Local Data Campus Collaboration
Eleven miles north of Cherokee, Iowa, and 160 miles from Iowa State University campus, is a hub of agricultural research, teaching and extension.
The Iowa State University Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm sits on 272 acres in O’Brien County. Its owner, the Northwest Iowa Experimental Association, bought the original land that established the farm 65 years ago.
It is leased to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Agriculture Experiment Station and operated by college staff. The association includes farmers and agricultural businesses from 10 counties in Northwest Iowa.
The farm is one of 13 ISU Research and Demonstration Farms and the association is one of eight affiliate, nonprofits that own farms used for ISU agricultural research. The first association was formed in 1930 in north central Iowa near Kanawha.
In addition to field research trials conducted at the Northwest Research and Demonstration Farm, the association created an on-farm demonstration program — an innovation that has spread to most other ISU Research and Demonstration Farms. Through it, farm staff and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach staff help farmers set up demonstration trials in their own fields.
Terry Tuttle, the farm’s superintendent, works with the association board to run the farm with full-time staff members, Andrew Weaver and Landon Lenhart.
“The board shares hiring responsibilities with Iowa State and duties and work assignments are handled by the farm superintendent and researchers,” says Brian Waldstein, the association board president. “The board participates on decisions about what to study on the farm, favoring research projects that cover current issues in agronomy.”
Joel DeJong, an extension field agronomist, says the association’s board was “ahead of the curve” in emphasizing water quality research projects more than a decade ago.
In 2018, the farm conducted 35 research projects for 24 different project leaders (mostly CALS faculty) plus 30 on-farm demonstration trials.
Education is a priority at the farm. Dozens of visits expose hundreds of students to the opportunities in agriculture, including last year:
Nearly 500 high schoolers from the area were introduced to agricultural occupations;
150 local fifth graders viewed farm equipment and machinery; and
40 local FFA members practiced soil judging in the farm’s soil pit.
Dordt College students from Sioux Center, Iowa, visit the farm for labs, and Mike Schouten, steward of the Dordt agriculture stewardship center, says Dordt takes part in the on-farm research program.
The education extends to area farmers including field days on precision agriculture and crop-scouting. Tuttle says the farm hosted about 1,000 visitors last year at 10 field days.
“The farm helps area farmers with questions about water quality, soil pH and fungicide use,” says Paul Kassel, extension field agronomist. “The farm keeps Iowa State visible and provides a way for researchers and extension specialists to stay in touch with issues in northwest Iowa.”
ISU FARMS BY THE NUMBERS IN 2018
6 Types of livestock and poultry: horses, beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep, swine and chickens (Turkeys will be added next year at the new ISU Poultry Farm – see story on page 6.)
8 Affiliate non-profit associations that own farms used for ISU ag research
9 Animal science farms near Ames
13 ISU Research and Demonstration Farms across Iowa
73 Field days
692 Research and demonstration projects
21,759 Visitors to farms
91,474 Research plots planted