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CCFB News» November 2019

Downwind"Creating a Hamburger is an Art Form"

11/01/2019 @ 7:00 am | By Bob Rohrer, CAE, FBCM, Manager

We had a family dinner the other evening in Oak Brook. My wife asked me what I was thinking about ordering and I replied with a straight face “an Impossible Burger” and the entire table burst out laughing. They know me. My son and his girlfriend rave about the new plant burgers and how much these fake meat burgers tastes like a real hamburger. Hmm… I can’t be objective because I do not plan on subjecting my taste buds to the fake stuff.


I believe that creating a hamburger is an art form. This art does not begin with pea protein isolate, textured wheat protein, cellulose from bamboo or refined coconut oil.


My art form takes approximately 18 months (yes, one and a half years) to create. Mother nature, during those 18 months, creates perfect beef through consumption of high-quality corn, grasses, nutrients, minerals and good water. The butcher refines the art into 80/20 ground beef.


“The Hungry Rembrandt” (my code name) purchases 2 pounds of fresh art, ground beef and prepares a hot grill. I very loosely form the art into four half pound patties. (I’m not one of those persons that wads the meat into a ball, slapping it around until finally forming it into a hockey puck. I want that patty to “want to fall apart” as it is seared at high temperature). Over the flames, following one flip, the burger reaches a condition I call “perfect”. I liberally apply slices of sharp cheddar to melt and fold over the entire masterpiece.


During that final minute of grilling, I toast dairy buttered, gluten-full buns to a golden brown. Depending upon my emotional state at the time, I may apply a light helping of ketchup, mustard, or steak sauce. My wife’s homemade dill slices are at the ready. If in a sassy mood, I grill onions or mushrooms for added complex flavor. And, of course, I love bacon on my burger ( thank you hog farmers). It is extremely fortunate that I spend time in the garden during the summer and have a plump and juicy, thinly sliced tomato at the ready.


The massive treasure approaches my mouth and I wish that my cheeks could stretch further…Wow, food art!


In recent months, there has been a lot of media coverage about the Incredible Burger, the Awesome Burger, the Impossible Burger, the Beyond Meat Burger and more.  Each is seeking to mimic the real thing.  I looked at the ingredient list at a few of these fake meat products and my real beef burger sounds tastier. I compared the nutrition tables of plant-based burgers and a beef burger is similar. I read the argument that plant based burgers are better for the environment because land used to raise beef could be used for crops. This is simply wishful thinking with much of the land used for beef production unable to sustain crop production due to poor, rocky soils and lack of water.


Recently, some presidential candidates have alluded to eliminating beef burgers to help save the planet. I hope their next step is not to call for registering and doing background checks on my burgers. They will have to pry my burger from my dead hands!


All of these plant burgers have a name. Moooove over for my burger… the “Ultimate Sensory Pleasure Burger”.


Time marches on… This month, we are looking at the archives from the year 2000 through 2009 as we draw ever closer to the 100-year birthday of the Cook County Farm Bureau in March of 2020. I remember that decade as extremely busy and full of change as the organization grew in terms of membership, membership service, membership programming, public relations activities, creation of a PAC, increased volunteer involvement, website development and modernization.


Check out the “time warp” below which captures just a bit of the action! Also, we’ve begun sharing these materials as well as classic photos, video well wishes from members and sneak peaks of our celebration on the website, Facebook, Instagram and other social media...please check it out.  You will want to “purchase” a brick for our legacy patio that we are building to leave your mark on the 100-year occasion into perpetuity.


From the Decade 2000 Through 2010



  • The early twenty-first century included years of tremendous membership growth, especially in associate members.
  • Farm Bureau awards $2,000 in scholarships for students pursuing an agricultural degree.
  • Howard Paarlberg retires as President of the Cook County Farm Bureau® after 16 years of service as President.  Under his leadership, Farm Bureau launched the roadside vegetable marketing service, Agriculture in the Classroom program, created the CCFB Foundation® and chaired the Farm Bureau’s 75th anniversary celebration.
  • “The Farm” at the Museum of Science & Industry opens in Chicago.



  • Farm Bureau launches Food Checkout Day and a partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana® to support families calling the Chicagoland houses their temporary “home” while their child is receiving treatment.

  • The Giant Pumpkin Contest is established with a winning pumpkin maxing out the scale at 186.75 pounds!
  • Farm Bureau creates a “Landowners Group” to assist agricultural property owners.
  • Farm Bureau names Kim Morton as the first Northeast Legislative Coordinator.  This position provided additional focus and resources in the area of northeastern Illinois legislative relations.



  • Cook County Farm Bureau places first in total percentage membership gain in Illinois (110.88%).
  • The Cook County Farm Bureau website launches and provides members with an additional source of news, information, and benefit access.
  • Former Illinois Senator Debbie Halvorson and Illinois Representative Cynthia Soto were named “Legislator of the Year” for their outstanding voting records and efforts on pertinent agricultural issues.

  • Renee Stranski joins the Farm Bureau team as the first summer intern.
  • The Agriculture in the Classroom program expands into Chicago Public Schools fourth grade classrooms.



  • The Board of Directors approves the creation of the Public Relations Committee.  In 2005, the committee integrated into the Agricultural Literacy Committee until 2013 when it became a standalone committee.
  • Thanks to a net gain of 3,337 members during the 2002-2003 membership year, the Cook County Farm Bureau reached an all-time high for total members.  The net gain was the highest member gain in the state.



  • Farm Bureau places second in total percentage membership gain in Illinois (114.62%).
  • Ray Nykaza retires as Cook County Farm Bureau President.  He is succeeded by Harry Stuenkel.
  • Kathy Lesser, a current Agriculture in the Classroom presenter for Cook County Farm Bureau, is named “National AITC Teacher of the Year” in recognition of her efforts to integrate agriculture into her classroom.
  • Farm Bureau names former Illinois Senator Wendell Jones “Legislator of the Year” for his efforts on agricultural issues and outstanding voting records on pertinent issues.
  • Farm Bureau joins Wagner Farm in Glenview for the Dairy Breakfast, an event still enjoyed by Farm Bureau families and urban consumers.
  • Agriculture in the Classroom reaches over 20,515 students during in-classroom presentations.
  • Former Farm Bureau President Jim Goebbert retires from the Board of Directors after 30 years on the Board.



  • Farm Bureau transitions to a new committee structure to streamline volunteer involvement and time.
  • The Co-Operator transitions from an eight-page black and white publication to a twelve-page full color publication.
  • Happy 85th birthday Cook County Farm Bureau!



  • Illinois State Senator Susan Garrett is named “Legislator of the Year” by the Cook County Farm Bureau for her leadership on legislation to revise Illinois’ eminent domain statute.
  • Glenview’s Wagner Farm, a frequent CCFB partner in ag literacy, opens its “Heritage Center” to educate the general public about agriculture.

Glenview Country Insurance agents enthusiastically volunteered at the Wagner Farm Dairy Breakfast on Saturday, July 18th. Mike Gross, Agency Manager (1) along with Bob Sitkiewicz and Mike Salerno helped out with the activities that Cook County Farm Bureau provided for the attendees of the farm breakfast. Also pictured is Jim Bloomstrand, Ag in the Classroom presenter.



  • Farm Bureau’s affiliated company, COUNTRY® Financial enters into the insurance and financial services market in the City of Chicago.
  • Farm Bureau launches its first annual Family Celebration Picnic at the Children’s Farm at the Center in Palos Park.



  • Cook County Farm Bureau again places first in total percentage membership gain in Illinois (103.72%).
  • Annette Schaeffer, a teacher of over 40 years, is name a finalist for Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom Teacher of the Year.
  • Farm Bureau approves an organic and food labeling policy drafted by Cook County Farm Bureau.



  • Cook County Farm Bureau joins Facebook!  The page now boosts over 6,400 fans.
  • The E-Cooperator publication launches saving members time and saving the environment!
  • Cook County Farm Bureau Political Action Committee (Cook CFB PAC) is created to endorse candidates favorable of Farm Bureau policies and positions.
  • The Board of Directors overwhelmingly approve a local resolution to reduce the number of votes needed to override a Presidential veto in Cook County to a three-fifths rather than a four-fifths majority.
  • Local Farm Products website is created to serve consumers interested in finding local farm products, farm stands, greenhouses, etc.  The website is now fully integrated into Cook County Farm Bureau’s website


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