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Farm Fresh Blog Welcome to Farm Fresh, Iowa Farm Bureau's blog about the people who bring you your food, fuel, and fiber, and the issues they face.

Farm Fresh blog

Welcome to Farm Fresh, Iowa Farm Bureau’s blog about the people who bring you your food, fuel, and fiber, and the issues they face. Learn more about the purpose of this blog and its relevance to you here.

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Organic, natural, or conventional: so many choices for new parents

9/28/2016

A few weeks ago, my daughter came down with a nasty case of eczema after getting sick from a cold. I searched the baby aisle of Target, trying to find anything to stop the itching and make her more comfortable. I discovered that there are “natural” or “organic” versions of nearly every baby product you can imagine – from diapers to baby wipes, shampoos to cold medicines, rice cereal to baby food.

Americans’ great deal on food is getting even better

9/13/2016

As the weather cools and we head into autumn, food is top of mind for Americans. Folks will get out the slow cooker to prepare savory roasts and stews for cooler fall nights. They’ll simmer up the perfect chili to tailgate at the big football game. And, of course, it won’t be long until it’s time to plan for the bountiful Thanksgiving feast.

Agriculture is key to learning

9/7/2016

Schools are back in session and students are hitting the books! We all want to see our kids succeed, and a solid foundation in subjects like reading, math, science, and social studies leads to that success. Regardless of the subject, kids connect to learning so much better when it is relevant to them and their lives.

Iowa family’s heritage strengthened by determination and years of conservation

8/24/2016

Sustainability may be a buzz word today, but it was alive and well last week at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Iowa Farm Bureau’s Century and Heritage Farm Awards at the Iowa State Fair.

Illinois farmers impressed by Iowa’s collaboration, aggressive adoption of water quality practices

8/17/2016

The Governor, Secretary of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources director, and mayor of Cedar Rapids walk into a room… It’s no joke. As 15 Illinois farmers learned last week, Iowa is pursuing water quality solutions in ways that may seem laughable in other places.

Spotlighting farmers’ water quality efforts at the Iowa State Fair

8/8/2016

I’ve been around Iowa agriculture a long time, but last week was a first for me: I visited a field where a farmer was having a saturated buffer and a bioreactor installed side-by-side. It was pretty cool to see all of that water quality improvement action in one spot. But it might not be the last time dual installation happens around the state, given the way that farmers all over Iowa are tackling the challenge of improving water quality.

Listening and learning about a great opportunity for Iowa

7/29/2016

Over the years, I’ve been to a lot of public hearings about Iowa livestock projects. But I’ve never been to one quite as open and informative as last week’s hearing about the proposed Prestage Foods pork processing plant in Wright County.

Different Landscapes, Common Values - A World Apart

7/18/2016

As different as Japan is from the Iowa countryside, we share many similar values with the people. One of the most profound similarities that struck a chord with me was the value the Japanese place on their land.

Similarities between Iowans and Japanese create opportunities

7/15/2016

It’s easy to notice differences when you first set foot in a place like Tokyo or Yamanashi, Japan. Surprisingly, it doesn’t take too long to find similarities either.

A grateful neighbor half-way around the world

7/14/2016

It’s a long-standing Iowa tradition that neighbors help neighbors in times of need. It’s what makes our state special and it was the driving force of the renowned Yamanashi hot lift in 1960.

When Pigs Fly: Hog Lift Legacy Connects Iowa, Japan

7/13/2016

“When pigs fly” is one of those sayings reserved for something so ridiculous, so impossible it will never happen. It makes sense—until you travel to Japan like I did recently. I saw how the legacy of one Iowan’s kindness to the people of Japan more than 50 years ago reflects what can happen when pigs fly.

Iowa’s friendship to Japan stands the test of time

7/11/2016

A gesture of friendship and caring from Iowa to Japan—in the form of a couple dozen breeding hogs and some sacks of feed—has stood the test of time. And, as a group of Iowan farmers found out recently, the aid effort 56-years ago is renowned at the highest levels of U.S. diplomacy in Japan even today.

Finding familiar treats far from home

7/7/2016

A trip to Japan in preparation for a visit by Iowa Farm Bureau presidents has revealed a lot about why passage of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, or TPP, trade deal is so important for Iowa agriculture, and all of Iowa.

Iowa agriculture is not just corn and soybeans anymore

6/28/2016

This Fourth of July weekend, my family will make our annual trek along Interstate 35 to my hometown of Northwood, more commonly known as the last Iowa town you pass through on the way to a Minnesota Twins game.

WoMEn in Agriculture

6/22/2016

Nestled in the very northwestern corner of Illinois, you will find the place I call home.

Virtual tours help farmers host far-flung visitors

6/14/2016

Technology is helping Iowa agriculture bring school kids and others right to the farm. And there’s no need to worry about sunburns, bug bites or long trips on the bus.

GMO versus organic? Why not both?

5/31/2016

Can somebody be both a backer of biotechnology in agriculture and a supporter of organic farming? I think so. In fact, I see myself as one.

New study reaffirms GMO safety, Dr. Oz and GMO opponents pivot

5/19/2016

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine just published an extensive report reviewing more than 900 GMO studies and data covering 20 years. Among the conclusive findings: food from GMO crops is just as safe as food from conventionally bred crops and it poses no added risk to the environment.

Des Moines Water Works’ great idea to reduce nitrates in water

5/13/2016

I recently read that Des Moines Water Works is creating a one-acre wetland test site to help remove nitrates from the Raccoon River (which provides drinking water for central Iowans).You don’t need to...

Getting beyond the ‘mom guilt’ over what my child eats

5/5/2016

This Sunday, I will be celebrating Mother’s Day with a whole new perspective – as a first-time mom to an amazingly perfect little girl.Back when I was a kid, my dad used to warn me not to get between...

Teaching ag today goes way beyond corn and cows

4/26/2016

Do you know a high schooler who’s looking for a bit of career advice as high school graduation nears? Maybe a bright young man or woman who just isn’t quite sure what direction to pursue as they prepare...

Iowa Envirothon showcases tomorrow’s innovators today

4/18/2016

Back when I was a student, I relished the opportunity for a class field trip to leave the school campus to see something new and different. Each trip was an adventure and provided a learning experience...

Spring is time for new life on the farm

4/12/2016

It’s fun to walk the dog around my Des Moines neighborhood these days because there are signs of new life everywhere you look. Daffodils and tulips are blooming. Parents are taking their bundled-up...

The #1 reason Iowa is “Farm Strong” (in a blowout)

4/4/2016

It’s settled – decisively.Nearly 1,000 people entered our Farm Strong “Merch Madness” contest (for merchandise autographed by Iowa State Cyclone coaches Steve Prohm and Bill Fennelly) and voted for the...

No foolin' me, there's plenty happening in Iowa agriculture

3/29/2016

It’s April Fools’ week, which means I’m always leery about opening text messages and emails from my family and friends, many of them pranksters.However, my work inbox is a different story. Looking at...

The “Final 4” Reasons Iowa is “Farm Strong”

3/28/2016

Your odds of picking a perfect NCAA men’s basketball tournament bracket were 1 in 9.2 quintillion.Your chance to win “Farm Strong Merch Madness” (merchandise autographed by Iowa State Cyclone basketball...

Celebrating Ag Day year-round

3/15/2016

It’s National Ag Day, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t celebrate the day.I don’t celebrate the day specifically because I celebrate agriculture the entire year. I know it sounds corny, but there’s...

5 fresh stats prove Iowa’s water quality progress

3/10/2016

Iowa’s water is like a college basketball team that’s elevating its play heading into the tournament.It’s not perfect (the “talking heads” on the sidelines can point to its flaws), but there’s no doubt...

Our focus on supporting Iowa’s young people

3/9/2016

The Iowa Farm Bureau has always believed that one of the most important things we raise in Iowa isn’t planted in the ground, it’s Iowa’s young people. They are the lifeblood of our communities and a promise...

Iowa farms spring to life with newborn calves

3/7/2016

Spring may officially start on Mar. 20, but some farmers have already started their spring season, spring calving season, that is. It’s Luke Schuldt’s favorite time of the year, hands down.“This is really...

Sparking Iowa's rural economy

2/24/2016

We focus a lot on our Farm Fresh blog about all the work that Iowa farmers do to fill our plates and conserve the water and land.What we probably don’t discuss enough is how Iowa farmers, and Farm Bureau...

Collaborating to keep animals healthy, antibiotics effective

2/22/2016

Shortly after my husband and I moved into our home, our dog, Giovanni, began scratching his face and biting his paws. He didn’t show these signs before we moved, so my husband and I were concerned. We...

Between the Lines: A day in the life of an Iowa farm dog

2/18/2016

His name was Grouch. He was a German Shepherd dog; black, broad and taller than most, with a white blaze on his chest. My dad always claimed Grouch was ‘part wolf,’ mostly because it kept salesmen within earshot off our farm.

Caring for animals at the Iowa Beef Expo

2/17/2016

Earlier this week, photographer Gary Fandel and I ventured out to the Iowa State Fairgrounds for the Iowa Beef Expo. The expo celebrates the best in cattle genetics throughout the state, and welcomes...

GMO – Should we really “just label it”?

2/15/2016

“Just label it.” It’s the mantra of GMO opponents seeking mandatory labels on food products containing GMOs (genetically modified organisms).Strangely, the message is also gaining favor with some weary...

Sparking students' interest in sciences through agriculture

2/4/2016

 Back during my college days, when I was taking freshman classes in huge lecture halls at Iowa State University (ISU), I studied biology before I switched majors to journalism.Admittedly, looking back,...

Democracy on full display in Iowa

2/2/2016

Democracy was on full display this week in Iowa’s small towns and big cities, in school gyms, churches and many other sites around the states as citizens gathered for the Iowa Caucuses. They came out...

The caucuses: Iowa’s big chance to make a difference

1/25/2016

Like many of Iowans, I’ve been checking my caller ID pretty closely this month trying to avoid robocalls from political campaigns. (Sorry Aunt Bertha, if I don’t recognize your number, I’m not picking...

Young farmers, rural entrepreneurs full of fresh ideas for today’s problems

1/13/2016

Dakota Hoben (pictured right) participates in the 2016 American Farm Bureau Discussion Meet.A fresh set of eyes can make all of the difference in finding solutions to persistent issues.Luckily, Iowa has...

Water quality experts: farmers are cooperating, even when nature doesn’t

12/22/2015

Cover crops are one of many science-based conservation practices farmers are embracing to protect water.Don’t mistake this explanation for an excuse.Weather causes nitrates to seep from Iowa’s naturally...

Flooding in December? With Iowa weather, you just never know

12/15/2015

Is Iowa’s weather unpredictable? Just ask the folks organizing the Jolly Holiday Lights event in Des Moines’ Water Works Park. Record December rains forced them to cancel the event for the rest of the...

Giving back

12/7/2015

One in eight Iowans experiences hunger; either there isn’t enough to go around after they get done paying heating bills, or they have to choose between their child’s school expenses or medications.  There...

Thankful for Iowa’s turkey farmers

11/25/2015

Iowa turkey farmer Mark HerrigThis Thanksgiving, as my grandmother-in-law serves the traditional Thanksgiving turkey and chicken-filled raviolis (she’s Italian), I’ll pause an extra minute to think about...

Is the Des Moines Water Works leader really worth a half million bucks?

11/17/2015

So is Bill Stowe worth a half-million dollars?The Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) board, a public utility, has agreed to pay Stowe, their CEO, a $500,000 bonus for staying on the job through 2020. That’s...

It’s almost turkey time, and there’s going to be plenty

11/12/2015

With Thanksgiving a few weeks away, I can’t stop daydreaming about the holiday meal and piling up my plate with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and my favorite pumpkin pie. I’ve been scoping out the...

Moving beyond blah, blah, blah to show the safety and value of GMOs

10/30/2015

Have you heard about the safety and value of GMOs? Probably not, and that’s a big problem.America’s food and environmental safety agencies have repeatedly vouched for the safety of foods made with crops...

Take it from an Iowa farm girl: here are 10 good reasons to keep eating meat

10/28/2015

Just when I’d dealt with the whole ‘sitting is the new smoking’ study, by upping my exercise regimen,  it now appears another aspect of my daily life is casting health dispersions; red meat.  But this...

Food, and having enough, creates a universal language

10/15/2015

Food, and having enough of it, creates a universal language. That was underscored for me recently when I attended the annual Iowa Hunger Summit, and during the luncheon, I found myself sitting between...

8 early takeaways from the World Food Prize

10/14/2015

The World Food Prize is a mixture of old and new.Every year the Des Moines-based conference poses an age-old question (how should we feed a growing world population?) and gathers global leaders for renewed...

Meet a former Iowa Hawkeye and NFL lineman who is literally “Farm Strong”

10/5/2015

We talk a lot about “Farm Strong” values here on our Farm Fresh blog -- about the hard-working character and perseverance of Iowa farmers, who overcome the weather, the markets or whatever challenges...

Don’t hold your breath

10/1/2015

Here’s a question that should take your breath away: do Americans find Kim Kardashian more believable than Albert Einstein?If you spend time checking out blogs or recent headlines, it seems Americans...

Growing tomatoes and a toddler

9/30/2015

The calendar officially says it’s fall, combines are slowly starting to roll out into the fields, and football season has started; I think it’s safe to say autumn is upon us.At our place, we’re probably...

Remembering 1985 and the roots of ANF

9/16/2015

Coach Hayden FryThe year was 1985: Madonna was topping the charts; high school angst filled the Big Screen with ‘The Breakfast Club’; and Americans got their first glimpse of mobile phones in the hit...

30 reasons America Needs Farmers (ANF)

9/15/2015

You haven’t heard the whole story behind the “ANF” on Iowa’s football helmets.Yes, you may know that legendary Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry created ANF (America Needs Farmers) in the midst of the 1980s Farm...

Take a tasty bite out of fall at Iowa’s apple orchards

9/9/2015

Last week, I swung by Center Grove Orchard near Cambridge to buy the first honeycrisp apples of the season. Each year I visit the orchard, I can’t believe all the new additions to this popular agritourism...

Like Des Moines Water Works, I’m prematurely giving up on my two-year-old

8/27/2015

It’s time to radically alter the course of my daughter’s education.Yes, she’s meeting and exceeding many milestones people associate with two-year-olds, she’s a good big sister to her five-month-old brother,...

Harvest safety tips for farmers and city folks alike

8/26/2015

It’s that time of year when students are back in the classroom and Iowa farmers are gearing up to harvest a record-large corn crop this fall.Yet in the rush to get the kids to football games and marching...

Back-to-School: 6 Great Ways to Make Learning Real with Agriculture!

8/24/2015

It’s that time of year again. Kids and teachers are heading back to school. Some may be dreading it, but the majority of them are excited to be back with their friends and may even like the normalcy of...

A century or more of caring for land and livestock

8/20/2015

This week, 366 families from around the state are being recognized as recipients of the Century Farm designation at the Iowa State Fair. The designation recognizes families who have had a farm in the...

Des Moines "city girl" experiences farm, dispels myths

8/11/2015

Me (Cassidy) standing in front of the new cow barn recently opened in Amana Farms. The cows seemed very interested in me taking photos of them that day.Most of my life I didn’t know the first thing about...

Sorry Gwyneth, but I’ll leave nutritional advice to the experts

8/6/2015

Photo by AP.My Twitter feed lit up this week with breathless news that actress Gwyneth Paltrow was speaking out against genetically modified foods (GMOs) and for a campaign to force food companies to...

Is that GMO label really necessary?

7/30/2015

I’m an avid food label reader. When I’m shopping at the grocery store, I stop to look at the nutrition facts before I buy a food that’s new to me, and I check out the produce labels to see where the blueberries...

Viewing Iowa’s conservation progress from a bicycle seat

7/28/2015

OK, I survived my first RAGBRAI. Last year I rode a few days, but this year I pedaled the entire route, some 462 miles from the Missouri River at Sioux City to the Mississippi River at Davenport. My leg...

Ditch the fear to eat (and live) healthy

7/13/2015

After years of ignoring doctors’ warnings, I finally agreed last month to start taking medication for high blood pressure.In my case, high blood pressure is genetic. My dad was in his 20s when he was...

Farming is really easy, at least in a video game

7/9/2015

  Last week I climbed the stairs in our suburban Des Moines home to the sound of an idling tractor. I found out my husband had purchased a farming simulation game and was deciding which seeds to plant...

Celebrating our independence

7/2/2015

Have a happy and safe Independence Day from the Iowa Farm Bureau! Market sheep contestants share tips at the Butler County Fair. Photo by Gary Fandel.

Teaching about nutrition and connecting to the farm

7/1/2015

There’s a certainly a bumper crop of misinformation floating around in social media about food safety, healthy eating and modern farming practices. And I recently got to talk with folks who see it first-hand:...

Looking beyond the surface to fully understand Iowa’s water quality

6/29/2015

The recent flooding around the state is a reminder of the importance of water quality to all of us, whether you live in the heart of a city or call rural Iowa home.  Our families like to fish, swim, and...

Kleckner’s work helped make U.S. agriculture a global power

6/22/2015

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.” – Ralph Waldo EmersonIt seems as though...

Help Food Bank of Iowa win the Great American Milk Drive ($10,000 in milk) with a couple clicks

6/12/2015

I’ve written before on the Farm Fresh blog about the tour I took last fall of the Hawkeye Harvest Food Pantry in Mason City.It was an eye-opening experience, in so many ways. But what struck me the most...

Lipstick can’t dress up EPA’s troubling waters decree

6/5/2015

We’ve all heard the old saying that putting lipstick on a pig just doesn’t make it any prettier. But that didn’t stop the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from trying to gussy up the rule it rolled...

#UniteIowa ? Yeah, let’s get to work!

5/21/2015

Last week Des Moines Register columnist Kyle Munson kicked off a #UniteIowa campaign, a documented crusade to find and encourage common ground between rural and urban Iowans.He started with a trip to...

A case of jumping too soon on a water report

5/20/2015

When officials at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently released a report showing an increase in impaired waters in the state, environmental activists dove in head first. Predictably,...

Chipotle’s rhetoric is one bad burrito

5/12/2015

OK, I’m a guy who’s had a few burritos over the years and I’ve always thought that the ones from Chipotle were pretty tasty.  But it’s the rhetoric spouted out these days by the fast food chain that’s...

Window to the World: A Mother’s Day Salute to Soon-to-be Empty Nesters

5/7/2015

Laurie's daughter“Let’s see the day,” I’d say, as I held my newborn daughter up to the window and peered into the backyard. “It’s going to be a sunny day, but if it rains, that’s okay; the rain will help...

Don’t be chicken about avian flu

5/5/2015

I’ve been reading and writing a lot of stories recently about avian flu, a virus that has stricken the poultry and egg industry across the country and in Iowa, killing more than 12 million birds...

Increased E15 availability is good news for drivers, Iowa

4/28/2015

Iowa drivers, the environment, and the Hawkeye State’s economy, got some good news recently when convenience store chain Kum & Go announced it would start offering E15 at a growing number of its gas...

5 Encouraging Water Quality Stats for Iowa

4/22/2015

Earth Day was first celebrated 45 years ago. And while Iowa has made significant environmental progress over the past few decades (including tremendous innovation, collaboration, and activity since the...

Tomorrow’s environmental experts are working together now

4/21/2015

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no expert in environmental systems, species or soils. I could tell you that I’m having a difficult time trying to grow grass on the sod/clay-based soil at our home,...

The secret to overcoming adversity

4/15/2015

Lavonne Baldwin is a beautiful woman; one you’ve never met. She struggled for decades to find a healthy weight and has gained and lost a thousand pounds, trying on and casting off various weight loss...

Wretched roads: a visit to Brazil highlights the value of Iowa’s infrastructure

4/9/2015

(Editor's note: Tom Block, Farm Bureau News Coordinator, is on tour of Brazil with a group of Iowa farmers studying livestock production there. Here are some of his observations.) Traveling to Brazil...

A lot of folks use fertilizer, why target only agriculture?

4/7/2015

Like many of my neighbors, I fertilized my lawn last weekend. It’s something I do every spring as the grass starts to green. I barely think twice about it. Mostly, I just want to get it over with so I...

Organic, conventional or Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? Let’s not judge our food choices

4/2/2015

Last weekend, I decided to swing by Hy-Vee in Ames for a grocery run on my way home from visiting my sister and two adorable nieces.It was after 8 p.m., and as expected, most of the grocery shoppers...

From the buffet line: Lessons about responding to consumer demand

3/30/2015

(Editor's note: Tom Block, Farm Bureau News Coordinator, is on tour of Brazil with a group of Iowa farmers studying livestock production there. Here are some of his observations.) Nothing says comfort...

Think before you toss. Simple steps to prevent food waste

3/25/2015

Over the winter, my husband was looking for a project to fight his cabin fever and decided to defrost our iced-over freezer. When he emptied out the freezer, we discovered more than three dozen bags of...

Collaboration over litigation: Funds would be better spent on successful conservation projects, not lawyers

3/18/2015

Linn County farmers, community leaders, city officials, planners, water treatment officials, and elected representatives gathered last summer to discuss efforts to improve water quality.I have the utmost...

Sorry robins. The new first sign of spring is cover crops

3/17/2015

The weather was so wonderful this past weekend, I decided to take a mini road trip to Cedar Rapids to check out the Grant Wood exhibit at the art museum and do a little exploring.This time of year, the...

They said it. 8 experts who say Iowa’s water quality is heading in the right direction

3/11/2015

It’s hard to know who to believe regarding Iowa’s water quality, and a recently filed lawsuit only clouds the conversation.What’s clear is that many state and federal officials believe Iowans’ collaborative...

Before Going "All In" on New Dietary Guidelines, Remember the Egg

2/25/2015

I started my morning today by eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast, and now I don’t have to feel guilty about it.The new U.S. Dietary Guidelines released last week lifted the limits on dietary cholesterol....

Young farmers talk conservation

2/9/2015

Alicia Schmitt discusses conservation practices she and husband Greg have brought to their family's farm.More than 500 young Iowans, the largest attendance on record, gathered in Des Moines recently for...

When it's cold, farmers head outside to care for livestock

2/2/2015

Iowa’s brisk winter temperatures and snow means all I want to do is snuggle up in a warm blanket by our fireplace and sip hot chocolate. But sub-zero temperatures like those we’ve experienced this winter...

With plans for a lawsuit, Des Moines Water Works is an outlier

1/21/2015

The Des Moines Water Works, which recently launched plans to sue three northwest Iowa counties over quality of water in the Raccoon River, is very much an outlier on water quality issues here in Iowa.Officials...

4 things Iowans should know about protecting water

1/19/2015

We’ve seen this scenario before. A discouraged player points a finger at teammates, demands a trade, criticizes fans or calls for a new coach.And while we, as fans, can certainly relate to the player’s...

Dietitian: Start with small changes to your diet

1/7/2015

After a month of holiday eating and indulging, it’s no surprise that “losing weight” is the most common New Year’s resolution for Americans in 2015.We’ve all been tempted to follow a diet plan that looks...

Iowa Agriculture’s Greatest Hits of 2014

12/30/2014

Prediction: January 1, 2015 will look a lot like December 31, 2014.Isn’t that great news?!While some may want to wipe the slate clean this New Year, the foundation we’ve built here in Iowa, supported...

The death of the 'follow-up question'

12/12/2014

Working for a general farm organization, we get a lot of media requests from reporters around the state and country who are often under extreme deadline pressure.  Having been in broadcast news for 25...

Farm Bureau: It’s good for all of Iowa

12/9/2014

We’ve just completed the 2014 annual meeting of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. It was the organization’s 96th annual meeting, if you are keeping count.As always, there was a lot of important business...

Exposing the Real Iowa Farm Bureau

12/2/2014

It was only a matter of time.When you’ve been around since 1918 (with an active presence in all 99 Iowa counties), sooner or later people are going to talk about what you've been up to.December 1-7 is...

Some people think about turkey every day

11/25/2014

When I think about Thanksgiving dinner, I picture turkey as the meal’s centerpiece. And while June is National Turkey Lover’s Month, most think of turkey right around Thanksgiving.But turkey growers across...

2 Important Things I Learned About Dietitians

11/21/2014

I have never approached a grocery store dietitian for advice.It doesn't make much sense because I'm definitely interested in (although not always committed to) healthy eating. I understand they provide...

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