While I haven’t had much time this past pandemic year to bake bread or finish a puzzle, I have been drinking cup after cup of coffee to help me keep up with my energetic preschooler.

My husband gifted me a fancy French press coffeemaker for Christmas, and I’ve enjoyed trying different varieties of coffee from local roasters.

Single-origin coffees are my favorite. I find it fascinating how coffee tastes different depending on where in the world it’s grown and how it’s processed.

When I recently visited Lightbrite Coffee Roasters in Grimes, the barista behind the counter actually told me the name of the Ethiopian farmer who grew my coffee. (“He’s a good guy,” he told me.)

The only thing better than that first swig of hot coffee in the morning is knowing the story behind the coffee.

I can’t help but see parallels between the single-origin coffee trend and the renewed demand for locally raised beef, pork and poultry. Many of the finalists for the Iowa Farm Bureau’s 2021 Grow Your Future Award for young farmer entrepreneurs were direct-to-consumer local meat providers.

These Iowa farmers have created online stores to make ordering local meat straight from the farm easier than ever for customers. The entrepreneurs also share details about their farms and how they care for farm animals.

For example, Farm Story Meats in Ames is the sole U.S. source of certified Chester White pork, a heritage breed known for its meat quality.

Iowa State University grad Ray Schmidt (pictured below), who launched Farm Story Meats, explains that his family has worked since the 1960s to perfect the breed.

Ray Schmidt, Farm Story Meats

To earn their certification, the Schmidts must meet rigorous quality standards for meat color and texture, as well as genetic proof that at least one parent animal is purebred Chester White.

“Farmers have a good story to tell,” Schmidt says. “And the meat helps them tell it.” Several other Iowa farmers have also started online stores – and even new butcher shops – to meet the growing demand for local meat with a story, spurred on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a fantastic trend for those of us who love high-quality, Iowa-raised meat and recognize the many nutritional benefits of real meat. In particular, real meat is an excellent source of zinc, which boosts our immunity, and iron, which gives us energy – so we don’t have to drink cup after cup of coffee (unless I want to).

As we enter grilling season, visit your local farmers market, or search online (www.ChopLocal.com is a good start) to buy Iowa-raised meats. And to learn more about the Iowa farmers who raise nutritious real meat, please visit www.realfarmersrealfoodrealmeat.com.