Friday, November 27, 2015

Conserving a Family Tradition

Conserving a Family Tradition

Mark Recker, the Iowa Corn Growers Association Director for District 3, joined his family farming operation full-time in 1994, and it was around that time that he and his father began implementing variable rate application. Applying higher rates of nitrogen on hills and lower rates in valleys, they found, increased yields and reduced costs. It was the start of something good.

“We recognized the value in it right away, and now with precision ag there’s a much better way to do it. We can actually map the ground topographically by elevation and apply exact amounts of nitrogen,” said Recker, who farms about 1,500 acres of corn and soybeans. “This saves us dollars by not applying to areas that don’t need it, and we’re being more sustainable because excess nitrogen doesn’t find its way into the ground water.”

Water quality is a hot topic of conversation right now, and Recker believes that there are some public misconceptions about what Iowa corn farmers are doing to address the issue.

“Water quality is absolutely a huge issue for us as farmers. For starters, our families drink water from the well. We wouldn’t allow this if we weren’t absolutely confident in the quality of the water,” Recker said. “At the same time, managing fertilizer judiciously is good from a profitability standpoint and from a conservation standpoint.”

Conservation has been a major focus on the Recker farm for decades, dating back to the early practices implemented by Recker’s father. The Recker’s were early adopters of biotechnology, which enables them to produce a higher quality crop while using fewer pesticides. In recent years, the Recker’s have installed terraces, waterways, filter strips and other conservation practices that minimize the impact their farm has on the environment.

“Anything that can help maintain the soil on the land is worth considering. The conservation practices used by my dad impacted the land that I inherited, and if my son chooses to farm, I want to make sure the ground is in as good a condition or better than when I found it,” Recker said. “Conservation is beneficial to us as farmers and consumers today, but it’s even more important to the next generation. That’s why we do it.”

Friday, October 2, 2015

Meet an Iowa Corn Farmer: Andy and Abbie Johnson

The Iowa Corn Growers Association is proud to serve our more than 8,000 farmer members across the state. These members are the backbone of our organization and we like to introduce you to those that continue to make this organization great. This month, meet Andy and Abbie Johnson, Iowa Corn members from Northern Iowa who seized an opportunity to educate young professionals by helping to found the North Iowa Professionals in Agriculture group. 

Tell us about yourself, your family, background and farm operation:

Both my husband and I are agriculture educators by trade. I taught four years at the high school level and five years at a community college. My husband taught high school 10 years. We both loved being in the classroom and educating the younger generations about agriculture. It is awesome to see a room full of students who are passionate about agriculture! Once we had our son it became harder to be a good educator, farmer and most importantly a parent. We have both decided to leave the classroom for the last couple of years and focus on our family and farming. My husband and I operate Cedar River Ag Solutions, a seed business near the Osage area. We also farm around Osage with my husband’s parents, brother and other family. We also have a commercial flock consisting of about 50 ewes and finish feeder lambs.


Why did you decide to be a farmer/become involved with farming?

Farming has been in my husband’s family for many generations. He is the 7th generation to farm in the family. I guess you could say “it’s in his blood!” Luckily, I grew up on a livestock farm and have it in my blood as well. We believe it is the best job in the world. We get to do what we love and help feed the world in the process. It is truly a blessing to get to be a part of the family farm!


Why did you decide to start the North Iowa Professionals in Agriculture group?

We decided to start this group because we were looking for people like ourselves, who want to network, meet new people, and share the same passion for agriculture. The group gives us a chance to learn new things, advocate for agriculture and make new friends along the way.


Why do you think it’s important to be a member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association? Why is it important to be involved with an organization such as North Iowa Professionals in Agriculture?

It is important to be involved in organizations for many reasons. For one, it is great way to network and get to know people. By doing this, we learn new ideas. Also, it gives the organization more power when we all stand together as producers and work on important issues.


Any farming advice or life lessons you’d share with new farmers?

Start small, don’t be afraid to try something different, make educated financial decisions, and work hard.

North Iowa Professionals in Agriculture
The group will meet monthly blending social events with more serious topics. By moving the location around north Iowa, they hope draw more members. For more information join the Facebook group or email
Iowa Corn Grower Association Membership
The Iowa Corn Growers Association (ICGA) is the country’s oldest and largest state corn grower organization. ICGA members are heard and respected in the corridors of political power and the boardrooms of business and industry - in Iowa, throughout the nation and around the world. Membership in the ICGA strengthens the collective voice of Iowa’s corn farmers on everyday issues that directly impact growers’ livelihood and the rural agriculture economy. To become a member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Why I-LEAD has been an invaluable experience

Being accepted into the I-LEAD class 7 program has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my 24 years. From the people I’ve met, to the lessons I’ve learned. Every day I reap the rewards of being an I-LEAD member. In the first year as a class we’ve taken part in leadership building activities, personal leadership assessments, met with numerous agriculture leaders throughout Iowa, and traveled to Louisiana to gain a better understanding of agriculture in a different part of the country.

I-LEAD has given me an opportunity to meet classmates and advisors from across the state, and I can now can say are all good friends. Class 7 has meshed like a true team does. Everyone in our group has their own individual leadership skills that we bring to the table. The I-LEAD program has helped us all to figure out how our individual skills and personalities can contributes to the team and the bigger picture.  As a business owner, learning more about my personality type, and leadership style has been an invaluable experience.

My travel experience outside of the Midwest has been limited so far in life. In the spring of 2016 our group will be going on an international trade mission to the Philippines and Malaysia. Words cannot describe how much I, and the rest of the ILEAD class 7, is looking forward to this once in a lifetime experience. I speak for the class in saying THANK YOU to all who have sponsored us as we become ambassadors for United States agriculture.


Brandon Maier was born, raised and educated in Iowa. He graduated from Iowa State University in 2013 with a degree in Agricultural Studies.
His passion for agriculture began at a young age growing up on a 1,200 acre family farm outside of Eagle Grove, Iowa. During his junior year at Iowa State, Brandon began his own trenching and excavating business as a way of entering into the family farming operation. Overtime his business has grown tremendously; making him a dirt mover by day, farmer by night.
Outside of work, Brandon is a die-hard cyclone fan, sports enthusiast and has a passion for aviation.

Monday, August 24, 2015

CommonGround Iowa Tackles the Tough Questions

“Do organic livestock farmers use antibiotics if their animals are sick?”
“Do grain-fed cattle get sick more often than grass fed?”
“Where can I find trustworthy information on GMOs?”
“Do you buy organic apples?”

These are just a few of the questions that visitors to the Downtown Des Moines Farmer’s Market asked CommonGround volunteers Jan Stillman, Nicole Yoder and Julie Van Manen in July.

CommonGround is a grassroots organization funded by the corn and soybean checkoffs. More than 160 farm women across the country, representing all types of agriculture, volunteer to answer questions and provide information about food and farming.

CommonGround volunteers use their experience on the farm, as well as credible 3rd party data, to answer questions like the ones asked by farmer’s market shoppers. Volunteers also answer questions and share info online, through the CommonGround website and their own personal blogs.

Many of the shoppers who stopped at the CommonGround booth on the corner of 2nd and Court also signed up for the monthly email newsletter. The newsletter covers hot topics in food and farming from a farm woman’s perspective, and includes recipes from the farm-women volunteers.

Visit the CommonGround website to learn more about the program and click “Stay Connected” to sign up for your Fearless Food updates.

CommonGround Iowa will be back at the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market on Saturday, August 29!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Members of the Iowa Corn Collegiate Advisory Team Attend 2015 Corn Congress

Collegiate Advisory Team touring Delmarva Farms
This summer, a group of young leaders from the Iowa Corn Collegiate Advisory Team embarked on a four day trip to Washington, D.C. to listen and learn about key issues in the nation’s agriculture industry as attendants of the 2015 Corn Congress.
Participants on the trip included Whitley Frieden, a sophomore at Muscatine Community College, Kaitlin Ihns, junior at Iowa State University, Haley Banwart, senior at Iowa State University, and Tessa Otto, a May graduate of Graceland University.
After arriving in the nation’s capital late Monday evening, the Iowa Corn Collegiate members had the opportunity to meet with other students from the Ohio, Nebraska and Missouri groups. 
The following day, the group headed out of the city to the Delmarva region where they learned about the diversity of East Coast agriculture. The first stop was at Bell Nursery. Farm manager, Billy Murdoch, gave a tour of the facility which is responsible for supplying all of Home Depots’ flowers. It was amazing to see so many potted plants in one concentrated location!

The second farm tour of the day was at Clovelly Farms and Vineyard. The Midwesterners felt right at home when they were given a tour of the farm riding on a hay rack. Clovelly Farms is a diversified farm that grows several hundred acres of trees, row crops and grapes which are harvested and sent off location to be made into wine. 
CAT Members attend the National Corn Congress
The final stop of the day was at Councell Farms. Chip Councell explained his family’s decision to start an agri-tourism business that attracts many visitors each year. The Councell’s also grow row crops as well as fresh fruit and vegetable produce. 
Back in D.C., the day was concluded with a night tour of the National Mall. Although a few members of the collegiate team had previously been to D.C., the casual stroll to see the monuments was enjoyed by all. 
On Wednesday, the collegiate members woke up early and dressed in their best to attend National Corn Congress. During the morning sessions, votes were cast to elect the newest members of the National Corn Board. An update on NCGA policy was also presented.
After the morning sessions wrapped up, the Iowa Corn Collegiate members attended a “Rally for Rural America” in support of the Renewable Fuel Standard and had the opportunity to meet with Iowa representatives as well as other political leaders on Capitol Hill. The day was concluded with a rooftop reception at the National Corn Growers Association headquarters.
On the final morning of the trip, the group resumed visits at Capitol Hill with Iowa’s congressmen. It was inspiring to hear Iowa farmers address their representatives on issues they face as corn growers.
Overall, the trip to Washington, D.C. was very educational and a rewarding experience to all who attended!  

Monday, August 10, 2015

Gary Edwards

This guest post was written by Mikayla Edwards, granddaughter of former Iowa Corn Grower's Association president Gary Edwards, who passed away in March, 2015.

        Most, if not all, people have an inspirational person that they look up to for guidance, knowledge, or both. I am no exception. My inspiration was my grandpa, though many of you corn growers knew him as Gary Edwards.

       My Grandpa Gary was one of a kind and such an amazing grandpa for the short 18 years I knew him. I loved riding in the combine with him every day during harvest when I would get home from school. In fact, as soon as the corn crop started turning brown I would ask how much longer until harvest started because I was so excited to ride in the combine which conveniently had a buddy seat. Occasionally, I would help plant in the spring which was really just putting all the empty bags on the spike but as a young girl, that was all I could do so it was still appreciated nonetheless. And luckily the tractor we used for planting had a buddy seat as well! About six years ago, he actually taught me how to drive the tractors. It is not that big of a deal, but to a thirteen year old girl, it was the biggest deal!

       Over the years, I started paying attention to other farm aspects as well. I remember a year when Sudden Death Syndrome was an issue and I learned all about it. After a bad storm, I would always go inspect the crops with him and learn what problems there would be from the wind, hail, flooding, etc. and how to cope with them, such as goosenecked corn. I learned about various insects such as the Japanese beetle munching on the silks, which was a big problem just three or four years ago. Along with that, I learned what the silks’ actual purpose was. Learning the ropes of the farm was something I absolutely loved and my grandpa was always patient enough to teach me things here and there and answer any ridiculous questions I had. It was the accumulation of these educational lessons that made me realize I want to be a farmer when I grow up.

Just as my grandpa planted his corn and soybeans every spring, he planted a passion within me that I would have never imagined. Water quality and other environmental issues were the big thing always going on in my grandpa’s mind, though I never knew it until just a few years ago. I discovered that he was on an action team regarding the Dead Zone down in the Gulf, on several committees with ICGA and NCGA regarding water quality, and I’m sure there was more involvement that I am still unaware of. I took several college courses while still in high school. One of those many courses was called Environmental Science which I took my junior year. That class along with the ecology unit of biology really sparked an interest and lit a light bulb in my mind. I had found my passion which coincidentally was my grandpa’s as well. That’s the part I find astonishing. My grandpa never pressured me to do anything, never told me things about Iowa Corn or the things he was doing regarding water quality. He let me find my passion all on my own and then fed that passion with more of his knowledge once I came to the realization. Even then, I had no idea that it was such a big deal to him; that it was his passion as well. All those years, I had no idea. But when everything clicked together and I realized it, I could not help but pick his brain about various issues whenever I got the chance. I always knew he was involved with Iowa Corn but I never really knew what that meant. I distinctly remember seeing the ICGA and NCGA stickers that were on the door windows at my grandparents’ house and how busy my grandpa was during the winter and summer on trips across the nation for various meetings. Looking back and forward, I hope that I get to travel all over the nation as well, because it means I get to meet and converse with people with the same passions in order to make a difference. Not only did my grandpa build my love for agriculture and environmental issues but he introduced me to Iowa Corn.

I went to Washington D.C. twice with my grandparents while my grandpa had meetings. My grandpa always got my parents and I tickets to the Iowa Corn Indy race as well. Then, as my interest grew I decided that I would try out a meeting so I went to the annual policy meeting in 2013 even though it was on my birthday. More and more involvement has only followed. I went to the Commodity Classic in 2014 but regrettably had to miss the roundtables and annual meeting that summer. I went to the Day on the Hill in March of this year and a roundtable meeting just last week, my first Iowa Corn activities without my grandpa to show me the ropes. Luckily, I have met many of the members that my grandpa worked with so they all came to know me and everyone is always so welcoming and helpful. My involvement will only increase and I look forward to the many opportunities Iowa Corn will offer me in the coming years, beginning with the annual meeting in just a few weeks. I had no idea that I would have become so involved but I am very glad my grandpa let me tag along for the various things to spark that interest.

       I will never forget the last time I rode in the combine with him just last fall because I was telling him about my future career plans. I want to work for Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and work with farmers to implement and improve soil conservation and water quality management practices. His eyes lit up and I could tell that he was very proud of the path I’ve chosen for my life to follow. I had no idea that it would be the last time I would ever ride in the combine with him. I had no idea that it would be the last time I would ever have an educational lesson and conversation with him. My grandpa passed away on March 7th, 2015 after a tough battle with cancer. Life is too short but I will always remember the things he taught me. Because of my Grandpa Gary, I have learned so much and been exposed to an amazing organization filled with amazing people. Because of him, I am going to continue the family farm with my dad, Brad Edwards. I could not imagine doing anything else.

Mikayla Edwards is from rural Anamosa, where she grew up on the family farm, raising corn, soybeans and beef cattle. She will be a junior this fall at Iowa State, majoring in ecology with a focus on natural resources and a minor in agronomy. She enjoys farming with her parents and plans to return to the farm after graduation, in addition to remaining active with Iowa Corn.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Iowa State University Researchers Visit the Real “Field”

One of the large problems in modern agriculture is attempting to feed a growing world population. Everybody agrees that we will need more food to feed more people in the future. As such, many branches of agricultural research need to be grounded in reality, working to increase yields in sustainable ways.

On Saturday, July 11, a group of researchers at Iowa State University labs ran by Pat Schnable, agronomy, and Lie Tang, agricultural engineering, toured the farm of Larry and Bonnie Buss in Logan, Iowa. The group discussed a wide range of topics, with the broad goal of increasing awareness of agriculture’s needs, and strengthening relationships between the University and the Iowa Corn Growers Association, who organized the event. The group learned about farming practices, commodity markets, agricultural equipment, and ways in which these aspects of agriculture have changed through the years.

Farm size, yield per acre, and ability to farm sloping fields have all increased in recent decades. Farmers are able to accurately plant rows with partly-automated location-optimized spacing, gather large quantities of relevant data, and numerous other feats which were previously impossible.
Part of the progress can be attributed to the technology seen on this tour. Modern agriculture includes GPS-guided planters, behemoth combines, massive silos, highly-efficient harvesters, and numerous other technological marvels. Seeing the puzzle completely assembled and running smoothly was a welcomed sight and an enriching experience to the visitors, who regularly come together, from diverse intellectual backgrounds, to collaborate on projects intended to improve various aspects of agriculture.

With so many recently advances in agriculture, Larry Buss informed the group of several challenges he still sees emerging. Issues such as water quality, affected by pesticide and herbicide use, need to be addressed. Additionally, many types of weeds are growing resistant to herbicides. Solutions to both include more environmentally-friendly pesticides, mechanical weeders, or improved strains of crops which require fewer chemicals and fertilizers. Most researchers present were working toward at least one of these solutions. As I just learned from, “From 1980 to 2010, U.S. farmers increased corn production by 87.5% while using 4% less fertilizer inputs. (source).” I am proud of those who made this happen, and am sure that together we can go further.

As you can see in the pictures below, the group of roughly 30 people, spanning all ages, came well prepared for the pleasant Iowa morning, and a good time was had by all.

I send thanks to the Iowa Corn Growers Association for helping with this event and the Buss’s for sharing their farm. As usual, Go Cyclones!

-Guest post by Dylan Shah from Iowa State University

Dylan Shah works with Dr. Lie Tang at Iowa State University, focusing on robotics, automation, and image processing. He enjoys helping the world achieve efficiency, so society can focus on improving life in other areas. Since graduating in May 2015 in Mechanical Engineering from Iowa State, he has been working on the multidisciplinary Enviratron project through ISU. While not programming, reading journal papers, and studying, he enjoys biking, nature, lively discussions, and reading books on religion and 19th and early 20th century science and economics.