|By BONA BRADBURY
MENDOTA, Ill. — Producers, environmentalists and professionals throughout Illinois attended a Specialty Beef Tour at Heartland Meats Inc., owned by John and Pat Sondgeroth, as part of an Illinois agricultural promotion and outreach program hosted in part by the Agroecology/ Sustainable Agriculture Program at the University of Illinois in Urbana.
According to Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, with the University of Illinois at Urbana, on June 5, a diverse group of approximately 40 individuals toured Heartland Meat’s beef facility as well as their USDA inspected and licensed meat-processing facility located just south of Mendota, Ill.
In addition to viewing Heartland’s farm and facility, tour participants were also the first customers at its on-site commercial kitchen, Burgers and Buns. The kitchen features sandwiches and burgers prepared and processed from the farm’s Piedmontese beef.
Heartland Meats is a century-old grain and livestock farm that specializes in corn-fed Piedmontese beef that is free of added growth hormones. Additionally, the cattle are not fed any animal by-products. Heartland Meat’s products carry two federal labels, “All Natural” and “Raised Without the Use of Added Hormones.”
Piedmontese cattle, which originated in Piedmont, Italy, have become increasingly popular in the United States because it is naturally lean and tender without sacrificing taste. Heartland Meats has been owned and operated by John and Pat Sondgeroth since 1987, but has been family owned and operated since 1903.
This tour of Heartland Meats is one of several tours sponsored by the Agroecology/Sustainable Agriculture Program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, University of Illinois Extension, the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Professional Development Program, the Illinois Small Farm Task Force and by the Agriculture Tourism Partners of Illinois.
The specialty tours feature a diverse selection of progressive Illinois farms, and are intended to educate participants about the uniqueness of the agricultural industry and the role it plays in the food system. Future tour dates and sites include:
•July 12 – AquaRanch Industries in Flanagan, Ill.
•Aug. 9 – Green Earth Institute in Naperville, Ill.
•Sept. 13 – Prairie Fruits Farm in Champaign, Ill.
•Oct. 15 – Blue Sky Winery in Makanda, Ill.
Additional dates and locations are possible.
This farm news was published in the June 14, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.