Why We Should Never Stop Asking Why

My recent experience at career day at two local middle schools made me wonder–why so many people lose their desire to ask questions? Here’s why this matters–and what to do about it.

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Darcy Maulsby at Ag Day

Senator Grassley on Farming: Any Society is Only Nine Meals Away From a Revolution

When people ask about my latest book project and I tell them about Iowa’s Ag History, I get two reactions: either a blank stare, or “Oh cool!” When I reached out to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, a farmer, to share a few comments for the book, I got …

Read more
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley

A Dirty Tip to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable

Tire turd (noun): Wad of snow, ice, salt and gravel that piles up behind each vehicle tire in the winter. Removable only with explosives. Why did this silly social media post go viral?

Read more
Tire turd on Iowa car in winter

Hog Trailers to Humidors: Two New Iowa Convenience Stores Reflect “Waspy’s Way”

Step into the new Waspy’s truck stop in Audubon, Iowa, and it feels more like an upscale corner grocery than a convenience store, from the coolers of fresh produce to the walk-in “spirits den” filled with wine, liquor and a humidor. The surprises don…

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Waspys Truck Stop Templeton Iowa

Latest Posts

Why We Should Never Stop Asking Why

Ever been asked to speak at career day at the local middle school? If you haven’t, trust me when I say it’s an eye-opening, slightly nerve-wracking experience.

I volunteered with the Calhoun County Farm Bureau to speak at Ag Day on March 26 at the Manson Northwest Webster Middle School about my travels to Vietnam and South Korea a few years ago with the Iowa Corn Growers’ I-LEAD leadership group.

Then I headed west to Sac City on March 29 to share my “True Confessions of an Ag Journalist” program during the Sac County Farm Bureau’s I Am Ag career day, where professionals from veterinarians to bankers spoke about the pros and cons of their careers.

Throughout the day, each speaker is assigned a classroom, and we share our story 12 times in 25-minute segments. I always go home from these events exhausted, but I hope I added value for the students and helped spark their desire to keep learning.

What always amazes me is how different the response is from the sixth graders to the eighth graders. The sixth graders are excited to learn and have no fear of asking questions. In fact, many of them are quick to raise their hands to ask questions and share comments.

Everything changes when the eighth graders walk in the room. Many of these kids want to show you just how bored they are. Some convey clearly through their body language and comments that don’t want to be stuck in a classroom. Their eyes tell you in no uncertain terms that they’re just waiting to defy anyone who dares to challenge them to think and learn.

Undaunted, I tell every group of students I work with that one of the keys to being a successful writer/storyteller/journalist (or any leader, for that matter) is to be like the little kid who never stopped asking why. Always nurture your sense of wonder and curiosity. Not only is that how we learn, but it makes life more fun!

Why do we lose the why?
This experience made me wonder why so many people lose their desire to ask questions.

A Newsweek story, “The Creativity Crisis,” described the signs of declining creativity among our school children. The article noted that preschool kids ask their parents an average of 100 questions a day. WOW! By middle school, however, kids basically stop asking questions.

It is also around this time student motivation and engagement drop like a rock. Why? Our educational system tends to reward students for having the answer, not for asking good questions. Ask a question, and you risk looking ignorant.

Yet knowing how to ask the right questions in the right way is essential to career success, more enjoyable conversations, stronger interpersonal relationships and effective leadership. I can only tell compelling, clear stories for my clients and through my books when I ask the right questions.

Questions I use
I often work from a tried-and-true, proven set of open-ended questions that encourage sources to open up so we can go beyond the superficial and dig deeper to get to the good stuff—the defining moments, the setbacks, and the dreams that add life and vitality to any story.

Here are some of my key questions

1. What’s some of the best business advice—or advice for life—you’ve ever received?

2. What’s your motivation (for your work, or your life)?

3. What three things inspire you? (These can be people, books, movies, art, places, etc.)

4. What three words describe you?

5. What three words describe your company?

6. What’s something odd/interesting/unique about you? (This fun fact should not be so personal you would only share it with a therapist, but also not so safe it will bore us!)

7. How did you get started in the business you’re in?

8. Think back to when you first hit adulthood. What did you think your life would be like? What was your plan A? Are you still with Plan A, or did you move on to Plan B?

9. What obstacles did you overcome to get where you are today?

10. What’s a specific story of success in your business that drives you to do what you do? (A customer that really affected you, a person you were able to help, an accomplishment you were able to achieve?)

11. What do you like about your work?

12. What helpful lessons did you learn from previous jobs that you apply to your current role?

13. What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you at work?

14. What’s the best thing that ever happened to you/you witnessed at work?

15. How did your company get started?

16. What excites you about the future?

 

You can modify these questions (or create your own) and put them to work in your business, your home or your classroom. Please tell me how it goes, too. Don’t be surprised if I ask you why you think these questions work. I love to learn and hope you do to, too!

No matter what, never stop asking “why” about the world around you. We need more critical thinkers. Also remember the words of playwright George Bernard Shaw: “Some men see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.”

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Senator Grassley on Farming: Any Society is Only Nine Meals Away From a Revolution

When people ask about my latest book project and I tell them about Iowa’s Ag History, I get two reactions: either a blank stare, or “Oh cool!” When I reached out to Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, a farmer, to share a few comments for the book, I received more than an enthusiastic response.

I got an incredible interview from a senator who was willing to offer a significant portion of his time to share his insights into the importance of history, agriculture and rural Iowa’s role in the modern global economy. Read on to see why Sen. Grassley says, “I like to remind policymakers that any society is only nine meals away from a revolution.”

When did your family start farming in Iowa? 

I am the second generation farmer in my family, following in the footsteps of my father Louis Grassley. His dad emigrated from Germany and died when my dad was just seven years old. At around age 18, my dad started working as a hired hand for the Heitland family on a farm in Hardin County. A few years later, he rented some land near New Hartford in Butler County. In 1927, he and my mother Ruth purchased their own parcel of land.

After graduating from high school, I worked in factories, attended college and farmed with my dad. In 1958, while running for the Iowa legislature and working towards my doctorate at the University of Iowa, I started farming my own piece of the family farm. When my dad passed away in 1960, I rented his 80 acres and about five years later, purchased 120 acres on my own.

When I started out, I grew a bit of everything like most farmers at the time. I grew corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa and raised sheep, cattle and hogs. My son Robin Grassley, a third-generation farmer, and I continue farming 750 acres together. He rents and owns other farmland along with my grandson Pat Grassley, who is a fourth-generation family farmer.

Barbara and I raised our five children together on our farm near New Hartford, and we enjoy passing on our agrarian heritage and celebrate family gatherings here with our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

 

In politics as in farming, a solid understanding of the past is vital to understand current issues. From your unique viewpoint as a senator and a farmer, what’s your take about why it’s important to be well-versed in history–and what are the perils of not knowing history?

As a lifelong farmer who also has worked for six decades representing Iowans in state and federal government, I wear my rural roots as a badge of honor and believe it’s important for farmers to have a seat at the policy-making tables. Farmers take the long view of things, and maybe that’s why they don’t forget important lessons from history.

Only two percent of the American population shoulders the responsibility for growing enough food to feed the U.S. population. Our agrarian-based heritage has experienced rapid transformation in the last generation. Fewer Americans, even in Iowa, have a direct link to living or working on a farm. And most likely due to the affordable abundance of food, not enough people appreciate that food security is directly tied to national security. Food security extends beyond national sovereignty. American agriculture – and the farmers, workers and businesses along the supply chain – anchors the U.S. economy and increasingly strengthens U.S. energy independence, as well.

From a historical perspective, there are two rules of thumb I use to explain how important food security is to maintain peace and prosperity in society. As Emperor of France in the early 19th century, Napoleon Bonaparte reportedly said “to be effective, an army relies on good and plentiful food.” In other words, an army marches on its stomach. Food security ensures a nation can feed its military, whose men and women in uniform are deployed to protect and defend a nation’s sovereignty, at home and abroad. I also like to remind policymakers that any society is only nine meals away from a revolution.

Political leaders who embrace the misguided notion that socialism is the answer to peace and prosperity are either grossly misinformed or willfully ignorant about the peril of leaders who promise to fix “inequality” with government control. Just look at the economic crisis in Venezuela, once one of the most prosperous nations in the Western Hemisphere. The poverty and humanitarian crisis falls squarely in the hands of the nation’s authoritarian regime and its ideologically driven policies. History teaches us that when government suppresses freedom and liberty, the people’s path towards peace and prosperity is replaced with food and medicine shortages, hyperinflation, power outages and even more economic and social inequality.

History teaches us other important lessons. Namely, how not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Don’t forget, the overly harsh tariffs in the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1932 shut down world trade, led to a worldwide economic depression and foretold a world war that killed tens of millions of people.

Another important lesson I keep in mind at the policy-making tables is the 1980s farm crisis. The loss of thousands of family farms was a heart-wrenching loss for so many families and long-time neighbors across Iowa. It stole a sense of vitality from small towns and rural communities. It arguably steered away a generation of beginning farmers from following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents. The farm crisis invigorated my advocacy on behalf of young and beginning farmers, including my work to push for robust enforcement of anti-trust laws and oversight of mergers and competition in the agriculture industry. Previously, I’ve introduced legislation that would have amended the Packers and Stockyards Act to make it illegal for a packer to own, feed or control livestock intended for slaughter. I’ll keep my oversight hat on to protect the integrity of the marketplace so that independent producers have a fair shake at a fair price for their commodities.

I also led efforts to enact and make permanent Chapter 12 in the federal bankruptcy code. This unique chapter is designed to help farmers and ranchers who have fallen on hard times to survive bankruptcy and restructure their debts without losing their livelihood. Most recently, I secured an update to Chapter 12 to fix court rulings that undermined congressional intent. Previously, the IRS muscled its way to the front of the creditor’s line to scoop up capital gains taxes and potentially block a farmer’s reorganization plans. Farmers shouldn’t be penalized for being asset-rich and cash-poor. When they need to reorganize debts to hold on to their livelihoods, my reforms ensure they aren’t going to be slapped with a big tax bill and lose the ability to continue farming.

Another way I advocate for family farmers at the policy-making tables is my longstanding efforts to restore fiscal integrity to the farm safety net. In our free market society, farmers ought to be able to decide how large or small they want their operation to be. However, the farm safety net shouldn’t be manipulated for operations to grow at taxpayer expense. It’s very important to uphold the credibility and strengthen the public trust in the farm safety net, as well. That’s why I will continue my efforts to attach reasonable payment limits so that off-site managers, including nieces, nephews, cousins and other family members who aren’t actually contributing to the operation of the farm, are prevented from cashing in on farm payments.

In 2019, I launched my 39th consecutive year holding meetings in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. I keep in close touch with Iowans and count on this dialogue to make representative government work. I also apply the lessons of history to inform my work on making better policies and fixing laws that create unintended consequences. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has oversight and legislative jurisdiction over international trade, I’m currently working to reform a 1962 federal law that delegated authority to the executive branch. Specifically, Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act authorizes the president to impose tariffs on selected imports if the chief executive determines those imports pose a threat to our national security.

This law was enacted with good intentions and for good reason. However, history has shown that reforms are necessary in order to give Congress a role in the process. In my view, Congress delegated too much authority to the executive branch at the expense of the people’s branch. American agriculture too often shoulders the burden of retaliatory action from our trade partners. It’s another example of why I always check the rear-view mirror to ensure the road ahead paves the way for prosperity and opportunity for family farmers and all those who earn their livelihoods and enjoy their way of life in Rural America.

What are some of the biggest changes in Iowa agriculture you’ve seen and experienced in your lifetime?

Technology and innovation have revolutionized farming as we know it. Mechanization allows an individual farmer to dramatically improve productivity and harvest bin-busting yields grown from disease-resistant seeds, for example. At the same time, farmers are able to conserve resources and save money using no-till, cover crops and precision agriculture. As a first-generation farmer, my dad used a team of horses when he started farming. Like many family farmers, the genetic code of fiscal discipline, conservation and ingrained work ethic was handed down to me from my parents’ experience carving out a living from the land. In my case, the Grassley household and farming operation was influenced by the Great Depression, to conserve resources and stretch every penny.

To this day, I carry a lifelong code of conservatism with me as a farmer and lawmaker. Although innovation – including WiFi-enabled farms and climate-controlled tractor cabs — hasn’t shortened the work day for most farmers, it’s certainly transformed productivity and changed the way we market our crops and livestock. When I started farming on my own in the 1950s, the average corn yield in Iowa was about 45 bushels/acre. Today Iowa farmers yield an average of 202 bushels/acre. This productivity helps feed and fuel a growing world population with affordable, wholesome food and renewable energy. So increased productivity has been revolutionary.

Another significant change is farmers are affected by worldwide market forces. That means a farmer in the 21st century must be able to survive not just the whims of Mother Nature, but also the winds of geo-political negotiations and foreign policy that impact exports and a farmer’s bottom line.

Ag literacy should be part of education, in my opinion, for any Iowa student. In your opinion, how does a basic understanding of agriculture benefit all Iowans, both rural and urban?

No matter what policy we may be debating in Congress, I often find the best way to sum up the debate boils down to this: Washington is an island surrounded by reality. As a farmer-lawmaker on the Senate Agriculture Committee, I bring a dirt-underneath-my-fingernails perspective to the policy-making tables. I take pride serving as a champion for rural America to advocate for our nation’s food producers and farm families. With only two percent of the population growing food for the rest of the nation, it’s more important than ever to educate consumers about where their food comes from. In fact, I often suggest that many Americans are under the mistaken impression that food grows in grocery stores, restaurants or take-out containers. I’m glad to see more and more farmers’ markets becoming a vital part of local communities. It’s good for the local economy and community vitality and fosters better awareness that food does not grow on the grocery store shelf.

With a global population expected to reach nearly 10 billion people by 2050, the importance of agriculture research and education is vital for human civilization. Iowa’s deeply rooted agrarian heritage continues to lead the way with excellent opportunities to foster ag literacy, food, plant and animal science and entrepreneurship. Iowa boasts a vibrant network of FFA organizations across the state. What’s more, Iowa’s native son Norman Borlaug paved an agricultural revolution credited with saving a billion people from starvation. The Father of the Green Revolution was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970 and Iowa celebrates his legacy with a statue in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.

Iowa is also home to the World Food Prize. Since 1987 the World Food Prize Foundation has celebrated the achievements of individuals inspired by the legacy of Dr. Borlaug. Each year it awards individuals whose contributions have improved the global food supply, from plant, animal and soil science to technology and nutrition and rural development. For three decades, it has brought thousands of people from around the world to Des Moines in October to talk about food security in a symposium known as the Borlaug Dialogue.

Anything else you’d like to add about the importance of knowing history in general and the history of agriculture in Iowa in particular?

Iowans may know I love history. In today’s polarized world of identity politics, it’s important more than ever to strengthen civic education in America’s classrooms. Our youngest members of society need to understand the perils of communism, fascism and socialism. Regimes inspired by utopian socialist principles do not eradicate hunger or poverty, they extinguish peace and prosperity at the expense of individual freedom and liberty.

Despite the regional, ideological and partisan differences that divide Americans, we share a common humanity and fundamental thread of human existence. We all need to eat to survive. And I’m proud to be among the generations of Iowa farmers who have answered the vocational calling to put food on family tables. As a steward of the soil and U.S. Senator for Iowa, I am honored to serve as a voice for agriculture and rural America.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Are You on Team Cinnamon Roll?

It’s every marketer’s dream–a topic so compelling that no one can ignore it, and everyone wants to talk about it. Here in Iowa, this kind of topic revolves around that school-lunch classic–chili and cinnamon rolls.

Yep, it’s a thing, and it’s a beloved tradition here in my hometown of Lake City. I’ll never forget the comforting aroma of homemade rolls (caramel rolls, most of the time) filling the school, including our 1920s-vintage three-story high school. As if it weren’t hard enough to concentrate in math class, I had that enticing aroma to distract me–but oh what sweet torture!

I’m reliably informed that chili and cinnamon rolls are still a favorite school lunch in the local school district, as well as other schools around the state.

So when it was time to write the manuscript for my second book, “A Culinary History of Iowa,” I started talking to sources about the history of chili and cinnamon rolls. Not only did I discover that no one seems to remember the origins of this phenomenal combo, but it’s not something that every Iowa school kid grew up with.

Some people had never heard of it. Others said their school served peanut butter sandwiches with chili. There were those who couldn’t imagine chili without cornbread. Still others, including a friend from Minnesota, were revolted. “That makes no sense! That’s like eating scrambled eggs and birthday cake together!” said one Minnesota native.

Whether you love it or hate it, seems like everyone has an opinion about chili and cinnamon rolls. Click here for a snippet from my Culinary History of Iowa book to help whet your appetite about the history of chili and cinnamon rolls–along with an amazing recipe!

This food combo is also a surprisingly newsworthy topic. A reporter from the Des Moines Register interviewed me for the recent article “The history behind Iowa’s unique taste for chili and cinnamon rolls.”

The day after that story ran, I received an email from Jodi Long, a reporter for TV-13, the NBC affiliate in Des Moines. She wanted to do a segment on the history of chili and cinnamon rolls, so we filmed the segment last Friday. As soon as it aired on the early morning news segment this past Monday, I started getting comments, kudos and questions on Facebook and beyond.

(I love the Team Cinnamon Roll and Team Cornbread idea that Jodi included in her Facebook post. To watch the news segment, click here!)

I learned three things from this experience:

1. Realize that things you take for granted might be quite newsworthy, and look for ways to showcase these stories. (Your website, newsletter, e-newsletter, social media posts, press releases, videos, podcast or other communication tools might be just the place to share these stories.)

2. Respond quickly when the media wants to interview you about a topic. Reporters need to know sooner rather than later whether you can help them. Don’t miss the opportunity for free publicity.

3. Invite people to join the conversation. So I want to know–are you on Team Cinnamon Roll or Team Cornbread?

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

A Dirty Tip to Make Your Social Media Content More Shareable

Tire turd (noun): Wad of snow, ice, salt and gravel that piles up behind each vehicle tire in the winter. Removable only with explosives. #Iowa #winteriniowa

That’s a recent Facebook post I created when was in Red Oak, Iowa, this week, working on a newsletter for United Farmers Cooperative. When I stopped at the grain elevator, I saw this tire turd on my car. I decided to share it on my personal Facebook page. This silly post apparently struck a chord, because it has been liked 159 times, generated 23 comments and has been shared 17 times. Crazy!

This reminds me of one of the principles I teach in my storytelling classes. Shareability is a key to the most successful social posts.

People don’t just share any old content. Facebook reports that 0.5% of those who see a Facebook post share it. Of all the content links the average Twitter user receives, the re-tweet ratio is 1:318, according to one of my favorite books, “The Content Code,” by Mark Schaeffer.

Research sponsored by the New York Times found that people share content to:

• To be useful, since the info. is practical or timely
• To define themselves to others (look smarter, funnier, more relevant)
• To strengthen relationships with others
• Get the word out about causes, brands, events, etc. they care about

Think about the last time you shared something. What motivated you to do this?

How could you frame your stories and information to make your content more shareable?

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Hog Trailers to Humidors: Two New Iowa Convenience Stores Reflect “Waspy’s Way”

Step into the new Waspy’s truck stop in Audubon along Highway 71, and it feels more like an upscale corner grocery than a convenience store, from the coolers of fresh produce and healthy snacks at one end to the walk-in “spirits den” filled with wine, liquor and a humidor for fine cigars at the other end.

But explore a little more, and it’s clear this is a working truck stop, from the laundry and shower area to the truckers’ lounge in the hall that connects the store with the Feed Mill Restaurant. After all, the whole Waspy’s concept started from a basic need rooted in the farm.

“When you’re hauling livestock in western Iowa, it’s hard to find a truck wash,” said Brian Handlos, whose family owns and operates Waspy’s, which has locations in Audubon and Templeton. “We decided this would be a service we could provide.”

Waspys Truck Stop Iowa Brian and Beth ownersIt turned out that one good idea planted the seed for a whole new crop of businesses, including a $7 million, full-service truck stop in Templeton on 6.3 acres near the junction of Highway 141 and Highway 71. The convenience store, car wash and fuel stations opened in May 2017. The opportunity was too good to pass up, since 5,000 vehicles pass by on Highway 141 daily, according to Waspy’s website.

The 16-acre Audubon complex represents an $18 million investment in the local economy, thanks to the 24/7 convenience store/truck stop that opened August 24, 2018; the restaurant/bar that opened September 4, 2018; and the 36-room Blue Grass Inn & Suites hotel with an indoor pool that opened August 1, 2018. A 40,000-square-foot truck service station is slated to open at the Audubon Waspy’s this spring to provide tire repair, truck wash-out services and more.

“We tried to think of everything,” said Beth Handlos, who runs the business with her brother and their parents, Lawrence “Waspy” Handlos and his wife, Doris. “These businesses all feed off each other, and the potential here is incredible.”

Growing opportunities in rural Iowa
To say that Waspy’s is not the typical truck stop is an understatement. Yet it’s as homegrown as the business’s namesake. Now in his early 80s, Lawrence Handlos grew up on a farm near Willey, Iowa. He got the nickname “Waspy” from his father, John, a German immigrant who settled in the Carroll area.

“He gave Lawrence that nickname as a child, because it’s tied to another German name that his father liked, Sebastian,” Beth Handlos said. “’Waspy’ stuck with Lawrence ever since, and now it’s a memorable brand name for our family’s truck stops.”

The name isn’t the only memorable thing about Waspy’s, which is redefining the truck stop/convenience store experience with these 10 business practices:

1. Put the customer first. Being locally owned and family owned means paying extra attention the little things, from greeting customers by name at the convenience store to making sure the hotel rooms are extra clean—just the way Doris Handlos would want it. “We say it’s not just clean—it’s ‘Doris clean,’” Beth Handlos said.

2. Follow servant leadership. The Handlos family emphasizes that their employees don’t work for them; they work with them. “It’s a team effort,” Beth Handlos said. “It’s certainly not below us to bus the tables at the restaurant.”

3. Give back to the community. Along with creating nearly 100 new jobs in the Audubon/Templeton area, Waspy’s creates community hubs where people of all ages can gather together. “We’re humbled to be part of people’s lives every day,” said Beth Handlos, who noted there are no outside investors in Waspy’s.

4. Focus on local. Like many rural Iowa towns, Audubon once had a thriving business district filled with motels, a jewelry store and more. “For years, however, I watched Audubon slowly dwindle,” said Beth Handlos, who grew up on a farm and graduated from Audubon High School in 1982. When the Handlos family built their Waspy’s truck stops, 75 percent of the contractors were located within 30 miles of the local community. “It’s exciting to see how dollars spent at Waspy’s are being reinvested in our local communities to spur more economic development,” Beth Handlos added.

5. Learn from success. While making mistakes goes along with any new business, the Handlos family has worked hard to shorten their learning curve. “We look to lots of different businesses to see what’s working and what’s not,” said Beth Handlos, a former program coordinator with Iowa State University Athletics’ marketing department. “We borrow good ideas anywhere we can find them.”

6. Don’t take shortcuts. Running a successful business requires the discipline to put in the hours and do things the right way—the only way, said Brian Handlos. “Nothing was ever handed to my parents. They worked hard all their lives and passed this work ethic onto us. We all wear a lot of hats around here, but if we do the right things, everything will fall into place.”

Waspys Truck Stop Iowa hotel7. Add the personal touch. Extended hours and friendly service attract local customers and those just passing through. “We love what we do,” Beth Handlos said. “It’s all about the friendships you make.”

8. Rethink what’s possible. Brian Handlos and his wife, Pat, have run Two Palms Grilling for many years and have gained a loyal following. Two Palms plans to supply vacuumed-packed smoked meats at Waspy’s convenience stores. “I like showing people what great pork should taste like,” said Brian Handlos, who finishes nearly 250,000 pigs a year with his family and employees.

9. Expand opportunities. The Handlos family is always looking for ways to make their businesses more inviting. The indoor pool in the 36-room hotel in Audubon isn’t only available to guests. There are open hours where the public can pay a fee to swim, plus there’s a rentable party room near the pool. Even the parking lots at the Audubon complex create a more user-friendly experience. “When drivers are hauling 210-foot-long wind turbine blades, they often can’t find a place to park,” said Brian Handlos, who added that Waspy’s has parking spaces for 70 semi-trucks. “They can line up 10 to 15 trucks here at Waspy’s.”

10. Stay true to your roots. Everything at Waspy’s speaks to the business’s rural roots, from the rustic décor at the Feed Mill Restaurant to the homegrown ethanol blends (including E85) in the fuel pumps. “A lot of blood, sweat, tears and money have gone into these businesses, but it’s worth it,” Beth Handlos said. “We’re proud to support our hometown.”

Waspys Truck Stop Iowa fuel pump

This article first appeared in Farm News in February 2019.

Waspys Truck Stop Iowa

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Smart Marketing Lessons from an Uber Driver–Listen Up!

Ever used Uber? If you have, I bet your ride was in a city. One of my entrepreneurial friends, Pat, recently started driving for Uber and Lyft here in rural Iowa. Through smart marketing, he’s carving quite a niche.

“I really didn’t realize how much influence the driver has,” Pat told me recently. The other evening, for example, he picked up two guys in a northern Iowa community who said they wanted a ride to the local casual dining/sports bar hangout several blocks away. Then Pat asked, “What do you want to do, eat wings or party?”

“Party!”

“Then we’ll go to a party bar,” Pat said. They agreed, and he drove them 2 miles down the road. He also picked them up again when they were ready to leave.

I love this story, because it highlights some basic keys to successful marketing:

• Take the time to ask the right questions.
• Listen carefully to the answers.
• Help clients reach their goals.

“See, you’re adding value!” I told Pat. “That’s what a great marketer does. You asked the right questions to get to the core of what these guys really wanted, plus you put more money in your pocket. Bravo!”

Marketing takeaway: Asking questions and listening are essential to successful marketing. What key questions do you ask your clients/prospects? Are there more questions you can ask to better serve their needs and become the business partner of choice?

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

From My Kitchen to Yours: Comfort Food, Conversation and Living History Farms

Ever get an email that jumps out at you? It happened me to last July when one arrived with the subject line “Greetings from Living History Farms.” It was from my friend, Jim Dietz-Kilen, a former classmate from the Ag-Urban Leadership Initiative, and his note intrigued me.

“I have an idea for your consideration,” wrote Jim, who is the vice president of development for Living History Farms (LHF). “We are planning our annual gala, Farmstasia. We try to put together unique experience packages for our auction, with emphasis on agriculture/rural life and Iowa history. My idea is to build a package around you. While I am very open to other ideas, I wanted to run the following request by you:

• Would you be willing to donate a signed book? Any of your books would be wonderful, but I am partial to the Culinary History of Iowa.

• Would you also be willing to host a family at your farm to show them a bit of what your lives are like?

• Finally, would you be willing to serve these guests a meal selected from your book?

I know this is asking a lot, Darcy, but I have learned that you never know until you ask. And, as Wayne Gretzky said, ‘Every shot you don’t take is a miss.'”

By this point, I was already brainstorming menu ideas.

I’m a big fan of LHF, which welcomes between 100,000 and 110,000 each year. This interactive, 500-acre outdoor museum that tells the amazing 300+ year story of how Iowans transformed the fertile prairies of the Midwest into the most productive farmland in the world. As I wrote in this blog for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, I love how LHF encourages people of all ages to explore Iowa’s rural heritage, including the 1700 Ioway village, the 1850 pioneer farm, the 1875 town of Walnut Hill and the 1900 horse-powered farm.

“All proceeds from Farmstasia go to keep fees low for our education programs, helping make it possible for kids from across the state to come here for school visits and participate in other educational experiences,” Jim continued.

Jim knows what is near and dear to my heart. Iowa agriculture. Books. Classic Iowa farm cooking. LHF. Giving back to the community. Without hesitating, I said yes.

Living History Farms Iowa

Cookstoves, corncobs and storytelling
LHF came into my life in a big way in the summer of 1995, when my college internship led me to the 1900 farm, Flynn mansion and veterinary clinic, where I served as a historical interpreter and looked the part in my Victorian-inspired dresses and bonnets.

That summer changed my life in so many ways. I met my husband through this experience. I also expanded my cooking skills. By the end of the summer, I knew how to light a cookstove with crumpled newspapers and corncobs. I could make homemade noodles with no problem. I could bake cookies in an oven with no temperature gauge, other than the feel of the heat on your hand. I could milk a Jersey cow by hand and churn the cream into butter. I could plan a meal and feed a threshing crew. I could even run a treadle sewing machine and sew my own apron.

Looking back, I was a prepper in training who can live off the grid if I have to.

While I don’t use all those skills today, some have served me well for years, especially the cooking skills, the historical knowledge I gained and the storytelling skills I learned. As a historical interpreter, I was not only working in the kitchen of the 1900 farm fixing a meal, but I interacted with guests. As I shared stories about Iowa farm life in the early 1900s, I learned the importance of listening. I’m still embarrassed when I misunderstood one guest who asked, “Is that a coal stove?” but I heard him say, “Is that a cold stove?” so I replied, “No, it’s a warm one!”

Planning a memorable menu
I was thinking of those experiences last Saturday, February 16, when I delivered on my promise to provide the Farmtasia winning bidders with an authentic Iowa farm meal inspired by my book. I had actually started cooking the night before and then got up early on Saturday morning so I’d get everything done on schedule and have time to visit with my guests.

They pulled in the driveway at my family’s Century Farm near Lake City right on time. It was an honor to host Dave Bubeck, a corn breeder at Corteva Agriscience™ in Johnston; his wife, Denise; and their friends Ben and Michelle Parlett, who also live in the Des Moines area. As we gathered around the table at noon, I served:

• Garden Vegetable Soup
• Homemade Beer Bread
• Iowa Ham Balls
• Glazed Meat Loaf
• Garlic Cheesy Smashed Potatoes
• Relish tray and coleslaw salad
• Homemade apple crisp with Haralson apples grown on our farm

There was something magical happened as we sat in that 100+plus-year-old kitchen, talking farming, food, travel and LHF. Seems like we covered everything, from how to talk about GMOs to what it’s like subscribing to a meal delivery service. Two and a half hours later, when my guests departed, we all agreed it was a great experience—the kind of story-worthy experience that LHF inspires. Even better, we’re staying in touch through social media and my e-newsletter.

And to think it all started with a simple email and a spirit of service. It reminds me of this quote from Orison Swett Marden, who founded SUCCESS magazine in 1897.
“We must give more in order to get more. It is the generous giving of ourselves that produces the generous harvest.”

Let’s get cooking
If you’d like to create a taste of our classic Iowa farm dinner, here are some of my favorite recipes:

Hearty Homemade Vegetable Soup

Hearty Homemade Vegetable Soup

Hearty Garden Vegetable Soup
I shared this tasty recipe in one my my monthly diary entries in 2018 for the Iowa Food and Family Project

1 tablespoon olive oil
8 medium carrots, sliced
3 large onions, chopped
5 celery ribs, chopped
1 large green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups chopped cabbage
2 cups frozen cut green beans (about 8 ounces)
2 cups frozen peas (about 8 ounces)
1 can (15 ounces) corn, or 2 cups fresh sweet corn
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
1-1/2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
1 tablespoon seasoning salt
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon pepper
7 cups water
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 cups V8 vegetable juice

In a stockpot, heat oil over medium-high heat; sauté carrots, onions, celery and green pepper until crisp-tender. Add garlic; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Remove bay leaves.

Best Beer Bread

Best Beer Bread

Best Beer Bread
2 cups self-rising flour
2 1 / 2 tablespoons sugar
1 12-ounce can of beer

Mix all ingredients together. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

 

 

 

 

Iowa Ham Balls

Iowa Ham Balls

Iowa Ham Balls
This tasty, classic recipe comes from my friend Val Plagge, who is a wonderful farm cook.

2.5 pounds ham
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup milk
1 can tomato soup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon ground mustard

With a food processor, grind ham into small, chopped pieces (or buy ham loaf mix from local grocery store or butcher. This mix usually contains ham and ground pork, and sometimes ground beef, too). Add eggs, graham cracker crumbs and milk. Mix together with your hands, and form fist-sized ham balls. (If the mixture seems a little dry, add 1/4 cup of milk at a time, up to 1 1/2 cups of milk total.) Place ham balls in a greased 9-inch by 13-inch pan. They fit nicely three across and five down.

Mix soup, brown sugar, vinegar and mustard until smooth. Drizzle glaze over the ham balls for the classic ham ball sauce. (Or, if you’re in a rush, drizzle your favorite barbecue sauce over the ham balls.) Bake at 350 Fahrenheit for 1 hour. Yield: 13-15 ham balls

Note: These ham balls freeze well and can be warmed up in a slow cooker, if desired. Ham balls are the perfect Iowa potluck treat!

Cheesy Garlic Mashers
Taking a twist on classic mashed potatoes, this recipe is loaded with flavor and offers the perfect comfort food.

Red Bliss or Yukon gold potatoes (use about one potato per person, although this will depend on the size of the potatoes)
6 garlic cloves (can use less, if you prefer)
Butter, 1 / 2 stick
Cream (use enough to give mashed potatoes the consistency you prefer)
1 carton sour cream (can substitute one carton of chip dip, if you prefer)
1 / 2 cup to 1 cup of Cheddar cheese
Seasoning salt and pepper, to taste
Chives, chopped
Bacon, 2 to 3 slices, fried

Boil potatoes in salted water with peeled, whole garlic cloves. When potatoes are done cooking, drain potatoes and garlic and place in a bowl with butter and cream. Mash together. Add more cream, if necessary, to achieve the consistency you prefer. Mix in sour cream and cheddar cheese. Season to taste with seasoning salt and pepper. Garnish with chopped chives and real bacon bits.

 

Glazed Meatloaf

Glazed Meatloaf

Darcy’s Best Brown-Sugar Meatloaf
This recipe was inspired by the meatloaf that caterers prepared on the set in Iowa for the filming for “The Bridges of Madison County.” This is the only meatloaf recipe you’ll ever need!

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork or ground turkey
1 cup herb-seasoned stuffing mix
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 / 4 cup milk
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1 / 4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Combine beef, pork or turkey, stuffing mix, onion, salt, pepper and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, beat eggs, milk, and barbecue sauce. Add to meat mixture, mixing well. Press into a meatloaf pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.

Combine ketchup, brown sugar, and mustard; spread over top of meat loaf. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf registers 160 degrees. Yield: 6 servings

 

Haralson apple photo from Jung Seed

Haralson apple photo from Jung Seed

Farm-Fresh Apple Crisp with Whipped Cream
If you have the chance to visit a local apple orchard, pick up some Haralson apples, if they are available. We grow Haralsons on our farm, and their sweet-tart flavor works perfectly in apple pies and apple crisps. 

Fruit Filling:
6 baking apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 / 2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour (maybe need more, depending on how juicy the apples are)

Crumb topping: 
1 1 / 4 cups flour
1 / 2 cup rolled oats
1 / 2 cup light brown sugar
1 / 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 / 4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the fruit filling:
In a large mixing bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice, sugar, and flour. Pour the apple mixture into a buttered 2-quart baking dish and set aside.

For the topping:
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, rolled oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. With a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour mixture just until mixture comes together and pea-sized clumps form.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the fruit. Bake the apple crisp until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown and crisp, about 45 minutes.
Serve the crisp warm with vanilla bean ice cream or fresh whipped cream, if desired.

To make whipped cream, pour 1 cup of whipping cream into metal bowl on stand mixer. (Chill the bowl and whip attachment in the refrigerator first.) Begin mixing on high speed. As the cream starts to form into whipped cream, add powdered sugar a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve the sweetness you desire. Continue mixing on high until the mixture looks like thick whipped cream. Serve with apple crisp.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

We Need FFA: Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig Reflects on His FFA Experiences

When you look at his formative years, my friend Mike Naig shouldn’t be where he is today, serving as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture. Even for him, it’s hard to shake memories of the Farm Crisis.

“As a child of the 1980s, I knew my parents didn’t want us to go through the same hardships they did,” said Naig, 40, the third of four Naig children who grew up on their family’s farm near Cylinder in northwest Iowa. “There was this mentality of ‘go do something other than farming,’ so my siblings and I were going to college and pursue careers off the farm.”

Naig considered studying veterinary medicine or a major related to human health. Yet there was something that planted a seed back then in Palo Alto County, something that would take root and shape Naig’s future in ways he could never imagine. That transformative experience was FFA.

“I never predicted I’d serve in a role like this, but I’m grateful for the life skills and ag knowledge I learned in FFA,” said Naig, who is one of Iowa’s most high-profile champions of FFA, especially during National FFA Week from February 16-23, 2019. “We need FFA.”

Naig speaks from experience. Before serving as Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, this Buena Vista University graduate worked in agribusiness for more than 13 years, serving in public policy roles for state and national trade associations and in private industry. He served as the Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture under Bill Northey starting in September 2013.

When Northey joined the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds appointed Naig to succeed Northey as Iowa Secretary of Agriculture on March 5, 2018. Naig was elected Secretary of Agriculture in November 2018. Here’s his story:

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig

Q: How did your leadership journey begin?
A: Before I joined FFA, I was heavily involved in 4-H. The first meeting I ever chaired was at my local Independence Boosters 4-H Club. I stayed involved in 4-H through high school and served in all the officer roles. I also served on the 4-H Youth County Council in Palo Alto County. During high school, I went on a leadership trip to Washington, D.C. This helped spark my interest in government and politics.

Q: What role did FFA play in your years at Emmetsburg High School?
A: While I was involved with the student council and served as student body president in high school, I was really into soil judging with FFA. Before I graduated from high school in 1996, our soil judging team made it to state and then to the national competition in Oklahoma. All this fit well with my interest in science, soil quality and soil health. Those of us in FFA were fortunate to have a strong FFA chapter, a great advisor, Jerry Strand, and a supportive community. Although I didn’t know it back then, all this would provide a strong background for my career when I started working on soil and water quality policy issues.

Q: What lessons did you learn from your FFA experiences?
A: FFA teaches you that preparation pays off. The supervised agricultural experience (SAE) challenges you to come up with a project and see it through. This requires you to get organized, plan ahead and think strategically. For many kids, this is one of the first big tastes of responsibility they get. You also learn teamwork, since you have to work together to get things done. Competition is also important in FFA. You learn to put your best effort forward and win with grace. If you come up short, you learn from your mistakes and are encouraged to do better next time.

Q: How can FFA help Iowa meet the challenges of the twenty-first century?
A: FFA does a great job of helping kids learn about the rewarding, ag-related careers that are available in a variety of disciplines right here in Iowa. FFA also does an outstanding job of developing the next generation of ag leaders. This is important, because I see “volunteer fatigue” in many communities. There are plenty of opportunities to serve, including local churches, school boards, county Farm Bureau boards, co-op boards and hospital boards, but it can be hard to replace dedicated board members and volunteers who have served so well for many years. We have significant needs in our rural communities across the state, and we’ll need leaders like those in FFA today to step up and fill these important roles going forward.

Q: What excites you about the future of FFA and Iowa?
A: While these are challenging times in agriculture, there’s always reason for hope. Protein demand worldwide is growing, along with demand for bio-based fuels. Technology continues to advance and create new opportunities. There’s so much we have yet to discover in agriculture, which is exciting!

Iowa is at the epicenter of all this. We have something very special here, and it’s not just our rich soil. It’s our people. Rural Iowa can thrive when it’s guided by lifelong learners who are focused on continuous improvement to protect our precious natural resources and expand economic opportunities. FFA members will be part of this future, guided by the knowledge that feeding people is a noble profession. FFA has a strong record of developing leaders. It’s essential we keep FFA and ag education strong in our schools.

Darcy's FFA blue jacket

Forever proud to wear the iconic FFA blue jacket!

A note from Darcy:
I appreciate Mike’s comments about the importance of FFA and ag education for this story, which first appeared in Farm News. FFA played a critical role in helping me find my career, but boy, was it a strange, wacky, wonderful journey. Read the whole crazy story here. 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

How Not to Invite Someone to Your Next Event–and 3 Solutions

Who’d like to attend another meeting? Not me. You’re probably not looking for another time suck, either. But when you’re the one hosting the meeting, how do you entice people to attend? After all, your meeting is going to be filled with valuable information that will make people glad they stopped by. Don’t miss this!

First, acknowledge the reality of hectic schedules and meeting fatigue—that energy-draining syndrome that infects people who’ve attended one too many unproductive gatherings. I’ve experienced meeting fatigue many a time, and I bet you have, too. That’s why I don’t get overly excited when I get invitations like this:

“It’s time for the XYZ annual meeting! This is your chance to meet with XYZ staff. Find out how area XYZ members are putting our group’s programs to work in their businesses, and see how you can plug in.”

No, thanks. I’ve already got enough on my plate. This invitation isn’t exactly a compelling offer that entices me to mark this event on my calendar. The “benefits” are just too vague.

Don’t waste my time
As a business professional, time is one of my most precious resources. I believe time spent in a meeting (whether it’s in person, online or over the phone) should generate a return on investment. Otherwise, your event isn’t worth it to me, no matter how much I like you or your organization, my friend.

What missed the mark? “Well, wonder no more.”
This is why I just shook my head when I recently received an email invitation that read:

“Who is the keynote speaker at the 2018 National Conference you may wonder? Well wonder no more.”

I’m not sure anyone could have written a weaker lead. My first thought was, “How arrogant! Did this writer really think I’m just waiting to hear who the keynote is for some conference I’ve never heard of before?”

This is the modern business equivalent of the ancient world thinking the sun revolved around the earth. News flash–my world doesn’t revolve around you or your conference. I certainly haven’t been on pins and needles wondering who the keynote speaker could be.

Maybe this is a great event, but what I was reading didn’t show me any reasons to part with my hard-earned dollars and precious time to attend this meeting. I wasn’t even convinced when I scrolled down and saw that the keynote topic was “The Strategic Value of Business Relationships in Agribusiness.” Sounds interesting, but you’re too late. Stop cluttering my inbox. Delete!

3 tips to entice attendees
The whole thing didn’t have to end this way. Stronger writing—the kind that takes the needs and wants of the audience into account—would have worked wonders.

To create this magic, be a bit of a tease. Seduce your audience, if you like. But don’t turn them off. Here are my 3 top tips for writing a meeting invitation to gets results:

1. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. Be clear. Be specific. Be compelling. For example: “Invest two hours with us, and leave with 5 field-tested ideas you can start implementing now to grow your business.” Without a clear path, your offer is limp and unconvincing. Make it easy for people decide that your meeting is worth their time.

2. Satisfy their desires. People are always looking for better ways to save money, make money, save time and enjoy life more. They also like to be informed and entertained. What things motivate your clients, prospects, or members? If you don’t know, find out. Then craft your message by highlighting how time invested at your meeting will help satisfy these desires.

Think back to that ridiculous email invite I received. Here’s how I might have approached this, if I were the writer:

What’s the One ‘Harmless’ Habit You Need to Drop If You Want to Succeed? You’re a busy professional who is in the habit of growing revenues, not relationships, right? But what if you’re overlooking the key to your business’s long-term prosperity—without even realizing it? Bill Jones, president of ABC Agri-Business, knows where you’re coming from. During our annual meeting, he’ll share the most important lesson he’s learned in 30 years of business with “The Strategic Value of Business Relationships in Agribusiness.” If you’re ready to leap ahead of your competition, you won’t want to miss his practical advice in this powerful keynote.

Tell a little story. Speak your readers’ language. Show them what’s in it for them.

3. Seal the deal. Your offer sounds great, but people may still hesitate to sign up for your meeting. Make the decision easier with social proof. Consider this a form of risk management for your audience. Gather testimonials from other people who’ve found value in your meetings. Have them share their stories, in their own words. Take a picture of them, if they don’t mind, and/or shoot a quick video of them sharing their testimonial. Have them explain what challenge they were facing before they attended your event. Then invite them to talk about the value (knowledge, networking opportunities, etc.) they gained by getting involved with your group. Finally, ask how they’ve put this knowledge to work to make their life and/or their business more successful.

Include these stories and testimonials with your invitations. Longer versions can go in email invites or a web page, while a short, concise testimonial might work well on a postcard or letter. In any case, get your audience thinking, “These people are a lot like me. If they’ve benefited from this type of meeting, maybe it’s worth my time, too.”

Let the revolution begin
Now that you know how not to invite someone to your meeting, plus you’ve received 3 top tips to do it right, it’s time for you to lead a meeting revolution.

Show your audience how your next meeting will help them achieve their goals. Prove to them that attending your meeting will be the best investment of their time. Prepare to get more RSVPs (and attendees). Oh, and one more thing—let me know how it goes!

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes and the Magic of Maid-Rite in Iowa

From time to time I get calls from around Iowa or across the country, usually from the media, about the history of Iowa food. Even the Travel Channel reached out for an upcoming Iowa episode of Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations. (Don’t miss this cool story!) People usually want to talk about one thing—Maid-Rites. I love sharing this story and have also cooked up my own twist on loose-meat sandwiches.

Just the other day a friend emailed me about Maid-Rites, wanting to know some other names for the sandwich. Here’s what I told her:

* Loose-meat sandwiches
* Taverns (a common term around Sioux City and parts of northwest Iowa)
* Beef burgers
* Canteens (in Ottumwa)
* Sloppy Joes (if they contain ketchup and other goodies in the mix)
* Yip-yips (at least in southern Illinois, or so I’ve been told!)

While you can sometimes find these sandwiches on some café menus in Iowa, as well as at the 30+ Maid-Rite chain restaurants around the Midwest, they are often turn up at potlucks, fundraiser meals, family get-togethers, civic group lunches and more.

Just when I think I’ve seen every type of these loose-meat sandwiches, there’s another version that pops up. When I shared my “How to Take Better Photos in 1 Minute” class with the Rockwell City Rotary Club recently, the meal included Tex-Mex inspired sloppy joes. While I don’t normally care for sloppy joes, I absolutely loved these sandwiches.

I loved them so much I was inspired to create my own version. These are flavorful, stick-to-your-ribs sandwiches that come together in a snap and can be as spicy or as mild as you like. They’re also an ultimate comfort food on these cold winter days here in Iowa.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy! Also, keep reading below for the fascinating history of Maid-Rite in Iowa. This is an excerpt from my 2016 book, “Iowa’s Culinary History: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites & More.” Order here to get your own signed copy of this fun book!

Tex-Mex Sloppy Joes
• 1 pound ground beef
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 cup ketchup
• 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chilies
• 1/2 cup beef broth
• 1/4 cup chili sauce
• 1/2 to 1 teaspoon chili powder, to taste
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
• 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
• 6 hamburger buns, split
• 2 tablespoons butter, softened

In a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat for 6-8 minutes or until beef is no longer pink, breaking up beef into crumbles; drain. Add garlic; cook 1-2 minutes longer. Stir in the ketchup, chilies, broth, chili sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, spread cut sides of buns with butter. Place on baking sheets, buttered side up. Broil 4 in. from the heat for 1-2 minutes or until toasted. Serve beef mixture in buns.

Now for a tasty bite of Iowa history
Call it the king of the loose-meat sandwiches. A tried-and-true Iowa classic for nearly 100 years, the Maid-Rite is a sandwich unlike any other. But first, let’s clarify what a Maid-Rite is not.
It’s not a sloppy joe. It’s not a ground-beef concoction with ketchup, mustard and sugar in the mix. (Some of these “hybrid” sandwiches with traits of both a Maid-Rite and a sloppy joe can be found in Iowa, and some are quite tasty, but a true Maid-Rite they are not.) Finally, a Maid-Rite is not something you can leave out if you’re going to delve into the culinary history of Iowa.

The story of the Maid-Rite began in 1926, when Fred Angell, a meat cutter in Muscatine, developed a recipe with just the right combination of ground beef (with a specific grind size and meat/fat ratio) and a distinctive seasoning featuring Fred’s unique blend of spices. When a deliveryman tasted Fred’s new creation, he exclaimed, “This sandwich is made right!”

With that, the Maid-Rite legend was born. “The Maid-Rite recipe has stayed the same from the beginning,” said Bradley Burt, president and CEO of the Maid-Rite Corporation based in West Des Moines. “There’s no other sandwich like ours.”

early Maid-Rite sandwich shop

Early Maid-Rite sandwich shop. Photo courtesy of Maid-Rite Corp.

What started as a small Maid-Rite restaurant in Muscatine grew into one of America’s first quick-service, casual-dining franchise restaurants. Today there, are restaurants in eight Midwestern states, including 38 stores in Iowa. While the days of 5-cent Maid-Rites and homemade root beer are gone, Maid-Rite continues to pride itself on home-town hospitality. “Maid-Rite restaurants are still a gathering place in many small towns,” Burt said.

Some of these restaurants are as rich in history as the Maid-Rite sandwich itself. Taylor’s Maid-Rite in Marshalltown is a third-generation business that has been serving central Iowa for more than 80 years. Cliff Taylor purchased the 1928 franchise for $300. Cliff and his family operated Taylor’s Maid-Rite Hamburger Shop, baking pies at home, slicing whole pickles from Marshall Vinegar Works and buns from Strand’s Bakery.

After Cliff passed away in 1944, his son, Don, continued to run the restaurant. Don built a cooler in the basement of his home to store the hamburger that was ground daily. In 1958, he built a state-of-the-art Maid-Rite restaurant across the street from the original location, outfitting the new store with all stainless-steel equipment and two cash registers.

While various generations of the family have operated the business since then, many things haven’t changed. Like all Maid-Rite restaurants, each Maid-Rite at Taylor’s is made from 100% USDA Midwestern fresh ground beef served on a bun, with your choice of ketchup, mustard, onion and pickles. “We have stringent specifications for our beef,” Burt said.

Once you’ve tasted a real Maid-Rite, there’s no substitute. Many former Iowans don’t consider themselves to be officially back home in Iowa until they’ve eaten a Maid-Rite. “It’s quite a phenomenon,” Burt wait. Some Iowans can’t wait to get a taste of home. A group of snowbirds who spend their winters in Arizona host a Maid-Rite party in the Phoenix area each year for 150 guests, complete with Maid-Rite hats, t-shirts and aprons.

One of the biggest Maid-Rite fans of all would have to be Jim Zabel, who broadcast University of Iowa athletic events for 50 years. Before his passing in 2013, the legendary sportscaster and ultimate Iowa ambassador served as the Maid-Rite spokesman. He even made a commercial for Maid-Rite, complete with a riff on his high-energy slogan, “I love ‘em, I love ‘em, I love ‘em!”

Many Iowans stay loyal to their beloved Maid-Rites right to the end. Some people request them as their final meal, while others ask that Maid-Rites be served at their funeral dinner. “Maid-Rite is truly part of Iowa’s culture,” Burt said.

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by. I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you value intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, agriculture updates, recipes and tips to make you a better communicator.

If you like what you see and want to be notified when I post new stories, be sure to click on the “subscribe to blog updates/newsletter” button at the top of this page, or click here. Feel free to share this with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

Also, if you or someone you know could use my writing services (I’m not only Iowa’s storyteller, but a professionally-trained journalist with 20 years of experience), let’s talk. I work with businesses and organizations within Iowa and across the country to unleash the power of great storytelling to define their brand and connect with their audience through clear, compelling blog posts, articles, news releases, feature stories, newsletter articles, social media, video scripts, and photography. Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com, or e-mail me at yettergirl@yahoo.com. 

If you’re hungry for more stories of Iowa history, check out my top-selling “Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More” book from The History Press. Also take a look at my latest book, “Dallas County,” and my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing. Both are filled with vintage photos and compelling stories that showcase he history of small-town and rural Iowa. Order your signed copies today! Iowa postcards are available in my online store, too.

Let’s stay in touch. I’m at darcy@darcymaulsby.com, and yettergirl@yahoo.com.

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

@Copyright 2019 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby.