person I am today without this organization. Happy National FFA Week to everyone! Please don’t forget to support your local FFA chapters and remember to thank the advisors that give so much towards the success of this organization!

Not sure what FFA is? Check out their website at https://www.ffa.org

Thanks for reading,

Sydney Weis

 

 

Getting to Know You, Getting to Know All About You

Hi there! My name is Sydney Weis, and I am here to introduce myself and tell the story behind “What’s The Beef With Syd?”

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Me and the beloved Ke$ha at the 2015 National Western Stock Show. Ke$ha belongs to my boyfriend’s family.


I hail from a town in the great state of Iowa called Afton. Afton is a tiny farm town that happens to be where my family has lived since 1887. I am the fifth generation to live, work and produce beef cattle and crops on my family’s farm. I was even fortunate to grow up in the original farm house that my great-great grandfather built with his own two hands. Pretty cool right? I think so!

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Pictured here is my grandpa and his siblings in the house I grew up in. The picture hanging on the wall behind them still hangs in the house today!

Traditionally, our farm was a diversified livestock and crop operation. My grandpa milked cows, grew hogs and cultivated row crops before he transitioned towards raising primarily beef cattle. When my dad was young they raised commercial Charolais cattle, and this breed is still the foundation of our herd today. Generations of agriculturist and their love of the land and livestock was passed on to me fairly easily.  My childhood was molded by the many experiences I had on our farm. I was normally surrounded by an array of sheep, chickens, cattle, a few horses, and the occasional duck. Much to my grandparents dismay, I was the root of adding new animals to the barnyard as quickly as I could.

I like to tell the story of my first day of pre-school when I refused (eventually I went) to hop on the bus because I was determined to stay home and farm with Grandpa. While I didn’t get my way I began to learn the importance of education, and really enjoyed school.  Not to say I didn’t skip my fair share of school for the occasional cattle sale or to share some TLC with a sick calf or baby lamb.

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Circa age 6 during a family “overall” shoot. Everyone does that, right?

Since the days of when the above photo was taken, I traveled off to college. I am currently a senior at Northwest Missouri State University where I am majoring in animal science with a minor in biology. Since watching one of my favorite role models, my uncle Greg, graduate from Iowa State University as a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 2002, I have always wanted to be a veterinarian. However, I recently I had a change of plans. While I love animal health and medicine, it just doesn’t feel right to head off to vet school for another four years. Truth be told, I am a little worn out on school. Currently, I am on the job hunt and may revisit the idea of becoming a veterinarian down the road. I would like to find a position in agriculture marketing close to home. In addition to that, I have my own herd of Red Angus and Simmental cattle that I share with my sister and is mixed with my Grandfather’s commercial herd. I plan to keep raising cattle as long as I can.

While in high school I got the opportunity to lease a horse from my agriculture instructor, Mrs. Marla Shifflett.  I remember getting ready for shows or cowgirl queen competitions at the Iowa State Fair and never being allowed to have a “Aisle Closed” sign next to my stall. I always had to prep my horse with hundreds of people walking by, asking “silly” questions, and taking too many pictures. At first, it was extremely frustrating and I remember complaining to Marla about it. She basically told me to buck up and take advantage of the situation at hand. How many of these people were as blessed as I was to be showing a beautiful palomino (named Humpy by the way) at the state fair? Not very many. How many of these people had ever seen a horse before? Not very many. How many of these people had wanted to see, pet, and ask questions about my horse? TONS. Literally tons of people never had exposure to these magnificent animals before coming to the Iowa State Fair! It is a little mind-blowing and honestly sad. This is when I really got on board for “agvocating.” Sharing my blessings and my opportunities with others just by answering a few simple questions, and letting them snap a few photos. A few years later I was in a similar position with one of my Red Angus heifers at the Iowa State Fair. I was stalled on an aisle and Paisley, my heifer, was attracting a lot of attention. People came up and were petting, scratching and even taking selfies with her. Again, I found myself a little upset that people wouldn’t leave her alone, but then I realized the mass amount of opportunities that were appearing.  So, I changed my attitude, started answering people’s questions, let them take pictures, and made sure they knew where their food came from and how our animals were raised.

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The one and only, Humpy. This is from our first go-round at the Iowa State Fair FFA Show. What a great gelding this guy is!

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Paisley and I at the 2015  Iowa State Fair.

Now I think you get the jist of it. I really like agriculture, like a lot. Which leads me into the next topic, “Why did I start a blog?” Well, it is really for a number of reasons! For starters, I am a story teller by trade. Once you get me started it is hard to stop me. Second, I would like to reach people outside of agriculture and show them what happens on day to day basis on a farm. I believe in the importance of advocating for things that you love. Third, I just thought it would be fun! We will see how this goes and hopefully my blog is successful. The idea for “What’s The Beef With Syd?” specifically came from a program called College Aggies Online. It is an awesome program and if you are still a college student, check it out! This blog idea also stems from my training in Masters of Beef Advocacy. Another outstanding program that you should check out.

I absolutely love connecting with others, and that is what I hope to accomplish with this blog. I hope to find common ground between those who were not raised on the farm like I was, and shed some light on how things really happen on the farm. Please join along with me as I try and tell the story of a simple Iowa farm girl. There are bound to be laughs, maybe a few tears, a couple of my favorite recipes and hopefully lots of learning.

Well, there you have it! I would love to hear from you, comment, share, or even send me a message!

Until next time,

Sydney Weis