My iowa story begins in the summer of 1970. As an eight-year old tree climbing kid, I was excited to be back in Clinton, Iowa to visit our grandparents. My Grampa Dalton was a great storyteller and I usually took the bait, hook, line and sinker every time. I began a relationship that included writing my Grampa letters throughout my early teens. I wished I had saved some of those letters, but one of the things I took away was a phrase he told me to remember, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I took this to heart growing up and became very independently minded. When times got tough or I had a challenge ahead, I could remember this phrase to give me perspective, to help me push through the fear or anxiety and try to be all I could be.
Iowa was the heartland, a state of just over 3 million people and the first state to hold a presidential caucus in the coming year so numerous politicians were setting up shop, doing exploratory trips to test the waters for a run for president. I too was going to Iowa on an exploratory trip of sorts, not to set up shot for a run for president, but to attend a farming conference at Iowa State University in Ames.
It was an ordinary place in the minds of most but it was an extraordinary place to me. Add some snow, the starkness of winter, the red, yellow and white barns, perhaps a bald eagle sighting or two and you have a recipe for the ordinary becoming extraordinary. I am convinced that the best time to visit Iowa is in the heart of winter, when the expansive fields are increasingly full of cover crops as far as the eye can see complete with a farm house, a barn, a couple of grain silos and perhaps a babbling brook or small river winding its way around the farmland. Add some snow and you have a beautiful scene with a main street in each small town complete with a hardware store and a couple of churches.
I attended the Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) conference in 2018 and learned a lot. I found out about PFI five years earlier while in Iowa to visit the Seed Savers Exchange “Campout” in the summer of 2013. Their campout is now a full-fledged seed saving and farming conference completed PFI as hosting a field day on a farm nearby. Ever since then I have been enamored with the ideas and practicality of the PFI organization.