The Farm Fresh Blog is Moving!

June 23, 2016

Farm Fresh BlogWe’ve moved the Farm Fresh Blog to a new website –, and we’d like you to join us!

Please visit the new site, bookmark it, and check back regularly for the latest stories about the people who bring you your food, fuel, and fiber and the issues they face. Or, better yet, subscribe to receive new blog posts in your inbox.

For more than seven years, Iowa Farm Bureau’s Farm Fresh blog has offered insights into farming’s relevance to all of us. That won’t change!

We’ll be shutting down the old website ( soon, so say farewell to the old site and hello to an even better viewing experience (with the same great content) on the new !

WoMEn in Agriculture

June 22, 2016
Chloe Carson pictured with her parents

Chloe Carson pictured with her parents

Nestled in the very northwestern corner of Illinois, you will find the place I call home. It is where I spent hours in a wagon pulled by my older brother’s pedal tractor; where I fought with him over the “good” buddy seat, and hooked up our farm dog to my first tricycle in hopes of a wild ride. It is the place where the summer baby sitter was a Polaris Ranger, bottle calves were first pets, and hauling hay was a fun, anticipated event. It is the place where I decided who I wanted to be when I grew up and what I wanted to do. It is where my journey began.

I have worn the “sacred” blue corduroy FFA jacket, raised chickens, pigs, and cattle and walked across the stage at my high school graduation. I have ventured beyond Illinois’ state lines and into the classrooms of Iowa State University where I am double majoring in Agricultural Communications and Public Service in Agriculture and am currently interning in the Marketing and Communications division of the Iowa Farm Bureau. Yes, that’s right; I am pursuing a career within the agriculture industry, which, despite my fond memories growing up on the farm, isn’t what I had expected.

When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to say, “a nurse, an artist, or a ballerina.” Never in a million years did I think I would be an agriculturist. That was definitely my older brother, whose answer was always, “I want to be a farmer.” I never had any intention of pursuing a career that would take me back there. After all, isn’t an agriculturist a farmer; a guy who wears bib overalls, boots, and a hat?

Maybe you have a similar notion of agriculture, based on its history, where women assumed supporting roles versus operational or strategic business roles. Here in Iowa and beyond, I’m proud to have met so many women who are breaking these barriers and paving a new and unique place in an industry which was once thought of as strictly “a man’s world.” They are now the faces behind seed counters, tractor wheels, and blogs. They are becoming industry leaders too, as 10 Farm Bureau County Presidents in Iowa are currently women and even more are taking on other leadership roles within this organization every year. It’s welcome news for young professionals like me, who are working to find their own place in agriculture.

Chloe greeting Iowa State Cyclone fans with farm and water quality facts at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

Chloe greeting Iowa State Cyclone fans with farm and water quality facts at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa.

Laura Cunningham of Floyd County Iowa is an active participant in her family’s farming operation. She’s just one of the many women breaking barriers in agriculture. “If you were a woman previously in the agriculture industry it meant you were helping out on a family farm, but today women now have the opportunity to take on leadership roles professionally as well as add in some entrepreneurial practices,” she says.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy. Young women often confront obstacles that make it difficult to return home to the family farm, such as another sibling, a brother, who is already set to return. This is where Laura urges women to develop the determination and mindset to start something for themselves. “It is possible,” she says, “For example, I currently have an off-farm job at a seed company and only farm part time, but in order to ensure that my husband, brother-in-law, and their father have the ability to farm together, my husband and I added cattle to expand. It’s all about creating your own opportunity.”

I agree! Opportunity is the deciding factor for entering this industry; we have to seek it out or make it. My advice to other young women and girls on farms today, hauling hay, feeding calves and vying for time behind the wheel of the family tractor, is to make a plan and decide today who and what they want to be. Seek out organizations like the Iowa Farm Bureau who have programs that can help you develop that plan, whether that’s Farm Bureau’s Take Root program, Renew Rural Iowa or Young Farmer program. Don’t let history and the stereotypes too often associated with our industry stop you. Agriculture is no longer a man’s world. It is a world filled with diversity, passion, opportunity and WoMEn.

By Chloe Carson. Chloe is a marketing and communications intern for the Iowa Farm Bureau.








Virtual tours help farmers host far-flung visitors

June 14, 2016

Las Vegas school kids learn from Iowa farmers via Skype Technology is helping Iowa agriculture bring school kids and others right to the farm. And there’s no need to worry about sunburns, bug bites or long trips on the bus.

Instead of traveling across several states, or 1,450 miles and 21 hours by bus, kindergarten students at Kermit Booker Elementary School in Las Vegas took a virtual field to some Iowa farms recently.

Following a classroom unit about farming and agriculture, teachers wanted to give their students an opportunity to visit the farm. But the school’s budget and the time it would take to travel to the farm wouldn’t allow for a one-on-one visit with the farmer in Iowa.

Instead, the school’s digital learning coach at the school, Mark Thomas, had an idea. He went to Google and searched “virtual tour of a farm” and found the Iowa Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program in Polk County. There, he was able to connect to the coordinator of the program, Gretchen Voga.

Voga determined which type of farms the class wanted to visit and set up the classes up with a live tour of a cattle farm and a farm that raises chickens, flowers and vegetables.

This experience for kindergarten students in Las Vegas is only one example of the types of tours farmers are opening their doors to. In fact, the Farm Chat program concept was developed by a farmer who had a Skype conversation with his daughter who was traveling abroad.

Farmers enjoy sharing their farm to visitors, but the Farm Chat concept allows farmers to keep their animals, as well as visitors, safe. And for inner-city schools, like Kermit Booker Elementary Schoo,l with a limited budget, it allows students to have a different experience with no cost.

And it’s not just schools in other states who have inquired about virtual farm visits. Schools within 50 miles of the farms have taken a virtual tour for various reasons.

“It’s a great way to get around the field trip logistics and cost so kids (and schools) don’t have that. On the farm end, they don’t have to deal with the liability issues,” Voga said.

And in the case of livestock farms, farmers don’t have to worry about biosecurity concerns, she said.

For the Las Vegas students, the first stop on the tour was the Anderson Farm. There, Laura Anderson Loots, a Boone County Farm Bureau member, explained that she and her family raise cattle and crops on their century farm. On her farm, Loots showed the kindergarten students her 12 cow/calf pairs and pointed out a corn field. Loots, along with her brother and father, raise corn, soybeans, oats and hay. They also grow sweet corn for Birds Eye. Laura also has some broiler chickens and laying hens on the farm.

On the other end of the Google Hangouts connection, kids shrieked in excitement as they heard the moo of the cows.

Shortly after Loots’ farm tour, Nicole Jonas of Red Granite Farm came through on a Skype connection to show the students her chicken, vegetable and flower farm.

The new flock arrives in early April each year and starts laying in August. For a few months of the year, there will be more than 400 hens laying, which can turn out around 30 dozen eggs a day. The family sells nearly 100 dozen eggs to Burgie’s Coffee and Tea Company in Ames each week. The Story City Locker also sells their farm fresh eggs. The Jonas family also has 3 acres in vegetable production, which they sell at the Downtown Ames Farmers Market and the North Grand Farmers Market, and grow 5,000 perennials every year, which they sell on their farm.

“Since it’s just me and the iPad and the farmer, the kids get to go inside the livestock building, they get to see how they’re fed, how they’re watered,” Voga said.

Thomas said the students loved their tours of the Iowa farms. “They were able to hear actual farm animal sounds and see animals,” he said. And it enhanced the learning experience in the classroom.

“It was awesome because it confirmed some of the things we’d been talking about in class. It’s one thing to talk about what it’s like on a farm, it’s another for the kids to see that live and how it really happens. They don’t have the opportunity to see live cows or tractors or the fields, so to actually see that and how it worked really made a difference,” Thomas said.

Check out the video below of the tour on Red Granite Farms.

By Bethany Baratta. Bethany is Iowa Farm Bureau’s commodities writer.

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