By Brian Meyer Messages received in the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods often can be read like testimonials to the center’s work in Uganda over the past decade. “Thank you to the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods for being the engine of the transformation story that has blossomed on the …


By Ed Adcock Adam and Austin Fichter have a lot in common. The fourth generation agriculture and life sciences students from Shenandoah started off their freshman year excelling as scholars and leaders. You could say they were cast from the same mold, especially when you see them. The identical twins …


By Melea Reicks Licht Enrique Villalobos stretches out his arm and points.  He lifts his sunglasses and his eyes meet those of a little girl, barefoot and standing in the doorway of a small, simple home. Located on the outskirts of a large pineapple plantation near San Carlos, Costa Rica, …


By Lynn Laws Tiara Sandoval walks to a village meeting on a cool Saturday morning. Her host family’s village in Nepal’s Middle Hills Region, in the district of Syangia, is located along the side and top of a hill. Far to her left she can see tropical forest and to …

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By Ed Adcock


Nicole Schubert gained valuable hands-on experience during her internship at the New England Wildlife Center in Massachusetts. A scholarship from CALS Career Services helped offset her living expenses during the unpaid internship.

Kelley Glanz, a senior majoring in public service administration in agriculture, traveled to Scotland last summer to intern for Nourish Scotland, which seeks to make locally grown food more accessible.

Nicole Schubert, an animal ecology senior, spent the summer interning at the New England Wildlife Center in Massachusetts assisting with the medical treatment and rehabilitation of wildlife.

Elise Kendall, a junior in global resource systems, interned in Nepal, researching the impact of Machhapuchhre Development Organization’s organic farming education program.

Internships like these offer valuable experiences to students, but don’t always provide pay.

Very few of agricultural internships are unpaid, says Mike Gaul, director of career services for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“The good thing in agriculture is that typically 95 percent of internships are paid,” he says. “Internships in agriculture are just too competitive.”

He says the trend, especially in social sciences, is to offer unpaid internships. Also those that have international components, along with zoos, wildlife related facilities and veterinary clinics tend to be unpaid.

So he decided to offer 10 scholarships of $500 each. About 40 students applied.

Given the increased debt load associated with today’s college experience, these scholarships are designed to help cover some of the financial burden of potentially expensive internships, Gaul says.

“$500 may seem nominal, but it could cover airfare or a couple months rent,” he says.

Schubert said her internship at the wildlife center provided a variety of activities including many personal “firsts” like helping put on a cast, taking an X-ray by herself and putting an animal under anesthesia.

“This internship provided me with great hands-on experience and knowledge about the veterinary world I am excited to continue to build on in the future,” Schubert says.

Working for Nourish Scotland exposed Glanz to new concepts about that country’s agriculture and how its policies affected the industry. But it also helped her understanding of American agriculture.

“Overall, I enjoyed my experience at Nourish Scotland and came away with new perspectives to agricultural production and knowledge about our food system,” she says.

Kendall got to contact farmers in villages of Nepal’s mountainous regions during her internship. She researched the effectiveness of Machhapuchhre Development Organization’s programs to update organic farming methods.

It was an ideal introduction to what she hopes to be a career in international development.

“This will also help strengthen my application for the Peace Corps, which I hope to join after I graduate,” Kendall says.

The internship experiences available to students become more diverse and exciting every year, Gaul says.

“This is such a unique time in a student’s life and to have these experiences possibly diminished by lack of funding would truly be sad. The majority of these students are the ones we want representing Iowa State and serve to strengthen the college’s reputation throughout the world.”


December 10, 2014 Online Extras No Comments

Page 2 - Meet the members of the Sustainable Agriculture Student Association see how they are meeting their mission of feeding people nutritious food in a sustainable way.

Page 6-8 – Learn more about the ISU Hunger Fight with Meals from the Heartland and Bacon Expo 2014 

Page 16 – 19 - Read more about Iowa women farmers and CALS alums who traveled to Uganda as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development Farmer-to-Farmer project.

Page 22 – 23 - Hear more from globetrotting students — on seven continents – about their experiences abroad.

Page 24 – 25 –  Hear from international students in the International Association of students in Agricultural and related Sciences about their impressions of U.S. agriculture.

Page 34 - Alum Brad Peyton offers his thoughts about what motivated him to create the Shining City Foundation.

Page 35 - Listen to audio of Bayer Crop- Science President and CEO, Jim Blome’s entire Carl and Marjory Hertz Lecture.

Page 39 - Take a trip to the Walker farm and hear from the family about their experience with Annie’s Project.


Dean Wendy Wintersteen 2014_CraigCarroll-2This 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 needy in the Ames area.

The Block and Bridle Club organized nearly 400 volunteers who packaged more than 60,000 meals for Meals from the Heartland for delivery to hungry people in Iowa and around the world.

Two dozen plant pathology and microbiology students are screening soil samples for potentially new antibiotic or antimicrobial agents, part of the Small World Initiative, a worldwide crowd-sourcing effort by university science students. Maybe one will make a discovery that counters antibiotic resistance and benefits millions, while each finds real-life meaning from their class and lab studies.

The health of an ecosystem depends on strong, interactive relationships. That’s why every fall I’m proud how ISU steps up to contribute to United Way, which works to meet the needs of preschool and grade school children, seniors, the disabled and others in our community. Faculty, staff and students do so not just financially, but also by working on Day of Caring community service projects. United Way is one way ISU shows how we care about the current and future health of our “ecosystem” — the people of our community.

Sometimes you can learn a lot about how much our students care by reading the quotes they put in their email signatures. Here’s one I received recently in a note from a global resource systems student studying environmental science, who was preparing to travel to Vietnam to present on her research (how native plants can soak up contaminants from wastewater) at an international conference:

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”

That mindset is what makes me hopeful for the future, and I hope it does for you, too.

Wendy Wintersteen

Endowed Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences


Meet the members of the Sustainable Agriculture Student Association see how they are meeting their mission of feeding people nutritious food in a sustainable way.


By Ed Adcock


In their packed schedule of club meetings, house functions, class and homework and church activities Adam (left) and Austin Fichter make time for playing on the Iowa State club baseball team.

Adam and Austin Fichter have a lot in common. The fourth generation agriculture and life sciences students from Shenandoah started off their freshman year excelling as scholars and leaders. You could say they were cast from the same mold, especially when you see them.

The identical twins have made the dean’s list every semester both majoring in agricultural business, international agriculture and economics, with minors in entrepreneurial studies and general business.

They both are:

  • seniors graduating in May
  • members of the Iowa State baseball team (Adam plays shortstop and Austin is an outfielder)
  • involved in the Salt Company student ministry, leading Bible studies in the Greek community
  • FarmHouse officers, with Adam serving as president last year and Austin this year.

Asked about their differences, they have to think:  Adam is right-handed, although he bats left, and Austin is a southpaw.

Going to college with a sibling has been a plus, they say.

“We take a lot of classes together, which I think is helpful having two people listening and picking up what the professor’s talking about and having somebody to study with,” Adam says.

The brothers grew up on a corn and soybean farm, but want to explore other career options besides production agriculture. Eventually, farming might be in their futures, but they’ve enjoyed summer internships with a grain cooperative and Monsanto.

“They could write their own ticket to the future and do anything they want,” says Ebby Luvaga, a senior lecturer in economics who serves as their adviser.

She also hired them as sophomores to be peer mentors for the agricultural business learning communities and as tutors for agricultural business students in microeconomics classes. Luvaga looks for role models with leadership skills.

“They’re very organized and responsible. There’s something about them. They just stood out,” she says.

Luvaga also likes their sense of humor. She says, “After Adam introduced himself to the peer mentor class, Austin would say:  ‘In case you didn’t know, we’re twins.’ ” They also took to wearing T-shirts saying, “I’m not Adam,” and “I’m not Austin.”

The brothers joined Luvaga’s group of students on a study abroad course to Argentina in their freshman year. Another travel course took them to Spain the following year. Those were the first trips outside the country for the Fichters.

Adam also went to Tanzania with the Agriculture Entrepreneurship Initiative Program on a business development project with West Central Coop and Austin went to Australia with an economics and agronomy study abroad trip.

They are proud to say that, between the two of them, they have touched every continent except Antarctica.

Last summer, mission work took Austin to China and Adam to India, allowing Austin to turn 22 before his older brother (by five minutes) because of the time difference.

“I was 22 for a few hours before Adam was; the first time I’ve been technically older,” he says.

Leadership has been a part of their student experience since day one. Being members of the President’s Leadership Class helped them develop leadership skills at Iowa State. The class is open to 30 first-year students on the basis of co-curricular involvement, community and school services and academic achievement in high school. They met weekly at The Knoll to talk with university administrators, faculty and staff, and state and local leaders about leadership opportunities on campus.

They started the class when Gregory Geoffroy was serving his last semester as president and then had the chance to get to know President Leath during the transition.

“The other students who were in that class, you see now as heads of different organizations around campus. We have those relationships that were established freshman year,” Adam says.

Leadership within FarmHouse Fraternity occupies a lot of their time. Their grandfather and father were members – Albert Jr. “Corby” Fichter (‘52 animal science) and Albert III “Corby” Fichter (’80 agricultural business) – a legacy they wanted to continue. An uncle and cousin also were members.

As presidents of the fraternity, Austin enjoys the chapter operations part of being an officer, while Adam likes the alumni relations aspect. Both agree it’s played a huge role in their development as leaders, giving them the confidence and ability to tackle opportunities that have enriched their Iowa State experience. They say they have learned much from older members and are now giving back to the younger members.

FarmHouse has 99 active members and more than 1,000 alumni. The chapter, founded in 1927, is one of 29 nationwide and Canada. The Iowa State chapter consistently ranks among the top fraternities for academics, service and campus involvement and was presented the latest award for the top FarmHouse chapter.


By Melea Reicks Licht


This year’s trip included a dinner with Iowa State University alumni working and living near San Jose. Allie Ferguson, junior in agronomy, says meeting the alumni was like becoming “instant friends.”

Enrique Villalobos stretches out his arm and points.  He lifts his sunglasses and his eyes meet those of a little girl, barefoot and standing in the doorway of a small, simple home. Located on the outskirts of a large pineapple plantation near San Carlos, Costa Rica, she sees hundreds of visitors touring the Finca Corsicana pineapple fields. He waves. “Hello little one,” he says. “Her life is much different from yours,” he tells an Iowa State student sitting near him on the tractor-driven trolley.

For Villalobos, guiding Iowa State students through Costa Rica is about more than teaching environmental science and soils.  It’s about inspiring love and respect for his home country.

Villalobos (’83 PhD agronomy), a retired agronomy professor from the University of Costa Rica, is the alumni host for an Iowa State study abroad course – Soils, Crops and Water of Costa Rica. Developed in 2006 in partnership with Randy Killorn, emeritus professor of agronomy, the course is led by Lee Burras (’81 agronomy, MS ’84), professor of agronomy.

A guide, interpreter and teacher, “Don Enrique” is the patriarch for a new batch of approximately 25 Iowa State students who visit each spring break.  He and Burras plan the course together, carefully crafting each day to maximize learning, cultural understanding and fun for the students. Burras leads a predeparture course preparing the students for what they will see and experience on the trip.

“It is a pleasure to travel with the Iowa State group. My time at Iowa State was so influential that I enjoy this opportunity to give back and spend time with dear friends from Iowa,” Villalobos says. “I also get to keep learning new things about my home country and share what I know and love about it.”

Villalobos calls upon his former students to host the visiting Iowa Staters.

“Our students love this course because of Dr. Villalobos.  He is Costa Rica’s best ambassador and professor,” says Burras. “Thanks to his recommendations, students may spend their evenings swimming in the Pacific Ocean at the hotel’s beach while we make day trips to see oil palm plantations, rice farms, sugar cane fields and processing plants.”

Ten percent of Costa Rica’s land is devoted to agriculture. Plantation agriculture and sustainable or subsistence farming is practiced in various regions.

“We learn why organic farming is so common in Costa Rica – namely that it is profitable here and considered more environmentally friendly from a cultural perspective,” Burras says.

Circling the central region of the country, students get their hands on a number of agricultural products as well as the volcanic soil it grows in. Coffee is the country’s oldest and largest export. Students also see dairy cows, forage crops, potatoes, flowers and greenhouses in the volcanic ash region. In the lower elevations they see pineapples, citrus, cassava, plantains, bananas and more.

At each stop, students hear directly from experts such as agronomists, organic crop specialists, farmers and agribusiness owners.  They learn about production challenges and management techniques in this fertile, tropical region.

“The faculty on this trip truly made the experience,” says Bailey Morrell, senior in agricultural studies. “Dr. Villalobos is very knowledgeable. Whatever questions we did not ask or did not have time to ask while on our tours, we asked him on the bus rides between stops.”

The course is not limited to agronomy or environmental science majors. “Having students with various backgrounds and interests on the trip was almost as much of an experience as it was being in a different country,” says Morrell.  “Interdisciplinary approaches with regards to agriculture will be paramount to addressing future issues.”

This year the itinerary included a stop at Carlos Rodríguez’s (MS ’08 plant pathology) home to visit his third-generation dairy farm. Rodriquez raises corn, sorghum and soybeans as forage crop – a rarity in Costa Rica – and runs an agronomic consulting and equipment business. The variety of soy he grows is from lines developed by Villalobos. Rodriguez’s cattle also feed on melon and waste from produce processing plants.

Standing on the porch of his family home, built by his grandfather, Rodriquez answered students’ questions.

“How many cows do you have?”

“We milk 180 and have 390 total head – a crossbreed of Gyrolando and Holstein, which is good for this area. We get 1,500 gallons of milk every two days.”

“What’s your largest pest problem?”

“Vampire bats.”

“Vampire bats?”

Rodríguez nods.

Crops are always in season and continually evolving. He says with no winterkill to offer reprieve, crop pests and disease are particularly aggressive in Costa Rica – problems compounded by increasing herbicide resistance.

Villalobos and Burras find learning opportunities at every turn, from pointing out shrubberies on the University of Costa Rica campus, “Look – a legume! Who can tell me how this plant fixes nitrogen?” to giving students a chance to use their Spanish way-finding through San Jose and talking with site hosts.

At age 66, Villalobos matches the students step for step. A student of Dick Shibles, he came to Iowa State to earn his doctorate with the encouragement of his supervisor at the University of Costa Rica.

“Scores of Costa Rican scientists trained at Iowa State University thanks to an anonymous benefactor that supported the partnership beginning in the 1970s,” says Villalobos.

He served as a professor and director of the University of Costa Rica Center for Research in Grains and Seeds (CIGRAS). Among his contributions are the development of soybeans better suited to tropical conditions and more than 20 research publications on tropical crop physiology, genetics and production.

In 2001, Villalobos published an essential and popular Spanish language textbook, “Physiology of Tropical Crop Production.”

Burras says the ultimate legacy of Villalobos’ 32 years at the University of Costa Rica is the impact of his popular, technically rigorous instruction on hundreds of agronomists working throughout Central America.

This year’s trip included a dinner with Iowa State University alumni working and living near San Jose – many at the University of Costa Rica.

“Meeting our alumni was a highlight of the trip for me. It was touching to see how much they loved Iowa State, and I learned so much hearing about their life and careers in Costa Rica,” says Allie Ferguson, junior in agronomy. “It was like we were instant friends.”

Cristobal Montoya Marin (PhD ’82 ag economics) was among the 14 alumni and guests that attended the dinner. He echoed the students’ sentiments, grateful for an evening to celebrate their Iowa State connection.

Adriana Murillo Williams (PhD ’07 crop production and physiology) hosted the event connecting fellow alumni, many former students of Killorn’s as well as Villalobos’. As a professor and director CIGRAS, she holds the same post Villalobos held at the peak of his career (read more about Williams on page 34.)

Burras and Villalobos will welcome their tenth group in March 2015.  Another long-standing course, let by Mark Gleason in plant pathology and microbiology, also travels annually to Costa Rica. Groups from the University of Costa Rica travel to Iowa State University annually as well.

“It is not an overstatement to say Iowa State University made the greatest contribution to the University of Costa Rica’s academic development,” says Villalobos. “Many professors here were trained at Iowa State.”



By Lynn Laws

Books for the Library-2 copy

When Sandoval saw the school had no library, she contacted the Asia Foundation’s book donation program in Nepal and asked them for a donation. The school now has a library with 188 English and Nepali children’s books and textbooks.

Tiara Sandoval walks to a village meeting on a cool Saturday morning. Her host family’s village in Nepal’s Middle Hills Region, in the district of Syangia, is located along the side and top of a hill. Far to her left she can see tropical forest and to her right on the other side of the small village, yellow-green terraces of millet lead down to a river. The millet, which was planted between stalks of maize soon after the summer’s harvest, is thriving in this monsoon season. This morning the sky is clear and Sandoval can see the Annapurna Mountains and, on a hilltop a few hours away by bus, the World Peace Pagoda in the city of Pokhara.

Sandoval, 24, completed her bachelor’s in animal science and international agriculture at Iowa State in 2012. Later the same year, she and 19 other Peace Corps volunteers arrived in Nepal to receive training and be assigned to a local community at risk of food insecurity. The volunteers teach community members about agriculture, nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and how food preservation can be used to generate income.

“Over 70 percent of the population in Nepal is involved in agriculture, but the food produced is often not enough to fulfill nutritional needs of adults and especially children,” says Sandoval. “Farmers often have limited access to improved seeds, new technologies and market opportunities.”

In her village community, Sandoval has provided trainings on mushroom cultivation; off-season vegetable production, using nurseries and plastic tunnels; and post-harvest practices with use of solar dryers, including how to construct the dryers with natural materials at hand. She encourages families to create small kitchen gardens to produce their own foods for home consumption and to sell the excess for additional income.

Sandoval also convenes a weekly youth group at the local primary school, where she has provided health and hygiene training, created a world map mural on one classroom wall and is now teaching English to 12 youth, ages 9 to 16. Resourceful and attuned to the needs of others, when Sandoval saw the school had no library, she contacted the Asia Foundation’s book donation program in Nepal and asked them for a donation. The school now has a library with 188 English and Nepali children’s books and textbooks.

“I was moved by a documentary I saw at a Peace Corps meeting, called ‘Girl Rising,’ about how educating girls can break cycles of poverty in just one generation,” Sandoval says. It inspired her to take on her largest project to-date – a weeklong GLOW (Girls Leading our World) camp for girls in three Nepal districts. Thirty-six girls participated in the sessions and games, covering the topics of empowerment, gender roles, women’s health, and career and life skills, such as budgeting. Sandoval says opportunities like this make a difference.

“Girls don’t have an easy life in Nepal. Some may never again leave their village. It’s rewarding to see them get excited about meeting other girls, see a new city and learn about life’s possibilities,” says Sandoval.

Sandoval’s own support system in Nepal consists of other Peace Corps volunteers, whom she can reach by phone, and her host family’s grandmother. “She is one of the most active people in the community, is the mothers’ group president and is so involved in agriculture that she is known as The Vegetable Mother,” says Sandoval.  “She introduced me to the community members, helped get community members involved in my projects and has taught me a lot.”

Sandoval says her Iowa State course work provided the agricultural knowledge base needed for her work in Nepal. Her study abroad experiences enhanced her knowledge and gave her the personal skills essential to successfully navigate new situations and cultures very different from hers. These included short programs of study in China (agricultural globalization) Brazil (agricultural engineering) and Ecuador (tropical crops and soils). She also spent a semester in Brazil studying at the Federal University of Viçosa.

“Having studied abroad, I know how to figure out how to communicate when I don’t know the language. I learned to be flexible and patient when something goes not as planned or is done differently. And after being exposed to a variety of cultures and situations, I was prepared for living for an extended period abroad,” says Sandoval.

“Iowa State produces mature, service-oriented graduates well-suited to Peace Corps service,” says Jessica Mayle, public affairs coordinator for the Peace Corps. “Tia and other Peace Corps volunteers in Nepal are making a difference in a variety of ways, big and small, both in the work they’re doing and the friendships they’re building in their host communities.”

Sandoval would like to get a master’s in international development with a focus in agriculture and continue working abroad. “I have gained a huge appreciation for working abroad and on projects at the grassroots level. I can see myself enjoying this type of work all over the world in the future,” says Sandoval.

This morning, Sandoval is listening in on a meeting of the farmers’ and mothers’ groups who have recently finished developing and installing a waterline system to bring water to every home in the village. Conversation revolves around budget, working with the district agricultural office and dividing up the work that remains.

“I would like to think I am helping my community,” she says. “I’ve had an amazing experience here in Nepal and can’t imagine being more fulfilled or feeling more at home in any other Peace Corps post.”

FOREWORD – Fall 2014


MeleaLichtMugNov14WebI 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 stained in a few places.

When I wear them I am so much more aware that every day is a gift and a chance to make a difference – in my own small way – on this earth.

There are a lot of difference makers in this issue.  Students, alumni and professors making progress in large and small ways on enormous problems plaguing society like Maura McGrail’s work to understand cancer cells, the lasting impact of student mentors like John Burnett and Jodi Sterle and the meaningful work of the Center for Sustainable Rural Livelihoods with Ugandans to improve education and nutrition.

Tia Sandoval’s service in the Peace Corps has undoubtedly changed the outlook for a generation of village children in Nepal. And, I got to see the difference our alumni in Costa Rica are making in person when I traveled there to accompany a study abroad trip hosted by Enrique Villalobos and an alumni event hosted by Adriana Murillo-Williams.  Their gracious welcome, sincere care for our students and love of Iowa State still warms my heart.

What a difference they are all making.  I’d love to hear from you as to how you and other alumni continue to make a difference in your communities and around the world.  Please share your updates with stories@iastate.edu or use #CALSdifference in social media posts.  I’ll share responses in our monthly STORIES Online e-mail newsletter or via the college’s Twitter and Facebook feeds.

I do own other boots, but none fit as perfectly as my sister’s.  I especially like to wear them on assignment for the magazine, or on a visit to the ISU farms. I think I’ll keep them a while longer.  Every step is important when you’re out to make a difference.

Kind regards,

Melea Reicks Licht




Paul Lasley, professor and chair of sociology and chair of anthropology; Missourian by birth, Iowan by choice

By Paul Lasley

Sometimes it is fun to reflect back on how things have changed and how other things have remained the same. Given my 33 years at ISU, and my long tenure with the annual Iowa Farm and Rural life Poll, I was asked to give voice to major themes of rural Iowa and how they’ve changed. As I dug through the reams of reports and data, enduring qualities of the state’s farm community surfaced from throughout the past three decades.

When the first Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll report was issued in 1982, it was evident Iowa producers were distrustful of government policies. In that first poll, nearly 9 out 10 farmers agreed “farmers are being left out of many important agricultural decisions” and 85 percent agreed “farmers cannot count on government assistance.”

Just ahead of what was eventually termed the “Farm Crisis” of the 1980s, farmers were anxious about the future.

In this survey 42 percent felt it was likely the quality of life for farmers would decline in the next five years, and 54 percent predicted overall economic prospects for farmers would worsen. While none of us were able to accurately predict the severity of the economic downturn that eventually unfolded, farmers sensed things were going to get worse.

Thus, the first lesson I learned from the Farm Poll was how accurate the collective wisdom of a scientific random sample could be.

That first survey added a second observation: “It is impossible to place farmers into a single category.” Whenever anyone talks about farmers, I question what subgroup of farmers they are referring to: row crop farmers, livestock producers, fiscally conservative or socially liberal, well-established or beginning, or another subgroup? Farmers are a very diverse group. Sometimes they share a common vision, but other times they are diametrically opposed.

A third observation from my years polling farmers is they are an independent group—independent thinkers, entrepreneurs and often quite vocal in expressing their opinions. Throughout the years many producers have shared their reactions to the polls, submitted their ideas for future surveys and, from time-to-time, soundly criticized the methodology or wording of questions. They leave little doubt about their level of passion about rural life, farming and community.

Throughout the history of the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll have been many examples of the resiliency of farm families. Through good times and bad there has always been a glimmer of hope things will improve. Perhaps it is this eternal flame of optimism that keeps farmers doing what they love.

One of the great ironies is often one only hears about tough times, low yields and weak prices, but when we’ve asked farmers “if they had enough money to live comfortably, would they continue farming?” nearly two-thirds said they would continue to farm. While it is not fashionable to claim one loves their job, it’s pretty clear farmers are passionate about their occupations and share their love of agriculture. Their passion is often tied closely to family tradition and legacies, land ownership and stewardship.

A final observation is based on both the first and the most recent poll results: Iowa farm families want to be included in setting the agenda for agriculture and their rural communities. They have been partners in this long-term project and continue to share their stories and opinions with Iowa State University through the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll, for which all of us are grateful.


STORIES Online extra: Read more about Paul Lasley’s Iowa connections and his reflection on the true meaning of the CALS brand.


By Ed Adcock

Cook Trophy.web

Shown outside the Iowa Crop Improvement Association Dean’s Conference room in Curtiss Hall with the Cook corn judging trophy of 1904, Jim Rouse (left) and Kendall Lamkey continue the partnership in crop research between the association and Iowa State dating back to 1950.

Iowa farmers long have been driven to improve crop production. They joined together in the early 1900s to form organizations that sought better varieties of corn,more advanced ways to clean and select seed and improved tillage techniques.

And they partnered with Iowa State University to conduct research and expand their knowledge. Statewide corn shows drew farmers to the university’s Armory as early as 1904 for corn judging, competition and information.

Those first grower groups shared many goals and eventually combined in 1950 as the Iowa Crop Improvement Association. Jim Rouse (’87 animal science, ’90 MS entomology, ’04 PhD plant breeding), executive director since 2007, says its long history with Iowa State includes many connections.

Three of the association’s board members are from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences—Endowed Dean Wendy Wintersteen (’88 PhD entomology), Manjit Misra, director of the Seed Science Center and Kendall Lamkey (’85 PhD agronomy), chair of the Department of Agronomy.

The nonprofit organization supports the student crop judging team, offers a summer internship program, awards several scholarships through Iowa State, funds research and sponsors the Iowa FFA Agronomy Career Development event. Scholarships are evaluated and adjusted depending on the agronomy department’s greatest need.

“The association supports the seed industry and agriculture, in general, but it supports the university very specifically,” Rouse says.

Lamkey says students in agronomy benefit directly from the association’s support. Its sponsorship of the crop judging team reinforces the association’s origins.

He also points to connections with agronomy’s external stakeholders.

“Iowa Crop helps keep us directly linked with the seed industry, through its role as the official seed-certifying agency for the state,” Lamkey says.

Seed certification is required for seed that’s shipped internationally. Rouse says a lot of seed beans grown in Iowa are exported to Canada and Europe, with seed corn going mainly to Canada and South America.

The organization’s statewide yield test results continue to be a sought-after service by farmers, and this year will mark its 95th anniversary. It helps fulfill the need for unbiased information on crop production.

“There might have been yield information available before it began in 1920, but that was when it was standardized and centralized. Before it was more of a local endeavor,” Rouse says.

Chuck Cornelius (’83 agronomy), president of Cornelius Seed in northeast Iowa, says companies like his rely on the testing program.

“The Iowa Crop Performance Test provides Iowa’s corn and soybean growers a much needed, independent third-party testing service and has one of the best reputations in the industry,” says Cornelius, a former ICIA board member.

“ICIA does a great job testing across the state so growers have local data for their area. The growers who use this data gain confidence to plant new hybrids that will increase their yields.”


By Barbara McBreen­

Every year more than 1 million attendees flood the fairgrounds in Des Moines for the Iowa State Fair. Attractions range from a big boar contest to eating anything on a stick. Visitors can milk a cow, compete in a cooking competition and check out a variety of livestock, horticulture and food judging shows. The fair has agriculture at its core. That’s how College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumni, students and faculty have come to be so integral to its success. Meet a few alums, of many, who passionately support the Iowa State Fair.



John Putney poses in front of the John L. Putney and Family Cattle Barn. He is the retired CEO and founder of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation.

John Putney, (’68 farm operations), retired in March from his position as executive director of the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation. In 1993 he started the foundation, which has generated more than $95 million for improvements to the fairground facilities.

The foundation began with the goal of raising money for deteriorating facilities. Putney’s successful fundraising efforts have changed the face of the fairgrounds. His leadership resulted in the renovation and construction of 30 fairground facilities, including reconstruction of the Varied Industries Building and construction of the new Jacobson Exhibition Center.

Putney is a native of Gladbrook, Iowa, and has participated as an exhibitor at the Iowa State Fair, president of the Sale of Champions and beef superintendent. Gary Slater, the Iowa State Fair CEO and manager, says, “John Putney’s work not only renovated and constructed buildings; it also spurred new interest in the Fairgrounds as a rental facility and re-established the Iowa State Fair as one of the world’s must-see events.”



Emily Brewer1.jpg-web

Emily Brewer hosts a variety of educational events as the Iowa State Fair Ag Education Coordinator— including a daily butter sculpting competition and Little Hands on the Farm.

Gathering and selling items at the Farmers Market in the Little Hands on the Farm exhibit at the Iowa State Fair is a hands-on way to teach children about agriculture.

It’s just one of the educational exhibits at the Iowa State Fair managed by Emily Brewer, (’01 agricultural education) Iowa State Fair ag education coordinator. “Agriculture is the foundation of the Iowa State Fair and the fair is about learning. Combining the two in a fun way is what I do,” Brewer says.

Another educational attraction at the Iowa State Fair is the Animal Learning Center, which opened in 2007. Inside the center fair attendees can witness the birth of lambs, calves, pigs and chicks.

“We have had people who will wait up to six hours to see a calf being born,” Brewer says. “That’s exciting.”

Before coming to the State Fair in 2007, Brewer taught high school agricultural education in eastern Iowa for three years. She grew up on a crop and livestock farm near Dallas Center and is part of the fifth generation to live on the family farm.



Mike Anderson takes time for a photo during a sheep judging event. He’s superintendent of the 4-H Livestock exhibits, which, as he says, “includes anything with four legs and chickens.”

Imagine scheduling 5,000 animals to be shown over a two-week period by about 1,900 4-H members.

That’s exactly what Mike Anderson does at the Iowa State Fair.

“It’s two weeks nonstop,” Anderson says, “and after the fair it’s a let down because it’s over.”

Since 2006, Anderson, (’00 MS animal science), has worn two hats. He is both the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth development program specialist and the superintendent of the 4-H Livestock exhibits at the Iowa State Fair.

Along with managing livestock shows, Anderson coordinates curriculum and programming for 16,000 4-H members across Iowa. Educating the public about Iowa State University and agriculture is one of the programming goals throughout the year and at the fair.

“We showcase Iowa State’s participation at the Iowa State Fair, so the public relates those activities to the university,” Anderson says

In August, a Commodity Carnival designed to illustrate the ups and downs of beef production will be featured at the Iowa State Fair. The educational program is for students in third through seventh grades. The game will allow the player to buy and sell grain to raise livestock. The teaching point will come at the end of the game when the player shows a profit or loss.

Anderson isn’t a stranger to the Iowa State Fair. He was a member of 4-H for nine years and remembers camping at the fair and competing in the livestock shows he now oversees.


As the Iowa State Fair 4-H Exhibits Building coordinator, Mitch Hoyer has coordinated daily events for the past 13 years. He says his biggest reward is watching youth succeed.


Watching young exhibitors and communications competitors succeed is what Mitchell Hoyer enjoys. It also makes coordinating and scheduling more than 100

volunteers, daily competitions and 4,000 exhibits worth the long hours during the 14 days he spends at the Iowa State Fair.

Hoyer (’80 animal science, ’81 agricultural education) is the Iowa State Fair 4-H Exhibits Building superintendent and ISU Extension and Outreach 4-H youth development program specialist. For the past 13 years he’s coordinated a team of volunteers who have made the 4-H exhibits area a success.

“It’s part planning, part magic and part I don’t know how it happens,” Hoyer says. “But, it’s because we have excellent volunteers.”

The 4-H members who exhibit at the Iowa State Fair have to win at the county level to be eligible. Hoyer says they are excited to be there.

“They will come in with their families and take photos next to their exhibit,” Hoyer says. “Whether it’s cookies, a cabinet or a photograph—it’s a big deal.”

Some of the more memorable exhibits included: A full-body zebra costume for a horse; a wooden chest built from the lumber of a 100-year-old tree taken down on the family farm; and a 100-yearold restored chair that survived a tornado.

“This is really about youth development and leadership opportunities for young people,” Hoyer says.

Those opportunities include a competition demonstrating what they’ve learned. Hoyer says he’s seen everything from golf to glass cutting, presentations with live goats, draft horses and even one with four albino reptiles.

The reward, he says, is when you see the smiles and the confidence of 4-H members bloom.



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 …