WATERMAN, Ill. — When Deanne Frieders left her job as a corporate accountant in the Chicago suburbs to have more time as a mom and farm wife, her new duties included making meals to free up her mother-in-law to do more field work on the DeKalb County farm.
So Frieders searched the internet for “farm meals” — ready to get started. But there weren’t many good options for simple, sensible field-ready meals.
“If I can’t find them, neither can others,” she said.
So she started creating what she needed. In 2018, she decided to turn her hobby blog into a business, and “This Farm Girl Cooks” became popular on social media, especially Facebook.
She was one of the presenters at the Illinois Farm Bureau annual meeting in Chicago in December, where she shared some of her Instant Pot experience and recipes. Her first national speaking event will be for the American Young Farmers and Ranchers in Louisville, Kentucky, in March.
Her goal at such gatherings is to be a real and authentic spokesperson for farm wives — when she is making videos and her kids come crashing through the kitchen, she says it doesn’t get much more real and relatable than that.
“These are my target audiences,” Frieders said.
Her simple, healthy recipes are often what young people on the farm are looking for.
“It’s nice to mentor some of them,” she said. She often starts posts off with “Here’s what I wish I knew...”
One thing she wished she knew sooner was never to cook anything that needs to be served right away. Flexibility is the key. She might arrive at a field during harvest with a meal ready, but it would take 45 minutes for the family to finish the round and take a break.
She also learned as a young mom “sometimes it’s OK to have cereal for supper.” And it’s never bad to have a frozen pizza on hand. Also it works to make food in the Instant Pot and serve it directly from the pot in the field.
So much has changed in modern farming. The way food is prepared and served and what people eat also changes, Frieders said. One member of the family requires gluten-free and dairy-free meals so she makes them for everyone.
There are favorites too. She knows that when her father-in-law has had a rough day on the farm, some German potato salad will make him smile. Stir fry is another go-to pleaser.
Frieders grew up in Shabonna, went off to college and worked in the city for 20 years before meeting Ryan and moving back to DeKalb County. The couple has four children, ages 4 to 16.
Ryan is a seventh-generation farmer working with his parents Ron and Denise on their corn and soybean operation.
Frieders grandmother was a farm wife and a good cook, as was her mother. So the cooking aspect of her new job was easy.
“I took my first cooking class when I was 6,” she said of a program offered at her neighborhood community college.