For many of us, fall means pumpkin spice, football, and the beautiful changing of leaves. But for some spouses of farmers, it can be a time of feeding a farm and starting up what feels like a catering service of easy meals to eat on the go.
Spring planting and fall harvest provide some of the busiest times on a farm. These times of the year bring long hours for farmers and farm hands out in the field. Oftentimes, work is done all day – through lunch, dinner, and even past bedtimes, so keeping farmers fed and nourished is a critical contribution to the season’s success.
That’s where Monica Hanten, wife of South Dakota Soybean Council Director, Todd Hanten, steps up to the plate.
With harvest season upon us, Monica shares her tips for a successful, well-organized, and delicious busy season of meals!
How many farmers and farm hands are you typically feeding at any given time?
Right now I feed 3 people every day, two employees and my husband, Todd. When we are in planting and harvest season I will feed 5-6 people.
How many times per day do you provide these meals?
We provide a noon meal every day. It is served family style and they can eat as much as they would like. Our employees come at 8:00a and usually leave around 5:00p, except when we are busy during planting and harvest.
How do you juggle preparing meals for all your farmers and farm hands?
In the spring, I usually do not have to help with planting. I have ample time in the morning to prepare the meals, the tricky part is finding out what field everyone is in to deliver them. During wheat and soybean harvest I also make the meals “to go” at noon. During corn harvest, I operate the grain cart so luckily we have a local restaurant with noon specials we are able to get our meals from.
How did you learn to prepare meals in such high quantities?
I come from a large family. I have 7 siblings and had to help my mom prepare the meals when I was old enough.
Every day we had a meal with meat, potatoes and a vegetable. I also always remember having cake, cookies, or bars. It is honestly harder for me to prepare a meal for just 2 people.
What’s the key to making meals easy to eat on the go?
I try not to send anything that you have to cut with a knife or eat with a spoon. A lot of the time they are in a rush to keep working as they are eating. Trying to deliver and eat soup or something similar would be a total disaster.
Where do you find inspiration and ideas for meals?
I love to try new recipes. I am sure I have enough recipes clipped or pinned to make something new every day and still not get through them all. When I do make something new I warn them in advance and then ask them if I should make it again or toss the recipe. Sometimes if I feel like I am in a rut I will ask the guys if there is something that they would like me to make.
Do you typically provide a menu/meal plan for the week?
I do not make a meal plan for the week. I try to rotate different meals with beef, pork, and chicken. I will sometimes make a potato casserole large enough that I can use it for two meals during the week and just switch up the meat option.
What is your favorite harvest meal to prepare?
I don’t really think I have a favorite. I do have some that I make frequently just because they are fairly easy and the guys seem to like them. Meatballs with cheesy hashbrowns and spaghetti are a couple I always make.
What are some of the farmers’ favorites?
I think everyone’s favorite would have to be roast beef, mashed potatoes, dumplings, and beef gravy.
Over your time preparing meals for the farm, what lessons have you learned?
I feel most guys are meat and potato people. I do try to incorporate some type of meat and vegetable in every meal.
What tips would you give to others feeding a farm?
Working on a farm is hard work. I like to make meals that are hearty so they are not needing a snack in an hour because they are hungry.
Feeding a farm as Monica does is an integral part to the success of many farm operations. To learn more about the operations at the Hanten family farm, check out our ambassador blog with Maddie Peschong and Todd Hanten.