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Farming Beyond the Fences

Farming Beyond the Fences
As combines churn across Iowa’s farm fields, Iowans remember they live in a globally-recognized ‘farm state,’ because they see the machines working in the fields, or they get stuck behind the slow rigs while driving home.  But, long before the corn was tall and the beans turned yellow, more and more farmers were out there planting the seeds of knowledge with those who may never grow food for a living.

Farmers know that these days people have questions for that guy in the green combine; what does it take to raise a beef cow? What do you feed your pigs?  What are those green, grassy “stair steps” doing in the middle of your cornfield? The good news is, today more than ever, farming is about people willing to share.   Year-round, farmers do incredible things for their community, but since humility is the cornerstone of farm character, you may not hear them bragging about their good deeds, no matter how big or how small.  So, I will!

For example, did you know that in Jefferson County, every time the Fairfield Area Soccer Association soccer team makes a goal, they make a farmer smile? The Jefferson County Farm Bureau farmers sponsor the team; heck, one even coaches the kids!  When you ask why, they simply shrug, adjust their farm caps, and say it’s just something they’ve always done.

Encouraging leadership, small town pride and community spirit comes naturally to farmers; they compare yields with their neighbors, brag up new conservation practices they put in (way more than last year), or talk about new equipment or new seed varieties that require less fertilizer or pesticide to grow, no matter what the weather.

Farmers see that pride in a job well-done brings benefits well-beyond the farm gate.  That’s why the Jefferson County Farm Bureau even sponsors a ‘Bragging Rights’ traveling trophy between Sigourney and Pekin, and the school that gets the most combined ‘wins’ for boys and girls teams, of all sports, gets to display it prominently.  (I’m told this year it’s with the Pekin Panthers from Packwood).  Farmers are also teaching Sunday School, sitting on school boards and helping folks in need; Lee County Farm Bureau donated 500 one-pound packages of hamburger to their local food pantry, not because someone asked them to, but because they heard there’s always a critical shortage of protein options at their food bank.

It’s easy to learn about farming from farmers, but to do so, you need to do more than just drive by a cornfield; you need to visit one.  Whether it’s that farm tour and hayrack ride going on in Keokuk next week for 200 elementary kids, or taking time to ask a hog farmer about their animals, the men and women who grow food for your family table will always make time to share their story.   I hope you take time to listen, long after the combines stop rolling across Iowa’s countryside.

By Laurie Johns. Laurie is Iowa Farm Bureau's Public Relations Manager.