At the end of March, U.S. News released a report stating Winneshiek County, located in the northeast portion of Iowa, is one of the healthiest communities in the United States, ranking #22 in their “healthiest communities” survey. Among the criteria putting this county in the top 25 healthiest communities was its environment, employment and overall population health. This good news, coming right on the heels of a national survey that ranks Iowa the #1 best place to live in the nation, continues to be a testament to agriculture. Why?
While Sioux County, a livestock heavy county, has often held the top spot for county health rankings within Iowa, Winneshiek County, another well-known destination for livestock farming and the boost it brings to the local economy, now ranks high in a national survey on healthfulness. Agriculture works in companion with the area’s well-known tourism offerings as northeast Iowa is well-known as a beautiful destination to explore art and history or enjoying the great outdoors through kayaking, biking and trout fishing, which has greatly increased because of water quality efforts of farmers and landowners.
Winneshiek County farmers recognize the need to do right by the great outdoors. In fact, according to the U.S. News report, almost half of the county’s citizens live within a half mile of a park, compared to just 14 percent of other U.S. citizens.
The healthiest communities report says Winneshiek County has a labor force participation that is 13 percent above the U.S. average and it’s key to note that 20 percent of this county’s employment is derived from agriculture. These can include jobs you might not think of like veterinarians, construction workers who build barns, mechanics who work on farm equipment and truckers who transport grain or animals.
In the environment category, Winneshiek scored a whopping 91 out of 100 points! This was attributed to it’s safe drinking water and high air quality with extremely low hazards for respiratory complications. Despite what you may hear about livestock causing adverse health effects, residents in this county are expected to live to be nearly 83 years old, 5 years older than the U.S. average.
Winneshiek County’s latest designation is one out of many examples across the state where agriculture may benefit those who don’t think about it day to day. It’s working because farmers, environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts and urban residents are all coming together to make their corner of a world a better place by working together and doing what it takes to make their community the only place they’d like their family to call home. Wouldn’t it be nice if a survey could be done that shows the spirit of collaboration? Iowa gets my vote!
By Caitlyn Lamm. Caitlyn is Iowa Farm Bureau's Public Relations Specialist.