Pedaling Across Iowa, Learning About Agriculture

Pedaling Across Iowa, Learning About Agriculture

Podcasts will tell the story of Iowa agriculture as thousands of bicyclists ride along the 2013 RAGBRAI route across the state.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey announced last week that podcasts showcasing Iowa agriculture along the Register's Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa route are available for download. RAGBRAI is the annual bicycle ride across the state in which thousands of bicycle riders participate. Many of them are from out of state or they are from Iowa but don't know much if anything about farming and agriculture.

TELLING AGRICULTURE'S STORY: You can see a lot more of the countryside from the seat of a bicycle pedaling along at an enjoyable pace—than you can riding in a car zipping by farms and fields at 60 to 65 miles per hour. Podcasts are being made available for bicyclists to listen to next week as they make their way across Iowa on the big annual bike ride known as RAGBRAI. The recordings are interviews of farmers and others involved in agriculture, soil and water conservation, etc.

This is a good idea the Iowa Department of Agriculture has come up with--it's certainly a "teachable moment" so to speak, for each day of the 7-day ride. The podcasts are available online here or through iTunes by searching for the keyword "Iowa Agcasts." This will be an effective way to help non-farm people gain a better understanding of what's going on in rural Iowa and to help explain to folks why farmers farm the way they do, and what farmers are doing to help preserve natural resources and to protect the environment.

"The beauty and fertility of Iowa's land is very evident this time of year and these podcasts will highlight the importance and diversity of Iowa agriculture as riders travel across the state," Northey says. "Agriculture is so important to our state and we hope RAGBRAI participants and others will listen to these podcasts and learn more about all that is happening on the farms across Iowa."

Interviews of farmers and others involved with agriculture and soil and water conservation are available

The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, together with a number of partners participating in this educational effort, created one podcast for each leg of the ride. In other words, for each day of the journey. Each podcast has an interview of one or two local individuals involved in agriculture and soil and water conservation. ~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~

The podcasts are unique in that they show the diversity of Iowa's agriculture. Listeners meet a farmer who sells at his local farmer's market, another who farms using organic methods. The bike riders can even hear from the people involved in a family-owned winery. Other stories come from beekeepers and coal mine experts, all of these people have roots deep in Iowa's landscape. Urban conservation is even discussed as the riders reach Des Moines half way through the week.

A different podcast has been recorded for each day's travel along the route, and these are available for people to listen to free of charge

In the introductory podcast, Northey states: "Agriculture is a very big part of what we do in Iowa. You see it spatially out there as you look across the landscape and you see it economically as well. Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in the state and if you include not only the actual farming but the folks who produce things for farmers or process the crops and livestock, somewhere around 25% to 30% of the economic activity in Iowa is based in agriculture."

This is the 41st year that RAGBRAI has been held. The 2013 ride begins July 21 and goes until July 27. Each year, the ride starts at or near the Missouri River on the state's western edge and ends at the Mississippi River on the state's eastern edge. The bike riders who complete the entire route dip their front tire in the Mississippi River. It's a ritual to signify that they've completed the ride. RAGBRAI is limited to 8,500 week-long riders and 1,500 day riders.

Also each year, the route across the state is different and is chosen by the bike ride's organizers. To view details of this year's route, go to the RAGBRAI website.

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