Recently, I took a weekend trip to Webster City as part of a blogger tour. We spent three days exploring the area and learning about all of the fantastic things going on in this one small town. I can honestly say that I came away with enough material for weeks of posts as I visited Briggs Woods Park, learned about homegrown produce at Hy-Vee, enjoyed Webster City shopping, and made the quick jaunt to Fort Dodge to see the local Freedom Rock . Ever since I got home, I’ve struggled with just how to perfectly capture all of the fantastic things we experienced.
On Friday afternoon, we stopped at a test plot being monitored by United Co-Op. We got the opportunity to listen to Zach talk to us about their plot on the south end of town. He discussed how they tested different types of seed, different treatments and different variations of rotating crop, whether it be corn on corn (differing varieties), corn vs beans and even different methods of planting. There was one statement he made that really stuck in my head. So much so, that I wrote it down and put an asterisk by it.
Then when I got back to the hotel, I circled it.
When I got home and started reviewing my notes again, I even highlighted it.
So what was it that he said?
“Everything we’re trying to do, is just to be good stewards of the land.”
That statement really resonated with me, because every single person that we met in this small town was just one good person after another trying to be good stewards– of the land, of their livestock, of their business, of what they’ve been given in life.
There’s the gentleman living in rural Webster City, who had a whole treeline on his property infected with the emerald ash borer. Sadly, he was forced to cut down the trees. Instead of destroying them completely, he turned every single one of the tree trunks into gnome homes.
There’s the staff at Woolstock Equipment that spent a good chunk of their afternoon teaching us about modern farm equipment and how it is used in today’s farms. They were even generous enough to let us drive the tractors (more on that later!) At this John Deere dealer in the small town of Woolstock is a man named Gerald, who has worked there since 1953. Can you imagine all of the changes he has seen in agriculture over the last 63 years? He loves his job, believes in what he does, and can think of no better place to be except right where he’s at.
There’s Scott Tapper and Gene Gourley, both Iowa hog farmers and both affiliated with the Iowa Pork Producers. They provided an amazing pork chop dinner for us and made a special dessert — pineapple upside down cake in a cast iron dutch oven. It was simply to die for, and I really need to get my hands on that recipe!!
Scott & Gene proved to be good stewards because of their love for what they do, their pride for the hogs they raise, their desire to truly take the best care of their livestock with the best means possible, and their mission to provide the absolute safest and best pork product they can to feed my family and yours. We sat around the kitchen table of Bob & Leah Maass with Scott and Gene, discussing how the hogs are cared for, what type of equipment is used, and even the usage of antibiotics to treat animals. We also saw pictures of the swanky digs these hogs get to live in!
Some fun facts:
- Iowa is the #1 pork producing state
- 1/3 of all US pork comes from Iowa.
- Iowa markets nearly 50 million hogs annually
- 6,266 pork producing farms in Iowa (2012 USDA Ag Census)
- $26.7 BILLION (!!!) in related sales and nearly 108,000 jobs
- Pork is the world’s most consumed protein.
There’s Vern & Vera Ratcliff, one of the loveliest couples I’ve ever met. They spent the afternoon showing us Vern’s antique farm equipment and even introducing us to one of Vern’s Doodlebugs. They gave us quite the history lesson and they truly have a passion for the town they call home. So gracious that they even invited my husband and I back for the Doodlebug festival in September, and heck– even said to stop on by anytime just to chat!
In case you don’t know what a Doodlebug is, they are small motorized scooters manufactured by Beam Manufacturing in Webster City between 1946 and 1948. They were built with Briggs & Stratton motors and were made to compete with a similar scooter sold in Sears stores. While 40,000 were made, there aren’t many left.
Also a fun fact: Vern just happens to be one of the spearheads behind the Annual Doodlebug Festival held each September in Webster City, where as many as 90 Doodlebugs will be there from 17 states. We’re hoping to head back that weekend to see it. I mean, really– how can you pass up seeing 90 Doodlebugs at once?
Then there’s Mike & Pat Brandrup, who sold 115 acres of land along the Boone River near Webster City for bottom dollar to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, who eventually transferred ownership to the Hamilton County Conservation Board. It’s all natural, and is home to many different types of trees and other greenery. Now if that’s not being a good steward of the land, I don’t know what is!
Continuing on, there’s Bob & Leah Maass. They are graciously allowing Iowa State University graduate students to use part of their land to study buffer zones. Buffer zones help to control & monitor waterflow and also assist in monitoring nitrates and other components in the water. By studying the results and analyzing performance results, they are helping us all learn to make better choices with our resources.
Finally, there’s VeroBlue Farms (also known as “Iowa’s First”). VeroBlue specializes in aquaculture, which is a fancy term for fish farming. You might think fish farming would be simple, because they are ‘just fish in a tank’, but think again! They have to monitor growth, water quality, temperature, EIGHT feedings per day, and so much more. They are ensuring that the product that leaves their facility is of excellent quality.
Did you know that more fish are sold from aquaculture vs. caught in the wild?
Did you know VeroBlue and Iowa’s First played a major role in the legislation for fish to be included as livestock in April 2012?
Their main fish is the Barramundi, which is native to Australia and sometimes referred to as Asian Sea Bass. They are a good healthy food, and even Dr. Oz proclaims barramundi to be one of the 5 Superfoods you should be eating!
VeroBlue raises the fish for commercial sale to companies like PDI (Hy-Vee), Cisco and more. They are also in the process of remodeling and renovating an empty facility in Webster City, and will go from their current 18 tanks to 240 tanks in their new location. That’s quite an expansion!
Part of their Research and Development currently includes raising salmon and trout. Because these fish were donated as part of a grant for study, they cannot sell them. So the fish don’t go to waste, they are all donated to charities, which include local churches and food banks. Good for you, VeroBlue!
So, if you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading. As you can see, this is just one small town in one small state in this one big country. If these amazing people are all good stewards of their own little part of the world, imagine if we all lived this way? What are you doing today to be a good steward?
Thanks, Webster City… you taught me a valuable lesson.