Viewing Iowa’s conservation progress from a bicycle seat

July 28, 2015

RAg1OK, I survived my first RAGBRAI. Last year I rode a few days, but this year I pedaled the entire route, some 462 miles from the Missouri River at Sioux City to the Mississippi River at Davenport. My leg muscles and a few other body parts are definitely still a little sore and I’m nursing a bit of a sunburn. But I’m glad I made the entire ride this year.

Riding RAGBRAI is just a great way to experience Iowa. Traveling slowly (my preferred pace) is a perfect way to check out the progress and health of the corn, soybeans and hay crops. You get a real feel of the small towns and larger cities along the route and see the pride in Iowa’s iconic communities, such as Storm Lake, Eldora and Mount Vernon. And, best of all, you experience hospitality of rural Iowans that you feel all along the way. At nearly every farm and in most small towns, cheerleaders of all ages encouraged the 20,000 plus riders to keep pumping along, no matter the heat, humidity or hills.

Riding RAGBRAI also gave me a good chance to get a first-hand look at Iowa farmers’ continuing work to improve water quality through the Iowa Water Quality Initiative. Although the progress was probably lost on the majority of RAGBRAI riders who were focused on finding the best rhubarb pie on the route, it was very encouraging to me.

Rag2We rode past terraces, grassed waterways and other conservation structures designed to reduce nutrient and soil loss in the hilly country east of Sioux City. In the flatter center section of the state (an area that my aching legs very much appreciated) we cruised past a number of great looking wetlands, a critical tool for improving surface water quality, and more buffer strips than I could count. And when we got to the east, it was back to terraces and other structures that work well on hilly terrain to reduce nutrient loss.

Even though it was not visible, we pedaled past a farm near Webster City where I’d watched technicians install a bioreactor a few years ago to filter nitrates out of water coming from drainage systems. And south of Waterloo, we huffed past a saturated buffer demonstration project that I saw installed earlier this year, an innovative tool to keep the nutrients out of lakes and streams.

This fall, I know that a lot of fields we rode past will be planted with cover crops, as farmers work to keep nitrogen and other nutrients in place.

All in all farmers have invested more than $100 million in the initiative to improve water quality in the two short years since it launched. That’s no small change, even though naysayers, like Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe, snub their noses at it.

rag 4Progress, like my RAGBRAI ride, takes time. I wish more people took the time to get out and see what’s going on. It sure looked impressive from a bicycle seat.

By Dirck Steimel. Dirck is News Services Manager at the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.




July 25, 2013

Nothing refreshes and energizes like chocolate milk. Iowa farmers at the Justin Rowe farm near Dallas center handed out 10,000 cartons to RAGBRAI riders in just a few hours.

Photos by Gary Fandel.

Celebrate May Beef Month with a burger – or two

May 4, 2012

May is Beef Month in Iowa, and we’re sharing our top five ways to celebrate like a real cowboy or cowgirl. After all, Iowa’s beef industry contributes more than $5.1 billion to the state economy and creates nearly 40,000 direct and indirectly related jobs. So pass the steak sauce and dig into these fun May Beef Month ideas:

1. Enjoy Iowa’s Best Burger. The Coon Bowl III, a bowling alley in Coon Rapids, was named the 2012 winner of Iowa’s Best Burger Contest by the Iowa Beef Industry Council. The Coon Bowl III uses an 80/20 blend of ground chuck, one of the most popular blends for tasty burgers. Customers can ask for any extras, whether that’s “running the burger through a garden” by requesting lettuce and tomato or adding cheese, bacon or mushrooms as toppings.

2. Join Team Beef. Do you plan to run a 5K, half-marathon or marathon event, or bike the RAGBRAI route this summer? Then become a member of Team Beef, a group of Iowa athletes who promote the benefits of consuming lean, nutrient-rich beef in boosting their performance. Team Beef members participate in popular events, such as the Dam to Dam race in Des Moines. They also receive a free Team Beef T-shirt to wear on race day. To sign up, visit

3. Try a new beef dish. Break out of the suppertime rut with creative, easy beef recipes. A few new favorites:
– Steakhouse pizza,
– Steak carne asada tacos,
– French onion soup sliders,

4. Know your cuts of beef. One of best ways to save money on groceries is to take advantage of sales at the meat counter. Learn more about the different beef cuts and how to cook them with the Interactive Beef Case (

5. Get educated. Ever wonder about the difference between corn-fed and grass-fed beef. What about beef safety? Here’s where to find answers from the experts:
– Grass-fed vs. corn-fed,
– Cow-chow, an interactive game exploring what cows eat,
– Safe handling tips for cooking beef,

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

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Farmer hospitality shines on RAGBRAI

July 29, 2011

For the first time ever, I joined the Register’s Great Annual Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) as it rolled through central Iowa last week.

Before the ride, my only experience with RAGBRAI was reading about it in the paper. But as a life-long Iowan, I figured I might as well see what all the hoopla was about.

And boy, am I glad I did! In just the 15 miles I rode along the RAGBRAI route, I saw the best of rural Iowa and agriculture on display.

I seriously was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the farmers along the way. I stopped at one scenic farm that offered free use of the restroom in the barn, a welcome alternative to the dreaded porta-potty lines.

A couple days earlier, I was invited to visit the Farmers Feed Us stop along the RAGBRAI route north of Kimballtown. Audubon County Farm Bureau member Greg Hansen opened up his farm to the more than 10,000 cyclists riding RAGBRAI this year.

Located on the top of a steep hill, his farm became a popular stop along the RAGBRAI route. Cyclists sought shade under the grain bins, and a few walked over to the feedlot to see the Hereford cattle.
Audubon and Shelby County Farm Bureau members greeted the RAGBRAI riders with free beef samples from the Iowa Beef Industry Council. They also handed out free ag-themed bike spoke cards designed by Iowa illustrator Brian Duffy.

Farmers from across the state joined together in the Farmers Feed Us effort, which aimed to educate RAGBRAI riders about Iowa agriculture and show farmers’ commitment to providing safe, nutritious and affordable food.

“It’s important to make sure consumers know what we do as farmers…,” said Cass County Farm Bureau member and livestock farmer Stacie Euken. “RAGBRAI is such a diverse crowd, and with so many different backgrounds, we can reach a lot of people at one time.”

Sue Creager, a RAGBRAI rider from Michigan, said she appreciated the chance to shake hands with a farmer. “It’s good to put a face behind (your food), because all consumers see is a package in the store,” Creager said.

Once again, Iowa farmers made a positive, lasting impression on the RAGBRAI riders. And after enjoying all hospitality and food (pork chops-on-a-stick!), I can’t wait to ride RAGBRAI again.

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

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