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Gretta Irwin, of the Iowa Turkey Federation, and Mike Persia, poultry nutritionist, share an Iowa State Fair favorite. Marketing turkey at the fair is one way they work together to support the federation.

This year Iowa turkey farmers are on track to raise a record 10.5 million birds. Overall, Iowa is ninth in turkey production and fifth in pocessing nationwide.

Iowa State University has been a partner with the industry from the beginning, according to Gretta Irwin, Iowa Turkey Federation executive director and home economist.

In 1941, W.R. Whitfield, an Iowa State poultry extension faculty member, wrote an article titled “WHY ORGANIZE? Growers Benefit by Goup Action” in a publication of the Iowa Turkey Growers’ Association, the precursor of the Iowa Turkey Federation which was founded in 1948.

Several Iowa State faculty members currently do turkey research and actively interact with the federation and its members.

Darrell Trampel, Iowa State University Extension poultry veterinarian, provides educational presentations, diagnostic ser-vices, influenza suveillance and applied research for turkey farmers throughout the Midwest.

Mike Persia, assistant professor in animal science, works with the feed industry and farmers on nutrition related questions. Persia is the ofcial Iowa State University liaison to the Iowa Turkey Federation.  Persia joined the faculty two years ago specializing in poultry nutrition. He says the close relationship between Iowa State, the federation and its members helped seal his decision to accept the position.

Since starting his work, Persia has been impressed by the talent and dedication displayed by turkey farmers.

“Having people here to talk to and ask how they are doing things keeps my research program up-to-date. The industry is moving very quickly, responding to input costs and adapting new technology to deal with day-to-day demands,” he says.

Irwin says Persia’s nutrition work is helping farmers. “Feed is the number one cost in raising turkeys, so managing feed costs is essential for profitability. Feed also plays a major role in keeping the turkeys healthy. You have to have safe and nutritious feed to raise healthy turkeys.”

The relationship built during Iowa State’s long-time involvement goes beyond research and extension.

“We bring a lot of students to turkey farms, exposing them to how farmers care for their turkeys,” Persia says. “I  think we’ve worked very effectively together to promote an understanding of poultry production in our students.”

Irwin agrees attracting future members of the turkey industry is a benefit of collaborating. In this way the long-lived partnership between Iowa State University and the Iowa Turkey Federation is sustaining its future.


Click here for a few of Irwin’s favorite turkey recipes Southwest turkey salad and grilled turkey tenderloin.


Matt Darr, agricultural and biosystems engineer, (right) talks with Kyle Althoff (left) and Feng Han from DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol

Iowa State scientists have teamed with a company planning to build a biomass ethanol plant to research how to keep the material in the best condition before
it is processed.

“The research we’re conducting is focused on understanding how the quality of biomass is influenced by harvesting and storage systems.  Enhancing the quality of feedstock improves the conversion economics and final product quality,” says Matt Darr, assistant professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering.

DuPont Danisco Cellulosic Ethanol (DDCE) is evaluating the construction of an ethanol plant in Story County or Webster County.  The plant will use biomass, such as corn stover, instead of corn grain to ferment into ethanol.

Storing biomass is a common practice, but research is lacking on how well it is preserved during storage. Darr’s research, which is sponsored by DDCE, is evaluating mjust that.

Biomass quality is impacted both by the cleanliness of feedstock when harvested and by biological processes that take place during storage.

“You can’t produce ethanol from soil,” Darr says. “Any soil collected during corn stover harvest adds to the overall cost of the delivered product and it increases the byproduct handling requirements of the biorefinery.  Plus, in some conversion processes the added soil will actually decrease the conversion efficiency which is a significant economic factor.”

Deterioration during storage can also induce negative economic and biomass quality factors.

“It’s like leaving a loaf of bread on the counter for nine months,” Darr says.  “If the biomass molds or deteriorates not only are you losing money because you’re losing feedstock or material, but the physical properties and chemical properties change during storage.”

DDCE discovered Iowa State’s capabilities in this area through its participation in the Biobased Industry Center, according to Kyle Althoff, the company’s director of feedstock development.  The center was founded in 2008 to use the resources of interdisciplinary research and education programs to address critical business, infrastructure, supply chain and policy issues facing the growing biobased economy.

“The objective of DDCE’s work with Iowa State is to analyze the economic factors impacting the supply of corn stover to a future commercial cellulosic ethanol plant,” Althoff says.  Three hoop structures, open on the ends, have been built and are being used to store bales of stover in addition to several outdoor stacks of stover bales covered with plastic tarps.  The structures are located at the BioCentury Research Farm, which is devoted to researching the production, harvest, storage, transportation and processing of biomass materials.

Most of the material was harvested in central Iowa on privately owned farms that were contracted with DDCE.  After the storage research, the biomass material will be shipped to DDCE’s demonstrationscale plant where it will be evaluated for its ability to be converted to ethanol.


The Gooder family has been peddling plants in Creso, Iowa, since just days after Rachel and Mike exchanged wedding vows more than 30 years ago. Daughter Abby and son John are finding their own ways to carry on the family business.

For Mike and Rachel Gooder “value added” has been second nature for more than 30 years.

The owners of Plantpeddler in Cresco, Iowa, purchased the greenhouse just a month after Mike (’80 horticulture) graduated from Iowa State University and a few days after they exchanged wedding vows. It didn’t take them long to start adding value and addressing new markets in wholesale.  They added a new division to their local greenhouse, Plantpeddler Wholesale, providing weekly truck service to a regional market.

“We realized pretty early on that we’d have to keep diversifying our business and looking for new opportunities to add value to what we were producing,” says Rachel.

By 2000, Plantpeddler had gone global. Rachel (’79 horticulture) and Mike partnered with Dummen, a German company, to produce Hiemalis Begonias for the North American market.  Through that initial partnership, another division was added.  Plantpeddler Young Plants imports cuttings from around the world for value-added processing by rooting and starting them prior to shipping to other greenhouses and markets throughout the United States. The young-plant production and distribution happens year-round at the facilities, serving more than 2,500 customers worldwide.

The addition of the different divisions allowed the staff to grow to 12 full-time, 22 part-time and 12 seasonal employees, making it a significant employer in Howard County.

Within recent years, the Gooders found renewed energy and enthusiasm in the production of local foods in their greenhouse.

“A few years ago, we had a startling revelation,” says Mike. “Iowa, for all its wonderful corn and soybean production, is a net importer of food products. That’s not right.”

To the Gooders, it was clear Iowa needed more local food production. They researched varieties and learned a lot about greenhouse production.

“The idea is not only to produce local food for the area, but to balance the seasonality of the product lines and divisions we have here,” says Rachel.  “We have established relationships with our outlets.  We can both benefit through our providing them a food product in addition to the ornamental lines.”

Plantpeddler replaced 30,000 poinsettia plants with a trial of three acres of vegetables to determine the best varieties for greenhouse production. The operation began marketing under the name Stone Creek Farms.  “We decided to focus on lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers,” says Rachel.  The produce fills the greenhouse during slower months, keeping staff employed and facilities utilized, adding overall value to the operation.

“Mike and Rachel Gooder are marketers,” says Ray Hansen, director of ISU Extension’s Value Added Agriculture Program. “They know that just the desire to produce local food is not enough. There has to be a market for it and one at which they can make a profit.”

Hansen has worked with the Gooder family through the Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Working Group, which Mike  is active in.

Mike also assists with several horticulture committees at Iowa State, providing insight on the industry.  He has had an advisory role in the recent construction of the greenhouses on campus.  The Gooders also offer internships for Iowa State students at Plantpeddler.

In addition, Mike and Rachel are active in the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, working to bring local foods to communities.

Next generation of Gooders carry on startup spirit

Gooder’s son John is a sophomore at Iowa State majoring in horticulture.  He helped make the recent transition from poinsettias to produce. “It was a lot of trial and error,” John says.  “We learned a lot the first three years.”  John plans to work for PlantPeddler this summer and eventually join the family business.

Daughter Abby, a senior in agricultural business at Iowa State, has embraced value-added agriculture, too. Last year she led a team in the Ag Innovation and mValue Creation Competition sponsored mby the college’s Agricultural Entrepreneurship mInitiative. Abby’s product uses corncobs for horticultural purposes.  Her team placed first in the competition.

“I was pleased to win the contest,” says Gooder, “but the really exciting part was the encouragement from the panelists afterward.  They told me that if our calculations and market estimates were accurate, then I should be really excited about pursuing the opportunity.”

A summer internship at Creative Composites in Ankeny solidified Abby’s desire to turn her concept into a reality. The biocomposite industry is assisting Abby in research and development of the product, and the Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative is helping Abby develop a formal business plan.

Given the value already added to their operation, it’s no wonder the Gooders hope for a bright future in local foods. “We like the idea of supporting the local foods movement and getting young people involved in gardening and their health,” says Rachel. “Naturally, we’d like to help our own children to grow and transition into the business, as well.”


By Willy Klein

John Sawyer, extension soil fertility specialist, talks with ADT members about gathering soil samples.

The “Dirt Warriors” landed on Afghan soils in July ready to help rebuild the agricultural infrastructure and increase capacity of agricultural systems in the Kunar province.

The 60 members of the Iowa National Guard 734th Agri-Business Development Team (ADT) coined their own nickname. The Iowa Army and Air National Guard members are also livestock and crop producers, veterinarians, agronomists, engineers, foresters, marketers and agribusiness professionals.

Their first order of business was to become familiar with Kunar province land, farmers, agricultural professionals and government officials. ADT senior officers focused on building relationships and learning how the Afghans see their agricultural needs. Such conversations and assessments gave the team solid footing for developing practical, sustainable initiatives to implement relatively quickly.

And training from Iowa State University is helping them put their plans into action.

Col. Craig Bargfrede, commander of the 734th, worked closely with Iowa State to design a training program for ADT in June. ISU faculty and extension specialists covered crops and soils, animal husbandry, small-scale poultry production and vegetable production.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Eric Pugh meets with young Afghans near an orchard demonstration project in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

“ISU Extension and the colleges of Veterinary Medicine and Agriculture and Life Sciences gave ADT members a common, basic knowledge they are using in Kunar,” says Gerald Miller, interim vice president for ISU Extension and Outreach. “The ADT learned about subject matter, but as importantly they observed professional educators teaching in a variety of learning environments.”

First Lieutenant Scott Rottinghaus meets with agricultural officials of Kunar province at the Governor’s Compound in Asadabad, Afghanistan.

Scott Rottinghaus, first lieutenant, and Eric Pugh, staff sergeant, are two ADT members anxious to put their Iowa State University education to work for the benefit of Kunar farmers.

“I always knew that I wanted to work with and around growing things,” says Pugh (’91 forestry resource management). “I have great enthusiasm for conservation and managing landscapes so people can make a living and thrive. I can put that enthusiasm to good use here.”

Rottinghaus (’03 ag business) enjoys farming and the military. “This deployment gives me the chance to combine these; something I never expected to happen. This is an opportunity to work directly with the Afghanistan people and government to improve the lives of the people,” he says.

The Dirt Warriors are fulfilling their purpose through ADT initiatives like improving an orchard irrigation demonstration farm and a row crop demonstration farm. They plan to help Afghan veterinary professionals promote the value of improving animal nutrition. They also will work to improve the quality and volume of agricultural radio programming and facilitate the development of a small provincial poultry industry.

Iowa State faculty and researchers continue to assist the Dirt Warriors by providing “reach back” – supporting them electronically as questions arise while they’re in Afghanistan.

Miller says the trainings and reach back give faculty and staff a chance to go beyond their normal role to serve the state and nation. “They feel honored to have the opportunity to be involved,” he says.

With ISU Extension as stateside support, the ADT is replicating extension outreach by providing education and advice. They hope to improve farming methods in an effort to reduce rural poverty and raise farm incomes. As Pugh says, “What better place to make a difference!”


Follow the Dirt Warriors on Facebook.


By Ed Adcock

Mark Westgate (left), Henry Kizito and Dorothy Masinde look over common bean plants, a popular crop in Uganda. They work together through the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods to foster rural development.

It doesn’t take long during a visit with a Ugandan family for Dorothy Masinde to tell if the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods (CSRL) is having an impact.

“We are very generous in Africa,” she explains. “When you come to my house, the first thing I do is offer you food. So if I go to a home and nothing is offered to me, I know there’s trouble here. If I come back and we’re offered food, we’ve made a difference—that to me is the joy of my job.”

Masinde is the center’s associate director for field operations, working full-time in Uganda. She started six years ago when the Iowa State University center was beginning its development programs.

According to Mark Westgate, agronomy professor and director of CSRL, they began with listening to what rural Ugandans need and want.

“We start by working with the local communities,” he says, “working with individual farmers and trying to find out what their needs are and help them work on those needs—in terms of production, getting them into markets, health, nutrition, keeping their kids in school; the kind of thing that will sustain them in the long run.”

When CSRL was preparing to begin its development work, Masinde says it sought partners with a similar vision and mission. They selected VEDCO, which stands for Volunteer Efforts for Development Concerns. It is a nongovernmental organization established in 1986 to deal with social and economic turmoil after Uganda’s civil war.

About 20 staff members are involved in the Iowa State projects in Uganda’s Kamuli district, according to VEDCO executive director Henry Kizito-Musoke. The organization provides extension services, links to regional and national authorities and a connection to the agricultural college at Makerere University.

One project supports small landholder farmers, who till between two and five acres. The assistance includes help with crop production, grain storage and marketing.

“The food we eat here comes from these small farmers who, more often than not, are poor,” Kizito-Musoke says. “So the kind of input that Iowa State and VEDCO are putting together plus Makerere will help these people sustainably till their land, feed their families, feed their communities and then look at regional and national markets for their produce.”

The center’s service learning project brings together Iowa State and Makerere faculty and students to teach students at rural primary schools how to garden. (Read about one student’s experience on page 13.)

CSRL is funded by private gifts through the ISU Foundation; the Henry A. Wallace Endowed Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Experiment Station; and government and private grants.

Westgate says another reason the center has been successful is because it has these dedicated people working in the country.

“They know the issues—they are the program in country,” he says. “If we didn’t have them, CSRL wouldn’t be nearly as successful. The ones leading the program are committed to improving the lives of the small landholder farmers and young students.”


IPIC Director John Mabry (left) and IPPA producer education director Tyler Bettin

By Sherry Hoyer

Educational opportunities for Iowa pork producers don’t stop at the classroom door thanks to ongoing collaborative efforts between the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and Iowa State University.

“There’s so much information available that sometimes people don’t know where to turn,” says Tyler Bettin, IPPA director of producer education. “That’s why we appreciate our partnership with the Iowa Pork Industry Center (IPIC) at Iowa State. From science-based research to connections with experts around the world, they make sure we’re giving our members the best and most up-to-date knowledge we can.”

IPIC director John Mabry (MS ’74 animal breeding and genetics, PhD ’77) says the effort is a two-way street, and both appreciate what the other brings to the table.

“IPPA works with us at IPIC and ISU Extension on nearly everything we do,” he says. “We cosponsor a variety of workshops, seminars and programs throughout the year and bounce ideas off each other for new and improved opportunities. IPPA also offers assistance in communicating with and contacting our clients for these and other events.”

One such annual event is the Iowa Pork Regional Conferences. Since the first jointly sponsored series in 2001, IPPA and IPIC personnel have worked together to determine themes, identify expert speakers, choose strategic meeting locations and evaluate attendee opinions with an eye toward improving future programs. The high percentage of repeat participants is a true indication of the success of this venture.

In addition, the partners co-host producer certification and training sessions, youth programming and scholarship opportunities and risk and financial management workshops. They also work together to develop, staff and present educational seminars at the Iowa Pork Congress and provide support for youth interested in swine production through competitive events at Congress and the Iowa State Fair.

Bettin says the Iowa State connection is vital to IPPA’s mission to promote and educate for a sustainable, socially responsible, profitable and globally competitive pork industry.

“We strive to continue offering educational sessions that provide value to Iowa’s pork producers, and Iowa State is a big part of helping us do just that,” he says.

Mabry says the industry connection is invaluable to the center.

“IPPA provides financial resources that complement our center and institutional resources, making it possible for us to do more together than either of us could do separately. And of course, the ISU Extension swine field specialists help make it all work by combining their contacts and experience in Iowa” he says. “This partnership truly is an example of the sum being greater than its parts. Neither of us could do all that we do without the commitment and support of the other.”


Extension specialist Leo Timms (right), Jessica Bloomberg, Iowa State Dairy Association; Jed Becker (left) Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation; and Wayne Dyskhorn, Iowa State Dairy Association and the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance

By Willy Klein

Several times every day more than 200,000 dairy cows step into stalls on Iowa’s 1,900 dairy farms to be milked. This seven-days-a-week chore supports 26,000 jobs and contributes $1.5 billion annually to Iowa’s economy. Daily demands on dairy producers and processors leave little time for one-on-one visits with legislators or consumers, even though they realize the importance of good communications with these groups.

To speak for them, producers depend on the Iowa State Dairy Association (ISDA), with connections to Iowa State University Extension and regional dairy associations.

The producer-driven association got its start when chartered by the Iowa legislature in 1876 to address breeding, feeding, disease and products. A 2001 organization restructure created the executive secretary position to serve as the organization’s voice; today, Jessica Bloomberg is that voice.

“I work closely with the board of directors who represent the membership. Together we review policies and issues that affect the dairy industry,” says Bloomberg. “I am building networks through the ex-officio board members with Iowa State University researchers and faculty and within the dairy industry.”

Bloomberg says her Iowa State contacts provide reliable science-based information that she shares with decision-makers in support of the producers’ stand on policy issues. She also finds the network of university educational research and resources to be great references for producers and consumers.

Wayne Dykshorn, ISDA board president from Sioux Center, depends on Bloomberg for legislative session updates. “There are many legislative issues that impact our industry – food safety, immigrant workers and animal welfare. As a board we rely on Iowa State to keep the association updated on current research so we make informed decisions on issues before the legislature. Then we depend on Jessica to represent the board in communications with legislators.”

ISDA holds coalition meetings to review local concerns, proposed policies, national and state issues and to identify hot topics to focus organizational efforts. Leo Timms, ISU Extension dairy specialist and professor of animal science, represents Iowa State on the coalition; Kurt Wierda (’94 agricultural studies) and Jed Becker (’76 farm operations), dairy producers, represent the Western Iowa Dairy Alliance and Northeast Iowa Dairy Foundation, respectively. They say that regional association and Iowa State representation on the coalition is important to sustaining the ISDA mission.

“ISDA is a clearing house of information,” says Timms. “It’s like a big dairy circle; at the hub are all the important issues. ISDA is the conduit of information to and from processors and producers, legislators, ISU, consumers and environmental groups.”

Becker appreciates ISDA bringing ISU research to Capitol Hill.

“Most legislators have little dairy or farm background, yet they must make policy decisions that affect the dairy industry, Becker says. “It is important to have a collective voice express the producer view, and just as important that decision makers have access to ISU research that gives credence to that perspective. ISDA provides both.”



10 Dec 2014


This fall you don’t need to look far to see difference makers among our students, faculty and staff for our community, state and planet. Students in the Sustainable Agriculture Student Organization have been growing and cooking fresh garden produce for a program that provides free meals to hundreds of the …

FOREWORD – Fall 2014

10 Dec 2014


  I should probably get a new pair of boots. Mine are over 30 years old.  They belonged to my sister who died when I was four.  She was fourteen when she last wore them. I grew to have the exact same sized feet.  The brown suede is worn and …