"This Farm Girl Cooks" Unlocks Recipe for Success - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners "This Farm Girl Cooks" Unlocks Recipe for Success - Illinois Farm Bureau Partners

“This Farm Girl Cooks” Unlocks Recipe for Success

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It began as a way for Deanne Frieders to document the dishes she prepares for her farm family each year.

“Everything just feels like it’s moving so fast during harvest and I would blank,” says Frieders, the creator of This Farm Girl Cooks, an internet blog targeted to farm wives. “Somewhere in my mind was this little box of recipes that I knew I had done the season before that worked really well, but when we were under stress, it was hard for me to access those.”

©Journal Communications/Nathan Lambrecht

Back in 2015, before she even conceived This Farm Girl Cooks, Frieders had reached a breaking point, frustrated with the hour-long commute to her corporate job as an account manager. It just so happened that each year her most demanding work crunch coincided with fall harvest on the Waterman farm where she, her husband and his parents raise corn and soybeans. So, when Frieders gave birth to her fourth child, she quit her day job to help her family.

“I wasn’t able to operate a tractor,” she says. “So, I said, ‘I can fill in the gap and feed people (in the fields).’”

See more: Illinois Rural Heritage Museum Honors Rural Roots

Feeding Farmers

©Journal Communications/Nathan Lambrecht

Fueled by her quest and a lifelong love of cooking – she took her first community college cooking class at age 8 and often baked miniature pies with her mom – Frieders surfed the internet for portable “field meals” but didn’t find much. Experimenting in her own kitchen led to a lot of trial and error. Some meals weren’t suitable for transport or proved tricky to eat on a tailgate. Fancy sauces didn’t hold up when farmworkers needed to work past the lunch hour.

When Frieders shared a few photos of her concoctions on social media, strangers asked for the recipes. This Farm Girl Cooks entered the world in 2016.

“It was me being excited about figuring out what worked for our family,” she says, “and wanting to share that with other people.”

To Frieders’ surprise, the first response to her blog came from a woman in West Virginia who gushed about how the post had inspired her to cook again.

“Honestly, I didn’t expect anyone to read it,” Frieders recalls. As the emails poured in, she realized that other farm wives were looking for easy, nutritious recipes too.

Today, Frieders boasts nearly 10,000 Facebook followers – plus another 2,000 on Instagram – and gets 100,000 visits a month to her website. “That floors me to this day,” she says.

Recipe for Success

Frieders prioritizes shortcuts and tips. To someone roasting a pork tenderloin with a special rub, she advises, “It is totally fine in my world to serve a steamed bag of frozen vegetables with it.” Those already prepared veggies go a long way in many of her recipes, as do slow and instant cookers and make-ahead freezer meals.

The recipes come from a variety of sources, including a family cookbook and gourmet magazines. When borrowing from the latter, she tweaks elaborate recipes to make them more “approachable,” she says, noting, “I don’t normally have shallots in my kitchen.”

©Journal Communications/Nathan Lambrecht

Incidentally, the idea for her popular hand-held lasagna cup, a recipe using wonton wrappers and muffin tins, surfaced in a dream.

Besides posting recipes on the blog, Frieders often accepts speaking engagements, which tend to energize her – but COVID-19 put the brakes on most of her 2020 plans. Luckily, social media not only allows her to stay connected with like-minded farm chefs, it also helps her serve those in suburban areas who are curious to see what farming life is all about.

“Many times, it is totally different than what they expected,” she says. “I’ve got a lot of people who aren’t farmers who follow me just because it is practical and down-to-earth. Especially now, that’s just what people want.”

©Journal Communications/Nathan Lambrecht

See more: Learn to Grow Herbs

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