Manning, IA – Enjoying yak meatballs, holding a one week-old ostrich, taste-testing local wines and whiskey, and exploring two western Iowa communities were just a few unique highlights of the second annual agritourism event hosted on Thursday, August 3, 2023, at the Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park. The ‘Evolution of the Heartland’ experience immersed attendees into the heart of America’s rural communities, showcased the evolution of agriculture, and highlighted the efforts taking place to be able to feed the world.

Participants from the Des Moines and Omaha metros traveled to Manning on a chartered bus through CIT Charters and others drove themselves to the Hausbarn-Heritage Park for a fun-filled day of immersive, rural Iowa tours. More than 200 people from three states participated in the unique event sponsored by Travel Iowa, Audubon County Farm Bureau, the Iowa Food & Family Project, City of Manning, Iowa Corn Growers District 4 Committee, Farm Credit Services of America, Audubon County Economic Development/Audubon County Supervisors, Carroll County Farm Bureau, and Iowa Pork Producers Association, among others. Participants were also made up of event staff and volunteers, sponsors, farmer ambassadors, and the Audubon and IKM-Manning FFA officer teams.

“Audubon County Economic Development was proud to support this event that showcased the amazing things that are happening in our rural communities, businesses, and our local agriculture producers,” said ACED & Tourism Director, Sara Slater. “It was a unique opportunity for all attendees to interact with entrepreneurs in our area and learn about what is happening on their farms and businesses and what their day-to-day life entails.”

Tour options included a Beef Immersion at Brinkman Ag Solutions and Wiese & Sons Herefords featuring a speaker from Lauritsen Cattle Company; a Swine Immersion at PigEasy and Templeton Family Farms featuring a speaker from AMVC Management Services; a Niche Farming tour at Irlmeier Ostrich Farm and Iowa Yak Ranch; a Main Street Entrepreneurs tour in Manning and Audubon; an Innovation & Technology Tour at Puck Enterprises and NexGen Ag Supply featuring a speaker from Van Wall Equipment; a Wine in the Heartland tour at the Santa Maria Vineyard & Winery; and a tour of the Templeton Distillery.

“What was most impactful to me was seeing the connection these families have with each other and their communities and the dedication they have to the future of their operations,” shared one attendee. “It was inspiring to see them work together, to overcome challenges they had faced, and continue to pursue their dreams right here in rural Iowa.”

Participants also got a taste of rural Iowa at the Ag Ambassador Luncheon at the Audubon County Fairgrounds, accompanied by conversations with local agricultural ambassadors. Debi Durham, Director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority, spoke during lunch, inspiring attendees to live, work, and play in Iowa because of the possibilities she believes are endless in rural Iowa.

Lieutenant Governor, Adam Gregg, spoke to attendees before the Community Tailgate supper, encouraging them that together we can grow in Iowa.

“In Iowa we have safe communities, exceptional quality of life, good schools, and the entrepreneurial spirit is still alive,” shared Lt. Governor, Adam Gregg. “In Iowa, you truly have the opportunity to have it all. And that’s what Governor Reynolds and I are working to preserve. That’s also what makes days like today so special. You’re helping us tell that story and expand that story across the Midwest and beyond.”

The catered meals were locally-sourced from Two Palms Grilling, Darrell’s Place, Deb’s Corner Café, and the Bakery on Broadway. About 65 local community members joined the Community Tailgate and Iowa Vendor Showcase, where people were able to browse handmade items and other Iowa-based products. Retail vendors included Feminine, Journey Trail Mix, Rusted Relics, Elizabeth Brittain Designs, Home Tree Leather, Tropical Sno, 2 Sisters Garden Art, The Crap Shack, Silver Valley Craft Corner, and Manning Rent-all. In addition to the retail vendors, agricultural businesses included: Puck Enterprises and Iowa Yak Ranch. Attendees enjoyed listening to live music by 2 ½ Guitars while browsing the Iowa Vendor Showcase.

The Future of Evolution of the Heartland
“We feel that Evolution of the Heartland, and more events like this, will become a catalyst for rural Iowa to share their message, progress in agriculture, strides in the production of wholesome, nutritious food, and the pride that farm families experience when caring for their land and operations,” said Greving.

The Evolution of the Heartland committee is eager to set a date and begin planning for the next event in 2024 and are planning to invite more communities to host similar events marketed under the same brand. More details will be shared once future dates are set.

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