Sparking Iowa’s rural economy

February 24, 2016

Milkhouse CreameryWe focus a lot on our Farm Fresh blog about all the work that Iowa farmers do to fill our plates and conserve the water and land.

What we probably don’t discuss enough is how Iowa farmers, and Farm Bureau members, give back to their communities and benefit the rural economy each and every day.

County Farm Bureau boards volunteer at local community events and donate to help support hospitals, schools and fire and emergency crews in rural Iowa towns.

In turn, farmers also depend on Main Street businesses, such as when they need to make a quick run to the hardware store for parts, to swing by the grocery store for a gallon of milk or to gather at the local café to grumble about the weather and politics.

Plus, many farmers, their spouses or family members rely on off-farm jobs at rural companies and businesses to earn a steady income in the ever-volatile farm economy.

Iowa Farm Bureau’s Renew Rural Iowa program recognizes the importance of supporting rural entrepreneurs who help create jobs and make small Iowa towns vibrant, future-thinking places to call home.

Recently, Renew Rural Iowa presented Milkhouse Candle Co. in Osage with its Rural Entrepreneur Leader Award. Owners Eric and Janet Sparrow took a chance and decided to grow their Midwest-grown soy candle company by purchasing and renovating a shuttered soy wax candle manufacturing facility in New Hampton. In doing so, the company now employs more than 30 people – that’s 30 jobs that would have never materialized without the Sparrows’ vision.

Hoover’s Hatchery, a family-owned business located in nearby Rudd, was a finalist in the Dream Big Grow Here contest, sponsored in part by Renew Rural Iowa.

The Halsted family has grown their hatchery business by launching a website to sell and mail chickens to urban backyard farmers across the country. Because of the shift to online sales, Hoover’s Hatchery has doubled its workforce to 75 employees, with plans to continue expansions.

Renew Rural Iowa supports new and existing businesses through education, mentoring and financial resources. Throughout the year, Renew Rural Iowa hosts workshops for rural entrepreneurs. At a recent workshop, I met attendees who were launching Main Street retail shops, renewable energy companies and farms to supply locally grown meat and produce to grocery stores, to name a few.

Renew Rural Iowa program hit a milestone in 2015, with a total economic impact surpassing $125 million for our state’s rural communities, and it is looking to add to that this year. Learn more about the Renew Rural Iowa program, including upcoming workshops for rural entrepreneurs, at

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Senior Features Writer.

Collaborating to keep animals healthy, antibiotics effective

February 22, 2016

Gio1 Shortly after my husband and I moved into our home, our dog, Giovanni, began scratching his face and biting his paws. He didn’t show these signs before we moved, so my husband and I were concerned. We took Giovanni to our veterinarian, Dr. Munger, who then performed several tests to determine the root causes of his problem. An allergy test showed that he was allergic to nearly everything: dirt, pollen, grass—everything found outside, basically.

While we couldn’t put our pup in a giant bubble to protect him, we were able to control his symptoms with medication.

Since then, Giovanni has developed other problems which require visits to our veterinarian. We keep in close contact with our vet to keep our dog healthy.

I saw that same kind of collaboration when I interviewed farmers and veterinarians for stories relating to changes in rules for administering antibiotics to farm animals.

Antibiotics are a key tool for livestock farmers. With proper veterinary oversight they use antibiotics to help keep herds healthy, so they can produce wholesome meat and milk for consumers. The livestock industry has been moving to take steps to ensure limited and judicious use of all antibiotics, not just those that are important for human medicine. And new guidance documents mean that livestock farmers will work even closer with their veterinarians to ensure judicious and proper use of antibiotics. You can a special report on antibiotic stewardship in livestock farming here.

At the same time, consumers have long been protected from antibiotic residues ending up in meat. U.S. farmers must follow a strict withdrawal period before they can send an animal treated with antibiotics to market, notes Peter Davies, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine. If a cut of meat tests positive for antibiotic residues above a level deemed safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is not allowed into the food supply, Davies said. Although research has never established a direct link between the use of medically important antibiotics used in raising food animals and antibiotic resistance, farmers and veterinarians are listening to consumers and are cautious in how they use antibiotics to treat livestock, Davies said.

Just as the farmer and veterinarian work to maintain proper antibiotic use in the care of their livestock, my husband and I work with our vet in the best interest of our dog.

Antibiotics--blog1Like veterinarians who work with livestock farmers, we have open communication with our veterinarian. We talk about ways we can help our dog at home, and then visit Dr. Munger if the problems persist or require her consultation.

When Giovanni later developed itchy skin, we called our veterinarian to determine if there was something we could do to make him feel better. Like a farmer, we wanted to manage his health in the best way before adding an antibiotic or medication to his daily routine. Our veterinarian suggested we strap on boots to Giovanni’s paws before he went outside. Then he wouldn’t be exposed to the dirt that was causing an allergic reaction. When the problem didn’t clear up after a few days, we took Giovanni to the veterinarian, where she provided a wellness exam and prescribed a medication to clear up his sores.

She called within a few days to make sure the medication was helping to treat his sores.

Since then, we’ve found that Giovanni has a reaction to chicken protein. He can’t have the food or treats that contain chicken. Dr. Munger helped us research foods that would work for his allergy, and he’s been doing great ever since.

I’m grateful that our veterinarian takes the time to not only educate us on best management practices in our home to treat our dog, but also uses her knowledge of available medications to make the best treatment decisions for Giovanni.

It’s because of the care Dr. Munger provides that Giovanni is a healthy, happy pup (and no longer has to wear boots outside).

By Bethany Baratta. Bethany is commodities writer for the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

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