From my last blog entry, you might be wondering what the heck I’m doing over here in Asia. I thought I’d backtrack a bit and explain myself.

I’m joining a large group of Iowa farmers as part of a meat trade mission. Organized by the Iowa Department of Economic Development, we’re a hodge-podge of ag folks ranging from crops to cattle to hogs to the Iowa Farm Bureau. Trade is the name of the game with this group. We’re here to see where Iowa fits into this mix of global trade markets, promote our products, learn about the business and consumer cultures and even meet with U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack to see things on a national and global scale.

This is no sight-seeing junket. It’s an important trip to help promote trade that is extremely important to Iowans, and the entire United States. It means thousands of jobs, millions in tax revenues and an improved standard of living for all of us. And exports of a value-added product, like meat, create even more value than simply shipping raw goods.

What I find most interesting is that one of the key components to all of all of the politics, governments and so on, boils down to relationships and the people. In our digital world where we can cut deals thousands of miles away with the click of a mouse, face-to-face communication still lives. It’s all about personal introduction, an exchange of business cards, a strong handshake. People still matter.

That’s what we strive to share with our members and consumers back home: that there are real families behind the hamburger at the grocery store. Connections are key. And Iowa farmers are working hard to foster some strong connections here in South Korea and Japan. These farmers wouldn’t have traveled halfway around the world if they didn’t believe that, either. Honestly, they would rather be at home, with their families, in their tractors, in their fields, getting this year’s crop planted.

So it’s worth the time to travel here, to adjust to a crazy time change (it’s 9 a.m. here and nearly 7 p.m. at home in Ankeny), and to spend a few days cooped up in suits and meeting rooms. We’re a week into this adventure and I’ll spend some time recapping where we’ve been and where we hope these efforts take us. Keeping connected with you will hopefully help you connect with your Iowa farmers and your food.

Written by Heather Lilienthal
Heather is an Ag Commodities Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.