Deep freeze chores

I guess you could call it a "heat wave." After dealing with double-digit subzero temperatures for four days, you would think 8 degrees felt balmy.

But it was hard for Dan Hanrahan, a farmer from Winterset, to buy into that as he hit the door latch and opened the tractor cab door to start his daily chores. Even with a 20-degree temperature change, Hanrahan still braced for the rush of cold air that washed over his face and slowly penetrated the numerous layers of clothes he had on.  Click below to read full story:

Deep freeze chores

Originally published for the Iowa Food & Family Project. Find out more at Iowa Food and Family Project.

Calving season a 40 year journey

After glancing at the TV one last time, Duane Ohnemus pulled the laces of his leather boots tight. The TV is the first thing he glances at when he wakes up this time of year and the last thing he sees before going to bed. While most of America is watching the morning news or a recorded mini-series, Ohnemus is watching a live feed of cows in his barn.

Ohnemus and many other farmers and ranchers across the country are in the midst of the 2016 calving season —a two to three-month process that demands constant attention and braving the harsh weather. Continue reading by clicking the photo story below:

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Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association.

The new shepherds on the block

This time of year Nikki and Rueben Sprung bring a new definition to parenting. For four months starting in January, they tend to their flock of sheep and care for newborn lambs.

The job isn’t for the faint of heart as they work around the clock to keep everything in order. As days stretch into nights, they proficiently work to keep the sheep fed while always watching the health of newborn lambs. All while also taking care of their cattle and hogs.

“We’re good together,” Nikki said about working with her husband on a daily basis.

”To work with your best friend and your spouse is great,” Rueben added. “I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.”

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Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association.


Tradition and family values shine at Warren County Fair

By Joseph L. Murphy

Tucked away in several stalls in building number one of the Warren County Fair a family moved with determination to get their steers ready for a show. They moved from steer to steer with a precision that has been learned over the years.

People tour the livestock barns at the Warren County Fair in Indianola, Iowa. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

People tour the livestock barns at the Warren County Fair in Indianola, Iowa. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

The Moffitt family, Iowa Soybean Association members from Indianola, has a five-generation tradition of participating and attending the Warren County Fair. During that time, they and many other families that participate in fairs across Iowa have embodied the tradition, family values, and spirit of competition that can only be found at Iowa’s great county fairs.

Each year a thriving community forms in the barns and the grounds of county fairs across the state made up of 4-H and FFA youth and their families. The fairs offer them a place to compete against others with the livestock they’ve raised, and it also gives them the chance to visit with friends and neighbors.

Kurt Moffitt is proud that the experiences and competition he experienced showing at the Warren County Fair while growing up is already being passed to his three children.

“It’s a lot of hard work. Maybe even more hard work than when we were kids,” Moffitt said as he watched his sons and daughter work with a calf. “We have a lot of livestock here and I’m trying to let them do their thing and meet new people.”

He went on to say the routine of getting up every morning to do chores for the 22 animals they brought to the fair has made his kids more responsible.

“At the end of the week hopefully it will be a decent check for them and a good experience,” he said. “At the very least it is a way for them to meet new people and connect with others while staying off their electronics for a week.”

Maurice Moffitt, Kurt’s father, has seen many changes during his five-plus decades at the Warren County Fair. As the board president for 20 years he was a part of improving the buildings and grounds so the fair could offer participants great facilities to show off their projects.

“The fair was the highlight of the summer when it came around,” Maurice Moffitt said while remembering his years of showing at the fair in the early sixties. “It was hard work and you were busy. It was a competition, and I remember the hard work paid off.”

Cynthia Moffitt, Kurt’s wife, feels the fair offers a chance for people not directly involved in agriculture to experience it firsthand.

“Iowa is an agricultural state, but there’s a lot of people that aren’t directly connected to it, so county fairs provide an opportunity for those folks to learn and understand a big part of our economy,” she said. “If we as farming families can help connect those other families with agriculture, then we feel like we’ve done our job.”

Working at the fair is a year-round passion for Jo Reynolds, the Warren County Fair manager.

“People say ‘I’ll bet you’re glad fair week is over,’ and I always say no I work all year for this week. It’s a love, it’s a passion, it’s a sickness,” he said, smiling. “But it’s the people that make this.”

She went on to say the history and tradition of family farms are about families coming together. That’s why she believes it’s important for fairs to showcase their dedication and hard work.

“I’ve always said we are raising kids, not livestock,” she said. “The livestock have always been a vessel to help children or exhibitors learn responsibility and some of those things in life. I think it’s tradition, heritage and the history that makes these fairs special.”

Even with her hectic schedule during the fair you can see her visit with exhibitors and visitors she bumps into at the fair.

“I would hope people would come to (the fair) be educated. To learn that milk doesn’t come from the grocery store and pork comes from the pig itself,” she said. “I’m trying to provide more education so we can continue being the state that feeds the world, and with that we want to provide the entertainment to fairgoers because the entertainment brings the people. But education is our big goal.”

Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association. Find more great stories at:

Moving Day

By Joseph L. Murphy

Tim Kaldenburg feeds cattle from the back of his truck during his morning chores. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

Tim Kaldenburg feeds cattle from the back of his truck during his morning chores. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

Moving day. If you are like me, a slight chill just made its way up your back just thinking about the word moving. There aren’t too many things in life that are more traumatic. You have to pack all of your possessions, leave a comfortable place and then lug everything to a new space that holds new challenges. I’ve been thinking about moving a lot lately. Two years ago, we packed up our home and moved the family 27.8 miles (I know the exact distance because it didn’t qualify for an IRS tax deduction) to a new home and town. I’m also preparing to help move my mom from my childhood home in Forest City to a new place in central Iowa. In both cases, moving brings with it planning and hard work.

It was no different when I visited a friend last week while he happened to be moving. I didn’t know that’s what he was doing at the time or I would’ve conveniently been “busy” during the move.

You know how it is. Getting drafted into helping a buddy move to a new place somewhere. It seemed like the years surrounding college, I was always helping to move friends across campus. It always seemed like it was up three stories and the elevator didn’t work. Back in those days, the only reward for moving was several cold beverages, a backache and maybe some funny stories.

This move was not typical for me by any means. Not just because my friend has to do it annually, but because it holds an importance every time he does it.

For Tim Kaldenberg, an Iowa Soybean Association member and farmer from Albia, moving day means ushering his herd of 19 heifers and 40 cows through snow-covered pastures back to his farm. This move, like many traditional moves, has plenty of logistical challenges that can only be solved through hard work.

With good weather in the forecast and me in the copilot chair, we set out in his farm truck several miles down a blacktop. While we traveled, we talked about our families and plans for warm escapes from Iowa’s icy plains. When we arrived at the pasture, Kaldenberg stepped out of the truck, opened the gate and jumped back in. It was go time for the move and, with a fluid motion of his arm, he shifted the truck into four-wheel drive while plowing through a snow drift.

“Here cow, hey cow!” Kaldenberg yelled with his head out the window.

His secret weapon for this move was a payload of fresh, wet corn gluten feed. He leaned towards me, almost like he was about to tell me a secret, and said it was like candy to the cattle so he was sure they would follow.

As the truck sped up, Kaldenberg confidently kept breaking through small drifts and deep snow while a chain of cattle followed at a gallop. It was an amazing sight to see with the powdered snow forming a white trail behind them.

After crossing every pasture, we had to get out of the truck and open gates and assess the progress. That gave the cattle the opportunity to grab a snack before the truck sped away again. I found myself just as nervous as Tim was at times. He was nervous about the cattle following and I was nervous about getting stuck in a pasture miles away from a hard-surfaced road.

Tim Kaldenberg opens a gate to prepare for the move. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

Tim Kaldenberg opens a gate to prepare for the move. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

After close to two miles of drift busting and prayers that the cattle wouldn’t stray from the move we finally made it to the last gate.

“I woke up and knew today would be a good day to do this,” Kaldenberg said. “Sometimes you get a feeling that it’s a good time to work with them.”


The move was over and we both looked at each other and smiled as the gate was closed. The heifers were in place to begin calving season. I went on my way back to Des Moines knowing that I was involved with an important part of Kaldenberg’s farm. I also knew that once calving season begins for him, it will be several months of working around the clock to make sure the heifers, cows and their calves are healthy regardless of the weather conditions.

That was a move for the ages and one that I would gladly sign up for again.

Originally published for the Iowa Soybean Association. Find more great stories at: