Have you heard the buzz about our newest product on the farm? It’s actually not a dairy product.
Our newest venture is in Wagyu-Holstein beef. That’s kind of a mouthful —literally!
Wagyu, a breed of Japanese beef cattle, may not be a familiar term to most people. But it’s actually the breed behind the famous Kobe beef that you see on restaurant menus.
Real Kobe beef actually comes from the Tajima bloodline of Japanese Black Wagyu cattle, and it must be raised, fed and slaughtered in the Hyogo prefecture of Japan. Many U.S. restaurants may put “Kobe” beef on the menu, but in truth, only a handful are certified to serve it (check out this article from Business Insider for more on that topic).
Highly desirable beef
So what’s so great about it? Wagyu (pronounced “wahg-you”) is widely regarded as highly desirable beef due to:
Superior marbling, shown in raw meat as tiny white dots or a spider web of ultra-thin veins throughout the muscle, which results in tender texture
Rich, buttery flavor
Healthy, monounsaturated fatty acids — especially oleic acid, which is responsible for flavor. These monounsaturated fats have a lower melting point, below human body temperature, so they literally melt in your mouth. Monounsaturated fats can help reduce bad cholesterol levels, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Starting a Wagyu herd
Blake Hansen, Hansen’s Dairy co-owner and herd manager, first heard about Wagyu beef about four years ago from family friends in Des Moines. They were raising a few head just to feed to their own family, and one taste-test had Blake hooked.
This family raised both full-blood cows (mother and father are both Wagyu) and Jersey crossbreeds (Jersey mother and Wagyu father). That got Blake thinking about crossing Wagyus with his Holsteins and offering a very nice selection of meat to customers who already knew us by our dairy products. Blake actually preferred the taste of the crossbreed to the full-blood. Because it wasn’t as rich, he could eat more of it. 😉
The first step was finding the semen. Our dairy cows are artificially inseminated so that we don’t have to keep live bulls on the farm. This provides a lot of genetic variety without having to house and feed bulls and worry about their temper. So to have a crossbred Wagyu-Holstein, we would breed a Holstein female with Wagyu semen.
Blake discovered that Wagyu cattle are typically butchered at 27-29 months old, as they gain the most marbling after 24 months. This is in contrast to more well-known breeds of beef cattle raised in Iowa, which are usually butchered at around 14-16 months.
So this is where things got hard to predict. How much demand would there be for this new beef? When you add up the time it takes for a cow to become pregnant, carry the calf for 9 months, and then raise the calf to 28 months of age, that’s more than three years. And he had to choose how many cows to breed to this Wagyu semen, and how often, because a pregnancy is never guaranteed. In the end, he decided to aim for one or two cows to be butchered each month.
Just like our dairy cows, the Wagyu-Holsteins are raised with great care and quality feed throughout their lives. They are housed in the same pens and fed the same diet as the dairy cows. We do not use growth hormones or preventive antibiotics, and we grow the majority of their feed — corn silage and alfalfa hay silage — on our own land. The genetic traits of Wagyu cattle just naturally result in better meat quality even on the same diet as a dairy cow.
Our first Wagyu-Holstein cow went to the meat locker (we use Marks Locker in Rowley, Iowa) in August 2018. We developed a great partnership with the new restaurant Table 1912, located in the Jorgensen Plaza development of the Western Home in Cedar Falls, to feature this beef on their menu. The Western Home Communities have purchased our dairy products for almost as long as we’ve been producing them, and their restaurant concept is focused on farm-to-table fine dining. They source many of their ingredients from Iowa farmers, so they were excited to be the exclusive server of this new local beef.
We also began selling the meat cuts privately to individuals. A Waterloo Courier article about our beef garnered national attention, as it was picked up by the Associated Press and published in more than 40 newspapers across the country, including the Miami Herald (Fla.), US News & World Report, Washington Times (D.C.) and Houston Chronicle (Texas). Not bad for a small-town Iowa farm.
Try some for yourself
Is your mouth watering yet? Here are some things to know when preparing it:
Small serving sizes. Wagyu is very tender and has a buttery flavor. Steak serving sizes are typically smaller because of the rich flavor profile.
Faster cooking time. Wagyu cooks faster than other beef. It is recommended that steaks are cooked to no more than medium rare for optimum palatability.
Juicy hamburger. Wagyu-Holstein beef is about 90% lean.
We sell our Wagyu-Holstein hamburger in bulk and patties at our Waterloo and Cedar Falls stores for $8/pound. We don’t sell the finer cuts of meat in our stores because of limited quantities and higher price point. If you are interested in purchasing prime cuts of our Wagyu-Holstein beef, call Blake Hansen at (319) 610-1530. As of this post, there are several cuts available, including roasts, short ribs, top sirloins, New York strips, ribeyes and filets, ranging in price from $16 to $100 per pound.
As the calendar turns from April to May, families naturally seek out activities to do outside. Maybe one of those activities is touring Hansen’s Dairy farm?
We aim to make your tour a fun, educational and possibly surprising experience. Here are 5 things you need to know before your visit.
The hands-on tour is the best (if we may brag).
We offer two types of tours for families. The walk-through tour is a guided tour that takes you through the process of getting milk from the farm to your table. You’ll see the calves, milking parlor, cow barns, creamery, kangaroos and goats, plus enjoy a dish of ice cream. Children 3 and younger are free; all other participants are $8. Tours can begin between the hours of 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and you must have a reservation. This tour will take about an hour and a half.
The hands-on tour offers you more opportunities. In addition to seeing all the places listed above, you get to take a trolley ride around the farm, feed a calf, milk a cow by hand, pet the kangaroos and goats, make and eat your own butter, and try all of our products. Again, children 3 and younger are free; all other participants are $12. Tours begin at 3:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and you must have a reservation. Tours start at 3:30 because of the cows’ schedule — that’s when they’re being milked and the calves are being fed. This tour will take about 2 hours.
We always make tours by appointment, so dropping in is not recommended. Also, if you can’t make your reservation, please let us know not to expect you. There likely are other groups scheduled at the same time, so we like to avoid making the whole tour wait.
By the way, the hands-on tour is not just fun for kids. Adults will have a blast too, I promise!
Call 319-988-9834 to make your reservation.
2. Bring cash or check.
At this time we don’t take debit or credit cards for payment of tours or products. You may want to bring some extra spending money in case you would like to buy products after the tour. We do a good job of teasing your taste buds, just sayin’!
3. Don’t bring a stroller unless it’s an “off-road” or jogging-type stroller.
The farm is mostly gravel and has few concrete areas where it’s smooth to push a stroller. Trying to navigate with an umbrella stroller or travel-system stroller can be very difficult. Either plan to carry the little ones or use a baby carrier. We also have a nice jogging stroller for your use if you would like it, no charge.
4. Don’t dress as if you’re going to a party or a concert.
This is a working farm. The ground may be muddy, the wind might be blowing feed around, a calf could slobber on you, you’ll see cows “relieving” themselves … you get the idea. Dress in old shoes or boots and clothes that can get dirty. I’ve seen open-toed heels, flip-flops, white pants and the like. That’s a recipe for disaster! While we do take a trolley ride to the farm, most of the tour is by foot so you need to be comfortable walking.
By the end of the tour, you will most likely be smelly, too. You may not want to plan to go out to eat afterward if you don’t want to offend other restaurant patrons. Besides, we’ll feed you so many dairy products at the end of the tour, we’ll probably ruin your supper.
5. (Over)dress for the weather.
The weather can be unpredictable. We generally don’t cancel our tours because of weather; we let the tourists decide if they want to brave the rain, wind or snow. However, if you decide to come, know this: a farm is more extreme than the city! If it’s windy in town, it’s twice as bad in the wide open country. We tell people to overdress in the spring and fall because it’s much nicer to have a hat and gloves, even in May, than be cold and uncomfortable. Especially for kids! Remember that about half of the tour is outside, and the trolley has a covered top but open-air sides.
Above all, we want you to have a great experience at the farm. These tips should help you make the best of your trip. Hope to see you soon!
Did you notice our business went through some changes this year?
We’ve changed our logo and retail store names, with the customer in mind. If you wondered why, I’d like to share.
First, a little background about our farm.
Our farm has been in the family for 152 years, since 1864. For most of that time, our ancestors operated a self-sustaining farm with many different animals and crops. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the farm started specializing in dairy.
In 1975, Jay and Jeanne Hansen began raising their four sons, Brent, Brad, Blair, and Blake, and their daughter, Lynn, on the farm. As the children grew up, Mom and Dad encouraged them to explore other paths besides working on the home farm. They never wanted them to feel like working on the farm had to be their lot in life. Career options among the siblings included cow hoof trimming, teaching, and yes, even managing cows on other dairy farms.
But in 2000, Jay and Jeanne began to discuss the idea of retirement. The days get long and the bodies get tired. If no one was going to carry on the dairy tradition, the cows could be sold.
But the sons didn’t want to see that happen. The idea of opening an on-farm creamery was tossed around to add value to the milk; if successful, the family could capture more of their hard-earned profits, instead of shipping it off to the middlemen in the dairy supply chain. They could also support the five families on nearly the same number of cows. Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy was born.
The creamery opened in February 2004. Jay and Jeanne mortgaged their retirement on this venture, and each brother had his own responsibilities to make it go. Blake, my husband and the youngest brother, would care for the dairy cow herd; Blair would manage the cropland and livestock nutrition; Brad would operate the creamery; and Brent would deliver the products to area grocery stores, eateries and care facilities.
In 2006, the family decided to open their first retail store: Moo Roo in Waterloo. The logo had always been a kangaroo, as Blake loved the marsupials he saw on a trip to Australia and wanted to have them as pets. With several wallabies (miniature kangaroos) on the farm, it was an obvious choice for a product logo that would stand out on the shelf. The new store name reflected the combination of cows and kangaroos on our farm.
With the success of that store, we thought another store in Cedar Falls would open more eyes to our local product. However, Moo Roo had a hard-dip ice cream parlor, in addition to selling our products and other local goods. The Cedar Falls store was thought to be sort of temporary, a place to sell surplus milk that we had due to our milk staying at a fixed price while other dairy prices were on the rise. We hoped consumers would try our milk for the price and be hooked on the taste and local aspect. So, our Cedar Falls store was named Hansen’s Farm Fresh Dairy Outlet so people would know it was not exactly the same footprint as the Waterloo store.
Fast forward to 2014. Business at both stores was good; the Outlet was no longer temporary but an important fixture in our overall business plan. Another opportunity arose — buying the building in which our Outlet was located, along with a gas station and Chinese restaurant. Since we loved our location, we decided it was a good choice.
Along with the building, it meant we became owners of the gas station. Sell gas? Sure, we could sell gas. It’s a staple, just like milk. (We’ve already heard the one about how Hansen’s Dairy gives you gas, heehee.)
But this year, we decided to leave the Conoco name behind. Hansen’s was already well-known in the community, so we didn’t need the benefit of the name recognition provided by a large corporation. And by cutting ties with Conoco, more of the customers’ dollars would stay in the local community.
Meanwhile, someone in the marketing department here (ahem) had been thinking about our logo. It was 10 years old; the colors were drab, it had a lot of words and a complicated kangaroo/cow-in-her-pouch image. With growth comes the opportunity for a fresh start.
Mike Tyer of Cohesive Creative and Code in Hudson (a fellow graduate of mine at Wartburg in 2003) designed several new possibilities for us. In the end we went with a logo reminiscent of old-time milk bottle caps; I loved the feeling of a wholesome, simpler time. The kangaroo remains, but there is no cow in the pouch. We hope by now that people know the milk comes from the cows, not from the kangaroos. Just like a duck and a gecko can advertise insurance, and a tiger can advertise frosted cereal, a kangaroo can sell milk. We removed the words “farm fresh” (even though you know it still is) and more prominently featured our name.
Now for the retail stores. The name Moo Roo is, of course, cute and clever. But I was beginning to wonder: Do people on the street know that the store is more than just an ice cream parlor? That it primarily sells Hansen’s Dairy products, made just down the road? And that there are all kinds of local meats, cheeses, produce, snacks, locally crafted gift items and more available here?
The idea of having a new logo was met with resistance by some in our family (even my own husband). But I firmly believe the new brand will help us be more consistent across every facet of our business.
By leaving behind the Conoco name, we had to create new signage for our Cedar Falls site. At the same time, the Moo Roo landlords were putting a new facade on our building. What excellent timing. We would put up new signage featuring our rebrand at the Cedar Falls site, and use the opportunity of a fresh start at Moo Roo to put up new signage there, too. It’s been a long two years of Kimball Avenue road construction and building/parking lot improvements.
Now we are officially Hansen’s Dairy stores, located in Waterloo and Cedar Falls. You can still call it Moo Roo. The family will still casually call it that, and we know others will too. But inside still has all the same goodness it has always had, and the Cedar Falls store will only get better.
If you don’t grow, you’re losing ground. You can bet the farm on it.
One of my favorite snacks growing up was one my dad would make. And his mom, my grandma, served it with dinner in the trailer at the lake in Okoboji. A bread and butter sandwich. With “tooth butter” – butter thick enough to leave tooth marks when you took a bite. Sometimes we’d shake things up and sprinkle a little sugar on it for fun. Or a couple of pickle slices. But bread and butter was usually enough.
Then I grew up and learned about “eating healthy” and “cholesterol” and “low-fat” and other things that were part of a balanced and nutritious diet. Bread and butter sandwiches were not on the list. Nor was the 2% milk we always drank for dinner. Skim all the way.
But in the last few years I’ve heard some rumblings about fat being – gasp! – good for you. Specifically, animal fats like dairy. We’ve rounded up some research findings and medical evidence for why full-fat dairy products like butter and whole milk are actually better for you than their low-fat alternatives like margarine and skim milk.
Some vitamins are fat soluble – they are absorbed with fat. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are all fat soluble. If you don’t eat enough fat, your body won’t be able to absorb those vitamins properly. Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause problems in the brain and the body.
Eating higher fat dairy products may actually help you keep the pounds off. A 2013 study of men in rural Sweden found that men who didn’t eat butter and drank low-fat milk at the beginning of the study were more likely to become obese. Men who ate more whipped cream, butter, and whole milk at the beginning of the study were less likely to become obese. And, in another review of European studies, consuming dairy was linked to lower risk of obesity.
Eating margarine instead of butter may increase your risk for heart disease. All the way back in 1997, the Framingham study in Massachusetts found that people who ate margarine instead of butter had an increased chance of developing coronary heart disease over 10 years. In other words, eating margarine raised their risk of having a heart attack. People who ate butter had no change in their risk.
Real food is better for you than fake food. The more food is processed and changed from its original form, the more important vitamins and minerals are lost. Butter and whole milk are whole foods, unchanged and left just the way nature intended.
So…think about it. If you’re a margarine person, maybe think about switching it up from time to time and adding butter to your family’s table. If you’re a skim milk person, consider drinking a glass of 1% or whole milk once in a while. But the bottom line is that you shouldn’t be afraid of a little whipped cream or butter now and then. It’s the sugar and processing that should make you stop and think!
Working for a family dairy that produces, bottles, and distributes its own high-quality products (and retails other high-quality items as well) has been incredibly inspiring for someone who loves food. Day in and day out, my time spent working with and for the Hansens has given me much opportunity to consider all of the elements that prove food is one of the most important things in a human being’s life. I’ve jotted down five things that immediately came to mind.
5.) Food is essential.
Everyone eats, or should. If not … well, I‘d hate to think about it. Almost all of the nutrition the body takes in comes from food. But more than that, what we eat, and how that food is prepared, can substantially influence our mood, the health of our skin, our digestive system, and our heart’s ability to perform its all-important job. Without food, no life. And without good food, no good life.
4.) Food connects us to our region, and our world.
Every segment of these United States (and, indeed, the entire globe) carries with it some regional cuisine. Oftentimes, this cuisine is inspired by what ingredients are readily available. This unites people to their region in the most fundamental way. Whether it’s an Iowan eating an ear of sweet corn during the summer, a resident of New Mexico eating a dish spiced with heirloom green chiles, or someone in Maine enjoying fresh clams, everyone in every region has something that they associate with their geographical identity, whether they realize it or not. Even in the age of widespread global distribution of food, local abundance still characterizes a region’s style.
3.) Traditions are passed down through food.
Family’s ethnic histories are passed down through dishes that stay in the family, and the smell or flavor of a favorite traditional food ignites emotions in a way that even the arts can not. In addition, learning how to cook is often an activity shared by grandparents and parents with their children and grandchildren. And who hasn’t instantly remembered a deceased relative when they were presented with, say, a certain type of cookie, or some classic casserole. And, like the regional connection that is made by certain available ingredients, regions and neighborhoods are often defined by their particular style of cooking, uniting friends and strangers alike via shared tastes.
2.) Culture is experienced through food.
People come together over food in a way that they do no with nothing else. Dining with others offers an opportunity to share and communicate even with strangers. Food is always a staple at gatherings, reunions, athletic events, block parties, and awards ceremonies. But beyond the regional elements mentioned above, food can serve as the center of religious rituals and seasonal ceremonies, and can be the binding cement in certain urban environments where diverse residents might otherwise seem at odds with one another. Foodies flock to certain coveted spots, inspired by social media, and saveurs worldwide associate themselves with foreign friends via shared affection for certain culinary hotspots. In every tourism-heavy locale, the sale of food is an economic staple, not only because those travelers need to eat, but because these cultural hubs are in part defined by the variety of cuisine they serve.
1.) Eating involves all five senses.
My personal theory is that this is much of why we have such an emotional connection to food — it’s a wam-bam, all-inclusive sort ofthing.
Visually, a chef takes great pains to make sure that an entrée has been properly “plated,” and this arrangement on the plate can sometimes seem like a variety of sculpture. When summer vegetables are in season, a full palette of vivid color can be seen across a table. (And rich, deep, or bright colors are often indicators of a food’s nutritional content.)
People may like or dislike something based on texture alone. When something is browned on top, it means not only a bit of color, but also a crunchy texture. Creaminess, chewiness, toughness, softness … these things can make or break a meal, and a lack of attention to them might prove a poor cook’s lack of technique.
Aroma triggers immediate memories, instantaneous transport to Grandma’s house or the grade-school cafeteria. But it can also whet the appetite of someone not all that hungry before sitting down at the restaurant and smelling the light smoke wafting off the grill. Maybe I will have something after all.
Meanwhile, sizzles and crunches are omnipresent amongst culinary experiences. And in the preparation and serving of food, there are clangs and clatters of knives, skillets, spatulas, and plates, and the bubbling of beverages being poured into glasses. Add some laughter and chatter, cue a little music (preferably live) and voilà! You’re on your way to a very memorable experience.
Flavor might seem to go without saying, but its connection to mouth-feel, aroma, and the visual and auditory sensations we’ve been discussing makes taste perhaps the most important element of all. Like the five senses, the five major flavors (sweetness, sourness, saltiness, savoriness, and bitterness) span a gamut of psychological possibilities. And the very word “taste” indicates whether or not we might value a certain person’s opinion — do they have it? Have they been paying attention?
Every day, I get to see all of these elements at play in the world of the family dairy, and amidst Iowa’s agriculturally-driven culture. What could be more exciting? If this piece has your taste buds’ attentions piqued, stop by one of our retail stores or consider taking one of our farm tours. Additionally, consider eating at one of the many restaurants that boast an attitude of “Buy Fresh, Buy Local,” or just get out and attend a summer barbecue or church potluck. Or heck, just treat a friend or family member to dinner — homemade or restaurant procured. There’s an inspiring life of food surrounding us, and amidst it an infinity of blessings.
Ever wonder what the Hansen dairy cows eat to produce such great tasting milk and dairy products?
To keep our cows healthy and help them produce high quality, great-tasting milk, they are fed a meticulously calculated mixture of dried cracked corn, distiller’s grain, linseed meal, corn silage, alfalfa haylage and vitamins and minerals. Our cows have more balanced diets than most people!
Let’s take a closer look at these ingredients.
Dried Cracked Corn: These dried corn kernels broken into small, coarse pieces are high in carbohydrates and starch.
Dry Distillers Grain: As ethanol production uses only starch from the corn kernel, the remaining protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins make distillers grain. Instead of throwing the kernel away, the cows make use of the remaining nutritional value. It’s like eating the chicken after you’ve used its feathers to stuff your pillow!
Linseed Meal: A byproduct of extracting the oil from flaxseed, linseed meal is high in protein and fiber.
Corn Silage: The entire corn plant – stalk, leaves, cob, and kernels – is chopped into small pieces, resulting in a feed that is loaded with fiber, thiamin and carbohydrates.
Alfalfa Haylage: A grass crop that is cut and fermented, alfalfa haylage is a roughage material that provides protein, calcium and carbohydrates.
Vitamins and Minerals: To round out the cow’s diet, they are given 1.5 lbs of vitamins and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and sodium bicarbonate.
In honor of Dairy Month, we decided to show you a few of our favorite easy to make dairy snacks!
Smoothies: A great way to beat that nasty Iowa heat. Combine yogurt, milk, ice cubes and your favorite fruits and blend to make a tasty, refreshing treat! For an extra-thick smoothie with added calcium, include a spoonful of milk powder. For addition protein, toss in a spoonful of peanut butter with a banana and vanilla yogurt – yum yum!
Ice Pops: A great snack for kids on the go! Mix leftover smoothies from the above recipe or 100% fruit juice, yogurt and fruit like raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. Pour into ice cube trays and pop in the freezer for a sweet, frozen snack!
Parfaits: Parfaits are easily made by layering yogurt, fresh fruit and granola or chopped nuts. Looking for something a little different? Use cottage cheese in place of the yogurt! (photo from blueprintforbeauty.com)
Mini Pizzas: A tasty, filling snack. Simply spread pizza sauce onto a whole grain English muffin and top with a small handful of shredded mozzarella cheese. For a heartier pizza, add lean hamburger, Canadian bacon and green peppers or mushrooms. Pop it in the oven for 3-5 minutes and enjoy your yummy, cheesy snack!
Fruit Pinwheels: Spread cream cheese and/or protein-packed peanut butter onto soft, whole grain tortillas. Add small pieces of fresh fruit, then roll and slice.
Quesadillas: Pack whole grain tortillas with shredded cheese, beans, corn, tomatoes and onions. You can also add cooked, cubed beef, pork or chicken. Heat in the microwave until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream and salsa. (photo from babble.com)
Fruit Kebabs: Layer fruits like berries, melon and pineapple on a kebab stick. Serve with yogurt or a dip such as softened cream cheese with a touch of drizzled honey and a drop of vanilla.
Whole Grain Waffle Sticks: Transform messy whole grain waffles into an easy-to-eat handheld snack by slicing them into small rectangles. Serve with softened cream cheese and fruit spread.
For additional recipes and to learn more about dairy foods, dairy farms and healthy eating, check out these websites:
Leave your favorite dairy recipes in the comments below!
Since today is Father’s Day, and June is National Dairy Month, I decided to share what makes my husband the best dairy daddy.
Blake loves showing our kids (Reese, 3, and Beckett, 1) all about being a farmer. Reese has already had a lot of hands-on experiences with cows and is discovering all the different aspects of raising them.
I love how he is instilling in our children (and his nieces and nephews) his love for animals. He is patient, caring, sensitive and kind, both in his work life and home life. He works hard until he gets the job done, then comes in and plays hard with the kids.
I love watching Blake be a dad. I would be proud if our kids grow up to be a farmer — or a parent — just like him.
Dairy farmers work diligently to uphold their legacy as good environmental stewards, and the Hansens are no different. Taking care of the land makes healthy cows, and healthy cows produce high quality milk. Most importantly, sustainability makes the world healthier for future generations. Here at Hansen’s Dairy, we implement many sustainability practices to help keep the planet healthy.
1) Water – The Hansens are very conscious of how they use water. When the cows are milked, milk comes out of the udder at 101°. A cooling system uses water to chill the milk to about 60°. This process helps keep the milk fresh from the farm to your refrigerator. That water is then recycled and given to the cows to drink.
2) Manure/Fertilizer – For every 1,000 pounds a dairy cow weighs, she’ll produce about 80 lbs. of manure each day. With 300 Holstein cows on the farm, that adds up quickly. Manure is cleaned out of the barns twice a day and pushed down a pipe that runs to a manure pit behind the barn. This pit holds 1 million gallons of manure. The manure is emptied from the pit twice a year, recycled and used on crops that are grown as feed for the cows, bringing its use full-circle. The Hansen’s high-tech equipment injects the manure directly into the soil, minimizing the odor, runoff and atmospheric losses while adding rich nutrients to the soil and replenishing its fertility.
3) Crop Rotation – The Hansens implement crop rotation to help replenish nitrogen in the soil. Crop rotation is also an important part of insect and disease control. Because many insects prefer to eat specific crops, continuous growth of the same crop gives them a steady food supply, and the insects’ population increases. To avoid this, the Hansens plant a field with alfalfa hay for four years and then corn for the next two years.
4) Conservation – The Hansens till their fields minimally and use contour and waterway systems to minimize topsoil erosion. When fields are frequently tilled, the topsoil becomes light and loose and can blow away in the wind. Contour farming minimizes erosion by planting crops around a hill, following its elevation contour lines, rather than planting in rows straight up the hill. These rows slow water run-off during rainstorms to prevent soil erosion and allow the water time to settle into the soil. Waterways provide paths for rainwater runoff to escape the field without taking precious topsoil with it.
5) Corn Usage – When the Hansens make silage for their cows to eat, they chop up the entire corn plant: stalk, leaves, corn, cob and all. This ensures none of the corn plant goes to waste. When the Hansens do harvest just the corn kernels, the rest of the plant is chopped up to make cornstalk bedding for the cows.
The crops the Hansens take from the land to make feed for their cattle returns to the land as fertilizer in the form of manure. Being good land stewards, the Hansens try to make sure everything taken from the land is replenished.