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Sunday, August 28, 2016

My agricultural visit to Webster City, Iowa produced a great respect for farmers

United Coop Test Plot

Yes, we knew Iowa is an agricultural state and that Iowa farmers produce much of what we eat. We knew that farming today is nothing like when our ancestors farmed. We didn't know that it takes at least 1,000 acres to support a family, or that a new John Deere sprayer can cover 1,000 acres a day in auto-drive and air-conditioned comfort for the operator.

The state's agriculture involves much more than the cornfields people see as they drive along the freeways. We learned about crops, technology, scientific testing, equipment and diversity.

We visited a United Coop test plot that analyzes crop growth to determine yield with different fertilizers and weed control products. Farming is specialized and scientific. Today's farmer likely possesses a degree in an agricultural-related field.

Iowa picnic
Iowa is the top pork producing state in the US. Over 6,000 farmers market close to 50 million hogs per year. As representatives spoke to us, we acquired new information about the pork industry. I hadn't realized that pork is the world's most consumed animal protein or that pork producers plan based on global needs. At the present time, Japan, Canada, Mexico and South Korea are the leading customers for Iowa pork (taken from Iowa Pork Facts

By 2050, with an expected population of 9 billion, the world will need 60-70% more food. Although the profit margin per animal is tight, the farmers make their money by volume. Each hog is kept approximately 6 months before taking to market. They are fed locally grown corn and soybean meal.

Woolstock Equipment
It's a synergistic relationship. Crop farmers need manure for fertilizer and hog farmers need corn and soybeans for feed. Ten hogs (from weaning to market) provide the nutrients for an acre of soil. One hog consumes 9-10 bushels of corn from birth to a market weight of 275 pounds.

Governmental regulations protect the consumer and Iowa farmers work hard to follow the guidelines and raise the healthiest animals. As with every other consumable product, regulations raise the costs of production. The farmers need the latest scientific and technical knowledge, disease control methods and genetics to keep their businesses profitable. The focus on providing the best of care for the environment and their animals impressed me.

Iowa's two major crops are corn and soybeans. Farmers need the latest advances in equipment to maximize their time and production.

Today's John Deere

We visited Woolstock Equipment to see the latest John Deere tractors. Then we visited Vern Ratcliff to talk about the equipment from the "old" days. Most of us who had parents or aunts and uncles on farms, recalled riding on the tractors built in the mid 1900s. What a far cry from today.

I wondered what my uncles would think of tractors about 10 times larger than theirs, with GPS, automatic controls and air conditioning. I'm sure my Uncle Joe, a Kansas farmer who thought man could never reach the moon, wouldn't believe in the possibility. How could he even imagine a tractor where he could set the GPS, push a button and sit back in air-conditioned comfort on a hot summer day while the machinery planted or sprayed crops, row after row, with no waste and no error.

1940s era tractor

On a trip back to yesteryear, we discovered the Doodlebug, a motor scooter made in 1946-1948, and then rode in a new tractor that could cover 1,000 acres in a day.

I realized that farming is an exciting industry with its constant advances and growth.


  1. Looks like you had a GREAT experience with our Iowa Ag community. Those folks in Webster City also know how to roll out the red carpet when people like you come to town!

    1. It was awesome. I learned so much about Iowa, small towns & farming. Enjoyed some great food & shopping too.

  2. I grew up on an Iowa farm and I am so proud to be a farmer's daughter! There are so many facts in here that I don't know. We need to be teaching this to our children!