Change in the Heartland

Recently I lectured at a series of meetings in Carroll and Cedar Rapids, IA. Traveling across Iowa on several beautiful fall days was well worth the price of admission to rural Iowa.

An older gentleman in Cedar Rapids asked me to elaborate on changes I have observed in the rural Iowa landscape in recent decades. This was a very interesting question that added energy to the discussion part of the seminar.

In northern Iowa it is so interesting to observe how farmers and ranchers are harvesting wind power as a profit enterprise on the farm business. Discussion found that an increasing amount of these wind farms are owned by outside investors.

Another surprising change I am observing is that more women between 35 and 50 are now purchasing farmland and using this as a means of investing for retirement. These ladies are often professionals, and are very hungry for knowledge about the industry.

Travel to eastern Iowa and you will observe more farmettes and new houses positioned for a beautiful view. In western Iowa the farms are just getting bigger with fewer yard lights in between.

The land rush is back again. Participants shared with me that recent purchases of land are now exceeding $5,000 per acre. It sounds like the 1970s all over again!

I also observed many Hispanics sharing the road with me in Iowa. Today they are the workers; however, tomorrow they will be the owners and managers.

I laughed at a sign in eastern Iowa that was posted on a billboard, “Politicians note: Pigs don’t vote!” Yes, the political process is alive and well. People still demonstrate a feisty attitude in the Midwest.

I am extremely impressed with Kirkwood Community College. They have met the community’s needs by offering outstanding educational programs. A number of the second-year students attended my seminar and had a genuine interest in the Farm Bureau educational programs

One thing hasn’t changed – the fine hospitality of Iowans. One evening a few years ago, I stopped impromptu at a field day. I enjoyed a great pork sandwich, did an informal seminar and moved on, with big smiles and waves from the field day participants. Yes, as much as Iowa changes, it still stays the same!

My e-mail address is:sullylab@vt.edu

Editors' note: Dave Kohl, The Corn and Soybean Digest Trends Editor, is an ag economist specializing in business management and ag finance. He recently retired from Virginia Tech, but continues to conduct applied research and travel extensively in the U.S. and Canada, teaching ag and banking seminars and speaking to producer and agribusiness groups.

To see Dave Kohl's previous road warrior adventures type Dave Kohl in the Search blank at the top of the page.

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