It's not often that I make it out to my old stomping grounds in Johnson County, Iowa. When I do, like I did last week, it's usually a several-day trip, being about a five-hour drive from Kansas City. I've seen plenty of ANF insignia all over Iowa, but I definitely notice a higher concentration when I make the trip out east. I'm not referring to Abercrombie and Fitch – as most Iowa farmers (and many Hawkeyes) know, this stands for America Needs Farmers.
Most people seem surprised when I tell them I'm a University of Iowa graduate. As proud as I am to be a Hawkeye, there is no question Iowa State dominates the agricultural side of Iowa's universities. Being a UI graduate and being raised on an Iowa farm, it's refreshing to see those three letters in black and gold – it shows how Iowans across the board are strongly tied to, and have strong support for agriculture.
ANF dates back to Hayden Fry's years as head coach of the Hawkeye football team. When the Farm Crisis hit in the mid-1980s, Fry developed a message to put on his winning team's helmets that year to raise awareness for struggling farmers – helmets with "ANF" in a yellow circle right above the Tigerhawk on the right side were first dawned when the Hawkeyes traveled to Ohio State that year.
The ANF website reads, "In that moment, and the many games, many players and many wins that followed, it remains a testament to the men and women who proudly give their all to provide the nation’s diverse food supply. Yes indeed, America Still Needs Farmers."
The ANF decal is still a part of Hawkeye tradition, with Kirk Ferentz bringing it back in 2009, after the NCAA forced the removal of them and other decals in 1992. Of course, with today's social media, people can show support in more ways than a button or t-shirt. The ANF website is full of information on how Iowa's farms, although making up only 5% of the state population, are closely tied with the rest of the state, nation, and world.
"Every time one of our games was televised, it went nation-wide and the results were just incredible," Fry said in a 2011 statement on the ANF website. "There was a positive outlook of the people across the nation because they realized where their food came from."
With his career and delivering this message during one of agriculture's most dire periods, Fry's legacy is easily one of the most well-known at the U of I. The website points out after the Hawkeyes advanced to the 1986 Rose Bowl, Fry, who received an honorary Iowa Farm Bureau membership that year, said, "The thing I'm most proud of here at Iowa is putting the ANF on our headgear."