The year in photos

December 28, 2010

Every year I like to take a look through all of the photos I’ve taken. It offers me a chance to remember all of the great people I was able to meet regardless if it was during a carefree time or during challenging times.

In 2010, farming in Iowa was defined by the weather. The year opened with brutal winter conditions. As the snow melted, the state’s livestock farmers slogged through a wet and muddy calving season to care for the newborns. Summer rains were relentless in much of the state, dousing the corn yield potential. Yet, Mother Nature smiled on Iowa with almost-ideal harvest weather.

Through it all, the promise of Iowa agriculture and Iowa pride shined through in young people eager to carry on the traditions of their parents and grandparents. Below are some of my favorite photos from 2010.  Grab a cup of coffee, sit back and enjoy!

Written by Joe Murphy
Joe is a photographer and writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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December 23, 2010

The first light at daybreak illuminates windows at a snowy farm in north-central Iowa as the Christmas season approaches. The Iowa Farm Bureau wishes everyone a safe and merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Photo by Joe Murphy
Joe is a photographer and writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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Celebrating holiday food traditions

December 21, 2010

Kringla from Lori’s Kringla and More bakery in Rockwell City.

The other day I heard a song on the radio that brought back memories of my kindergarten holiday concert: “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.”

Even though I haven’t heard that song in years, I still could sing along to every word as if I was once again a 6-year-old girl with a Dorothy Hamill haircut and a wiggly front tooth.

That’s the funny thing about holiday memories. You never know what will trigger them. I always think of Christmas at grandma’s house when I hear sleigh bells jingling as a door opens or when I see holiday hams for sale at the grocery store.

Come to think of it, many of my earliest holiday memories are tied to the foods my grandma served while we sat at the “kid’s table” for Christmas dinner.

While I can’t remember what Santa gave me when I was 6 years old, I do remember how much I loved my grandma’s homemade Norwegian potato lefse.

My red-headed dad and uncle used to make what they called a “Norwegian taco.” They would wrap lefse, which looks like a tortilla, around lutefisk, an infamously stinky cod fish that’s preserved by soaking in lye. (There’s a reason why tourists go to Italy, and not Norway, for the food.)

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve come to appreciate my grandma’s efforts to carry on our family’s Norwegian traditions through her holiday meals.

As I’ve talked to Farm Bureau members from across the state, I’ve learned that each Iowa family has their own unique holiday food traditions.

I once met a farm family that gets together each year on the day after Thanksgiving to bake hundreds of Christmas cookies to share with friends and neighbors. The family ends the day by frying up Norwegian rosettes, a crisp pastry sprinkled with powdered sugar that’s shaped using their grandparent’s antique iron molds.

Not surprisingly, many holiday foods reflect Iowa’s immigrant heritage. Several Iowa farm families serve German stollen bread or Swedish lingonberries at Christmas. Other families bake up Dutch letters, Italian biscotti and Czech kolaches for holiday cookie plates.

Bakery owner Lori Dale learned how to make Norwegian kringla from her aunt using a recipe from her grandmother, who was born in Norway but settled in Story County, Iowa.

Now customers come to Lori’s Kringla and More bakery in Rockwell City for a taste of kringla just like their grandmothers made at Christmas.

While I’ll always miss my grandma and her Norwegian meals, I’m glad to carry on one of her Christmas traditions. A couple years ago, my dad gave me a lefse grill and a copy of my grandmother’s lefse recipe. Now I serve lefse alongside the holiday ham at Christmas.

However, my husband still won’t let me bring lutefisk into our home. Maybe I need to sing him a few Christmas carols to get him in the holiday spirit. (Santa baby, I’ve been an aw-full-y good girl…)

So tell us, what’s your family’s favorite holiday food tradition?

– If you’re looking for a unique holiday gift, Lori’s Kringla and More sells homemade authentic Norwegian kringla online at

– For step-by-step instructions on baking German Christmas stolen, visit the Iowa State Fair Challenge blog. (

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

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Learning from a legend

December 16, 2010
Bob Feller with my son

My son, Parker, with Bob Feller

Now, as a photographer and writer, I have met a lot of special Iowans. It’s the combination of their family values, commitment to conservation and a steadfast dedication to their jobs. Above all, I admire their work ethic, that “roll-up-the-sleeves” mentality.

A perfect example would be of Bob Feller, the baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, who recently passed away. Known as “Rapid Robert,” he threw some of the fastest pitches in the late 1930s, striking out the greats, like Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams, He often credited his success and strength to being a farm kid in Van Meter.

Last night, while I was working on my computer, I read that Feller had died in Ohio. I was instantly brought back to a blustery winter day seven years ago. Wicked weather was closing businesses and roads and I was on my way home with my 3-year-old son in the car.

As we passed the Bob Feller Museum in town, I saw a small white sign blowing, in the wind, declaring that “Rapid Robert” was in. I couldn’t help but feel lucky because I was confident that not many visitors would be venturing out in this weather. Maybe it would be the perfect time for one of Van Meter’s newest residents, my son, Parker, to meet the town’s most famous citizen.

We walked in and there he was. Bob Feller relaxed in a chair near the door of the visitor-lacking museum. Parker and I had the “Heater from Van Meter” all to ourselves. We talked about baseball and the town we all called home. I admit that I didn’t know much about Feller prior to moving to Van Meter, but it didn’t take me long to become a fan.

After that initial meeting, I had the opportunity to photograph him and meet him several other times. I learned more about his life and his career. It always impressed me that he gave up some of the best years of his career to volunteer in the Navy and fight in World War II. As the years have gone by, I understand more about where he was coming from when he signed those enlistment papers and left for the Pacific theater.

Last fall I volunteered to help veterans on a recent Honor Flight to Washington D.C., each one of the men I talked to told me they fought in the war because that is what needed to be done. In several interviews, Feller stated the same thing, even saying that it was the most important thing he did in his life; a life filled with records that still stand today and fame from his pitching days with the Cleveland Indians.

Feller often cited his childhood on an Iowa farm as the most important contribution to his baseball career. I read many interviews over the years that credited the early mornings of throwing hay and doing other chores around the farm as the primary reason he was a great pitcher. He even went as far as saying that parents today should try to instill those rural values into their children, regardless of where they live. Here’s one of his favorite quotes on the subject:

“My father kept me busy from dawn to dusk when I was a kid,” Feller said. “When I wasn’t pitching hay, hauling corn or running a tractor, I was heaving a baseball into his mitt behind the barn.”

As the news coverage and eulogies are written I think we can all learn from his life. Hard work, discipline and selfless acts made Bob Feller a great man and a legend. We could all learn from a life like that.

Written by Joe Murphy
Joe is a photographer and writer for Iowa Farm Bureau.

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