• Rod Swoboda

    Serving "Food For Thought" And More At Wallace House

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on April 14, 2014

    Every so often I'm asked, "What is the Wallace Centers of Iowa?" It's a non-profit organization inspired by the Wallace family legacy. The Wallace Centers of Iowa provide a variety of programs and services to build awareness of local food, sustainable agriculture and civility. It serves both urban and rural communities. There are two locations—one is the Wallace House at 756 16th Street in the Sherman Hill neighborhood on the west edge of downtown Des Moines. The other…

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    Climate Change From A Faith-based Perspective

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on April 7, 2014

    About 80 people gathered in a church at Ames on a recent Sunday afternoon to listen to a panel discussion on agriculture and climate change. Moderator Mike Glover, a retired Associated Press political reporter who covered the Iowa Legislature for many years, opened the discussion by asking the panelists how they see climate change affecting agriculture. Do they believe the current modern-day system of producing crops and livestock can continue to exist if climate change continues at its current…

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    Iowans Fight Big Oil's Effort To Dismantle RFS

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on March 31, 2014

    A group of Iowans went to Washington D.C. last week to speak with members of Congress about the importance of the Renewable Fuel Standard or RFS. Lobbying for ethanol and biodiesel, the Iowa group also met with top officials at EPA and USDA and visited other offices in the nation's capital. "We hit a home run in D.C.," says Bill Couser, a Story County farmer, cattle feeder and board member of Lincolnway Energy. Lincolnway has a corn ethanol plant at Nevada, Iowa, not far from the…

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    Congratulations On A Job Well Done

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on March 23, 2014

    To encourage professional improvement and recognize outstanding effort by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialists, the Iowa Agricultural Extension Association has a communications awards program each year for its members. These awards are presented at the annual meeting of IAEA on the ISU campus at Ames. Winners and categories they excelled in for 2013 were recognized at the recent March 2014 IAEA meeting. They are: Darbee Wellman, is the ag and natural resources field…

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    Iowan Norman Borlaug To Be Enshrined In U.S. Capitol

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on March 14, 2014

    Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will join a group of Iowans on March 25 in Washington, D.C. for the official unveiling of the Norman Borlaug sculpture in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. "We'll have the entire Iowa Congressional delegation present along with students, teachers, business leaders and others," says World Food Prize Foundation President Kenneth Quinn, who appeared with Branstad at a recent press conference at the State Capitol in Des Moines to make the announcement. The…

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    Your Comments Are Wanted On New GMO Seeds

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on February 28, 2014

    USDA on February 24, 2014 announced it is extending the public comment period until March 11 on whether to allow the sale of corn and soybean seeds that are part of a new weed control system from Dow AgroSciences. The new seeds are genetically engineered to resist both glyphosate herbicide and 2,4-D. Officials of USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service say the extension is provided in response to stakeholder requests for additional time to gather public input. In early January…

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    Amazing History Of Food And Farming

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on February 21, 2014

    Students and adults alike will enjoy exploring the impressive new educational exhibits at the World Food Prize Foundation Hall of Laureates in downtown Des Moines. Thoughtful and well-planned, the Educational Exhibits Wing rivals what you would expect at the Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. The interactive exhibits are a fun, interesting way to learn about the history of food and agriculture, about famous Iowans and to gain a better understanding of the global challenges related to…

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    Super-Sized Equipment Not Suited for Highly Erodible Ground

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on February 14, 2014

    A regular contributor to Wallaces Farmer magazine, Jason Johnson has written an article that will appear in our March issue about how to match machinery size to soil conservation needs when farming Iowa's steep slopes. As machinery gets wider, particularly planters, this is getting to be a big concern in local soil and water conservation district offices in the state. The increasing size of farm machinery is making it more difficult for row crop farmers to maneuver Iowa's hillier…

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    Ethanol Industry Set To Fight EPA On Blend Rule

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on February 7, 2014

    The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association's annual meeting last week at Altoona was sharply focused on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's proposal to reduce the volume requirements in the Renewable Fuel Standard. EPA wants to reduce the amount of ethanol and biodiesel required to be blended into the nation's gasoline and diesel fuel supply.  The RFS, a federal law passed by Congress in 2007, sets annual volume requirements for biofuels. Congress enacted the RFS to increase…

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    Urging Action On Propane Shortage

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on January 27, 2014

    An unprecedented jump in propane prices (doubling within a couple days last week) has some rural Iowans wondering if they'll be able to pay their heating bills this winter. State and federal leaders have vowed to get to the bottom of the LP-gas price explosion. Propane prices hit $5 per gallon in some areas of Iowa, according to a special survey by the Iowa Department of Agriculture. The statewide average rose to a record $4.18 a gallon on Thursday January 23. A day earlier the same survey…

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    Don't Miss "40 Chances" Photo Exhibit

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on January 10, 2014

    Over the course of their working lives, most farmers get about 40 growing seasons or 40 chances to improve upon every harvest. Actually, that's true for most everyone -- each of us gets about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in life. The World Food Prize Foundation, headquartered in Des Moines, is hosting a photo exhibit titled "40 Chances, Finding Hope In A Hungry World". Open to the public with free admission, the exhibit features a collection of 120 photos by Howard G…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    What Kind of Weather Can Iowa Expect In 2014?

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on January 3, 2014

    Iowa has had some brutal cold weather in recent weeks--it's been on-again, off-again. Now in early January, the cold weather is about to get as severe as the region has seen in the last 20 years, says the National Weather Service. Wind chills reached lower than 20 degrees below zero the night of January 2, 2014. Temperatures in Iowa climbed higher on January 3, into the teens and 20s. But that brief respite will end when a cold front moves in January 4, says Kevin Skow, a meteorologist…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    2014 Will Be A Year Of Change In Iowa Politics

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on December 27, 2013

    Two of the top political stories in Iowa in 2013 have implications for agriculture. They also signal the importance of the 2014 elections come fall, despite the new year being an "off year" for the political process—no Iowa caucuses, no presidential election. The top two political stories are: Tom Harkin is retiring from the U.S. Senate and Tom Latham is retiring from the U.S. House. These two open seats will cause a ripple effect. First, long-time U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, a…

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    Iowa Supreme Court Shoots Down Hunting Rights

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on December 13, 2013

    The Iowa Supreme Court has upheld Iowa's hunting laws with a ruling last week that says just because someone owns land in Iowa it doesn't mean they have a right to hunt on it. In a decision handed down on December 6 the court said Iowa's laws that provide hunting advantages to permanent residents do not violate the constitutional rights of nonresident landowners. Three men who own land in Iowa but have permanent homes in other states challenged Iowa's hunting laws as…

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    High Voltage Controversy Over Big Power Line

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on December 4, 2013

    A company based in Houston, Texas, is planning to build an overhead high-voltage transmission line from northwest Iowa to Illinois and other states east of the Mississippi River. The power line would deliver electricity from wind turbines in northwest Iowa to cities in Illinois and Eastern states. Clean Line Energy is the company wanting to build this transmission line, and the project is called the Rock Island Clean Line or RICL project. If built, the line would cross 16 Iowa counties, would…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Iowa Defends Renewable Fuel Standard

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on November 26, 2013

    Ethanol and biodiesel supporters have come out swinging to defend their industry. They are mounting an all-out effort to try to persuade the Obama Administration to reverse its proposal to lower the Renewable Fuel Standard, or RFS. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently announced it wants to reduce the amount of corn-based ethanol required to be mixed into the nation's gasoline supply in 2014. Iowa, the leading state in production of biofuels, has a lot at stake. Iowa farm…

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    Attacks On Corn Ethanol Continue

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on November 21, 2013

    First it was that widely circulated Associated Press article last week that blamed ethanol for soil erosion and other environmental problems. Then the federal Environmental Protection Agency released its proposal to reduce the required use of corn-based ethanol in 2014 in the nation's gasoline supply. The attacks on corn ethanol keep coming. Late last week the Environmental Protection Agency released its 2014 Renewable Volume Obligations or RVOs under the Renewable Fuel Standard. RVOs are…

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    Why Iowa Needs A Farm Bill Now

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on November 11, 2013

    U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in Des Moines last week. The former Iowa governor says he's hopeful Congress will pass a new farm bill by the end of 2013. He cites several reasons for bipartisan support, why Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate should iron-out their differences. First, consumers will pay substantially higher prices for milk and other dairy products if a farm bill isn't passed and signed into law. USDA will be forced to revert to the enabling…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    The Great Debate On GMO Crops

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on November 4, 2013

    Iowa farmer Bill Horan's prediction about biotechnology drew jeers from the anti-GMO people in the audience at a debate a couple weeks ago in Des Moines. Horan said he believes two decades from now, every livestock animal and crop used to feed the world's increasing population will be genetically enhanced. He added, "People will look back 20 years from now, and say, "Gosh, what was all the fuss about?" An overflow crowd of 250-plus listened to Horan and five others…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    What I Learned At World Food Prize Symposium

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on October 28, 2013

    The three 2013 World Food Prize Laureates—recognized as pioneers of agricultural biotechnology—on October 18 addressed a crowd of over 1,000 people at the annual World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, urging the world to accept biotechnology to help feed the growing population. Over 1,500 people came to the World Food Prize International symposium October 16-18 in Des Moines from over 70 foreign countries. They listened to speakers and panel discussions of experts discuss agricultural…

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    Pumpkin Time: Iowa Farm Becomes A Classroom

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on October 9, 2013

    Darin Leach, whose byline you see each month on feature articles he writes in Wallaces Farmer magazine, grew up on a farm in Muscatine County. He now lives in the Des Moines area with his wife and two young daughters. But he tries to get back there to southeast Iowa to help his parents on the farm when he can. Last week he helped with this fall's harvest. It's a little different kind of harvest than on most Iowa farms. This family harvests not only corn and soybeans but pumpkins…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    How Government Shutdown Affects Farmers

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on October 2, 2013

    The Farm Bill expired Oct. 1, same day the federal government shut down. Congress can't agree on a budget. A main point of contention is funding for the new health care law, the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. How is this federal government shutdown affecting Iowa farmers so far? What do they have to say? Merlin Komarek of Protivin in northeast Iowa says: "There are times I'd like to boot each Congressman out of office and the president too. If anyone else performed…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Biotech Firm Opens "New Frontiers" In Iowa

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on September 23, 2013

    An Iowa-based agriculture and biotechnology company, Kemin Industries, recently opened its new $16.7 million research and development center in southeast Des Moines. The new facility will allow the 60 employees who work in the building to reach "new frontiers in science" previously unavailable to the company. The science from the lab will drive development of new products and new generations of existing products. Kemin makes specialty ingredients for a number of products…

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    Water Rocks! Ready To Inspire Kids Across Iowa

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on September 16, 2013

    What do rubber ducks, dogs, pirates, poop and poodle skirts have in common? These are all tools being used to promote a new statewide awareness campaign called "Water Rocks!" At the recent annual meeting of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Iowa, held in Des Moines, I and a couple hundred other people had the opportunity to hear a presentation by Jacqueline Comito, director of the campaign. She explained the Water Rocks! project and showed several of the videos she and…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Heat, Dryness Take Toll On Soybean Crop

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on September 9, 2013

    In last week's blog we asked "Will Your Corn Beat the Frost?" This week we look at how Iowa's soybean crop is doing, especially the late planted beans. Wayne Fredericks is secretary of the Iowa Soybean Association, farming near Osage in northern Iowa, near the Minnesota border, about 30 miles east of Mason City. His area of the state has a lot of late-planted, late maturing beans this year. Many acres didn't even get planted, as spring was so wet. How do the…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Will Your Corn Beat The Frost?

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on September 3, 2013

    Hotter than normal weather the last half of August added heat units to Iowa's late-planted, slow-growing 2013 corn crop. The crop had been lagging in development all summer. The recent blast of heat helped speed up crop maturity somewhat. But many Iowa fields still need more time to develop the crop. Iowa needs a later-than-normal frost this fall. In a nutshell, that's what Iowa State University Extension corn agronomist Roger Elmore told the crowd attending a field day August…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    He Was Growing Cover Crops Before Covers Were Cool

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on August 27, 2013

    Buried in his bib overalls, Dick Thompson was first and foremost a farmer. But he thought like a top-notch researcher. The casket was open and he was wearing bib overalls like he always did. When I attended his funeral visitation last week, it was the first time I ever saw someone laid out for burial in bib overalls. It was appropriate. He was there so we could say goodbye to him just as we knew him and will remember him. Dick farmed with wife Sharon and family near Boone in central Iowa…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Birthday Party For A Rare And Beautiful Barn

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on August 17, 2013

    One hundred and thirty years ago, Joshua Secrest and barnbuilder Frank Longerbeam sat around a kitchen table on the farmstead near Iowa City, Iowa and planned one of the largest round barns in the country. The graceful bell-shaped roof is unique – there is none like it anywhere. "This barn is a wonderful photo opportunity," says Rich Tyler, a barn historian and one of the people planning this upcoming event. On Sunday August 24, 2013, a birthday party for this Iowan treasure…

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    Always Plenty New To See And Do At Iowa State Fair

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on August 8, 2013

    Visiting the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines is the highlight of the summer for many people, an August tradition. Many of those who exhibit at the fair work toward this event year-round raising livestock, growing crops, vegetables, flowers and perfecting family recipes. Year after year people return with friends and family to experience Iowa's great celebration, a salute to the state's best in entertainment, agriculture, industry and achievement. To plan your visit, you'll find…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    State Officials Defend Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Strategy

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on July 31, 2013

    Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and other state officials defended the new Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy when they spoke at a soil and water conservation field day recently in Madison County. The conservation tour was held on the farm of Frederick and Helen Martens near Winterset. The statewide strategy takes a voluntary, farmer-led approach to reducing the amount of nitrate and phosphorus leaving Iowa farm fields. The strategy recommends best management practices and its goal is to…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Ethanol And Corn In Victory Lane At Iowa Speedway

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on July 22, 2013

    In more ways than one, ethanol was the winner in The American Ethanol 200, a truck race at the Iowa Speedway at Newton on July 13. Prior to the NASCAR race, Syngenta officials held a press conference at the track to make an important announcement involving the seed company's new Enogen corn. They announced that the firm will contribute $1 to the renewable fuels industry for every acre planted with the new Enogen trait technology, beginning with this year's growing season. "We…

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    Pedaling Across Iowa, Learning About Agriculture

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on July 12, 2013

    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. This is a good idea the Iowa Department of Agriculture has come up…

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    Farm Bill And Fireworks On 4th of July

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on July 4, 2013

    On July 3 Iowa Corn Growers Association representatives gathered in front of the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines for the Iowa Governor's annual sweet corn feed. It's a Fourth of July celebration and an event to mark the beginning of Iowa's sweet corn harvest—which is running a little late this year due to a cooler and wetter than normal spring and delayed planting. The sweet corn served July 3 was rumored to be imported from Missouri. Anyone who shows up at this event…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Can't Plant? Put Your Empty Fields To Good Use

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on June 17, 2013

    It's mid-June and Iowa farmers are still trying to get their intended soybean acres planted, but time is running out. For corn, many have already thrown in the towel. Mother Nature hasn't been helping out as thunderstorms roll through again every time the remaining fields get almost dry enough to plant. As of June 9 statewide Iowa still had 40% of its intended 2013 soybean acreage yet to be planted. The deadline to plant soybeans was June 15 to receive full crop insurance…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Smithfield Purchase Stirs Discussion At World Pork Expo

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on June 10, 2013

    Is the recently announced sale of Smithfield Foods, the largest hog producer and processor in the United States, to China's largest meat producer and processor, Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., a good deal or a bad deal for U.S. pork producers and consumers -- in the long run? At the World Pork Expo in Des Moines last week, pork producers from Iowa and other states were pondering that question. The $4.7 billion sale was a surprise when it was announced May 29. If the sale goes…

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    New Leader For Iowa's Whiterock Conservancy

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on June 3, 2013

    Whiterock Conservancy, a nonprofit land trust recently formed to steward seven square miles of Iowa conservation lands, on May 24 announced the hiring of Conrad Kramer as executive director. Kramer moves to Iowa after heading major land trusts in California and Idaho. Whiterock Conservancy is located about 70 miles northwest of Des Moines. Whiterock Conservancy is made up of what was formerly known as the Garst Farm at Coon Rapids in western Iowa, the famous place of Soviet leader Nikita…

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    Farm Groups Defend Iowa's Nutrient Reduction Plan

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on May 27, 2013

    Activation of the Des Moines Water Works' nitrate removal facility May 10 to treat tap water for consumer consumption has created quite a stir. The facility hadn't been used for six years as a result of resourceful management of water at the treatment plant and also thanks to cooperative weather. But with record precipitation in April 2013, the Des Moines Water Works needed to act by turning on its nitrate removal system. The Des Moines Water Works draws its source water from…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Iowa: Growing More Than Corn

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on May 13, 2013

    At a May 8 press conference at the State Capitol in Des Moines, officials of MidAmerican Energy Company announced plans to add up to 1,050 megawatts of wind generation capacity in Iowa by year-end 2015. The wind energy expansion will enhance economic development and provide in excess of $360 million in additional property tax revenues over the next 30 years. Landowner payments totaling $3.2 million per year also are expected as a result of the expansion. The company plans to build…

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  • Rod Swoboda

    Is This Heaven?

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on May 6, 2013

    Not so pretty. That's how you describe 6 inches of snow on the ground in Iowa on May 2 and 3, 2013. Snow is pretty when it clings to trees in winter. But when it's clinging to everything the first couple days of May -- not pretty. It's not winter. And you know you need to be planting corn. Not shoveling snow. It was strange. First time for school cancellations in May due to snow. I called a farmer in northern Iowa at Forest City where they had a foot of snow on the ground and…

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    Cultivating Student Interest In Agricultural Sciences

    Iowa Farm Scene

     by Rod Swoboda
     on April 30, 2013

    At a reception in Des Moines last week for Science Bound students, I met the Tello family. Science Bound is a program that began 20 years ago as a way to draw students from middle school and high schools in Des Moines, Denison and Marshalltown toward careers in agriculture, science and technology. The program is aimed at minority students and currently has 378 students enrolled, all of them in those three school districts. Felipe Tello and wife Hermelinda, immigrants to Iowa…

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