Motorcyle Man On A Mission

John Lawrence is a man on a mission. He has spent the past two decades traveling across Iowa, making thousands of presentations representing Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

The travel continues, but sometimes his mode of transportation is a motorcycle. “I read a story about a man who visited every town in Iowa on a motorcycle,” Lawrence says. “My wife Kathy and I decided to start small, and county extension offices seemed like a unique quest.”

The couple began last July and found their way to 34 county extension offices. They stopped for 2012 after an October trip to northeast Iowa, where they visited 10 offices in three days.

“We do most of our riding on week- ends so the offices are closed,” Lawrence says. “But on that trip, we did stop in some offices to explain why two people dressed in leather were taking pictures in front of their building.”

Lawrence grew up on a crop-livestock farm in southwest Iowa. He and Kathy married in 1976 and took over the operation. “We sold out in the early ’80s before the farm crisis,” Lawrence says. “I came to Iowa State as a 24-year-old freshman and have been in college ever since.”

After earning a bachelor’s in animal science and a master’s in economics, Lawrence picked up a doctorate
in agricultural economics at the University of Missouri.

His first extension job was at the University of Minnesota as an extension economist. He returned to Iowa State in 1991 as an extension livestock economist, where he began those thousands of Iowa miles and meetings.

In 1998, Lawrence added director
of the Iowa Beef Center, the extension program for beef producers, to his responsibilities. Since February 2010, he has been the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences associate dean of extension and outreach, plus the director of Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension.

Lawrence says extension is in his blood, which makes the county office visits a perfect fit.

Each building and sign is photographed with the couple’s Suzuki 800cc Cruiser, which Lawrence calls a “poor-man’s Harley.” Sometimes Kathy or John poses with the bike. The photos, in alphabetical order by county, are posted on their Facebook pages.

The photo album title is “Sons of Extension Motorcycle Club.” Lawrence jokes he and Kathy may create their own tattoo and incorporate the 4-H clover.

Of the 100 county extension offices in Iowa—Pottawattamie has two—the Lawrences have 66 yet to visit. Their mission is to do so by the end of 2014.