Category: Agriculture

Butter Sculptures to Christmas Ornaments: Waterloo Boy Tractor Celebrates 100 Years

It’s hard to imagine a time when John Deere wasn’t a powerhouse in the tractor business. Yet, John Deere wouldn’t enter the farm tractor business until March 1918 through the acquisition of the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company, and it’s a milestone that has been commemorated in everything from butter to Christmas ornaments.

Deere has featured a picture and story depicting the 100th anniversary of the iconic Waterloo Boy on its 2018 Christmas ornament.  The 2018 Iowa State Fair also honored the tractor by featuring the world-famous Butter Cow beside a butter sculpture of the Waterloo Boy. Both butter masterpieces were displayed in the 114-year old John Deere Agriculture Building’s 40-degree cooler throughout the fair, which ran from August 9-19.

The Iowa State Fair has long been a prime venue to display Deere equipment in its various forms. A quote from the John Deere Sales Department in 1940 read, “I feel that the machinery and industrial exhibits for 1940 excelled any previous year’s display,” according to history shared by the Iowa State Fair. “We consider our Iowa State Fair exhibit to be a very beneficial part of our advertising program, and we will be with you again in 1941.’”

Waterloo Boy butter sculpture 2018 Iowa State Fair

Waterloo Boy butter sculpture 2018 Iowa State Fair

Meeting the challenge of a reliable, durable tractor
Frequently ranked as one of the top events in the country, the Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural expositions in the country and annually attracts more than a million people from all over the world.

In 2018, the Iowa State Fair used more than 50 John Deere tractors and utility vehicles provided by Van Wall Equipment. In addition, a 1919 Waterloo Boy model N tractor was on display in the Machinery Grounds at the Iowa State Fair.

To understand the significance of the Waterloo Boy, take a trip back in time, said Neil Dahlstrom, manager of the John Deere Archives and History. In the critical five-year stretch (1912-1917) prior to John Deere entering the tractor business, there were two key issues the company needed answered.

“First, what did farmers really want from a machine that would soon make the horse obsolete?” said Dahlstrom, who noted that salesmen, territory and branch managers, and Deere’s top leadership scoured the country to understand what customers desired.

Also, how could the equipment to be manufactured to be durable enough to stand up to daily farm use?

Deere had considered every imaginable idea. The company had developed one-, two- and four-cylinder concept tractors. Some ran on gasoline. Others ran on kerosene. Some had all-wheel drive. Others had front-wheel drive. The company even explored concepts like line steering, which was meant to replicate horse reins as the steering mechanism to ease farmers into power farming, Dahlstrom said.

A motorized cultivator, what Deere called a “Tractivator,” was brought to market by several competitors, but Deere determined it did not provide any cost savings compared to horses.

The challenge of producing a durable tractor loomed large. In a letter to company president William Butterworth in 1915, Deere’s superintendent of factories George Mixter noted that tractors offered by competitors up to that point “have not been built with the proper spirit behind the design and manufacture to insure their durability in the hands of the farmers.” But if Deere could “build a small tractor that will really stand up for five or more years’ work on the farm, I believe they will be a permanent requirement of the American farmer,” Mixter wrote.

Deere ultimately found the solution with the Waterloo Boy tractor and acquired the Waterloo Gasoline Engine Company in Waterloo, Iowa, on March 14, 1918. Although anxious to start selling the Waterloo Boy, Deere dealers had to wait while Deere honored existing contracts, which did not expire until Dec. 31, 1918, Dahlstrom said.

Visitors snapped photos of the iconic Waterloo Boy butter sculpture 2018 Iowa State Fair.

Visitors snapped photos of the iconic Waterloo Boy butter sculpture 2018 Iowa State Fair.

Waterloo Boy makes its debut
Deere put its money where its instincts were. Over the next year, the company spent more than one-third of its advertising budget touting the Waterloo Boy tractor, Dahlstrom said.

Specifically, Deere invested $50,000 on tractor advertising in the year following its debut of the Waterloo Boy—approximately $747,000 in today’s money. Another way to get the company’s new product out in front of customers was to take it on the road – literally.

The National Tractor Demonstrations started to become more mainstream after being introduced in the United States in 1913. An eight-city, eight-week tour schedule was the perfect opportunity to unveil Deere’s Waterloo Boy, Dahlstrom said. Salina, Kansas, served as the ideal backdrop in August 1918, since this was the nation’s largest demonstration.

Deere had participated in tractor demonstrations since the original Winnipeg Agricultural Motor Competitions in Manitoba, Canada, in 1908 – but not with a tractor. Instead, Deere had paired its plows with leading tractor manufacturers. That changed now that the Waterloo Boy was part of the Deere family.

At Salina, Deere spared no expense, showcasing 12 Waterloo Boy tractors as the centerpiece of a display that included John Deere signs, Waterloo Boy signs and a copper leaping deer statue, Dahlstrom said. “There were two stars during this week of 100-degree days – ‘ice water on tap’ and the Waterloo Boy Model ‘N’ tractor,” he added.

The Model “N” demonstrated its merits by pulling tractor plows, disc harrows and grain drills. Visitors were shuttled in three John Deere farm wagons pulled by Waterloo Boy tractors. By all accounts, the debut was a success.

“The award for the most elaborate, largest and most artistic exhibit tent at the Salina tractor show will undoubtedly go to the John Deere Plow company of Kansas City,” wrote the editors of a Kansas City newspaper.

As Deere’s advertising campaign swung into full gear, the Waterloo Boy tractor was promoted as the “best and most efficient tractor” on the market for farmers inclined to buy a tractor. By October 1918, readers of Deere’s magazine, The Furrow, saw an advertisement for the line of Waterloo Boy tractors and stationary engines. The ad guaranteed the Waterloo Boy’s “ample power for field and belt work.”

Waterloo Boy butter sculpture 2018 Iowa State Fair

Waterloo Boy butter sculpture 2018 Iowa State Fair

In January 1919, with tractors now available through John Deere dealers, Deere’s first print ad for the trade press appeared in The Farm Implement News. It featured two areas of emphasis: “A Good Tractor Backed by a Permanent Organization.”

After years of development, John Deere customers and John Deere dealers finally had their John Deere tractor.

“It took longer than the company expected, but a determination to do it right instead of doing it fast now brought the John Deere tractor to market,” Dahlstrom said.

As a result, customers got “the assurance of more tractor work per dollar of fuel cost; longer tractor life with less repair cost; accessibility of parts that makes caring for the tractor simple and easy; and dependable power for all farm work.”

The tractor era had officially arrived.

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 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Pieced Together: Barn Quilt Documentary Features Iowa Stories

Barn quilts have become a folk-art phenomenon in Iowa in the past 15 years, turning up not only on barns, but mailboxes, gardens, buildings in town and more. But there was a time not that long ago when no one had ever heard of a barn quilt—not until Donna Sue Groves wanted to add a little color to her corner of the world.

Her story—and those of barn quilt enthusiasts in places like Sac County—inspired the 53-minute documentary “Pieced Together,” which filmmaker Julianne Donofrio showed in Sac City to a full house at the First Christian Church on the evening of Sept. 24, 2018.

“A lot of people don’t know where barn quilts came from,” said Donofrio, who is from the New York City/Washington, D.C. area. “I want people to know Donna Sue’s story.”

The story, which includes many barn quilts across Iowa, began in 1989 when Groves’ family bought a farm in Adams County, Ohio, near the Ohio River Valley at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Groves made a casual remark to her mother, Nina Maxine Groves, about an uninspiring, time-worn tobacco barn on the farm.

“It was the ugliest barn I’d ever seen,” Groves said in “Pieced Together.” “I joked to my mother, ‘I’ll paint you a quilt square on it someday.’”

Game inspires a lifelong love of barns
Groves’ interest in barns dates back to her childhood. When her family would visit Groves’ grandmother in Roane County, West Virginia, Groves’ mother invented a car game to keep Groves and her brother quiet.

“You couldn’t play the typical license plate game when you’re traveling the back roads of West Virginia, because all you saw were West Virginia license plates,” Groves said. “Mother created a car game where we counted barns.”

Some barns were worth two points, while others were worth three points. If a barn had outdoor advertising, like “Chew Mail Pouch” or “RC Cola,” players got a 10-point bonus if they could read the lettering. Red barns also earned higher points. The chance to earn even more points awaited when the family’s wider travels took them past Pennsylvania Dutch barns with colorful, geometric hex signs.

The game led to discussions and questions about the barns, such as who built the barns, and for what purpose. Groves enjoyed these conversational teaching moments. “I looked forward to seeing barns,” she said.

Sac County Iowa barn quilt

Sac County Iowa barn quilt

Creating a clothesline of quilts across America
This history eventually inspired Groves’ involvement with the first barn quilt square, an Ohio Star pattern, which was created in October 2001 and displayed in Adams County, Ohio. This small gesture triggered a ripple effect across North America.

“If we didn’t pick up on this idea, someone else would,” said Groves’ mother, Maxine, who was featured in “Pieced Together.”

As more people wanted to create barn quilts, Groves and her fellow volunteers quickly learned that painting barn quilts directly onto barns didn’t work too well, but painted plywood squares offered a much better option.

Why stop with just a few barn quilts, though? “A trail of barn quilts could bring tourists here to see all the wonderful things Adams County offers,” noted Groves, who has served as a field representative for the Ohio Arts Council. “Then they’d stay in our bed-and-breakfasts and motels and eat at our restaurants.”

These opportunities for economic development, combined with the visual appeal of barn quilts, soon inspired a “clothesline of quilts” across America. Residents of an adjoining county, Brown County, Ohio, loved Groves’ idea and asked how to get involved. Folks in Tennessee read an article about the Ohio barn quilt project, called Groves and wanted to know how to do a similar project in their area. Grundy County, Iowa, also got involved in 2003, followed by Sac County.

When Sue Peyton and her family from rural Sac City heard about barn quilts, it seemed like a good fit for her son, Kevin, who was in high school and looking for a project he could use as a 4-H leadership project and a Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award project.

“I immediately fell in love with the project when I heard about it,” Sue Peyton said. “Barns and barn quilts are such a natural fit.”

The Peytons coordinated the construction and painting of Sac County’s first barn quilts in the summer of 2005. While some people weren’t quite sure what to make of the new barn quilts that started appearing on barns and corncribs around the county, the concept caught on quickly. “We hoped to get 20 barn quilts,” said Sue Peyton, who added that Sac County boasted 55 barn quilts within two years of the start of the project.

“I’ve seen a lot of quilt trails, and you embraced this early on and have done a tremendous job,” said Donofrio as she chatted with audience members in Sac City following her documentary.

Sac County barn quilt proponents Kevin Peyton and his mother, Sue, (center) welcomed filmmaker Julianne Donofrio, who showed her 53-minute documentary “Pieced Together” in Sac City to a full house at the First Christian Church in September 2018.

“We’re here to stay”
Anywhere there’s a barn quilt trail, every square tells a story. Also, there’s no right or wrong way to create a barn quilt. “Barn quilts have a storied history as complex and diverse as the quilt patterns themselves,” Kevin Peyton said.

Consider the Double Aster barn quilt pattern on the Hogue family’s 1943 barn north of Odebolt. The pastel-colored design complements the family’s Prairie Pedlar Gardens business. Owner Jane Hogue, who served on the original Sac County Barn Quilt Committee, enjoyed watching the “Pieced Together” documentary.

“It was fun to see the snippets of Sac County’s barn quilts in the film,” she said. “We’re proud to be part of Sac County’s barn quilt project. With our gardens and tourism, it’s a win-win.”

Sac County proves that barn quilts offer an effective way to help save barns, promote rural tourism and boost economic development, Sue Peyton added. She cited the vintage barn at the Rustic River Winery and Vineyard north of Lake View, for example. It has been remodeled not only into a winery, but a venue where people can host parties and other gatherings.

As the history of the barn quilt phenomenon is preserved through projects like “Pieced Together,” barn quilts are being praised as one of the greatest community art projects ever created. While there are barn quilt trails in 42 states, there is no national barn quilt organization, by design. Creating barn quilts at the local allows local people to make their mark, share their history and establish a legacy. “It’s so adaptable—that’s the beauty of it,” Groves said.

Above all, barn quilts inspire people to view rural communities in a new way. “Barn quilts prompt a question that starts a discussion,” noted a speaker in the “Pieced Together” documentary. “It’s a statement that, ‘We’re here, and we’re here to stay.’”

Barn quilts also prove the power of one person from an isolated rural county to inspire a vision that has touched an entire nation. “As times get harder, we forget how to dream,” said Groves, a cancer survivor. “I like to think the barn quilt trails allow people to dream.”

Sac County barn quilt near Early, Iowa

Sac County barn quilt near Early, 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 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Digging Deeper: Volunteers Showcase Thomas Jefferson Gardens in Iowa

What comes to mind with the name Thomas Jefferson? President, perhaps? Avid agriculturist and gardener also fit, especially in Jefferson, where locals are quick to share this rich history.

“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens,” Jefferson wrote in 1785 to John Jay, a fellow founder of the United States and first chief justice of the United States. “They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds.”

Jefferson frequently extolled the virtues of the agrarian life and championed self-government. His legacy and ideals are honored on in the Thomas Jefferson Gardens of Greene County, Iowa (TJGGCI), in downtown Jefferson, thanks to dedicated volunteers, local civic groups and other community-minded supporters.

A life-sized statue of Jefferson himself greets visitors to the gardens, which surround the local Welcome Center/chamber of commerce office southeast of the Greene County courthouse. “The statue is so lifelike that I think a person is sitting there when I catch a glimpse of it while I’m working,” said Jean Walker, head gardener and secretary of the TJGGCI.

Jefferson’s interest in agriculture blends seamlessly with a rural community like Jefferson that honors its ag heritage and looks for new ways to promote the area, said John Turpin, a retired social studies teacher and coach from Jefferson who serves as treasurer and historian for the TJGGCI. “Jefferson was a student of the flora and fauna in his home state of Virginia. He also thought agriculture was the most important career a person could have.”

Making something out of nothing
So what came first in Jefferson—the statue or the garden? It all started in 2010 when Wallace Teagarden, a Greene County native, lawyer and long-time admirer of Jefferson’s philosophies, wanted to combine his love of agriculture and Greene County in a lasting legacy to the author of the Declaration of Independence.

Teagarden commissioned Jon Hair, an Iowa native and world-renowned sculptor, to create a statue of Jefferson. While displaying the statue on the courthouse lawn was the original idea, it was decided that the statute should become focal point of the new TJGGCI, located just down the street to the east of the iconic Mahanay Bell Tower.

A great deal of work went into creating the nearly $1 million gardens that visitors enjoy today. “This lot where the gardens are had three dilapidated old buildings on it that had to be removed,” said Mary Weaver, who leads 12-member volunteer board of the TJGGCI.

The ground itself wasn’t ideal, either. Old cans and other debris were buried in the corner behind the area where a filling station once stood on the property. “Multiple truckloads of soil were hauled in here,” Walker said.

Before some of the first plants could even be planted, grant writing and fundraising were essential. Project leaders received grants from Vision Iowa and Grow Greene County, along with support from Alliant Energy, West Central Cooperative (which is now Landus Cooperative, the Greene County Board of Supervisors, and countless other groups and individuals.

By 2014, the first plants were added to the new garden. Today, brick paving connects the five distinct gardens in the TJGGCI, including:

• The farmer’s garden on the east. Volunteers have grown broom corn, white corn, pumpkins, squash, Yukon Gold potatoes, flax and more in this garden, which is near a replica of Jefferson’s “mouldboard of least resistance” for a plow. While serving as minister to France, Jefferson had the opportunity to observe European plow designs. Their deficiencies inspired him to design an improved moldboard (the part of the plow that lifts up and turns over the sod cut by the plow share). He wished to make that lifting and turning action as efficient as possible so the plow could be pulled through the soil with the least expenditure of force. He never sought to patent his design and sent numerous models to friends at home and abroad, where his design met with general approval.

• A prairie garden on the north, filled with native plants. “This is what Lewis and Clark would have seen when they explored Iowa following the Louisiana Purchase,” Turpin said.

• A children’s garden, with beds made from old wagon wheels. This fun garden showcases unique plants like the sensitive plant, whose leaves and stems curl up when touched.

• A flower and rose garden on the west. This garden is filled with 1,000 plants, including many perennials ranging from irises to daylilies. This garden also includes Buck roses, which are hardy varieties developed by Dr. Griffith Buck from Iowa State University. In addition, some of the plants in the garden have been donated from local gardens, including two peony plants that are more than 100 years old, Walker said. Those are located near the garden’s striking pavilion, a Federal design reminiscent of architectural styles associated with Jefferson. Even the little free library in the garden near the pavilion reflects Jefferson’s legacy, since it’s designed to look like Monticello, Jefferson’s estate in Virginia.

• Five raised garden beds on the south. Grapevines grow on a cedar trellis just to the south of the raised beds. The raised beds are used to grow various vegetables that are donated to the local food pantry and congregate meal program. “The first year we planted crops like parsnips, turnips and kohlrabi that Jefferson planted in his own gardens,” Walker said. “Those didn’t prove very popular here, though, so we grow peppers, heirloom tomatoes, peas, green beans and more.”

Learning and growing
Since Thomas Jefferson was interested in music as well as agriculture, the TJGGCI project leaders added whimsical, larger-than-life musical instruments, including a contra base chime and xylophone, to bring sound to the garden.

“We were inspired by the outdoor instruments at Okoboji in the Arnolds Park area,” said Jacque Andrew of Jefferson, who handles marketing for the TJGGCI. “Anyone can play these instruments, and they make the garden more interactive.”

So far, there has been one wedding in the garden in 2016. Tour groups from Des Moines to South Dakota have also visited the gardens.

Volunteers continue to work to make the garden even more inviting. They hope to add a third musical instrument and are hosting another year of Tuesday Talks. These free, educational lectures are held in the garden each Tuesday from noon until 1 p.m. through mid[August. Topics range from perennial gardening to birds in the garden. “A garden is always a work in progress,” Walker said.

That’s part of what brings people together and makes this project inspiring, Weaver added. “These gardens make me so proud of the community. We want to help Jefferson and Greene County become a destination, and the gardens are an important part of this.”

People are listening
P.S. I received this wonderful note from Mary Weaver after this article I wrote ran in Farm News in July 2018: 

“On a very pleasant note, we are getting visitors because of the articles. We have, that we are aware of, three different sets of visitors from Humboldt. It is the type of visitor story we will tell the City Council when we report to them in September.

The best anecdote was a woman who was part of an assisted living bus tour that was coming to Jefferson from Humboldt, but the destination was the casino. She persuaded the driver her to bring her to TJG rather than the casino and she stayed the entire length of time the others were gambling.

The second was a couple I met yesterday during Tuesday Talks. It was their second visit for a “Tuesday Talk,” they ate at a local restaurant, went shopping at the quilt and antique store.

Certainly is the type of economic/tourism development we have been hoping to create. Thank you Darcy for your splendid articles about the Thomas Jefferson Gardens.”

 

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 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Sac County Barn Quilt Attracts National Attention

When Alvin (Al) Liske and his wife, Jean, signed up for the Barn Quilts of Sac County project, they had no idea how much attention this would attract to their stately World War II-era barn west of Early, Iowa.

“Our barn has been featured in Eleanor Burns’ book, ‘Quilt Blocks on American Barns,’ and it was also included on the cover of the Department of Transportation’s 2009 map of Iowa,” said Jean.

Burns, a popular television personality who gained famed for her “Quilt in a Day” system, visited the Liske barn last year when she traveled to Iowa to participate in the Sac County Quilt-a-Fair. She was especially intrigued by the Country Lanes barn quilt pattern that graces the barn’s haymow door. She noted that Country Lanes is a very old pattern that was originally published by Mountain Mist, a company that began selling quilt batting in Cincinnati in 1846.

“We chose the Country Lanes block, because we live on a gravel road,” said Jean, who works in the registrar’s office at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. “Even though we’re off the beaten path, it’s not uncommon to see people drive out here and take photos of the barn.”

Jean’s father, Herman Puetz, built the barn for approximately $4,000 around 1943 or 1944 on the Boyer Valley Township farm that his family had purchased in 1930. The new barn replaced an existing barn that was made from cottonwood lumber. After the concrete foundation for the new barn was poured, lumber was not readily available for the building, due to the war. In the meantime, the family roller skated on the concrete slab. “When construction started again, I can also remember going with my parents to Albert Lea, Minn., to get the rafters for the barn, and I thought that was a really long trip,” said Jean, who noted that the barn includes glazed tile on the bottom and originally had wood shingles on the rounded, gothic roof.

Herman kept horses in the barn, said Jean, who added that farming with horses could be dangerous. “One time when my Uncle George was hauling manure on our farm, something spooked the horses, and they ran toward a barbed wire fence. My uncle jumped off, and he broke his ankle, which got infected.”

Jean’s father, who was one of 12 children, also milked cows on the east side of the barn and kept plenty of hay in the haymow. “I’d play in the barn with my brothers and sister, and we’d make tunnels and caves and houses with the bales. When enough hay had been fed, there would be bare spots in the haymow, and we’d play basketball up there,” said Jean, who noted that the haymow still includes basketball hoops.

After Jean married Al and the couple moved to the farm where Jean grew up, the Liskes raised cattle and hogs in the barn and farmed from the early 1960s until the 1980s. In 2005, the couple decided to remodel the barn, which still had a good foundation. “It was getting to the point where we needed to fix up the barn or think about tearing it down, and we didn’t want to watch the barn fall down,” said Jean, who noted that the family power washed the interior, rebuilt windows and doors, had the barn rewired, covered the roof with red steel and added a staircase to the haymow.

The barn, which is now used for storage, became

a favorite play area for the Liske’s grandchildren. “The barn is an important part of our family’s heritage, and it’s one of the few old buildings left on this farm,” Jean said. “My dad was always proud of the barn, and we’re glad we’ve maintained it.”

Note from Darcy: I first wrote this piece in 2010 for Farm News. 

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 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Events Spark Stories That Help Backcountry Winery Grow in Iowa

Ask Amber Gable about the back story behind Backcountry Winery at her family’s home east of Stratford, and her answer is straightforward. “It’s a hobby out of control.”

That hobby has taken Gable and her husband, Preston, on dynamic journey that has led to the creation of a small business that’s helping spur economic development in rural Iowa. At the heart of it all is a century-old barn that’s central to the story, offering an attractive venue for gatherings, celebrations, music concerts and more.

“This barn is such a unique building,” said Amber Gable, 27, who grew up on a farm near Sibley. “There’s so much history here, including original interior boards that have Stratford Grain and Supply stamped on them.”

Backcountry Winery haymow Iowa

Beyond the tasting room on the main floor, the barn loft holds 150 people.

Guests who come to Backcountry Winery for bridal showers, wedding receptions, class reunions and other celebrations enjoy exploring this rural heritage. So do the visitors who stop by for Backcountry Winery’s live music events.

“When we’re open on Saturday afternoons without a special event like live music, we tend to have smaller crowds,” Gable said. “Events help create experiences that people seek out.”

Events of all types have become an increasingly important part of running a successful winery, noted Mike White, a viticulture specialist for Iowa State University Extension. “More wineries are realizing that there’s big potential in event centers, and many are going this way.”

Putting down roots in Hamilton County
For many guests, part of the experience involves learning the story of the winery. In the case of Backcountry Winery, that story began with Preston Gable’s long-time interest in home winemaking.

“We’d talk about how we might open a winery someday,” said Amber Gable, whose husband is a fellow northwest Iowa native from Hartley.

“Someday” seemed far off, however, when the high school sweethearts started their careers in Ames following their graduation from Iowa State University (ISU). Amber Gable became a landscape designer for an engineering firm, while her husband worked in biofuels research at ISU.

When the couple began looking for an affordable acreage in central Iowa where they could establish a home, start a family and maybe operate a winery eventually, the process became frustrating at times. “We actively looked for about a year and often came up with nothing,” Amber Gable said. “There were some tears along the way.”

Things turned around in 2014, though, when the young couple found an acreage with a house and barn northeast of Stratford. “We really needed a fixer-upper, and this place needed a family to put down roots,” Amber Gable said.

After the couple purchased the property in August 2014, they began remodeling the barn within a few months and exploring its history. The abstract for the property goes back to 1920, when the current home on the acreage was built by Alfred Erickson. “We know the barn pre-dates 1920, although we don’t know exactly when it was built,” Amber Gable said.

While the barn is structurally sound, time had taken a toll on some parts of the building. “We poured a new concrete floor and replaced the entire hayloft floor,” said Amber Gable, who noted that the barn once housed cattle.

After months of work, the Gables opened Backcountry Winery in May 2016. “The barn is still a work in progress, but it has allowed us to open our winery sooner than we anticipated,” said Amber Gable, who appreciates the opportunity to run a home-based business, especially now that she and her husband are raising their 1-year-old son, Ivan.

Word-of-mouth marketing, Backcountry Winery’s website and a Facebook page have helped the couple’s business grow. While Backcountry Winery hosted one wedding in 2016, this grew to five weddings in 2017 and has increased to seven weddings slated for 2018.

At Backcountry Winery, the Gables grow six varieties of wine grapes. They make 12 different wines, including strawberry, raspberry, cherry and apple wines, and plan to expand to 14 wines soon.

The Gables have invested in an expansion near the barn to accommodate these events. A connecting space on the west side of the barn will include a room when brides can get ready for their wedding. This connecting space is attached to a 60-foot by 90-foot addition that will provide additional production space, storage space and office space for the winery.

This infrastructure is just one part of Backcountry Winery’s recent expansions. While the Gables maintain a vineyard on the east side of the barn, the couple also began leasing an established, 4-acre vineyard near Webster City in the spring of 2017.

“It’s exciting to raise more of our own grapes so we can produce estate wines, which are made from our own crop,” said Amber Gable, who is a member of the Iowa Wine Growers Association. “There’s a great deal of pride in that.”

Wine wins big at Iowa State Fair
This pride is reflected in the large, silver trophy that graces the barn at Backcountry Winery. When the Gables competed in the commercial wine competition at the 2017 Iowa State Fair, the judges selected Vignoles from Backcountry Winery for the top honor, the Governor’s Cup. Vignoles is a semi-dry white wine that boasts crisp flavors of tropical and citrus fruits and a clean finish.

Vignoles is just one of the wines available from Backcountry Winery, where the Gables grow six varieties of wine grapes. They make 12 different wines, including strawberry, raspberry, cherry and apple wines, and plan to expand to 14 wines soon.

 

Backcountry Winery’s products can be purchased at the winery or through the approximately 25 retailers in Hamilton County and central, northern and northwest Iowa that partner with Backcountry Winery.

Raising specialty crops like wine grapes and offering Iowa wines offer unique opportunities to boost economic development in rural Iowa, Amber Gable said. “When visitors come to our winery, they not only buy wine, but they buy fuel at the convenience store in Stratford, which is owned by the local co-op, and they can go to Stanhope to get a burger. It’s rewarding to promote the whole Hamilton County experience.”

The Gables hope to attract more guests to the area by offering more live music this summer at the winery. This builds on the success of the three performances offered in 2016 and the 10 shows offered in 2017. The 2018 concerts, which range from country to classic rock, cost $5 for admission and will be held on certain Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the barn.

“Visiting a winery is all about the experience,” Amber Gable said. “We enjoy creating these memorable experiences, meeting people from across Iowa and beyond and promoting rural Iowa.”

Iowa State Fair wine winners Backcountry Winery

When the Gables competed in the commercial wine competition at the 2017 Iowa State Fair, the judges selected Vignoles from Backcountry Winery for the top honor, the Governor’s Cup. Vignoles is a semi-dry white wine that boasts crisp flavors of tropical and citrus fruits and a clean finish.

Iowa’s Wine Industry, By the Numbers
Data from the Iowa Wine Growers Association (IWGA) shows that Iowa has:

• 103 wineries
• 267 vineyards
• 1,300 acres of grapes
• 8 wine trails
• 40+ cold-climate grapes grown
• $420 million of economic impact in 2012
• 2,600 full-time jobs
• 358,000 wine related tourists per year

On average, the typical Iowa winery produces approximately 3,000 gallons of wine annually. The Iowa native wine industry helps promote and establish additional activity in the state, including lodging, food, travel, gifts, agri-tourism, event centers, festivals, music, art and a host of service industries.

“By our estimation, based on direct feedback from the wineries we surveyed, there was over $2.1 million in revenue generated from these wine-related events and facilities,” according to the 2012 “Economic Impact of Iowa Wine and Wine Grapes” report produced by Frank, Rimerman + Co, LLP.

In order for the industry to keep growing and attracting new visitors, wineries not only need to continue focusing on improving wine quality, but consider expanding into more wine-related events like private parties, weddings and festivals held on winery properties, according to the report.

  • I originally wrote this story for the Progress section of Farm News, Ft. Dodge, Iowa in February 2018. 

Backcountry Winery’s fermenting equipment is housed in a Hamilton County, Iowa, barn that’s approximately 100 years old.

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 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Recalling a Most Unconventional—and Life-Changing–FFA Journey

My FFA story is so unlikely that even I can’t quite believe it myself. It all began in the fall of 1989, when I was starting my sophomore year at Southern Cal High School in Lake City.

As a child of a Farm Crisis, I never thought about joining FFA. I was busy with classes, band, choir, theater and other activities, and the unspoken message was clear—ag has no future, so don’t spend your time there. Then along came Ed Ricks.

Ed was Southern Cal’s ag teacher and FFA advisor. Turns out he was also a talent recruiter. He asked me whether I’d be interested in coming over to the ag building and studying ag rather than taking the standard 10th grade biology class. I was intrigued. Ed worked out an arrangement with the biology teacher so I could skip biology class every day and instead focus on ag, as long as I could pass the biology tests.

No problem.

What a golden opportunity this turned out to be. I discovered a whole new world of learning, plus I didn’t have to be bored in a biology class. (And yes, I always passed the tests.)

I’m forever grateful that Ed welcomed me into the dynamic world of FFA. Not only did I love the ag classes, but it was fun to compete on the horticulture/floriculture team at nationals in Kansas City. My ag adventures truly set me a path that has defined my career for more than 20 years. They also explain why I’m sure a big believer in FFA.

As I look back, it’s amazing to think how much FFA has changed, and what hasn’t changed, since those days.

1. More diversity. When I was in FFA, there were usually only three to five girls at most in our chapter. That era wasn’t that far removed from the days when girls were not allowed to join FFA (a change that didn’t come until 1969.) Now girls often outnumber boys in many FFA chapters. I was excited that our local South Central Calhoun FFA chapter offered a Diversity in Ag class for the first time this fall, thanks to advisor Matt Carlson, to help girls learn more about the diverse career options available in ag today.

2. Ability to inspire. As I worked with the Diversity in Ag students, I remembered just how influential adults can be at this point in an FFA student’s life, and how much we can inspire the next generation of ag leaders, if we only take the time.

3. Learning made fun. While “fun” doesn’t come to mind when I think of most of my high school classes, it’s a word I’ve always associated with ag education. That all stems from my positive experiences in FFA, from working in our greenhouse to competing with teams that traveled from Ames to Des Moines to Kansas City.

4. Competition. Speaking of competition, I grew up in the era before everyone got a participation ribbon, and it made all the difference in my outlook on life. I loved competing on our floriculture/horticulture team. Even when I didn’t do well in certain categories likes salesmanship, I learned how to keep trying, keep learning and keep progressing. I also come from a legacy of FFA competitors. My Uncle Jack Dougherty competed in public speaking at the state FFA convention in Des Moines in 1956, where he focused on soil conservation. My family still quotes his words that “when the soil is gone, so are we.”

5. Real-world connections. These FFA lessons, from soil conservation to sales and communication skills, aren’t just academic theory. They have real-world applications that continue to influence my approach to business, farming and life.

6. Broadening your horizons. Being recruiting into FFA opened up a whole new world of career options I might never have considered. While there isn’t an abundance of children of the 1980s Farm Crisis working in agriculture, I consider myself to be one of the fortunate ones, all because Ed Ricks helped me broaden my horizons.

7. Useful knowledge you don’t learn anywhere else. When I’m at a meeting, I can tell who’s an FFA alum and who’s not, simply by whether a person knows how to conduct a meeting properly with parliamentary procedure. This is such a useful skill, and it’s curious to me that FFA is one of the few organizations that seems to understand its value.

8. Giving back. I remember helping plant and water the flowers in the planters around Lake City’s town square as part of our FFA training. While I just thought this was a fun way to get away from school for awhile, lessons like this helped plant the seed of community service in my life.

9. Leadership. As I volunteer with local FFA chapters today, I’m always inspired by the leadership opportunities that kids embrace at the chapter, district, state and even national levels. A dedicated FFA member always stands out among his or her peers. Some of FFA’s most notable alums have ascended to the highest levels of their chosen professions, from President Jimmy Carter to professional athletes like Bo Jackson to country music superstars Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift.

10. Focus on the future. As I look back, I knew I had a good thing going in high school with FFA, but I wish would have understood even better the amazing opportunities I had. It says a lot about an organization when you realize more of its value the longer you’ve been away from it.

It’s always interesting to me that FFA took root in the mid-1920s to counter the trend of boys losing interest in agriculture and leaving the farm. I think of my own FFA story and am still inspired by the wisdom reflected in the the FFA creed:

“I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – achievements won by the present and past generations of agriculturists; in the promise of better days through better ways, even as the better things we now enjoy have come to us from the struggles of former years.”

Long live FFA!

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re 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 2018 Darcy Maulsby & Co.  Blog posts may only be reprinted with permission from Darcy Maulsby. 

Soy Power Shines at Historic Rainbow Bridge

I was furious the minute I saw it. Blue spray paint defaced the bronze historical marker attached to a large stone south of Lake City near Rainbow Bridge, a favorite destination where I take my dad, mom and trusty red heeler, Maggie, for Sunday drives.

I snapped a photo of the crude star scrawled across the marker in mid-August and posted it on social media to express my disgust. While outraged Facebook friends posted hundreds of comments lamenting the vandalism, few solutions emerged.

I’m no graffiti removal expert and didn’t know what to do next, so I turned to Google. My search led me to Natural Soy Products’ graffiti remover. Not only did the product promise to remove paint, but this eco-friendly solution is made from American-grown soybeans. When I found out the company is based in Brooklyn, Iowa, I was sold and ordered two bottles of Graffiti Remover.

I was still nervous, though. Was I doing the right thing?

graffiti on historical marker Rainbow Briidge

Look at this mess defacing this bronze marker that denotes the history of Rainbow Bridge. What a mess!

Rainbow Bridge spans generations of history
Iconic Rainbow Bridge has spanned the Raccoon River for more than a century southwest of Lake City and is an outstanding example of Iowa engineer James B. Marsh’s rainbow arch design. Hundreds of bridges with this distinctive “rainbow” profile were constructed in the 1910s and 1920s, mainly in the Midwest, though few remain.

Despite its storied history, the local Rainbow Bridge has long been a target for graffiti. Still, I kept thinking this latest act of vandalism had gone too far. I didn’t want to inflict more damage, though, in my attempt to clean up the mess.

Putting soy power to work
When my bottles of Graffiti Remover arrived, I rounded up a vegetable scrub brush, some rags, fresh water and my dog. We headed out to Rainbow Bridge late that afternoon to get to work.

While the Graffiti Remover label recommended waiting at least 10 minutes after spraying the cleaner, impatience got the best of me. I tried scrubbing off the paint after several minutes and was delighted to see promising results. In less than 15 minutes, I cleaned the entire marker and stone.

Always curious, I wanted to learn more. “Our products utilize the powerful, natural properties of soy,” said Joe Barber, president and CEO of Natural Soy Products, who responded to my inquiry. He added that soybean oil and soy methyl esters can be processed into a variety of useful products, from household cleaners to industrial applications.

Many of these products have evolved from innovations in the soy biodiesel industry. It’s exciting to see soy-based technology not only protecting history at Rainbow Bridge, but creating new solutions that will benefit our families and communities for generations to come.

(I first shared this story on my Facebook page in an abbreviated form. Ann Clinton, editor of the Iowa Soybean Review magazine, asked me to write the story for the Iowa Soybean Association‘s magazine. I was happy to oblige, and the piece you just read here appeared in the November 2017 issue. But wait–there’s more! I also wrote a different version of the story for Farm News‘ annual soybean section in the fall of 2017. Here’s the story below.) 

graffiti remover works in Iowa

Amazing what a non-toxic soy-based cleaner and a little elbow grease can do. The graffiti remover started dissolving the paint in minutes.

Cleaning Up with Soy Power: Iowa Company Redefines Eco-Friendly Cleaning Solutions
Environmentally-friendly cleaning products often make big promises, but the results don’t always live up the hype—unless soybeans are involved.

“Soy works great for cleaning products, lubricants and more,” said Craig Lang, former Iowa Farm Bureau Federation president and a farmer from Brooklyn, Iowa. “These products have come about because of innovations in the soy biodiesel industry.”

Soy-based cleaners and other soy-based products are a specialty of Natural Soy Products in Brooklyn, which uses soy oil and soy methyl esters to produce a wide array of consumer and industrial products. “I’ve seen some really amazing things with these bio-based products,” said Lang, who has worked with Natural Soy for almost three years. “They are highly effectively.”

The Graffiti Cleaner, for example, is used by customers from California to Chicago and beyond. Soy-based products like this not only clean up messes, but they can help protect water quality.

“Water quality is an issue that needs to be at the forefront,” said Joe Barber, president and CEO of Natural Soy Products LDT, a division of the Clean Environment Company. “A lot of chemicals get put down drains every day. Environmentally-friendly, soy-based cleaning products offer an alternative and can be part of the solution to improving water quality.”

Growing new opportunities in Iowa
Established in 2013, Natural Soy Products is owned by Ken Budke, a U.S. Army veteran and retired Cedar Falls dentist from Cedar Falls who’s an entrepreneur at heart. When Budke saw the potential of soy-based solutions for home and industrial use, he knew he was on to something, Barber said.

“Our products work, because they utilize the powerful, natural properties of soy,” Barber said. “Soybean oil and soy methyl esters can be processed into many different products that benefit consumers and local soybean farmers.”

soy graffiti remover from Iowa

Here’s the soy-based graffiti remover I bought from Natural Soy in Iowa. It worked like a charm.

Household cleaning products from Natural Soy Products and the Clean Environment Company range from barbecue grill cleaner to hand degreasers to pet shampoo, along with toilet bowl cleaners and bathroom cleaners that make lime removal simple.

“Just because these are environmentally-friendly products doesn’t mean they don’t work,” said Barber, who noted that Natural Soy Products work well at home and in hospitals, nursing homes, businesses and more. “They are tough enough to get the job done, but gentle enough that you can get the product on your skin and it won’t cause any harm.”

Other soy-based products from the company are geared towards industrial use and perform well in harsh, dirty environments, Barber said. Lubricant sticks for the railroad industry are designed to protect the wheel/rail interface. These soy-based sticks offer higher lubricity than the traditional petroleum-based lubricants, providing greater maintenance and replacement cost savings. The solid material also provides a targeted application that greatly reduces maintenance costs.

Other soy-based industrial products from the company include an asphalt release concentrate that prevents asphalt from adhering to the bodies of dump trucks. A concrete sealer from Natural Soy Products includes a common ingredient that adds a plastic component to make this product even more effective.

“We have the ability to recycle Styrofoam and dissolve it into the soy blend,” Barber said. “If anything is spilled on top of the sealed concrete, this makes it easy clean up the mess.”

Iowa’s best-kept soy secret
Many of these innovative products were showcased in late August when Natural Soy Products welcomed guests from Expedition Farm Country 2017, a two-day bus tour of eastern Iowa ag hosted by the Iowa Food & Family Project.

“Natural Soy Products has to be one of Iowa’s best kept secrets,” said Shannon Latham, vice president of Latham High-Tech Seeds, which helped sponsor Expedition Farm Country to help urban consumers learn about Iowa agriculture. “What impresses me most is these products are industrial-strength, effective cleaners and lubricants, yet they’re safe for the environment.”

Latham also appreciates that Natural Soy Products is owned by a veteran, led by farmers and committed to supporting youth organizations like 4-H and FFA.

As Expedition Farm Country guests learned, a majority of Natural Soy Products’ production is located in the east-central Iowa town of Brooklyn, where the company has two locations. The company also has an office in Waterloo in the Cedar Valley TechWorks campus. The company employs about 10 people and is always looking for growth opportunities.

“Since we’re a small company, it can be challenging to compete with big corporations,” Barber said. “We’re identifying new ways to expand our distributor network and retail presence, though, while offering our products at a competitive price.”

While Natural Soy Products is based in Iowa, many of the companies’ products, especially the eco-friendly household cleaners, have found some of the most receptive markets far from the Midwest. Home cleaning products from the Clean Environment Company, for example, are popular on the East Coast and West Coast, while Natural Soy Products items have seen the most demand from the Rockies to the Ohio/Indiana region.

“While the majority of our sales are outside Iowa, we’re trying to change this,” Barber said.

Some of the company’s products can be found at Brothers Market in Parkersburg, for example. As more people hear about the benefits of home-grown soy solutions, the message is resonating with people, said Barber, who welcomes new inquiries from retailers wanting to carry items from Natural Soy Products and the Clean Environment Company.

“We need to make decisions today that will benefit our children and our children’s children,” Barber said. “Agriculture and soy products can be a big part of this.”

What are your best cleaning tips?

So I’m curious–do you have any favorite cleaning products or eco-friendly cleaning tips? If you do, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s one of mine for cleaning those awful burned-on kitchen messes that happen sometimes, even to the best cooks:

 

How to Clean a Burned Pan in 6 Simple Steps

 

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. Feel free to share this information 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. 

Talk to you soon!

Darcy

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

 

Copyright 2017, Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

The Hotel Pattee and I are Hosting a Party—And You’re Invited!

What are you doing on Monday evening, Sept. 11? I would like to personally invite you to Perry to the historic Hotel Pattee at 7 p.m. for the debut of Dallas County, my latest non-fiction Iowa history book. It’s all here—drama, crime (Bonnie and Clyde), politics (Dallas County made President Harry Truman the original Comeback Kid), romance, tragedy, mystery, action, adventure, sports, food, agriculture, architecture, science, business, biography, comics and more—all told through more than 100 vintage photos and short stories in 10 chapters.

During this fun event at the hotel (click here for all the details!), I’ll take you on a time-traveling virtual tour of fun, surprising and sometimes shocking Dallas County history highlights. Stick around for the book signing after the program, and then stroll through the iconic Hotel Pattee to tour some of the guest rooms that will be open that evening. Every room in this grand boutique hotel features unique décor that tells the stories of Perry, Dallas County and Iowa history.

I’ve specifically asked that the luxurious Louis Armstrong Suite be open that evening. (In case you’re wondering about the Iowa connection, Louis Armstrong performed in Dallas County in 1954 at the legendary Lake Robbins Ballroom near Woodward and stayed at the Hotel Pattee.)

If nothing else, stop by on Sept. 11 for the homemade cookies the Hotel Pattee’s culinary team is preparing with some of my favorite recipes!

Dallas County Iowa hiistory bookExplore forgotten Iowa history
I am so excited to bring you this new hardcover, illustrated book, which is the first in-depth, non-fiction history of Dallas County, Iowa, in nearly 80 years!

No Iowa county has influenced American history more than Dallas County. It propelled Harry Truman to an unlikely victory in the 1948 presidential campaign, following a fiery speech he delivered to 100,000 farmers on a sweltering September day at the National Plowing Match near Dexter. Just 15 years earlier, a shoot-out near Dexfield Park marked the beginning of the end for infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde and the notorious Barrow Gang.

Dallas County, located just west of Des Moines, has produced several major-league baseball players (among them Bob Feller and Hal Manders), a US congressman (David Young), and Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner and University of Iowa football legend whose grandfather George Clarke, of Adel, served as Iowa’s governor from 1913 to 1917.
Today, Dallas County is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

My 128-page book from Arcadia Publishing (order signed copies here) is filled with intriguing black-and-white, vintage photos on nearly every page, along with stories from Adel, Perry, Waukee, Granger, Woodward, Dexter, Linden, Minburn, Dawson, Dallas Center, Van Meter, Redfield, Bouton, surrounding rural areas and ghost towns.

Alice Nizzi, spaghetti, Waukee, Iowa, food, Italian, history

Alice Nizzi, owner of Alice’s Spaghettiland, an Italian restaurant open from 1947 – 2004 in Waukee. Source: Waukee Area Historical Society

Here’s a quick list of highlights that make this Dallas County book unique:

1. Many of the images have been donated from private collections.

2. In the early 20th century, Dallas County was one of the biggest coal-mining areas of Iowa. Much of this history, from Waukee to Woodward, is shared in this new Dallas County book. You can also get the inside story in this guest blog post I wrote for Hometown Heritage in Perry. 

3. At least two circuses once made Dallas County their home base, including the famous Orton Bros. three-ring circus, where Five generations of the Orton family thrilled audiences for years. The Yankee Robinson Show, a Midwestern traveling circus, made its winter quarters two miles southeast of Granger. The spacious area also provided a place to bury deceased circus elephants. Granger may be the only Iowa town to claim an elephant graveyard.

4. Minburn’s legendary Singing Wheels roller skating show debuted in 1950 and ran through the early 1960s. Local children, high school students from the Minburn Roller Club and adults all participated in the Singing Wheels’ summer performances, which included a new theme every year, eye-catching costumes, and choreographed routines. These shows attracted thousands of people to the Minburn roller skating rink.

5. The Lake Robbins Ballroom, which opened on November 11, 1931, near Woodward, is still a popular entertainment destination and is one of the few remaining ballrooms in Iowa. The legendary Louis Armstrong performed at Lake Robbins in 1954 and stayed at the Hotel Pattee in Perry, where the most luxurious suite in the hotel is named in his honor.

6. Granger became the focal point of a successful New Deal program inspired by Monsignor Luigi Ligutti, who had served Assumption Church in Granger since 1926. Ligutti felt coal camps were an unsuitable environment for children and looked to the land to address the miners’ economic and social challenges. The 225-acre Granger Homesteads, built in 1935, included 50 modern homes, along with approximately four acres each for raising crops and livestock. In 1936, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited the Granger Homesteads and praised the success of the project.

7.  The KKK was active in Dallas County, especially Perry, in the early 1920s. Almost 15,000 people witnessed a KKK parade and semi-public meeting in Perry on May 31, 1924.

8. Dallas County is one of the fastest-growing counties in America and remains a region of opportunity with a rich heritage of small-town living, farming, coal mining, and the immigrant experience.

Bonnie and Clyde shootout Dexter Iowa Dallas County 1933

While Bonnie and Clyde escaped, Clyde’s older brother, Buck Barrow (shown lying on the ground), was mortally wounded during a shootout with law enforcement during the early morning hours of July 24, 1933, near Dexfield Park in southern Dallas County. Buck would die a few days later at Kings Daughters Hospital in Perry. Source: Dexter Museum

Click here to order your signed copy today! Priceless memories of Iowa history make a great gift, too.
• Series: Images of America
• Hardcover: 128 pages
• Publisher: Arcadia Publishing (September 4, 2017)

 

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, 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. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

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, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the 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.

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

Ultra-Local Eating: Jennifer Miller Guides CSA, Iowa Food Cooperative

Jennifer Miller could hardly believe the question. “When will your bananas be ready?” inquired a central Iowa woman who was buying fresh produce through Miller’s Clarion Sage market garden and community supported agriculture (CSA) business near Waukee.

“People are disconnected from where their food comes from,” said Miller, 30, who noted the woman seeking locally-grown bananas is a well-educated business professional. “I’ve even had people look at our heirloom tomatoes and say, ‘I don’t want those,’ because they think they are GMOs.’”

This disconnect isn’t all that foreign to Miller, who grew up in Highland Park, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. “I had no contact with agriculture in Highland Park,” said Miller, who serves as the Iowa Food Cooperative’s member services coordinator.

Miller did have a connection with Iowa, though, through her paternal grandparents, who lived in the Clarion/Rowan area. Her decision to move to Iowa in 2010 was spurred, in part, by a health challenge and new-found passion for healthy eating.

Miller was diagnosed a number of years ago with celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder where consuming gluten can damage the small intestine. “I started caring more about cooking and healthy recipes, because I just wanted to feel better,” said Miller, whose gluten-free and vegan recipes on her blog caught the attention of Martha Stewart Living editors, who invited her to develop recipes for them. “That’s what got me into food and agriculture.”

Food can be so much more interesting
After moving to Iowa, Miller got involved with community gardens in the Des Moines area and became a marketing/communications specialist Iowa Food Cooperative, which operates like an online farmers market. In 2013, Miller and her partner, Cody Kilgore, moved to an acreage on the southwest edge of Waukee’s city limits in Van Meter Township so they could operate their own farm.

“It felt like coming full circle,” said Kilgore, who was raised in rural Missouri, worked in the corporate world for nearly 30 years and was ready for a career switch.

The couple planted garlic in the fall of 2013 to start their Clarion Sage market garden. The goal? “We believe in ultra-local and want to feed the community around us,” said Miller, who noted that Clarion Sage primarily serves families within a five-mile radius in southern Dallas County.

Today, Miller and Kilgore raise a wide array of vegetables and herbs, including lettuce, squash, cabbage, carrots, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes and more, including heirloom varieties that can’t be found in most stores. They offer an online ordering system for added convenience.

“Food can be so much more interesting,” Miller said. “Whether you’re sharing a family meal, providing snacks for your kids or making a favorite recipe, one thing’s for sure: the starting point for all these is good food.”

Iowa vegetable farm

Jennifer Miller displays one of the unique lettuce varieties she grows at Clarion Sage Farm near Waukee.

Six lessons learned about farming and food
As their business evolved, Miller and Kilgore have adjusted their marketing plan to adapt to the often surprising—and sometimes frustrating—buying patterns they’ve observed in the market. The Clarion Sage market garden and CSA have taught them six key lessons, including:

1. Farming is more than production. Raising an abundant crop is just step one, said Miller, who has learned that that marketing and sales are equally important.

2. Mentors matter. “I didn’t grow up gardening, so working for various produce growers in Iowa and beyond taught me so much,” said Miller, who is grateful for leaders like Angela Tedesco who started Turtle Farm near Granger, Jill Beebout from Blue Gate Farm near Chariton and other local food proponents who have mentored her along the way.

3. Buying local adds flavor to life. Clarion Sage’s customers appreciate the “know your farmer” philosophy. Most buyers tend to be in their 30s and 40s with families, or they’re retired and have an interest in good food and time to cook. “Every week we offer our customers about $30 worth of fresh vegetables,” Miller said. “We focus on staple items like lettuce, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes, with the opportunity for more exotic options like stir-fry greens, kale and eggplant.”

4. Catering to consumers can be tricky. While the Clarion Sage CSA is right on Waukee’s doorstep, some consumers don’t want to drive to the farm to pick up vegetables. Some feel they don’t have time, while others don’t like the way the gravel road makes their vehicle dusty. When Miller tried offering delivery, some consumers still rejected this option, citing a lack of time or interest in preparing fresh food. Even full-color newsletters filled with cooking tips and recipes failed to gain much traction with these types of consumers, said Miller, who plans to start selling her produce at the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines.

5. Urban sprawl is relentless. High-density residential projects are planned for the area near the Clarion Sage’s market garden. “We’re in the bullseye of urban sprawl, which is a challenge,” said Kilgore, who also works as a wedding photographer.

6. Local food pairs well with global flavors. Miller loves ethnic cooking, from Latin American to African. “If you want to add more vegetables to your diet, look to other cultures that don’t have an abundance of meat protein,” said Miller, who encourages people to try vegetables like Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes (known for their smoky, complex flavor), fish peppers (which pack more heat), Merlot lettuce (whose dark red leaves offer a mellow flavor) and fingerling potatoes (which taste great fried or roasted).

Food is one of the best parts of life, added Miller, who loves the creativity involved in growing and marketing a crop. “You see a crop through from beginning to end, and you’re producing something that can feed and sustain people. That’s amazing to me.”

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, 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. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

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, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the 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.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 

Iconic State Fair Architecture- Historic Buildings Reflect Decades of Memories

The Iowa State Fair is a homecoming for Iowans, and the historic buildings that grace the fairgrounds in Des Moines provide iconic venues for this statewide family reunion. There’s also a lot of surprising history behind many of these structures, from the Agriculture Building to the Livestock Pavilion.

“The Iowa State Fair connects generations of Iowans,” said Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who spoke during the opening ceremony of the 2017 Iowa State Fair on August 10. “There are so many wonderful memories and traditions here at the fair, which showcases the best of Iowa’s agricultural and cultural heritage.”

While the first Iowa State Fair was held October 25-27, 1854, in Fairfield, supported by a total operating budget of $323, the fair moved to its present location in 1886.

“The state fair moved to this site in Des Moines after the State Legislature and the City of Des Moines appropriated funds to purchase Calvin and Arminta Thornton’s farm,” said Leo Landis, state curator for the State Historical Society of Iowa, who helped lead an Iowa State Fair walking tour on Aug. 10. “One building original to the Thornton farm remains–Grandfather’s Barn, which is on the far eastern edge of the fairgrounds.”

Livestock Pavilion opened in 1902
Between the time the Fair Board purchased the land in June 1886 and when the fair opened in September 1886, crews constructed 67 buildings. “Of those, Pioneer Hall is the only one that remains today,” said Landis, museum curator at the State Historical Museum.

By the 1900 Iowa State Fair, most of the buildings built for the 1886 fair were still in use. They were beginning to show signs of decay, however, and roofs were particularly bad. It was time for the Iowa State Fair to clean up the fairgrounds.

One of the first new buildings added more than a century ago was the Livestock Pavilion. Back in 1901, more than 650 cattle were shown at the Iowa State Fair – only about 50 less than were shown that year at the International Stock Show at Chicago, Landis said. With future Iowa State Fairs expected to have even more cattle, the Iowa Legislature appropriated $37,000 for a fireproof steel-and-brick stock pavilion, similar to one that had just been constructed at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

The Livestock Pavilion was the first major brick-and-steel structure built at the Iowa State Fairgrounds. “By constructing buildings out of these materials, the Fair Board gave the fair a sense of permanence and safety at this location,” said Landis, who noted that the new Livestock Pavilion officially opened for the 1902 fair and has been used for stock judging, lectures, entertainment and more for decades.

Iowa State Fair Agriculture Building

A new Agriculture Building was constructed in time for the 1904 Iowa State Fair. This famous building is home to the beloved Butter Cow. The Agriculture Building is one of the finest examples of Double Jeffersonian architecture remaining in the world.

1904 State Fair showcased new Agriculture Building
A new Agriculture Building came along two years later, in time for the 1904 Iowa State Fair. Located at the intersection of Grand Avenue and Rock Island Avenue, the Agriculture Building was built along the route to and from the State Fair from the Rock Island Railroad depot.

From the beginning, the Agriculture Building has been used as the agricultural, horticultural and dairy building. It’s home to the famous Butter Cow and other butter sculptures, which have been part of the Iowa State Fair since 1911.

“The Homestead,” a well-known farm newspaper of the late 1800s and early 1900s published in Des Moines, touted the new Agriculture Building as “one of the finest structures for exhibiting products of the farm that can be found in the Central West.”

The building’s design was inspired by the Exposition Halls at the Columbian Exposition, the world’s fair held in Chicago in 1893. The Agriculture Building is one of the finest examples of Double Jeffersonian architecture remaining in the world.

“Building a structure of such grand scale – with 33,800 square feet of floor space – suggested to visitors that the Iowa State Fair was an event of both civic and social importance,” said Jessica Rundlett, special projects and outreach coordinator at State Historical Museum of Iowa, who assisted with the Iowa State Fair walking tour.

Iowa State Fair Swine Barn

Kyle Andrews with the Wayne FFA chapter exhibited hogs during the 2017 Iowa State Fair. The Swine Barn was built in 1907.


Swine Barn design enhanced ventilation

When a new Swine Barn was constructed for the 1907 Iowa State Fair, the roof covered 185,000 square feet of stalls, exhibition areas and two central show rings that could seat more than 800 people. “The Homestead newspaper said you had to see it to believe its grand size,” Landis said.

The state appropriated $75,000 to build the Swine Barn. The building’s roof profile is designed to provide superior lighting and ventilation. The long open windows at roof level and open exterior walls draw in fresh air. Today you can see the Big Boar at the Swine Barn, as well as the Avenue of Breeds, which is coordinated by the North Polk FFA.

Horse Barn cost $25,000
The Horse Barn was completed in 1912 for $25,000 and renovated in 1929. Measuring 156 feet by 224 feet, the new barn could accommodate 132 draft horses and a like number of ponies, according to the Homestead newspaper. Th article also noted the new barn was equipped with water troughs, wash stands, sanitary feed mangers and automatic hayracks, Landis said.

Iowa State Fair Horse Barn

The Horse Barn was completed in 1912 for $25,000 and renovated in 1929.

Cattle Barn named for Iowa farmer
The Iowa State Fair’s building boom of the early twentieth century included the new Cattle Barn, which opened for the 1914 fair. While the original barn could accommodate 108 head of cattle, the barn now has ties for 1,600 cows, thanks to multiple expansions through the years.

Among the early proponents of Iowa’s cattle industry was Iowa Governor William Larrabee of Clermont, Landis noted. Larrabee helped introduced Brown Swiss dairy cattle to Iowa after studying the breed and concluding Brown Swiss were best suited for Iowa’s climate.

Today, the Cattle Barn is named for John Putney, a farmer from Gladbrook who was also a long-time cattle exhibitor, president of the Sale of Champions and beef superintendent. Putney was appointed the first executive director of the Blue Ribbon Foundation, which has raised more than $135 million in the last 25 years to renovate and preserve the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

Iowa State Fair Sheep Barn

In 1915, the state legislature appropriated $14,000 to build a sheep pavilion. The Sheep Barn opened for the 1917 Iowa State Fair. The building is notable for the detailed terra cotta designs on the east façade, including a row of rams’ heads near the roof.

Sheep Pavilion opened for 1917 fair
During the Golden Age of Agriculture, state funding was available to construct a wide range of livestock barns at the Iowa State Fair. In 1915, the state legislature appropriated $14,000 to build a sheep pavilion. The Sheep Barn opened for the 1917 Iowa State Fair. The building is notable for the detailed terra cotta designs on the east façade, including a row of rams’ heads near the roof.

The legacy lives on
The Iowa State Fairgrounds was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. It’s a fitting honor for a unique venue filled with many architectural marvels. “The late Bill Wagner, a preservation architect from Iowa, noted that ‘the complex contains a representative collection of almost all architectural styles for most of the past 200 years,’” Landis said.

Historic buildings are just one of the many reasons the Iowa State Fair is the best state fair in the nation, Reynolds said. “I’m extraordinarily proud of this tradition. Remember—nothing compares to our great Iowa State Fair!”

Take a virtual tour 
The Iowa State Fair Walking Tour can be found on the Iowa Culture App. Either download the app, or log onto dcaapp.com. Click on the featured tour “Star” button on the right and look for the “Iowa State Fair tour.”

Want more?
Thanks for stopping by.  I invite you to read more of my blog posts if you want more more intriguing Iowa stories and history, along with Iowa food, 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. Feel free to share this information with friends and colleagues who might be interested, too.

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, as well as my Calhoun County” book from Arcadia Publishing, which showcases the 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.

P.S. Thanks for joining me. I’m glad you’re here. 

@Copyright 2017 Darcy Maulsby & Co. 

About me:
Some people know me as Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, while others call me Yettergirl. I grew up on a Century Farm between Lake City and Yetter and am proud to call Calhoun County, Iowa, home. I’m an author, writer, marketer, business owner and entrepreneur who specializes in agriculture.  Learn more at www.darcymaulsby.com. 


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