Generate Excitement with Reading

School is starting across the state of Iowa and what a perfect time to get back into the routines of enjoying family reading times together. Reading is a fundamental part of life – truly something we need and will always use and enjoy. We want to help strengthen agriculture literacy in fun and exciting ways like reading. There are many opportunities to unlock the potential and nurture the importance of reading.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, children who are read to at home maintain an advantage over children who are not read to. Children are more likely to also have a higher reading proficiency and stronger reading skills. That can lead to success in other subjects in school and throughout life. We all know children in our circle of life that we can influence in positive ways. We help them to develop reading and language skills just by taking time to read to them and their imagination develops as well.

As parents or role models we play a very important role in the lives of the children around us. We can help them, as well as show them the enjoyment than comes from taking time to read. A few simple changes in our day to day routines can make reading a bigger part of our lives:

  1. Turn off the television
  2. Put aside the computer games and telephones
  3. Teach by your example
  4. Read together
  5. Hit the library as a family

We can unlock potential and get readers excited to read about agriculture. Agriculture teaches by using real life examples and encourages readers to value their local communities and farmers as well as teaches them about where their food, fiber and fuel comes from. Here are a few great reads for the young readers you know

cowsCows by Jules Older is a lighthearted, yet informative look at cows, different breeds, what they eat, how they make milk and lots of other facts on cows. Children will enjoy the humor and fantastic pictures while the learn factual informaindextion.

Food and Farming, Then and Now by Bobbie Kalman is a wonderful book to help children see how farming, selling, preservation and preparation of food has changed over the years. Today most of our food is bought from a grocery store, but many years ago things were grown on the family farm and harvested for family use. This book helps kids see how much things have changed in food production. They learn where our food comes from and about the people that grow i51pQdBKPjnL._SX410_BO1,204,203,200_t.

Before We Eat from Farm to Table by award winning author Pat Brisson helps to show that before we eat, many people work very hard. They plant grain, catch fish, tend to animals and stock shelves to help feed our growing population. Milk doesn’t just appear in the refrigerator nor do apples grow in the bowl on the counter.

Fantastic Farm Machines by Cris Peterson gives superb examples of the monster machinery that work the fields 61jLvr7BNoL._SX431_BO1,204,203,200_across our beautiful country. Vivid color photos provide examples of different machines that do the planting, harvesting, and so much more. The author takes the reader on a journey from one farm to another to show many examples of machines from past and present. It is a great read for those who love tractors and big machines.

We invite you to get excited about reading and making a difference in the lives of the young people around you. Take time to read and read to those you’ve been given the opportunity to influence!

-Sheri

What’s Cookin’? Fire Roasted Corn Salsa

This recipe was debuted at the Iowa State Fair as part of a Farm-to-Fork cooking series. Everybody in the audience wanted seconds! Now you can make it at home. Sweet corn is the star of the show so make this while it is still in season!20160811_161920_resizeda

Ingredients
5 large ears of sweet corn, husked
2 Tbsp. corn oil
½ cup diced red onion
2 medium tomatoes, diced
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 medium jalapeno, diced
¼ cup cilantro, torn or chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Place the whole corn cobs on a hot grill for 3-4 minutes per side until slightly charred.
  2. Allow to cool slightly and then cut the corn off of the cob and place in a mixing bowl.
  3. Dice the red onion and add to small bowl with vinegar. Marinate for approximately 10 minutes until the onions change color slightly. Then add to the mixing bowl with the corn.
  4. Remove seeds from tomato and dice flesh. Dice jalapeno and add both to the mixing bowl with the corn.
  5. Toss corn and other ingredients with corn oil, salt, and pepper.
  6. Immediately before serving, mix in cilantro.

Where does it all come from? The story of the ingredients:

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Sweet corn: Although Iowa farmers do raise some of the best-tasting sweet corn in the country, less than 1% of the corn in our state is sweet corn. Although one is considered a vegetable and the other a grain, sweet corn and field corn are close relatives. Sweet corn is a naturally occurring genetic mutation of field corn. The sweet corn plant is shorter, matures faster, and its kernels have a higher sugar content.

Corn oil: Corn oil is produced from field corn. 99% of the corn grown in Iowa is field corn. Field corn is harvested in the fall, after the plant dies and the seeds are dry and hard.  Field corn has a much higher starch content and is used to make livestock feed, ethanol, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup and more. The oil is pressed out of the corn kernel. Corn can be specifically processed for oil or the oil can be a by-product of the ethanol production process.

Red onions:  The biggest onion producing states are Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California. Onions are a root crop that grow for 5-6 months before being either mechanically or hand harvested from the soil.

Tomatoes:   Tomatoes are not widely grown in Iowa commercially. But they are an easy addition to a backyard garden. Most tomatoes will mature and produce fruit in 60-80 days. Tomatoes are a fruit because they carry the seeds of the tomato plant. In Iowa, tomatoes are typically grown in high tunnels that allow them to be planted as early as April. Tomatoes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors including red, orange, and yellow.

Red wine vinegar: Yeasts are added to the juice of grapes and yeast will convert the sugars to alcohol through fermentation. The result is of course wine. If left long enough, bacteria will convert the alcohol in the wine to acetic acid which is vinegar. Vinegars can take up to 10 years to make because of these two processes. But it all starts with grapes. The grape industry is growing in Iowa again. Iowa has more than 300 vineyards.

Jalapeños:  Jalapeños are not the hottest pepper known to man, but they do offer considerable fire to any dish. Ripe jalapeños are 4-6 inches long, fat, and firm. They will turn bright green then darken to a deeper green before turning black and then red. You can harvest them at any point during the color transition. Jalapeños need up to 16 hours of daylight and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. They grow best in the warm, dry climate of the southwest U.S.

Cilantro:   Also known as coriander, cilantro adds a unique flavor to any dish. Alkaloids in the plant do make the taste unappealing for some people (they say it tastes like soap). Cilantro does best in well-drained soil in warm, but not hot temperatures. It bolts quickly (produces seed heads) so temperature must be maintained constant and the plants must be kept pinched back to produce maximum foliage. Grinnell, Iowa based Mariposa Farms herb growers commercially produce a wide range of herbs sold in locally grocery stores including cilantro.

Pepper:  Black pepper comes from the fruit of a pepper plant species which grows in hot and humid tropical climates. The unripe dried fruit, called peppercorns, are ground into the spice we call pepper. Pepper was one of the spices that early explores traded because of its high value. It came from the spice islands of southeast Asia which also were known for nutmeg, mace and cloves.

Salt: Salt isn’t exactly an agricultural product. But, is an important component because it is the only rock that humans seek out and regularly consume. Salt can be harvested from salt pans (dried lakes) or mined from underground.

-Will

Why Iowa Isn’t All Flat

We Iowans hear all the time about how our state is flat from outsiders. As natives, that doesn’t seem entirely fair. While about a third of the state is very flat, the rest of it—isn’t. In fact, there are seven different landforms in our state, and each one has a different story.

Iowa’s primary soil parent material is glacial till. That just means that our landforms are largely due to the glaciers that the state has seen over the past couple million years. Naturally, there are exceptions, but let’s start from the beginning (or at least two million years ago), shall we?

From between 500,000 and 2,500,000 years ago (pre-Illinoisan period), a huge glacier moseyed its way through the Midwest. These glaciers moved at a relatively normal pace, about half a mile per year. Because of the slow speed, it created some lovely, rolling hills as it pushed across the state.

In addition to the slow pace of the glacier, erosion naturally happens over time. Therefore, the slopes in the Southern Iowa Drift Plain have become more pronounced by wind and rain. Streams cut through the original hills for tens of thousands of years, and made our southern landscapes hillier. Though today we do our best to slow erosion and protect our soils, some erosion is natural and simply a fact of geology.

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The Loess Hills are a wonderful and unique point of Iowa pride. Loess is a wind-blown soil type, and actually influenced more than just the Loess Hills. The sediment was taken from the Missouri Riverbed, and was blown east. In soil, there are three main particle sizes: sand (largest), silt, and clay (smallest). So when wind began blowing sediment out from the riverbed, the smallest particles (clay) blew to the eastern part of the state, silt blew to the western part of the state, and the sand stayed primarily in the riverbed.

The Loess you see in the Loess Hills can look yellow, or light colored. This soil behaves differently than other kinds of soils, and can create large, rolling hills. This soil type, one of the most fertile on Earth, can only be found in two places in the world; here and in China. However, because of its interesting qualities, loess can be easily erodible. Farmers in this area can still benefit from the fertility of the soil, but they may farm on a contour (around the hill), leave grass waterways, or terrace their fields, to help conserve their land for years to come.

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About 10,500 years ago, the newest glaciation swept through Iowa. This glaciation, known as the Wisconsinan Glaciation, scooted its way down the north-central part of the state at lightning speeds – two miles per year! If you look at the picture above, you can see it looks kind of like a thumb. That formation is called the Des Moines Lobe of the Laurentide ice sheet, or just “the lobe.”

This is important for a lot of reasons. When the Wisconsinan Glaciation took place, it brought down beautiful, rich, black sediment, perfect for growing corn and soybeans when paired with our climate. The glacier also leveled off the land, leaving it flat, and easy to till.

In fact, as you’re driving through our capital city, you can see exactly where that glacier stopped. Its terminal moraine, or the end point (a hill of remaining glacial till sediment), is the hill our capitol building was built on.

The glacier left some other marks on our landscape, as well. It advanced and receded a number of times, leaving pockets of sand, silt, rocks, and “kettleholes” as it went. The map below shows some of those advances, and where to look for other landforms. This glaciation also affected the Northwest Iowa Plains and the Iowan Surface, whose hills could be described as more “wavy” than the steep hills we see to the south.

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Our last two landscapes are the oldest and the youngest.

The Paleozoic Plateau, though glaciated, has little glacial till, and is still largely rocky. When you visit, you might notice forested areas, large rock formations, and streams. These formations can be anywhere from 300 million to 550 million years old. This part of the state is home to many of our dairy operations!

Alluvial plains, the youngest landform, are something like an antique flood plain. These formations were created from deposited sediment from running water. In terms of soil parent material, this is called alluvium. It can be extremely variable, depending on what type of sediment the river depositing it was carrying. Though these areas can become flooded in wet years, farmers take advantage of the level terrain by planting row crops.

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All of these various landforms impact the way farmers use their land. For instance, farmers on the lobe may plant acre after acre of corn and soybeans on beautiful, flat soils, but towards the south, farmers leave more acres as grassland, hay, or pasture for livestock.

Though Iowa is unified through agriculture, our geography dictates some of our roles within it. I encourage you to take a longer look at the countryside the next time you drive through the state. Try to analyze what you see and why you might see it. If you meet a farmer or two, ask them about how their land’s characteristics impacts how they use it. Ask them about how they use hillsides and forested land, how they manage creeks and rivers, and how they mold their practices to the landscape.

Just remember – Iowa isn’t all flat.

 

-Chrissy

Trick Out My Ride

Agriculture is important to Iowa. The state ranks second in the nation in cash receipts for agriculture. The state ranks first in the production of hogs, corn, and egg production. Agriculture is the number one industry in the state responsible for 27% of the state’s economic output. A total of 80,278 jobs in the state are in agriculture in addition to the 211,373 farm owners and farm workers. This equates to roughly one in five jobs in Iowa is in agriculture.

This means that agriculture is a great career option for Iowa students! Organizations that help prepare students to pursue careers in agriculture include 4-H, FFA, and Ag in the Classroom.

  • The Iowa FFA Foundation serves the 14,800 student member organization in 225 chapters across Iowa. They help students develop their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success.
  • The Iowa 4-H Foundation provides funds for many of the opportunities that help young people enhance their ability to use critical thinking, leadership, communication, and social skills. They serve more than 100,000 youth in Iowa.
  • The Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation serves as the central resource for educators and volunteers who want to teach Iowa’s students about agriculture. We coordinate and support the Agriculture in the Classroom efforts throughout the state.

Iowans can now show their support for agriculture and these organizations while driving the roadways. The new Iowa agriculture license plate to honor Iowa Agriculture is now available. Proceeds from the sale of the plate will support these three important youth organizations that help students learn about agriculture, leadership, and life skills. Funds will be used to support work relative to the mission of each organization and to promote agriculture, agricultural awareness, and agricultural literacy.

The “Ag Tag” plate design has been approved by the Iowa Department of Transportation and orders are being taken at IowaAgTag.org. Owners of motor vehicles, travel trailers, and trailers are eligible to purchase the plates. Passenger vehicles including cars and pickups, commercial trucks, motorcycles, and large trailers are all eligible to receive the license plate. The plates can be standard issue or personalized plates.

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The Ag Tags will be shipped to those who purchase one as soon as 500 tags are ordered. There is an initial $35 fee which includes manufacturing cost and the annual fee for the tag for the first year. Ten dollars of that fee will be evenly distributed between Iowa 4-H, FFA, and Ag in the Classroom. These plates can really trick out your ride and allow you to show your support for agriculture. Order online or call 515-331-4182 for more information.

-Will

Nothing Compares to Agriculture and Learning at the Iowa State Fair

Summer is here…agriculture is happening everywhere around in the great state of Iowa. As I drive the highways across the state, I see field after field in all their glory. Whether the field is brimming with corn for as far as the eye can see or with cows grazing and soaking in the sun. During the many teacher workshops we have visited dairy farms or beef farms and learned all there was to learn from the farmers. It’s been a great time to get out and see what’s growing and happening in Iowa. It is also a sign that the 2016 Iowa State Fair is just around the corner.  We at the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation are anxiously preparing for another fair of agriculture learning!

This year we are focusing on teaching agriculture in new and exciting ways. It is so IMG_1306important for all Iowans to understand the role that agriculture has in their lives. We strive to educate all Iowans so that they can communicate the value and need of agriculture in daily living. A day does not pass by without being touched by agriculture in some way. If you had orange juice, toast and eggs this morning you were touched by agriculture. If you wore clothing with cotton in it, you were touched by agriculture. If you drove a vehicle that used ethanol, you were touched by agriculture.  We have several events planned for the Iowa State Fair help to make learning full of fun! We are bringing Ag Bingo back to the Animal Learning Center for the second year. Ag Bingo is a fast paced bingo game that teaches on many different agriculture facts and ideas. Ag Bingo is very similar to a regular bingo game, but the twist is that the bingo cards are filled with answers to agriculture questions instead of numbers.   Be the first to yell bingo, and you will win a prize! Everyone will walk away with a better understanding of the significance of agriculture and will learn lots of cool and interesting facts to share. Agriculture is such a big part of our lives.

CalIMG_2401ling all Minute-to-Win-It: Agriculture Edition contestants to the IMG_2407Animal Learning Center!  Contestants compete with 60-second challenges using household objects. This agriculture edition puts a unique twist on the popular game and incorporates agriculture related objects like corn, soybeans and dairy products into the game. It’s lots of fun to play and watch, but there is a ton of Iowa agriculture being taught as the game is played. Many players will have the chance to experience the excitement, fun, and prizes.

Our Farm to Fork cooking demonstrations take preparing a dish to a new level for IMG_1282agricultural learning. Each ingredient used in the dish is traced backed to the farm so the audience can see how it was grown and produced. Help prepare this delicious recipe and stick around for the free taste testing. Enjoy the other food displays in the Elwell Family Food Building and see if you can guess what kind of farms all of the ingredients come from.

It’s exciting to learn about agriculture. Did you know that IMG_1224students can experience being on the farm, out in the field or even inside the dairy farm without leaving classroom? FarmChat is a unique program that utilizes technology (Skype, FaceTime and other software platforms) to bring the farm experience directly into school classrooms.  Using a laptop at the school and a mobile device at the farm, FarmChat-GHV-Feb.2016students connect with and directly speak with the farmer. Students can see the farm and ask the farmer questions. They can even virtually ride along in the combine or 1557446_363540820494691_1018578113170134466_ntour a livestock barn all from the safety and security of their classroom.  FarmChat is a great way to teach kids about agriculture in a safe environment without the cost of transportation or loss of time in the classroom. For the first time, FarmChat is coming to the Animal Learning Center at the Iowa State Fair!  You will be able to visit two farms without leaving the fairgrounds. FarmChat will take us to visit a turkey farm in Story County and a pork farm in Polk County.

Do you enjoy creating in the kitchen? Do you have a knack for baking awesome edible treats? Submit your dish to Iowa’s Big 4 – Corn, Soy, Pork and Eggs cooking contest. Create a sweet or savory dish using one or more of the Big 4 and you just might win a monetary prize. We will have four expert judges to judge the contest and chose the winners. Agriculture definitely is used in the kitchen and we are looking for individuals that like to share their love for cooking and agriculture. Iowa ranks number 1 in production of the corn, soybeans, pork and eggs. Iowa’s also ranks within the top ten for many other agriculture commodities.

Agriculture plays such a vital role in our daily lives. We hope you can join us this year as we participate in a lot of fun and a lot of learning. Agriculture is all around you! It’s a team effort and we all need to be involved in the game.

– Sheri

Sweet Corn Science: What Makes Sweet Corn Sweet? Why Does Corn Have Hair? & Other Questions Answered

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One of the best things about summer is sweet corn.  We’ve had it almost every night for supper this week.  The two nights we didn’t, my kids whined like I just told them they have to give away their favorite toy.  I don’t blame them though.  What’s not to love about sweet corn?   It’s not only delicious, but it’s fun to eat and fun prepare too.  My kids love helping husk sweet corn.  It’s a mess and takes longer than if I did it myself, but it’s well worth it.  They have a blast, and I love the non-stop questions they ask.  “What makes sweet corn sweet?”  “Why does corn have hair?”  “Is this the same corn that cows eat?”  I usually give them pretty simple answers, but their questions got me thinking about the science behind the whys.   Below are some of their questions, as well as questions about corn that I’ve been asked by students and teachers over the years.

What makes sweet corn sweet?  

It’s all about sugar.  Not cane sugar or beet sugar, but natural sugars that occur in plants.  Sweet corn kernels have a very high sugar content when harvested at right time.  I’ll go into more detail about this later.

 What is the difference between the corn we eat (sweet corn) and animals eat (field corn)?  

Although they are closely related, they look different, taste different and are used for different things.  Sweet corn is a naturally occurring genetic mutation of field corn. The sweet corn plant is shorter, matures faster, and its kernels have a higher sugar content.  Field corn is harvested in the fall, after the plant dies and the seeds are dry and hard.  Field corn has a much higher starch content and is used to make livestock feed, ethanol, corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup and more.   Check out our blog post from last year to learn more about the difference between sweet corn and field corn.

Is Iowa the top sweet corn producing state?  If not, why?

Nope.  Iowa doesn’t even make the top 20 list.  Our growing season is too short and we are not home to any major canned or frozen vegetable companies.  Sweet corn is only harvested in Iowa from July through early September.  The fresh corn we eat the rest of the year comes from warmer states like Florida, California, and Georgia.  Most of the frozen and canned corn we purchase is grown in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Pacific Northwest states.  These states are home to many major vegetable processors who contact local farmers to grow sweet corn they use.  Iowa’s landscape is covered with corn fields, but nearly all of it is field corn.  Less than 1% of the corn grown in Iowa is sweet corn. 

Why doesn’t sweet corn taste as good a few days after you pick it? 

True sweet corn connoisseurs, including most farmers I know, prefer to eat corn the day it is picked.  That is because it tastes better!   When freshly picked, sweet corn is high in sugar and low in starch.  As sweet corn sits after picking, the sugars in the kernel turn to starch.  This mutes the flavor and affects its texture when cooked.

Having said that, it is completely safe to store in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Be sure to leave the husks on until you are ready to cook it though.  The husks help seal in the moisture and slow the conversion of sugars to starch.

Is sweet corn a fruit or vegetable? 

Both. Botanically speaking, an ear of sweet corn is a fruit (the seed producing part of the plant).  Tomatoes, squash, peppers and other seed-containing vegetables are technically fruits too.  In culinary terms, corn is considered a vegetable because it is a relatively unsweet edible plant part.  If you really want your head spinning with botanical lingo, check-out this fun video from SciShow.   I think it is more entertaining than most prime-time TV, but I am admittedly a plant-loving science geek.

Why doesn’t sweet corn from the grocery store in the winter taste as good?

Corn purchased in the winter, is grown in southern states like Florida.  It can be several days to a few weeks form the time it is picked until you buy it at the store.  During this time, sugar in the corn converts to starch making it less sweet and tender.  Growers and distributors store and transport corn in refrigerated units to slow this process, but there’s no way to stop effects of time completely.

What are the hair-like things between the husks and the kernels?  

corn plant diagramAlthough they are a big nuisance while cleaning and eating sweet corn, those “hairs” are extremely important.  Corn kernels couldn’t develop without silks.   In simple terms, the silk is a tiny tube that pollen travels down to make the kernels of corn.   Corn is monecious, meaning it has both male and female flowers on the same plant. The corn silk is the female flower and the tassel at the top of the corn plant is the male flower.  During pollination, pollen from the tassel is carried by wind to the silks.  Pollen grains attach to the sticky end each silk, and then travel down the silks to fertilize each ovary.  After pollination, the ovary develops into a kernel of corn at the other end of the each strand of silk.   Take a look the next time you husk corn, and you will notice that there is a silk attached to each kernel.

How do farmers know when sweet corn is ready to harvest?

Sweet corn should be harvested at the milk stage.   As the name implies, the kernels are full of a milky-looking juice when ready to pick.  To test, growers will pierce the soft kernels with their thumbnail to look for the milk, or even bite into a raw ear to test for sweetness.  Immature corn will ooze a clear liquid, while over-mature sweet corn kernels are tough and almost doughy inside.

There are also visual cues that you can use at the store without pulling back the husks.  Ready-to-eat ears are plump.  The silks at the end are brown and starting to dry, but the husks are still bright green and supple.  Skinny ears with extra pointy ends and white silks are immature.  These are signs that pollination just occurred and the kernels inside are not fully formed.  Also avoid buying ears with completely dry silks and husks that are pale green, brownish, dry-looking.  This indicates over-mature or not freshly picked corn.

Can you pick field corn early and eat it like sweet corn?

You can eat it, but it won’t taste nearly as good.  Field corn also goes through a milk stage like sweet corn.  As mentioned earlier, field corn has a much higher starch.  This makes the kernels considerably less sweet and much tougher, even when harvested during the milk stage.

What other questions do you have?  Ask away!  I’d love to answer your questions and help simplify the science of sweet corn.

-Cindy

The Changing Farm

The advancement of technology has changed many things. In my life, in terms of entertainment, I listen to a lot of music. First on records, then cassettes, CDs and now I can download whichever individual single I want. In the kitchen, things have also changed. I remember when we got our first microwave. That thing was so big and heavy Mom was worried if the shelf Grandpa made was strong enough to hold it. It sure makes the one I have in my kitchen today look puny.

I also remember changes happening on the farm. The old plow was retired to the back shed because new tillage practices such as soil saving and no-till showed decreases in soil erosion. The cultivator was also retired because new herbicides were created to kill the weeds effectively. I didn’t have to walk the beans anymore!

One of my dad’s favorite hybrids was Cargill’s 4327. But then better producing hybrids were developed. Change is always constant. This spring as I prepped the field for planting, I was guided by GPS. The GPS beeped if I was too close to the ground I had already tilled with the field conditioner. It made my responsibility of making sure I wasn’t overlapping easier and I’m sure we saved fuel. Sitting in the tractor, going back and forth across the field, I had time to think about the changes on our family farm and the neighbor’s farm.

Looking back toward our farm, there is an old windmill. All that remains is the tail. It still tells wind direction very well. At one time, that windmill stood tall capturing the wind energy to pump water from the well to fill the cattle tank. Windmills are disappearing from the northeast Iowa landscape but wind turbines are coming in their place. To produce an alternative energy resource, these wind turbines are producing 31% of the electricity used in Iowa. Several locations in Iowa are producing these turbines, such as the community of Newton. Jasper County Historical Society Museum has a fabulous display on the history and manufacturing of windmills and have expanded the story to include wind turbines!

Speaking of electricity, did you know the first power station to bring electricity to rural residents west of the Mississippi River is in Iowa? To be more specific, the plant is located in Franklin County, west of the community of Hampton. The plant was operational from 1938-1950 becoming a backup system into the 1970s. For you history buffs, the start of this system was right before the beginning of WWII. Not all that long ago when you are talking about this taking place during the lifetime of my grandparents. Electricity greatly impacted how long it took to do certain household chores, for example laundry. Usually one day was dedicated to laundry before electricity. How often do you put a load of laundry in now? Visit the Franklin County Historical Society to arrange a tour of the REA Plant and learn more ways on how life was changed with electricity coming to the farm.

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As I’m sitting in this AGCO 9765 tractor, I’m thinking of the changes in the tractor industry. My first tractor was an International 986. The first tractor on the farm was a Farmall M. If you know your tractors, you know there is a great difference between those three tractors. Tractors and Iowa go hand in hand. The very first tractor was made by John Froelich near McGregor. This tractor could move forwards and backwards. It caught so much attention, John Deere bought the tractor and built his empire. You can see a replica of this first tractor by visiting the Froelich 1890 Village Museum. We have several other Partner Sites where you can see the dramatic changes in the tractor industry. Heartland Museum, Clarion, has huge steam engine tractors on display. The Floyd County Museum in Charles City, Home of the Tractor Industry, has several Hart-Parr, Oliver and White models. kinze-innovation-center-474-lghtbxIf you want to see new technology at work visit, the Kinze Innovation Center and see how driverless tractors are underway. You may also contact the John Deere Tractor Cab Assembly in Waterloo and see a tractor built from start to finish.

The neighbor’s farm, which I am at, has an old dairy barn. The barn, in and of itself, has an interesting history. But my thoughts drift to the milkingBrown Swiss cattle that used to be raised here. In the dairy industry, the Brown Swiss is not as common as the black and white Holsteins are today. Here, neighbor Bob milked in tie down stalls by hand twice a day. Now, our partner site the Iowa Dairy Center, is using robots to milk their cows. The cows roam around a free-stall barn deciding for themselves when they want to be milked. This is one of my favorite places to visit. Go today!

Advances in science and technology have made drastic changes in agriculture and the way we all live in general. Very few locations can demonstrate these changes in one location. We are fortunate in Iowa to have Living History Farms in Urbandale. Here, you may see the changes on farms and how things progressed over time as you travel from a 1700 Ioway Farm, 1850 Pioneer Farm, 1900 Farm to 1875 town. What adds to the experience are the presenters are all in period costume and speak as of that era.

I haven’t even had time to mention the people that brought about great change. Norman Borlaug, Henry A. Wallace, Herbert Hoover. We have places to visit about these individuals as well.

The need to produce more with less resources while keeping it affordable for consumers has been a driving force behind many of the changes observed and continuing to take place in agriculture.

-Laura,    Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area