It is no secret that Iowa State University takes a lot of pride in our agricultural programs. Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences ranks among the best in the world– ranking in the top 4% of worldwide programs of agriculture and forestry programs by the QS World University Rankings.
Seeing as today is National Teach Agriculture Day, there is no better way to celebrate than to learn more about Iowa Agriculture and to become more acquainted with the industry!
According to the National Association of Agricultural Educators, “National Teach Ag Day is designed to encourage others to teach school based agriculture and recognize the important role that agriculture teachers play in our schools and communities.” They also stated that in the United States, there are 11,000 middle and high school agriculture teachers, and agriculture curriculum is taught in all 50 states!
At Iowa State University, there are 28 majors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, ranging from Dairy Science to Dietetics. You can view the full list here.
In the Manuscript Collection at the archives, we have multiple boxes stuffed with correspondences, newspaper clippings, and fact sheets to lobby for National Agriculture Day becoming a national holiday in the United States.
From the National Agriculture Day collection (MS-0066), it was said in 1973 that “Agriculture is this nation’s greatest asset” and that “Agriculture is American’s one industrial effort in which we will never be overtaken by a competitive nation. It is an area of technological, scientific, and productive superiority which will never be surpassed by another country. It is an American resource which continually increases in productivity and quality” (“Agriculture Day is Established.”, MS-0066, Box: 1, Folder: 8).
Additionally, I was able to find these infographics to be taught to elementary students in 1973 that are much different today:
According to the Compassion in World Farming USA, today the average dairy cow produces 7.5 gallons of milk per day. This multiplied by 128 ounces in a gallon, divided by the 8 ounces per average school milk cartridge per day would be enough milk for 120 4th grade lunches- nearly doubling in production over the past 47 years!
This graphic describes that in a year 1 steer will consume the equivalent of 60 4th graders (at 50 pounds each) in corn. Today, I found that the average steer eats 16.5 lbs of grain per day. This number multiplied by 365 days in a year, divided by 50 lbs per 4th grader would double the number to the equivalent of about 120 4th graders!
As agriculture continues to grow and change, we are happy to have days like today celebrating our agricultural educators.
As a member of the agricultural industry myself, I find the most fascinating aspect of agriculture to be the community and pride in their work of feeding the world. Certainly this is a subject worth teaching about for generations to come, happy National Teach Agriculture Day!
This post is part of the COVID-19 Stories: Agriculture, Food, and Rural Stories project. This submission is from Jordan Hansen of Hansen’s Dairy.
We’d love to hear from you! Please visit the COVID-19 Stories webpage for more information about our projects and to participate.
My name is Jordan Hansen, and I’m telling the story of how Hansen’s Dairy, a small dairy farm in Hudson, Iowa, adapted to business changes during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
My family’s farm is designated a Heritage Farm, and the land has been in our family since 1864. Dairy cows have been milked here since the 1950s. In the early 2000s, Jay and Jeanne Hansen and their four sons decided to add value to the operation by beginning their own on-farm creamery. The first gallon of milk was produced and sold to the public in 2004. Our product line now includes milk, butter, heavy cream, cheese curds, ice cream, egg nog, and beef. We opened two retail stores, Hansen’s Dairy Waterloo (2006) and Hansen’s Dairy Cedar Falls (2007), where we sell our own products plus a variety of food and goods from other local farmers and entrepreneurs. We also offer farm tours, where we teach visitors how milk gets from the cow to their table. In 2019, we welcomed 9,100 visitors, a record high.
In 2020, that will look very different.
Mid-March was very unsettling as COVID-19 became the main news story. The World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic on Wednesday, March 11; I knew things were serious when the NBA and NCAA suspended their basketball seasons on March 12. States began to lock down and shelter in place. That weekend, people all over the country began hoarding groceries.
While Hansen’s Dairy milk is available at Fareway and Hy-Vee grocery stores in the Cedar Valley, people were quickly finding that panic buying left dairy shelves empty in those stores. That led to customers either rediscovering or visiting our stores for the first time, looking for milk. We enjoyed a surge in demand for our milk as people stocked up on essentials. Being that our business is vertically integrated — and the cows don’t stop producing — we were able to keep processing milk and distributing it without issue. Things were chugging along.
A week later, things had ground to a halt. By March 17, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds had ordered bars and restaurants to close. Being that we supply dairy products to restaurants and coffee shops, that part of our business began to see reduced demand. Eateries had to decide if they would continue to stay open with carry-out and delivery only, or temporarily shut down. Schools in Iowa also closed.
As unemployment soared, so did the need for food assistance. Unfortunately, this was also about the time that word spread across the country that some dairy farmers had to dump their milk and fruit/vegetable growers had to plow under perfectly good produce because there was no way to get it to consumers. There were two primary reasons for this break in the distribution chain:
Production employees couldn’t — or wouldn’t — work due to a virus outbreak or fear of outbreak.
Processing plants who typically supply restaurants and schools suddenly had no buyers for their end product and couldn’t easily change their production capabilities to retail sales.
Most of the time people don’t think about the path food travels to get to their table. The ability to get food from the farmer to the American consumer has become so consolidated, streamlined and efficient that it’s usually taken for granted. But when there’s a crack in that process, things also go downhill quickly. Suddenly, Americans were seeing how interconnected the food system is, and how a broken link in the chain has a rippling effect. Plants that typically supply schools or the food service industry package foods differently than they would for retail sale. These specialized production lines are tweaked and calibrated for maximum efficiency. They can’t just flip a switch and change their packaging and distribution to go to retail buyers instead of commercial buyers. Who wants 5 pound bags of mozzarella cheese, 8 oz cardboard cartons of milk, or individual pats of butter in their homes?
Here at Hansen’s Dairy, we feel fortunate that we process our own dairy products and have an established history and loyalty with our customers. Our plant is diversified enough that while our restaurant demand diminished a bit, we were able to put more products on the retail shelves and accommodate a different demand. Sometimes a small producer has an advantage over large-scale facilities — the ability to adapt quickly.
Another way we quickly improved our services was to offer online purchasing through our stores. Since we sell groceries, we were able to stay open as essential businesses. But as people became hesitant to venture out of their homes, we wanted to provide online grocery delivery and curbside pickup options. We were able to get our 200-plus items online and offer these services at both stores by March 30.
Meanwhile, our tour season would have opened April 1, but people were not permitted to gather in groups, so we delayed the opening until June 1.
As quarantine measures ramped up and people were being told to “just stay home,” we had another idea. Instead of customers coming to us, why not go to them? We decided to take our delivery truck to small towns in the area and sell groceries off the truck. We sold all of our dairy products and beef, plus eggs, ground chicken, potatoes, onions and yogurt from other local producers. We parked in a large parking lot in each town and used a drive-through format, allowing customers to stay in their cars and pay via credit card for a contactless experience. We wore masks and gloves, as did many of the customers who pulled up. The benefits of these events went both ways: The sales would provide additional income to make up for the tours we weren’t allowed to host, and customers would have a convenient, safe way to get some of those perishable essentials between larger grocery trips. The small towns and neighborhoods we visited — Grundy Center, New Hartford, Wellsburg, Jesup, Dike, Buckingham and Sunnyside Country Club in Waterloo — were very appreciative, and the community exposure rejuvenated interest in our brand.
I believe this pandemic was an eye opener to consumers, and hopefully people are now better able to connect the dots between the farmer and their table. When COVID-19 becomes a distant memory, I hope people will remember how we small producers rose to the occasion. When the large meatpacking plants shut down and meat became more scarce, people went to small hog and cattle farmers to inquire about buying directly from them. The pandemic illustrated that while the U.S. has one of the most efficient food systems in the world, problems can arise faster and hit harder when large, consolidated plants fail. They certainly have their place in feeding the world, but I hope people remember that during the pandemic, we small producers were out there feeding our neighbors.
Join us Thursday, September 12th for a screening of the film “When We Farmed with Horses” at Living History Farms (11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa). We will be in the Celebration Room in the Visitor’s Schedule (relocated from Flynn Barn due to weather) during the day from 1 – 4 pm looping several films and news clips that have featured Living History Farms over the years. Then, we return during History Happy Hour and will have en evening program, from 6 – 8 pm. After the film, stick around for a presentation with Tom Morain, the Director of Government Relations as Graceland University, followed by a Q&A session.
6:45 pm When We Farmed with Horses…And Before by Tom Moraine
7:15 pm Q&A
Tom Morain is Director of Government Relations as Graceland University. From 1981-1995, he was Director of Interpretation at Living History Farms before accepting appointment as administrator of the State Historical Society of Iowa. His study of small-town idea received the Shambaugh Award as Best Book of the Year. He has taught Iowa History at Iowa State and Graceland and currently serves on the Iowa History Advisory Council.
This archival film is the last in a series of film screenings across Iowa dedicated to telling America’s agricultural stories at home. History At Home: Community Archival Film Screenings is funded, in part, by the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area General Grant Program. This program funds projects dedicated to telling America’s agricultural stories.
This project was inspired by the work of film archivist Jane Paul (1958-2018). Paul spent her career collecting, curating and presenting film content, tailored for regional, and multicultural, New Zealand audiences.
The Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) received $6,286 from the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area General Grant Program. This program funds projects dedicated to telling America’s agricultural stories.
Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Areais one of 49 federally designated heritage areas in the nation and is an Affiliated Area of the National Park Service. Through the development of a network of sites, programs and events, SSNHA’s mission is to interpret farm life, agribusiness and rural communities-past and present. Click HERE to explore the heritage area or to visit one of our sites.
This project is inspired by the work of film archivist Jane Paul (January 19, 1958–November 13, 2018). Paul spent her career collecting, curating, and presenting film content tailored for regional and multicultural New Zealand audiences.
Event this week
Thursday, June 20, Amana Heritage Auditorium, 705 44th Avenue, Amana, Iowa, starts at 7 p.m.
We are screening our production Landmarks in Iowa History #2: Amana, originally aired on February 3, 1959, and Iowa Perspectives, a news story that aired on January 10, 1979.
Peter Hoehnle’s presentation, “Just When You Thought You Had Seen It All…” follows. Hoehnle is a historian from Fire Creek Historical Consulting and an Iowa State alum. He will discuss never before seen images from the Amana Heritage Society and Museum, that were preserved through a grant with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Historical Resource Development Program. These images provide a new window on life in Amana.
Save the date for our day at Living History Farms!
Thursday, September 12, Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa
Last Wednesday we visited the Norman Borlaug Heritage Farm and did a screening in the New Oregon #8 school house.
Wednesday, June 12, at the 1915 barn on the Norman Borlaug Heritage Farm, 20399 Timber Avenue, Lawlor, Iowa, from 1 – 3 p.m.
We are bringing two productions: Norman Borlaug – Revolutionary (1971), a film about the Green Revolution, produced by the National Agricultural Chemicals Association, and Dimension 5: World Food and Hunger with Norman Borlaug, a television panel discussion about pesticides and wheat varieties. The Borlaug Foundation also provided untitled home movie footage from Borlaug’s time in Mexico.
In two weeks!
Thursday, June 20, Amana Heritage Auditorium, 705 44th Avenue, Amana, Iowa, starts at 7 p.m.
We are screening our production Landmarks in Iowa History #2: Amana, followed by a presentation by Peter Hoehnle, from Fire Creek Historical Consulting and an Iowa State alum, on the images the Amana Heritage Society & Museum preserved through a grant with the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs Historical Resource Development Program.
Save the date for our day at Living History Farms!
Thursday, September 12, Living History Farms, 11121 Hickman Rd., Urbandale, Iowa
In this month’s Rare Books Highlights post, we’ll be taking a look at the oldest agricultural book we currently own in Special Collections. It is Pietro de’Crescenzi’s De agricultura vulgare, published in 1511. With that publication date, it just misses the incunabula period, or the first 50 years of printing, but it still has many features of an early printed book. This book is an Italian translation of a much earlier work, Ruralia Commoda, a standard agricultural manual first written circa 1305.
Let’s start by taking a look at the book’s interesting binding. It is quarter-bound leather over wood boards, which means that leather is used to cover the spine only, and the wooden boards are exposed. It also has some clasps with lovely seashell-shaped catches. The boards have seen some wear–look at those chewed up corners! It also is peppered with wormholes. (That’s right–bookworms are a real thing and include a number of beetles that, in their larval state, will tunnel through wood and paper.) Based on the style, I’m guessing this is the original binding.
Clasps on De Agricultura Vulgare
Chewed up corner with wormholes.
One of the things I love about this book are the wonderful woodcut illustrations throughout the pages. They show images of herding families, animals in some sort of corral structure with a man praying to God, a group of men threshing grain, and even what looks like a herdsman playing an old instrument resembling bagpipes! I love these illustrations for their simple depictions of medieval life and clothing.
This book has a colophon, which is a statement at the end of the book with information about the book’s printing. This one gives the place of publication (“Venetiis”–Venice) and publication date (“die sexto mesis Septebris anno dn̄i M.D.XI.”–September 6, 1511). No publisher is listed here, even though that information was often included. A colophon was a feature that carried over into early printed books from manuscripts, where scribes would often write a message to the reader. Early in the 16th century, colophons gave way to the title page. This book is clearly from the transition period. It also has a title page, but it is very basic, listing only the author and title.
Colophon lists place and date of publication.
Title page lists author and title.
This book is Pietro de’ Crescenzi. De agricultura vulgare. Venice, 1511. Call number: S492 C863d.
When Iowa State University was established in 1858 it was as the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm. The name alone sent a clear message that the school’s founders wanted the students who attended Iowa State to have a strong understanding of and practical education in farming. Of course, the students didn’t all want to be farmers, but that’s a different story.
In the early years, the male students were required to spend several hours each day helping out on the school’s farm and in the shops, while the female students were assigned to help with domestic chores in the kitchens and laundry. There was no tuition at Iowa State at the time, so perhaps it seemed like a fair trade. Within 20 years, the practice of requiring students to work on campus became impractical due to the complexities of organizing and supervising a workforce of hundreds of students.
By the early 20th century, the Iowa Agricultural College and Model Farm had become the Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts and had grown to become a highly respected agricultural and engineering school. Students in agriculture still gained practical experience working with livestock, understanding how to maximize crop yields, and learning the business principles of farming. However, faculty still felt that the experience of the agriculture students could still be improved.
In 1938, Dr. William Murray, professor of economics, identified that his students had no real experience in actually managing a farm. He set out to change this. Murray convinced the college administration to purchase a farm and to provide a budget for the first year of farm operations. He argued that the cost of operation should not be high—if the students apply what they learned in class then the farm should be profitable.
The college administration agreed to the proposal and purchased a 187-acre farm just south of campus in the fall of 1942. The first formal Agriculture 450 class was offered in January 1943 with Murray as instructor. In March, the farm was turned over to the management of the students with the only limitation being that each expenditure and sale be approved in advance by the instructor. The farm has been in the care of students ever since.
Students in the AgEds 450 course (as it is now called) are responsible for every major decision that happens on the farm. As of 2018, the students farm around 1400 acres of land, some of which is rented or custom farmed. They are responsible for determining which crops to plant, caring for the livestock, purchasing equipment, and marketing the animals and grain that they raise. According to the Ag 450 Farm website this farm remains “…the ONLY completely student managed farm at a land grant university in the United States.”
If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into the history of the Ag 450 Farm, feel free to visit Special Collections and University Archives. The Ag 450 Farm records contain account books, photographs, scrapbooks, clippings, and more documenting the history of the Ag 450 course and the farm itself. Stop in and take a look!
Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) “collects, preserves, and shares documentation of the experiences, achievements, and memories of people and organizations reflecting the university’s major research areas, with a special commitment to documenting the history of the university” (SCUA’s mission statement). The bulk of our collections are from within the state of Iowa. However, sometimes we’re treated to collections that document other parts of the world. The J . Stuart Russell Papers (MS 12) is one of those collections.
J. Stuart Russell was a Grinnell College graduate (1913) and Iowa farmer until he joined the U.S. Army in 1918. While serving, he operated a weekly newspaper in Sac City from 1920-1925. In 1925, he became Farm Editor of the Des Moines Register and Tribune and held this position until his death in 1960. From 1925-1960, Russell was affiliated with numerous farm oriented organizations. He also traveled abroad several times to report on food and agricultural conditions in other country.
Drop by to learn more about this collection or any of our collections. We’re open Monday – Friday from 9-5.
Today is National Ag Day 2017. National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), you can check them out on their Facebook page. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community. The ACA was founded in 1973, and their mission is:
To educate all American’s about the importance of American Agriculture.
My fellow former 4-Hers and FFAers who showed cattle may appreciate this one. Over the years, the preferred traits of show cattle have changed quite a bit, as this photo illustrates. This photo shows examples of preferences in show steers (castrated male cattle) from 1878, 1900, and 1930. Of course, these preferences have changed since then. I remember looking at my father’s photos from his cattle showing days in the 1960s and noticing how short and stocky the steers were compared to those that I showed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
If you look closely and read the signs in the background, you’ll notice that in 1878, the winning type was 5 years old (far older than today’s steers) and weighed 2600 lbs. In 1900, the winning type was 3 years old and weighed what I think is 2100 lbs (it’s difficult to read). 1930 was much closer to today’s standards with 1 year, 7 months old and 1170 lbs.
For additional photos of show animals and much, much more, stop in sometime!