Photo Essay: USGC Staff Connect To Agriculture Through Member Farms In Iowa

The U.S. Grains Council’s (USGC’s) members are the heart and soul of the organization; therefore, it is essential that its staff understand the work members do daily to support the movement of grain. One way USGC staff get involved is by visiting the farms of members.

Ellen Zimmerman, USGC director of industry relations, and Lacey Bowersox, USGC industry relations coordinator, recently had the opportunity to visit the farms of members Mark Mueller and Amanda De Jong in Iowa.

“Everything is so inter-connected in agriculture,” Mueller said. “From me in my muddy boots to you all in Washington and abroad, we are all necessary to move our product around the world. I consider the U.S. Grains Council priceless to my operation, and it is my job as a farmer to educate others on the industry when I can.”

Farm tours provide Council staff, especially those who do not have backgrounds in agriculture, with firsthand exposure to the work USGC members do daily. Along with learning about the farm operations, staff gain a better understanding of how the work done on American farms connects to overseas trade.

“Both farm tours went above and beyond any expectations I had,” Bowersox said. “As someone who grew up in a suburban area and is two generations removed from living and working on a farm, this experience has given me a greater appreciation for agriculture and the importance of the work our members do.”

Follow along in this photo essay of the farm tours Bowersox and Zimmerman took in Iowa.

People on a farm

The first stop of the tour was at the Bremer County Fair in Mueller’s hometown, Waverly, Iowa. Bowersox and Zimmerman walked through the 4-H exhibits, livestock and poultry sections, spoke with FFA students and enjoyed lunch at the Iowa Cattlemen’s beef tent. A trip to the fair wouldn’t be complete, however, without a visit to the petting zoo. The group made sure to grab a selfie with the zoo’s camel.

Bowersox and Zimmerman had the opportunity to learn more about Mueller’s grain elevator. Mueller walked them through the process of storing grain, the storage timeline, market prices and transportation for his grain.

“The tour gave me a better understanding of the different processes and obstacles that farmers face to grow, harvest and sell the grain, not to mention the key role weather plays in all of this,” Bowersox said.

Mueller also found the tour to be a valuable experience provided by the Council.

“One of the most important things I can do as a farmer is educate,” Mueller said. “I would welcome anyone that comes to Iowa to give me a call and I will give you a tour.”

people on a farm

Mueller surprised the Council staff members with a visit to a local dairy farm operated by the ten Hoeve family. In this photo, Gerben ten Hoeve shows Bowersox and Zimmerman auto-milking technology used on the farm. When the cows feel they need to be milked, they enter the stalls (pictured on both sides) and are incentivized by receiving a treat that drops down for them. This process is more efficient and cleaner, as there are hoses (pictured in the middle) that are sanitized and then, using a laser, find the udders on the cows and milk them. Whenever the cow is done milking, the hoses retract, are self-sanitized and the next cow enters the stall. The process takes mere minutes and showcases the advanced technology being used in agriculture today. Mueller works closely with the dairy farm, providing corn, alfalfa and rye bales in return for manure that is then used to fertilize his fields.

Bowersox and Zimmerman also joined Amanda De Jong at Eden Ridge Farms, an operation that De Jong and her husband own and operate with another family. De Jong’s sons also acted as tour guides that morning for the USGC staff members.

After wrapping up the tour, Bowersox and Zimmerman grabbed a photo in front of De Jong’s corn field. In addition to corn, De Jong’s operation grows soybeans and raises cattle. The De Jongs also mix and store their own feed on-site.

What better souvenir from Iowa than an ear of corn? De Jong pulled several ears of sweet corn from a separate patch in her field that acts as a garden where a variety of produce is grown. Bowersox took the ears home to enjoy.

“I can’t express how much this entire opportunity meant to me. It was amazing to be able to see what our farmers are doing in the field and across the U.S.,” Bowersox said. “It was a gratifying experience to then return to D.C. knowing firsthand the people and livelihoods we are helping at USGC.”

Learn more about past facility visits.