Lincoln, Neb. —Just four short years ago, Food in the Field was a hypothetical program on Hannah Guenther’s Nebraska Extension application aimed at reaching bachelor farmers to guide them in making quick, easy and portable meals.
Fast forward to 2022, and Guenther, a food nutrition and health extension educator in Cuming County, has managed to build a nutrition education with a goal to help on-the-go adults and their families make healthier eating choices during busy seasons.
“Food in the Field is a series of tools to provide all the information you need to make small shifts in the diet and implement healthier eating practices into your daily routine,” says Guenther.
“Food is one of the most enjoyable parts of life, the highlight of everyone’s day and in no way is this program going to tell you to overhaul your diet. I’m never going to tell someone they can’t or any food is off limits.”
Since starting her career with Extension, Guenther has transitioned to the country life, moving to her husband’s operation, a farming and cattle feeding enterprise near West Point.
Knowing Nebraska’s largest economic driver was the agricultural industry and transiting her new life on the farm, Guenther says the driving force behind Food in the Field was her first-hand experience with her husband’s eating habits, and how they changed during especially busy times of harvest and planting.
Pictured above is Hannah's husband Adam, holding an on-the-go lunch in the cab of his tractor.
“When I started in Extension, never in a million years did I think I’d want my focus to be feeding farmers, but that is what I’ve realized I’m so passionate about,” said Guenther.
“I have never gone down this path without marrying my husband, and I don’t think I would care as deeply had I not moved into a rural community and being surrounded by it on a day-to-day basis.”
Her new role living and working in a rural community was a stark contrast to her upbringing in Texas, where agriculture was not at the forefront of her life. Guenther became particularly attuned to the 18+ hour workdays of her husband, the busy seasons of planting and harvest, as well as stressful weather patterns, markets and policies.
With limited healthy options in the rural community and plentiful convenience food options, Guenther says she experienced first-hand how easily healthy eating was put on the back burner for her husband and for others living a modern on-the-go lifestyle.
After the local hospital reached out to her for assistance with nutrition education, Guenther was off on a mission to provide valuable tools to help others make healthy choices for the busy seasons as well as in everyday life.
“Living in a rural community, I see these people daily. My husband loves his job managing the feedlot, and it makes me happy to see how happy he is,” Guenther says. “How can I take care of these people? I want them to be able to do their job to the best of their ability every single day. How can I do that? That’s been my focus.”
With the intention of taking care of producers and helping them to be healthier, Guenther was shocked to find scarce research on the diet of agricultural producers despite extensive studies of farm safety and mental health related to the field. Seeing a disconnect and underserved audience, Guenther launched Food in the Field in 2018 with a goal to place a greater focus on feeding those who feed us.
Guenther says she also wants to help others go through the transformation she went through as she adjusted to rural living, coming from the city with little exposure to agriculture.
“I was really worried about moving to my husband’s feedlot, and it was a really big learning curve for me at first. Every day I learn something and see the care farmers not only put into the land and livestock,” Guenther says.
“I want people to have a better connection with the ag industry and I’ve tried to highlight the work of the industry with what I do on a daily basis.
That’s the genesis of Guenther’s Instagram platform, feedlotsofpeople, which she started completely unrelated to work when she realized everyone was looking to their phones for nutrition information.
While she says it began purely as a recipe file, it has evolved into a place centered around nutrition education recipes from Food in the Field, as well as a look into where food comes from and her daily life raising her family in agriculture.
Her work with Nebraska Extension and social media platforms is a natural combination of her passion for cooking and providing palatable pieces of nutrition education information in an aesthetically pleasing way.
Taken from her Instagram page, Hannah shares a recipe of a nutritious, yet delicious smoothie recipe fit for anyone.
Food in the Field has reached over 280 people at in-person events and nearly 300 e-newsletter subscribers, and her Instagram profile is nearing 4,000 followers.
If you are interested in having Food in the Field be a part of your next meeting, program, or conference, contact Hannah and Tara by going to food.unl.edu/foodinthefield. To continue sharing relevant information with rural communities, they created an e-newsletter as an extension of Food in the Field. To receive research-based resources, recipes & helpful tips directly in your e-mail inbox, subscribe by clicking here!