You haven’t heard the whole story behind the “ANF” on Iowa’s football helmets.
Yes, you may know that legendary Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry created ANF (America Needs Farmers) in the midst of the 1980s Farm Crisis, and how Coach Fry, a farm boy from Texas, used the decal and the national exposure his 1985 Rose Bowl team earned to raise awareness of (and support for) hurting farm families.
There’s more to the story. A lot more.
The Farm Crisis left a permanent mark on our state, but it’s not the reason three letters still adorn Hawkeye football helmets, 30 years later.
It’s the “why” – as in “why does America need farmers?” – that (literally) keeps ANF top of mind.
And that’s the side of the story you probably haven’t heard.
Iowa leads the nation in the production of corn, soybeans, hogs, eggs, and more, but why does that matter to you and me (the 98 percent of Americans who don’t farm)?
The 30th anniversary of ANF is a great time to reflect on it.
America needs jobs.
1. Agriculture accounts for 418,777 Iowa jobs, up from 332,000 in 2007. 1 in 5 Iowans works because of agriculture.
2. $112.2 billion (33 percent) of Iowa’s total economic output comes from agriculture, up from $72.1 billion (27 percent) in 2007.
America needs safe, affordable food choices.
3. Thanks to on-farm innovation and a variety of farming methods that offer us a range of safe and affordable choices at the grocery store, Americans spend just 10 percent of their disposable income on food each year; those in other countries spend much more. (Source: USDA, ERS)
4. According to the Iowa Farm Bureau Food & Farm Index, conducted by Harris Poll, Iowans trust farmers most for food safety information.
5. Hunger affects 1 in 8 Iowans. Despite the prosperity many of us enjoy, farmers’ work to keep food abundant and affordable has never been more important.
America needs responsible caretakers of our natural resources.
6. Iowa farmers have helped reduce soil erosion by 28 percent and have helped grow the number of Iowa streams with self-supporting trout populations by nine-fold since the 1980s.
7. Just seven conservation practices used on Iowa farms today, remove 58 percent of the phosphorus, 38 percent of the nitrogen, and 28 percent of the nitrates that otherwise would be present.
8. Iowa farmers have voluntarily restored 377,811 acres of wetlands (equal to 285,718 football fields) to protect our water.
America needs renewable energy.
9. Iowa leads the nation in ethanol and biodiesel production. These fuels burn cleaner, keep gas affordable, and allow the U.S. to import less oil from overseas. Farmers also helped Iowa generate more than 28 percent of its electricity from wind in 2014, best in the nation.
10. Between 2005 and 2012, as ethanol increased from 1 percent to 10 percent of the U.S. gasoline supply, dependence on imported petroleum produced declined from 60 percent to 41 percent. (Source: American Farm Bureau)
America needs a lot of “things” that we take for granted.
11. Adhesives, cleaners, inks, shampoo, tires and more. Yep, they all started on a farm.
America needs farm values.
12. More than 97 percent of Iowa farms are owned by families.
13. In 2015 alone, Iowa recognized 366 Iowa farms that have been in the same family for 100-plus years and another 101 that have been owned by the same family for 150-plus years. This longevity is a testament to farm families’ perseverance and their strong commitment to caring for the land and water to sustain future generations.
America needs pioneers.
14. Before the Farm Crisis hit in 1985, Iowa was home to 121,000 farms. Nearly 20,000 went under by the time it ended. Today, Iowa has fewer than 90,000 farms. With fewer farmers, those who continue to farm today have had to innovate and become more efficient to meet our growing needs. (Source: USDA NASS)
15. The average American farmer feeds about 154 people per year. In 1980, it was 115 people. (Sources: USDA, FOA, America Farm Bureau)
16. By 2015, our growing world will need 100% more food, and according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 70 percent of it will need to come from efficiency-improving technologies.
Because America says so…
Coach Fry has often said that he’s amazed by the outpouring of support he and his team received for creating the ANF decal and raising awareness of farmers’ importance.
Most Iowans are multiple generations removed from the farm and know very little about how farming works today.
And yet the sentiment and support for farmers remains. The reasons are personal.
Here are a few of my favorites, shared by Iowans over the course of the past year.
17. “We were restaurateurs for 35 years, and our livelihood depended on farmers having a good year.” Betty – Avoca, Iowa
18. “We need farmers to care and tend for the land that has been passed down from generation to generation. Our family farm has been in the family since 1873!” Kristen – LeMars, Iowa
19. “Farmers are great supporters of our schools on and off the playing field. They send their great student-athletes to school, after training them how to work hard at home. Some of the toughest football players we have are farm kids, guys that will give themselves up for a greater cause.” Greg – Manchester, Iowa
20. “The reason I need my farmer is that for 38 years I have been calling him my husband. The work that he does to support his family is so selfless. He is the happiest when he is the busiest. We love the lifestyle he has given us.” Julie – Whiting, Iowa
21. “Aside from the obvious things like food, clothing and fuel, America needs farmers today as a reminder of the values that have helped make our nation great: tenacity, perseverance, independence and character. It’s just in farmers’ nature to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and keep going, regardless of the obstacles in front of them. That is at the heart of what it means to be an American, a true entrepreneur.” Sara – Clive, Iowa
22. “Not all of us have a ‘green thumb’ to grow our own food!” Evelyn – Newton, Iowa
23. “(I need farmers) so I can pour milk in my cereal bowl in the morning without actually having to milk the cows.” Teresa – Madrid, Iowa
24. “Farmers provide the life-saving insulin my son needs for his diabetes.” Dana – West Des Moines
25. “Tailgating would fail if farmers didn’t produce.” Tom – Madrid, Iowa
26. “I need farmers because they are the ones providing me with my trucking job so I can provide for my family.” Bobby – Eldora, Iowa
27. “My husband and I both work in the agriculture factory business. I build grain dryers, while my husband makes grain carts and sprayers. We need farmers to keep our jobs strong.” Steph – Hampton, Iowa
28. “Our farmers are conscientious about food safety, water quality and soil conservation. Because of this, we will continue to enjoy a reliable supply of food products for generations.” Debra – Storm Lake, Iowa
29. “Being from a rural community, agriculture keeps the community going. As a teacher, the economy gives me job security.” Amanda – Emmetsburg, Iowa
30. “We need farmers to continue the tradition of hard work, family and friendship. When a neighbor is ill or worse, we all pitch in to get the work done.” Carol – Johnston, Iowa
By Zach Bader (Iowa Farm Bureau’s online community manager), with contributions from Evelyn George, Teresa Bjork, Dana Ardary, and Sara Payne.