It’s a long-standing Iowa tradition that neighbors help neighbors in times of need. It’s what makes our state special and it was the driving force of the renowned Yamanashi hot lift in 1960.

Back then, Iowa farmers pitched in to send 35 breeding hogs and some sacks of feed to the Japanese state slammed by twin typhoons. It didn’t matter that Yamanashi was half-way around the world or in the country that the United States was at war with not that long before 1960. People were in need and Iowans could help. There’s another strong tradition in Iowa: the neighbors who receive help go out of their way to show gratitude.

It’s that way in Yamanashi too, as Iowa Farm Bureau's county presidents discovered as they traveled to the mountainous prefecture to meet with ag leaders, visit farms and take in the sights, including stunning Mount Fuji.

In every speech and presentation and at every farm visit, the Japanese hosts spoke of their gratitude for the hog lift and about what the gesture meant to a struggling Yamanashi 56 years ago. They talked about the amazing “strong” Iowa breeding pigs which provided the genetics to build and modernize pork production in Yamanashi and all of Japan.

The gratefulness for the hog lift and the hospitality came through loud and clear at every step of the visit, the Iowa visitors said.

“They are treating us like gold here,” said Brad Moeckley of the Polk County Farm Bureau after visiting a peach orchard, a rice patty and other agricultural sites in Yamanashi.

Deb Jesse of the Buena Vista County Farm Bureau added: “It was 56 years ago, but they act like we sent the hogs just last year. They are so appreciative.”

Indeed, Iowans did send aid again a couple of years ago after a very heavy snowfall severely damaged many of Yamanashi’s greenhouses that farmers use to raise vegetables. And Yamanashi has sent aid to Iowa over the years when our state faced tough times, such as the 1993 flood. Helping out is just something that good neighbors do. And, as Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill told Yamanashi’s Governor Hitoshi Goto during a formal visit, “We now consider Yamanashi a neighbor, a very good neighbor.”

And it doesn’t really matter that this neighbor is half-way around the world.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is Iowa Farm Bureau's news services manager. 

Title Photo Caption: Iowa's county Farm Bureau presidents were treated like rock stars as they toured Japan from July 6-13. In this photo, Brian Feldpausch shares his thoughts on farming in Yamanashi with a Japanese reporter.