What is Evolution of the Heartland?

What comes to mind when you think of Iowa? Endless stretches of fertile land, a resilient work ethic, neighbors who embody the essence of care, and the ingenuity of entrepreneurs who carve out success against all odds? Iowa is synonymous with agriculture, humility, and the enduring spirit of the American dream. Yet, amidst the vast cornfields lies a narrative often overlooked—the evolution of the heartland.

Rural communities are the foundation of Iowa and America, pulsating with a spirit that fuels the state’s heartbeat. But how can we harness this energy to not only sustain but thrive? Enter Evolution of the Heartland, a visionary initiative that capitalizes on agritourism and economic development to invigorate rural Iowa.

Evolution of the Heartland knows that together Iowans can…

  1. Utilize rural, Iowa people, communities, and businesses as the driving force for tourism.
  2. Showcase the high-quality innovation happening in Iowa.
  3. Entice migration from cities and other states to rural life through hands-on experiences and authentic conversations and relationships.
  4. Inspire entrepreneurs to pursue the American dream right here in Iowa.

At its core, Evolution of the Heartland celebrates the essence of Iowa—its people, communities, and businesses and encourages rural communities to market themselves jointly for these common goals:

  1. Gain statewide and national exposure for the evolving Silicon Prairie (rural Iowa communities, businesses, and people).
  2. Create a positive image of rural Iowa and agriculture.
  3. Highlight opportunities to visit, live, work, and play in rural Iowa that result in an exceptional quality of life.
  4. Provide exposure to career opportunities and business start-ups.

Past the peaceful cornfields, you’ll find folks who are all about pushing the envelope with new ideas. Evolution of the Heartland sheds light on the innovation happening right here in the heart of Iowa. Farming nowadays isn’t just about plowing fields; it’s about using the latest technology to make things more efficient, sustainable, and productive. By showcasing the seamless fusion of tradition and innovation, this initiative aims to change perceptions of rural Iowa and agriculture, positioning the state as a leader in agricultural innovation.

But at the core of Evolution of the Heartland is the power of making connections. It’s a chance for people to meet community leaders, building relationships that last long after the event’s over. Through tours, immersive experiences, and Main Street dining encounters, individuals gain insight into the intricate structure of rural life.

So, what does a typical Evolution of the Heartland event look like?  All events follow a similar itinerary yet take on the local flavor of the host community. The day starts with a round of immersive tours. The Main Street luncheon and downtown exploration aim to connect attendees with local foods, flavors, and business owners. Attendees will set out on their afternoon adventure with another round of  immersive tours. Some communities will end the day with a local vendor showcase or community reception.

As Evolution of the Heartland continues to gain momentum, the vision extends beyond the horizon. The goal is not merely to replicate but to scale this initiative statewide, as the premier agritourism event that beckons individuals to rural Iowa. By raising awareness of the opportunities for tourism, business startups, and rural living, Evolution of the Heartland attempts to cultivate a well-rounded quality of life that resonates far beyond the heartland’s borders.

In essence, Evolution of the Heartland isn’t just an event—it’s a movement. A movement that celebrates the past, embraces the present, and charts a course towards an exciting and prosperous future for rural Iowa. Join us as we embark on this transformative journey, where the heartland beats with renewed vigor, and the spirit of innovation thrives.

Photo by zaigervision

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.