Evolution of the Heartland Wins Two Iowa Tourism Awards

Emerge Marketing Solutions was awarded the ‘Outstanding Marketing Collaboration’ award and the ‘Outstanding Social Media Execution’ award for their work with Evolution of the Heartland at the 2024 Iowa Tourism Conference hosted by Travel Iowa on March 20th.

2024 Iowa Tourism Award Winner for Outstanding Marketing Collaboration - Emerge Marketing Solutions“It was quite an honor and surprise to receive these two awards from Travel Iowa,” said Emerge Marketing Solutions Owner & visionary leader behind Evolution of the Heartland. “We want to thank all the partners who have believed in us enough to invest in our cause and make this vision a reality for rural Iowa. We truly wouldn’t have been able to get this far without

them. After attending this year’s Iowa Tourism conference, I recognize that we have arrived, rural Iowa!! There has never been a better time to showcase the evolution of the heartland.” 

Emerge received the first award on behalf of the marketing collaborations between Travel Iowa; Iowa Farm Bureau (including Audubon, Shelby, & Carroll County Farm Bureau); Community Foundation of Southwest Iowa; Iowa commodity groups: Iowa Corn, Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Turkey Federation, and the Iowa Food & Family Project (Iowa Soybean Association); local community organizations: the City of Manning, Audubon County Economic Development & Tourism, Main Street Manning, Manning Hausbarn Heritage Park, Audubon County Fairgrounds, Nathaniel Hamlin Museum; various influencers: the Farm Babe, Michelle Miller; Iowa’s Storyteller – Darcy Maulsby; Olio in Iowa – Megan Bannister; Des Moines Parent – Erin Huiatt; and Ceara Kirkpatrick; and 15 private tour locations on local farms and agricultural businesses in the Manning, Audubon, Carroll, and Templeton area.2024 Iowa Tourism Award Winners

Evolution of the Heartland 

“We wanted to create and implement an authentic agritourism experience that highlights rural Iowa in a way that no one has been able to effectively do before,” said Greving. “Our ultimate goal is to gain exposure for the evolving rural Iowa; change perceptions of rural life and agriculture; create awareness of opportunities to visit, play, work, and live in Iowa where there’s an exceptional quality of life; and ultimately inspire others to pursue the American dream right here in Iowa.”

Through multiple local and statewide strategic partnerships and sponsorships, the inaugural Evolution of the Heartland event was held on August 31, 2022, at the primary host site of the Manning Hausbarn Heritage Park. The second annual event was hosted by Manning/Audubon on August 3, 2023. With more than 90% of Iowa being comprised of rural communities, Greving emphasized the importance of this initiative going beyond one or two communities. So, the Emerge Marketing team is working to bring Evolution of the Heartland to more rural communities in Iowa and scale the experience statewide in the next five years. 

Their vision to replicate the agritourism event across the state so that even more rural communities can benefit is already becoming a reality. This year, four Iowa communities will host an Evolution of the Heartland experience: DeWitt on July 25th, Stanton on September 12th, Coon Rapids on September 26th, and Manning on October 3rd. Registration for all events opens on May 1st and is limited to 50 people for each location. Registration will close three weeks before each event or when all spots have been reserved. Early bird registration features a $25 discount per person and ends June 1st. Participants can sign up to be notified when registration opens at www.evolutionoftheheartland.com. 

Emerge Marketing Solutions

Emerge Marketing is a local marketing organization owned by Shelly Greving of Manning. Greving, along with her team, including Katie Lange (Sextro, originally from Manning), Claire Zaiger (Olsen, originally from Audubon), and Annie Greve (Carroll) work to revitalize rural Iowa and support communities, non-profits, and businesses that make up the fabric of Iowa’s small towns through a variety of marketing services including brand development, business consulting, digital marketing, fundraising, social media management, strategic planning, video production, website development, and more. 

2024 Iowa Tourism Award Winner for Outstanding Marketing Collaboration and Social Media Execution - Emerge Marketing Solutions

This marks the third year in a row that Emerge has received a Travel Iowa Award, specifically the Social Media Execution Award. In 2022 they won for their video series promoting rural Iowa communities, ‘Off the Beaten Path in Iowa’; in 2023 for their digital promotions for Wright County Fair, and now for their Evolution of the Heartland social media marketing efforts. Emerge has received additional awards on behalf of their clients in previous years, including: ‘Outstanding Niche Market Initiative’ for their Look Local First initiative with DeWitt Chamber & Development Company in 2017 and ‘Outstanding Promotional Material’ for their social media marketing for the Manning Hausbarn-Heritage Park in 2017. 

“I am so grateful to our talented Emerge team who have worked tirelessly to showcase our rural communities and take our digital marketing efforts to new levels,” expressed Greving. “So, if you are a visionary leader and passionate about your rural community, reach out to us. Agritourism is one of Iowa’s priority areas that was highlighted at the conference, and there has never been a better time for our small towns to shine. I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for our rural communities.” 

To learn more about Evolution of the Heartland or Emerge Marketing Solutions, contact Shelly Greving at (712) 292-6875 or shelly@em3rgemarketing.com. 

Premiere Iowa Agritourism Event Scales Across the State

The original Evolution of the Heartland event was held in Manning and Audubon in 2022 and again in 2023, and this year it is scaling across the state to be held in four separate locations. These immersive experiences will showcase the heart of America’s rural communities and the evolution of agriculture to those who are unfamiliar with the cutting-edge advancements happening across Iowa.

The main goal of these events is to highlight agritourism and entrepreneurial opportunities in rural Iowa, something that has not easily been done in the past. Evolution of the Heartland promotes rural communities working together to entice the next generation of Iowa’s visitors, residents, workforce, and entrepreneurs to visit, live, work, and play right here in the heartland.

“Evolution of the Heartland elevates the visibility of rural Iowa communities and the opportunities that exist beyond the cornfields,” shared Shelly Greving, visionary creator of Evolution of the Heartland and owner of Emerge Marketing Solutions. “Since inception two years ago, our plan has always been to feature as many rural communities as possible and highlight the entrepreneurial and agricultural advancements happening in Iowa.”

Evolution of the Heartland participants will be immersed in local tours showcasing high-quality innovation, agricultural advancements, and entrepreneurial investments occurring in rural Iowa. Attendees will get a ‘taste’ of rural Iowa by dining at local restaurants, and each location will feature its twist on locally sourced foods and emphasize the farm-to-table connection. There will also be an opportunity to explore downtown businesses and network with local business owners. Attendees will get a chance to hear from local entrepreneurs about their inspirations and the community’s role in helping them start and grow their businesses.

After a day of immersive tours, learning, and networking, host communities may choose to host a local vendor show and community reception, inviting the local community to learn more about agricultural opportunities happening in their backyard.  More details for each event will be announced as the dates get closer.

When sharing the origin of this concept, Greving recalls, “My participation in the Leadership Iowa program and my connection to many rural communities inspired me to showcase these communities to others who may think that Iowa is just a fly-over state.” She continues, “There are so many incredible entrepreneurs and innovators here who are thriving because of the support they receive from their communities, and I felt this needed to be showcased on a more regional and national level.”

Greving emphasized that “small businesses are the backbone of this country, and Iowa has a great economy and support system to help those visionaries launch their businesses. Iowans are humble, hardworking people, and while that is commendable, it is also evident that America’s heartland needs more similarly grounded and motivated people to continue to be strong.”

These events are ideal for anyone interested in learning more about agriculture, entrepreneurial opportunities, and rural Iowa communities. “In the past, we have had lawmakers, government employees, bankers, insurance underwriters, and other community leaders attend these events to gain a better understanding of what’s happening across our state,” shared Greving.

Registration for all events opens on May 1st and is limited to 50 people for each location. Registration will close three weeks before each event or when all spots have been reserved. Early bird registration features a $25 discount per person and ends June 1st. Participants can sign up to be notified when registration opens at www.evolutionoftheheartland.com.

Join the Evolution of the Heartland tour and discover what the future holds for rural Iowa and the agriculture industry. See first-hand how agriculture has evolved from its early roots as well as the advancement of technology in many Iowa agricultural businesses and Main Street communities.

Evolution of the Heartland is accepting local and statewide sponsorships, as well as prospective 2025 community event hosts. For more information, please complete the online forms or contact Event Coordinator, Annie Greve, at info@evolutionoftheheartland.com. Follow along with event updates on Facebook and Instagram @evolutionoftheheartland to learn more.








Pictured: Event attendees at the 2023 Evolution of the Heartland event visiting the Irlmeier Ostrich Farm near Audubon, Iowa.