Craig Hill, president of Iowa Farm Bureau giving a speech
GRASSROOTS FOCUS: “The issues we adopt and causes we champion are those that rise from our membership,” says Craig Hill, president of Iowa Farm Bureau.

Celebrating a century of helping rural Iowa

Iowa Farm Bureau will hold its 100th annual meeting in Des Moines.

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa’s largest grassroots farm organization, is 100 years old this year and will celebrate this milestone at its annual meeting Dec. 3-5 in Des Moines.

IFBF’s theme this year is “A Century Strong,” and the meeting will feature various speakers and panels with updates on critical farm issues and opportunities for growth in rural Iowa.

The opening seminar, “Making Things Happen in Rural Communities,” is a panel of rural entrepreneurs who will share their insight into economic growth in rural communities, particularly looking at value-added ag opportunities.

Members attending will also hear from USDA and U.S. Senate ag committee staff members on the new federal farm bill and its programs. Trade and export markets will also be discussed by government and trade association officials.

Former astronaut Peggy Whitson to keynote
Dec. 4 will feature several competitions and recognitions for IFBF young farmer members, and an evening dinner and gala. District director candidates and vice president receptions will follow the evening program.

“On Wednesday [Dec. 4] we will celebrate the success and hard work of our members during our annual awards presentation,” says Craig Hill, president of IFBF and a Warren County farmer. His annual meeting remarks will help kick off the general session that day.

“Dr. Peggy Whitson, record-breaking former NASA astronaut and an Iowa native, will deliver the keynote speech,” Hill says. “Her remarkable life story is an inspiring example for others to follow. From humble beginnings on a Ringgold County family farm to daring stories from space flight and crash landings in the fields of Kazakhstan, her stories of adventure, perseverance and achievement are a fitting way to round out our centennial celebration.”

For more information, a detailed agenda or to register to attend the 2018 IFBF annual meeting, check iowafarmbureau.com.

3 Iowa entrepreneurs among finalists
Also, at this year’s annual meeting, three Iowa members will be recognized as finalists in the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Ag Innovation Challenge. For the fifth year in a row, Iowa Farm Bureau members have been named in the top 10 finalists for the AFBF Ag Innovation Challenge. In partnership with Farm Credit, this is a national business competition exclusively for rural entrepreneurs focused on solving food and agricultural challenges.

The three Iowa finalists in the national Ag Innovation Challenge were mentored by IFBF’s Renew Rural Iowa program, which excels at helping Iowans take their ideas from the drawing board to the board room. 

“Those who work in agriculture are natural problem-solvers,” says IFBF President Craig Hill. “But to be able to take a problem and put it to paper to create a business out of it to help others is something special and part of what makes an Iowan an Iowan: the desire to help others. Programs like Renew Rural Iowa help take those innovative ideas and put them to work.”

Focused on finding innovative answers
Iowans value water quality, and Mitch Hora of Washington County understands water quality and soil health go hand in hand. He started Continuum Ag to help farmers develop specific “prescriptions” to improve the quality of their farmland. Using soil tests, data and research, Hora helps his clients make changes that limit nutrient loss, improve their family farm’s bottom line and nurture soils that grow healthy crops and retain water.

One of the challenges in Iowa agriculture is the limited access to farmland, and that inspired Steven Brockshus and his team with FarmlandFinder to create a service to help farmers see what land is for sale in the Midwest and set notifications for auctions.

FarmlandFinder can also provide landowners and real estate teams with data, such as crop history reports and soil maps, to make informed purchases and provide one-on-one service to help clients secure their “ideal land opportunity.” 

A growing concern in the food system is supply and sustainability, which inspired the team of Nebullam LLC, led by Clayton Mooney. Located in the Iowa State University Research Park, this company grows lettuce and herbs in a vertical, indoor plant system using aeroponics, eliminating the need for soil. Their operation decreases the need for human labor by 30% and provides a “horticultural assistant” software to assist with new planting cycles. It’s what they call the “art of future food.”

‘Entrepreneur of the Year’
To be named in the top 10, these three Iowa entrepreneurs detailed many aspects of their businesses, including identifying the problem their product or business can solve, their market base, their business model, and employee structure. Each semifinalist has been awarded $10,000, and on Dec. 5, four of the top 10 will be awarded an additional $5,000 and will compete in a live pitch for “Farm Bureau Entrepreneur of the Year,” selected by judges, or get a chance to win the “People’s Choice” award at the AFBF annual convention in New Orleans in January.

Last year’s Entrepreneur of the Year, Matthew Rooda with SwineTech, another RRIA mentored business, wowed the judges with his technology that saves the lives of piglets. He has since been named one of Forbes “30 Under 30.”

For more information about this and other IFBF programs, visit iowafarmbureau.com/100.

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