MAPLE PARK – Making mindful choices while at the grocery store can be very confusing for Becky Martinez, a mother to 4-year-old twins.
But the Glen Ellyn resident learned how to make more educated choices Saturday at Larson Farms in Maple Park.
The event was part of Illinois Farm Families' Field Mom program, which takes Chicago-area mothers to various farms to teach them about the agricultural process.
Participants learned about the different grades of meat, the use of growth hormones and the differences between organic and conventional food.
“You have to know what you’re eating,” Martinez said. “It shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.”
According to Beef Quality Assurance, a cow treated without hormone growth promotants contains 1.2 nanograms of estrogen per 3 oz. of meat, as compared with 1.9 nanograms for a cow treated with hormone growth promotants.
Mike Martz, owner of Larson Farms, said a baked potato contains 225 nanograms of estrogen per 3 oz. He used M&M’s to help the mothers visualize the differences.
“[The moms] want to know their food is safe and understand the things they hear in the media,” said Mike’s wife, Lynn.
As Mike Martz’s presentation pointed out, there are marketing buzz words that people hear in advertisements that mislead consumers.
For example, ads that say poultry and pork are hormone-free are deceptive, Martz said. Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
The event also included a talk by Randy Willrett, a Malta farmer who began raising his crops organically after his wife questioned him about his farm and the state of well-being for their children.
Willrett said although he is constantly monitoring his crops and tilling his fields, he is doing well economically.
“I feel well-rewarded for the amount of effort we put in,” he said.
Willrett does not use pesticides or genetically modified organisms for his crops.
Highland Park resident Renee Keats said she has a philosophy on whether to buy organic or conventionally grown products.
“If it has a leaf, I want organic. If it has skin I can peel off, like on a banana, I’m less concerned.”
Keats also stressed the importance of buying locally as often as possible, like at a farmers market.
“Don’t be afraid to ask questions and engage with people,” she said. “Ask questions to identify where your food came from.”
Orland Park resident Janelle Floerke is already familiar with farming because her dad is a farmer.
She said the most important thing she could teach her kids is to keep farming part of their lives.
“Without farmers, we wouldn’t have the quality of life we have,” Floerke said. “People underestimate that.”
For more information, visit watchusgrow.org.