Two-thousand-450 miles—that’s how far I traveled in the last 10 days. I could’ve driven to San Francisco or Miami (with miles to spare) or for that matter, gone three-quarters of the way to Anchorage. But, no; I wanted to see Iowa from the road. To be more specific—I wanted to see northern Iowa.
Northern Iowa—home to rolling hills so green this time of year that the intensity of color almost makes you wince; northern Iowa–home to vast woods, wildlife, winding rivers, terraced farm fields, friendly waves from farmers in tractors, hearty meals (for under $5!) and homemade rhubarb pie so good one bite will melt away memories of rush hour traffic and stacked-up Inboxes. I was traveling through a dozen towns in northern Iowa to meet with farmers, newspaper and radio reporters; but I was also making a mental note to take a fresh look at the state I’ve called home for decades.
I liked what I saw. And, if you’ve spent most of your time in the ‘burbs’ of Iowa—you’d find plenty to like, too.
So, stop listening to crabby nay-sayers who roll their eyes and crow that rural Iowa is dead. Stop believing people who say “there’s nothing to do, nowhere to go, nothing to see” in Iowa. And most-importantly, start questioning folks who say all of rural Iowa stinks because of livestock. I saw livestock of every kind in every county (even goats and lamas!). Contrary to what some may write; on the days of this Iowa Road Trip; the air smelled of mowed grass, lilacs, dusty roads and the faraway sweet scent of fired-up barbeque grills.
Folks opposed or concerned about modern livestock farms too often pen articles without ever setting a foot, much less a tire, in rural Iowa. I counted 47 livestock confinement farms and I know there were many more. There were dozens of open-feedlot livestock farms, too. But even with the windows down—I could smell the open feedlots but not the confinement barns. I know it was just two days out of 10. And, having grown up on a livestock farm (open feedlot) there’s no doubt about it; once the manure is moved it can smell.
I want to tell folks about the good things of rural Iowa and livestock, because I’ve seen how negative thoughts and criticisms are passed from one person to another—simply because it’s easier to re-tell, than discover the answer for oneself. I think it’s safe to say that modern farms, if they’re managed responsibly, don’t smell the majority of time. But don’t take my word for it:
(Check this out: http://www.4cleanair.org/Documents/IowaAFOstudy.pdf )
The reality is; since we have more people than ever to feed in this world and economic times are tough; we need modern livestock production.
So before you turn up your nose (literally) at livestock farmers or rural Iowa, I hope you take the time to actually drive the countryside and soak up the beauty of the season. You’ve got a long weekend to take it all in—and I guarantee you can have a great time for a lot less by staying in any one of the hundreds of B&B’s across rural Iowa. Most of all, I hope you give rural Iowans a chance to show their hospitality. Check out local cafes—the kinds that have local farmers, businessmen, moms and retirees lining the counters, happy to chat about anything-ranging from the weather to parenting to Dancing With the Stars–expect them to fuss over you until you order a slice of their homemade pie, (I’d recommend the rhubarb.)
Written by Laurie Johns
Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.