Visiting the Heartland

OK, folks. Thousands of you have requested photos of the BUTTER COW from the Illinois State Fair. As a follow-up to Clint Eastwood’s performance at the Republican National Convention, we really can’t get any more exciting. So you’ll have to wait a little longer for the stories about Costa Rica. Here’s the cow we saw three years ago on the last day of the state fair.  The diorama was complete. 

Honest Abe and Bossy the Butter Cow in 2009

This year we made it to the first day of the fair, so the diorama was still mostly a figment of the sculptor’s imagination. Here’s what we saw:

Bossy Waiting to Feel Complete  – 2012

Not to Be Outdone, the Butter Pig Waits for Inspiration to Hit – 2012

According to Wikipedia, butter sculpture has a long and storied history, dating as far back as 1536 where it was used to decorate banquet tables. But in those years, before the last bit of bread sopped up the last bit of gravy, the butter probably ended up in someone’s stomach.

Today, I wonder where all this butter hits the road. Supposedly, about 500-600 pounds are used, the equivalent of 2,400 sticks, enough to make 42,000 cookies ( So the waste could be substantial. But maybe with farm subsidies being what they are (and I know a lot of farmers who think the subsidies are just a wee bit toooo generous), no one misses a few hundred pounds of butter. 

In Minnesota, however, (yes, more facts from Wikipedia) there’s never been a butter cow at the state fair. Instead, they sculpt a different Milky Way princess every day of the fair, with each princess taking her own likeness home at the end of the fair–to eat if she wishes. Minnesotans are a special breed. I can’t help making the leap from the question, “That would be your partner in the woodchipper?” [name that movie] to “That would be your face in the butter?” Now tell me, could you take a butter knife to your own eye?

If you can’t get enough of butter sculpture, check out this blog:

More news from the Heartland: A friend of my brother’s from his early years in 4-H knows which side his corn is buttered on. He sold his Precision Planting operation ( to Monsanto, the evil AG empire, for about $250 million this past May. At least it didn’t involve the GMO corn Monsanto has developed that contains its own insecticide to fight bugs while it grows. Monsanto says the corn being sold to consumers doesn’t contain any active insecticide residue. But various animal studies suggest otherwise. Google it for yourself. I admire the “thinking outside the box,” but someone has to rein in the engineers who might be a little lost in the weeds.

With my classic Midwestern naivete, I always thought that GMO was just a faster version of the way we crossbreed plants to be healthier, stronger, more insect and drought resistant. Now that I know what GMO truly means, I’m siding with the Europeans. Don’t make me eat that stuff!

So as I type, the Midwest is getting a real soaking from Tropical Storm Isaac, one that will probably be way too late to save the corn and soybeans or just about anything else that’s trying to grow.

Interactive map: The path of Isaac

Farming has always been a crapshoot, and this year Mother Nature has let no one in the Heartland keep their chips.

On the other hand, the farmers here in California, the organic growers and the CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), are having a banner year with fabulous tomatoes and stone fruit. I just brought a flat of heirloom tomatoes home today from a local CSA. Pardon me while I go drop a little olive oil on some fresh mozzarella and a few sliced Brandywines, Cherokee Purples, and Green Zebras.  

A “Tomato Emergency” Flat from Mariquita Farms

Happy Labor Day Weekend!  Ciao, Ciao, chow!

15 thoughts on “Visiting the Heartland

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      OK, so I’m a fan of hyperbole. Goes with the territory. In this case, I’m not sure I could say that ignorance is bliss.Well, I guess I could, but then I’d be buttering the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak.

  1. mskatykins says:

    Wow, butter sculptures? I find that a tad disturbing, lol! You make a good, good point about the waste. I was looking at news pictures last week about the Tomatino fair in Spain – big Tomato food fight tradition thingamebob. It just makes me think: wow, tradition, or no tradition, what an extreme waste. Sometimes things just don’t add up, eh?

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Humans do a lot of things that don’t seem to add up. Consider the title of an Economist article from August 18: “The Golden Hoard: Why People Are Stupider Than Squirrels.” It has to do with the economics of self storage, and how much money is being made off of people who can’t bear to throw things away, even if they don’t plan to use their stored items any time in the foreseeable future. Crazy.

  2. Prairie Garden Girl says:

    Thank you for directing me to this post from 2012. Yes, I reside in Illinois, however, I have not had the opportunity to attend an Illinois State Fair. My family and I moved to downstate Illinois in 2012 and look forward to visitng the fair. I do have great memories of the Minnesota State Fair [land that I love], as a kid. The sculpture of the Princess Kay of the Milky Way is part of the memories made while attending the fair along with every food imaginable that can be served on a stick.

    GMO . . . Since we are organic gardners on the Illinois Prairie, we know that GMO is not a hybrid. A GMO seed becomes a gene spliced plant that alters the basic structure of the plant that is not always good for people nor plants that depend on the natural version of maize. GMO plants will most likely alter the circle of insect feeding and reproduction cycle.
    ~Suzy Leopold

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Hello, Suzy (aka Prairie Girl)! It was most likely pretty uncomfortable at this year’s fair. The weather was pretty darn muggy and in the 90s the first weekend. Not sure if it got any better because we headed back to San Francisco before it had a chance to change. I think you’ll find that most everything is still available on a stick, except for the butterfly porkchop sandwiches. Although, that may even be possible now. Yes, just say “no” to GMO. It’s pretty scary. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Hope you make it to the ISF one of these Augusts. Let me know how the dairy building compares to the one in MN. Keep that organic produce growing!

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