Manning, IA – Eating yak meatballs, holding a week-old ostrich, seeing fish jump for scattered food, and exploring a 1600’s authentic German hausbarn were just a few unique highlights of a brand new agritourism event hosted on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, 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 advancements in rural Iowa.

“Evolution of the Heartland renewed my spirit, reignited my creativity and confirmed my belief that Iowa’s farmers, entrepreneurs, and community volunteers give us all hope for the future,” shared Darcy Maulsby, a local farmer, author, photographer, and entrepreneur who attended the event.

Participants from the Des Moines area traveled to Manning on a Windstar bus and locals drove themselves to the Hausbarn-Heritage Park for a fun-filled day of immersive, rural Iowa tours. In total, 91 people from three states participated in the unique event sponsored by Travel Iowa, Audubon and Carroll County Farm Bureau organizations, the Iowa Food & Family Project, and Iowa Corn Growers District 4 Committee, among others. Participants were also made up of event staff and volunteers, sponsors, farmer ambassadors, and the Audubon and IKM-Manning FFA officer teams.

“Agriculture is the engine that drives our local rural and urban economies. We, as a grassroots Farm Bureau organization, saw this as a valuable opportunity for farmers to share their stories and educate consumers,” shared Iowa Farm Bureau Regional Manager, Jim Heithoff. “The Evolution of the Heartland event showcased the pride, care, and evolution of family farm operations in Western Iowa. It was interesting to see the ingenuity, creativity, and evolution of several multi-generational family farms as well as how farmers collect and use science-based information to produce more wholesome food with fewer resources.”

Tour options included a Swine Immersion at PigEasy, Templeton Family Farms, and AMVC Management Services; a Niche Farm tour at Aquatic Resource Management, Brinkman Ag Solutions, Irlmeier Ostrich Farm, and Iowa Yak Ranch; and a Main Street ‘Shop ‘Til You Drop’ tour in Manning and Audubon. Each group also toured the Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park.

“Farm Bureau 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 Iowa Farm Bureau Regional Manager, Beth Bornholdt. “It was an amazing opportunity for all attendees to interact with farmers in the Manning and Audubon areas and learn about what is happening on their farms and what their day-to-day life entails.”

Participants of the Swine Immersion tour learned about the development of products to improve the efficiency of the swine breed to wean operation at PigEasy; the unique approach to caesarian-derived, colostrum-deprived pigs with Dr. Rexanne Struve at Struve Labs; grain, swine, and even popcorn production at Templeton Family Farms; the innovative products and services of MSS Ag; and the entire lifecycle of swine production at AMVC Management Services, a local company that has grown from four veterinarians with a local presence to 750 employees nationwide and ninth in U.S. pork production.

The Niche Farm tour participants learned about farm pond management, the importance of ag business diversity, and the life cycles and market possibilities of ostriches and yaks. Participants even had the opportunity to taste ostrich and yak meat.

Small business owners opened their doors to the Main Street ‘Shop ‘Til You Drop’ tour participants and discussed their close ties to the community. Participants had the chance to shop local and have conversations with small business owners about the ways they are helping transform their community and revitalize Main Street in rural Iowa.

Participants also got a taste of rural Iowa at the Farm-to-Table lunch accompanied by conversations with local agricultural ambassadors as well as a Community Tailgate supper provided by the Carroll County Cattlemen’s Association and Jan’s Catering.

About 35 local community members joined the Community Tailgate and Iowa Vendor Showcase, in which people were able to browse handmade items and other Iowa-based products. Vendors included Ignite: Be the Light, Shabby Refined, Home Tree Leather, The Sew Silo, Noble & West Co., Smudge, Darveau Designs, Elizabeth Brittain Designs, Taylor Hill Lodge, and Holistic health. After a day of networking and learning, it was evident that people were headed home with a renewed appreciation for rural Iowa.

The Farm Babe
Social media influencer, Michelle Miller, aka ‘The Farm Babe’, who boasts more than 184,000 followers on Facebook, 17,500 followers on Instagram, and a reach of more than 300 million monthly, attended the Evolution of the Heartland event thanks to the support from a Manning Hotel/Motel Tax grant.

“This was an amazing event I attended in Western Iowa to promote agriculture, small businesses, and opportunities in the smaller towns west of I-35,” said Miller.

The Future of Evolution of the Heartland
“We feel that Evolution of the Heartland, and more events like this, will become a catalyst for farm families 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 Heithoff.

After a successful first-time event, the Evolution of the Heartland committee is eager to set a date and begin planning for the next event in 2023. More details will be shared once a date is set.

“If you eat, you have a connection to agriculture at least three times a day. So, why not immerse yourself in all things rural by experiencing Evolution of the Heartland? If you’re from a city or a small town but don’t know much about the farm-to-fork connection, you’ll discover a whole new world.” said Maulsby. “Even if you have a strong ag background, you’ll be amazed and inspired by all the things you’ll learn. An unforgettable travel experience like Evolution of the Heartland leaves you speechless and then turns you into a storyteller.”

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