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Looking beyond the corn rows

Looking beyond the corn rows
It’s no surprise why Iowa is known as the “Tall Corn State.” In a few short weeks, Iowa farmers will return to the fields, planting row upon row of corn and soybeans, blanketing the horizon like patchwork quilt blocks.

Yet there’s more to Iowa agriculture than what we see while we’re driving past the corn fields along the highway. Yes, Iowa is the nation’s leading producer of corn and soybeans. But even lifelong Iowans may be surprised to learn that farming in the state is a lot more diverse when we look beyond the corn rows.

Last week, I met Linn County Farm Bureau member Cindy Golding, who taps the maple trees on her family’s farm near Cedar Rapids. She processes and sells her own maple syrup at local farmers markets. She also makes jams and jellies from the native fruit trees on her farm, and she grows 20 acres of hay for horses.

Earlier this winter, I met a young farmer who grows sweet corn and carrots in northern Iowa. Did you know there were carrot fields in Iowa? Neither did I, but apparently, his family has grown carrots in the marshy soils for many years, supplying the carrots to a canned-vegetable processor in Minnesota.

I’ve visited countless farms of all sizes that grow a variety of crops, including greenhouse flowers, hydroponic tomatoes, salsa peppers, melons, apples and berries. Not to mention all the varieties of livestock and animal products raised in Iowa – honey, eggs, sheep and wool, dairy cattle, beef cattle and hogs of every breed.

There are farmers in Iowa who raise hogs exclusively for the Japanese export market, and several others who supply specialty pork for high-end restaurants and retailers.

Iowa farmers are stepping up to the challenge of meeting our appetite for locally grown foods, while also satisfying the world’s growing demand for quality grains and meats.

As we celebrate National Agriculture Week March 4-10, it’s a good time to reflect on all the abundance that farmers here in Iowa and across the country provide for our families.

From the food on our plates and the ethanol fuel in our cars, to the wool mittens that keep us warm and the pharmaceuticals that benefit our health, we depend on farmers and their hard work to make our lives better.

To learn more about National Ag Week and Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products, please visit www.agday.org.

Written by Teresa Bjork
Teresa is a features Writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau.