The start of August signals that summer is winding down. Students begin preparing to head back to school, fall activities ramp up, and farmers start to look ahead to harvest while hoping for a few more rain showers.
But before the pace changes for many of us, there’s one last, very big hurrah that most Iowans know and love – the great Iowa State Fair.
It’s truly the Super Bowl of Iowa agriculture.
There are many reasons why I love the Iowa State Fair, but perhaps, most importantly, it’s a wonderful opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn about agriculture.
Though it continues to drive Iowa’s economy, fewer Iowans are engaged directly in production agriculture today than in past generations. And that’s why the Fair remains so important. Whether you live on a farm or in the city, you can find numerous opportunities to experience agriculture in fun and unique ways at the Iowa State Fair.
It’s true that new foods and grandstand acts often make the headlines. And while they are excellent, I’d also encourage you to spend some time supporting 4-H and FFA exhibitors and open class contestants. They have devoted countless hours preparing for the Fair as well as their county fairs, and they are proud to showcase their skills, animals, family recipes and so much more. By exploring the 4-H building, FFA exhibit hall, cultural building, food center, livestock barns and many other venues, you’ll come away with a deeper appreciation for the talents and passions of your fellow Iowans.
Exploring the exhibits, seeing the livestock and attending the shows will make you hungry. Luckily, there’s no shortage of delicious food options and you can’t go wrong with any of the great vendors. However, I encourage you to support Iowa’s commodity groups that will be out in full force at the Fair. From pork chops, lamb sandwiches, hot beef sundaes and giant turkey legs to eggs on a stick, honey lemonade and ice cream, I promise you will not leave the Fair hungry. Not to mention, you’ll feel great about supporting Iowa farmers.
Promoting Iowa agriculture and supporting Iowans is the big focus of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s presence at the Fair this year. When you visit the ag building to see the butter cow and exhibits, look for the large Choose Iowa banners. There you will find the Department’s booth, and I encourage you to stop by to take a free and fun “Picture yourself in Iowa agriculture” photo and learn about Choose Iowa, the state’s new branded program for Iowa grown, raised and made products.
My favorite day of the Fair, and the whole year, is the Century and Heritage Farm ceremony. During the all-day event, we will recognize nearly 400 Iowa families who have earned the designation of either a Century Farm (100 years) or Heritage Farm (150 years). These multi-generational farm families are truly the backbone of our state. They are proud to celebrate these family milestones and it’s a privilege to be part of this special event honoring them.
More than one million visitors over 11 of the “Best Days Ever” will pass through the gates of our beautiful and historic fairgrounds to enjoy this internationally acclaimed event. For many, going to the Iowa State Fair is a tradition that has stood the test of time. Year after year, decade after decade, these long-time attendees created deeply held memories at the Fair with their parents or grandparents. Now, they enjoy the opportunity to show their own children or grandchildren why the Fair is so special. Truly, nothing compares!
Whether you attend every year, haven’t been in a while, or this will be your very first Iowa State Fair, amidst all the excitement, I hope you take the opportunity to learn something new and appreciate the rich agricultural heritage of our state.
And, since I’ll be out there all 11 days, be sure to say hello if our paths cross. There’s a pretty good chance you’ll find me near the dairy barn enjoying some of that unbeatably fresh and delicious Iowa ice cream.