ANF, short for America Needs Farmers, is a testament to coach Hayden Fry's commitment to Hawkeyes players, fans, and all of Iowa to showcase the importance and strength of farmers, even during the hardships of the Farm Crisis of the 1980s. ANF was, and is, a program to recognize the importance of farmers in Iowa and across America.
The success of Iowa farmers has been hard-fought with generations of work, sweat and sacrifice. Today's family farmers who make a living from the land have survived many challenges, including the Farm Crisis of the 1980s, which collapsed commodity and land prices, bankrupting thousands of Iowa farmers. Populations shifted from rural communities to larger cities as farm families lost everything. According to Emmanuel Melicher, a senior economist for the U.S. Federal Reserve, more than one-third of America's commercial farmers were in grave financial trouble. Before it hit, Iowa was home to 121,000 family farms. Nearly 20,000 went under, ending generations of farm legacy for many family farms. Nationally, the Farm Crisis claimed nearly 235,000 family farms.
Hayden Fry, the head football coach at the University of Iowa at that time, knew the Farm Crisis touched many of his players and most of the fans. He was rebuilding the Hawkeye football legacy and wanted to show the nation that the strength of his team could also be measured in their character. Never one to accept defeat, Fry quietly went to work on a game plan to raise awareness of farmers who were struggling.
In 1985, the Hawkeye football team was rated the top team in the country for several weeks during that season, won the Big Ten championship and, as such, advanced to the 1986 Rose Bowl as the league's representative.
When Fry's squad traveled to Ohio State on November 2, something new was noticed on their game-day helmet: a simple yellow circle, 2 ½ inches wide, with the letters "A-N-F" positioned immediately above the Tigerhawk on the right side of the headgear. It stood for “America Needs Farmers.” In that moment, and through the many games, many players and many wins that followed, it remains a testament to the men and women who proudly give their all to provide the nation’s diverse food supply.
Fry, who received an honorary Iowa Farm Bureau membership that year, said, "The thing I'm most proud of here at Iowa is putting the ANF on our headgear."