The welder


If only the lines and scars on his hands could talk. Underneath the oil and dirt a diary of 43 years of lines would tell quite a story. Stories of hard work would be the easiest to see but after talking to Hartford Cooper for awhile earlier this fall those stories would just be the beginning.

Cooper, a long time fixture of Nodaway, IA, has owned a repair and welding shop off of Birch Avenue for over 30 years. The 78 year-old has welded a variety of projects during his 43 year career.

Continue reading here and click to see more photos.



From farm fields to NYC—Telling my story

By Mark Jackson

“I want to tell you how billions of lives continue to be enriched by the life giving nutrition of the American farmer,” I, an Iowa farmer, told a crowded room of Unilever executives, imploring them for help in telling the story of modern agriculture.. “Let me explain the importance of realizing how changing perspectives can lead to a much brighter future.”

How did I end up in that boardroom? Well, I’m like most farmers who make a living taking care of crops while working alongside my family. I take great pride in raising corn and soybeans on my farm near Rose Hill, a small town in Mahaska County.  I also represent soybean farmers as a director on the Iowa Soybean Association and American Soybean Association boards. These organizations are funded by farmers and promote soybeans  grown in 32 states across the U.S. Nearly half of the world’s soybeans are grown in this country by farmers like myself, who represent less than one percent of the US population. Soybeans are the largest ag export from the U.S., to the tune of $30 billion in recent years and are the reason why I was in New York City at a meeting with Unilever.

Last year Unilever was attempting a first of its kind effort incorporating sustainably grown soy oil in one of their major branded products, Hellmann’s mayonnaise. That effort gave me a unique global platform to talk to executives from Unilever and to eventually give a TED talk that will be broadcast around the world.

My perspective as a farmer for sustainability was shaped fifty years ago by Norman Borlaug. Today, the modern agriculture I and many other U.S. farmers practice is based on a tradition handed down from parents to children for generations and revolves around being socially and environmentally responsible while maintaining an economic balance—just as Borlaug modeled. With an eye to future food demands, the U.S. farmer struggles with misleading information or overreaching regulation often based on emotion rather than sound science.

That is why I stood up in the crowded meeting in New York and that is why I recently told my story during the TED@Unilever in the middle of Manhattan. The TED@Unilever event showcased people from around the world that are working to initiate change. The ideas were meant to inspire leaders at every level and featured healthy food projects to public health campaigns and my own speech called “Hands across Generations.”

Hands across Generations showcased the hard work and change that farmers accomplish everyday across the U.S. to produce food for an ever-growing world. The importance of the harness and horse for my great grandfather has now changed to the precision of planters that use GPS to place nutrients in the right place to be utilized in the best way for plants while helping the environment.

That is a legacy I can be proud of and I’m also proud to be chosen as spokesperson for agriculture during such an important event and time in the discussion. Without an open and honest discussion I believe modern agriculture will be hampered from helping those who need it the most.

Quality through the seasons

DSC_5343Several snowflakes had already filled the air when Corey Jacobsen of Alexander stepped out of his shop. The forecast called for near blizzard conditions in several hours, but he was expecting an important shipment that would impact his upcoming growing season.

 For Jacobsen and many other farmers the start of the growing season begins when seeds are delivered to their farms. Jacobsen, a valued customer of Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, knew that a new growing season was just around the corner when he received the shipment of seeds. Even if the weather didn’t indicate spring was near.

Farmers know the power of seeds. Without high-quality seeds, crops can be impacted by weather, pests and a host of other agronomic variables. That is why Jacobsen grows Latham Seeds, a trusted name in the business since 1947.

The quality Latham seeds that were carefully inspected and processed in Alexander would now be planted and grown by Jacobsen to be sold and used as livestock feed, biofuel and worldwide exports.

I had the opportunity to track those seeds from the time they were loaded at the Latham Seeds facility in Alexander to planting and then harvest season. Below are some photos from that journey.

For more photos of the growing season click here:


Taking stock of Rock Creek


With a chill in the air a group of researchers gathered along a gravel road in Mitchell County. The researchers donned hip waders and grabbed kits from their trucks while preparing for the day’s work. With tools, charts and binders in hand, they walked across a field of hip-high prairie grass while making their way towards the banks of Rock Creek.

Rock Creek, a small stream that flows through Mitchell County near Osage, meanders through the countryside and eventually drains into the Cedar River. The lower reaches of the stream features limestone outcroppings, wooded hillsides and many forms of insects and aquatic life. Taking an inventory of the diversity and types of life found in the stream was the job of the researchers for the day.

Follow this link for a photo essay and the rest of the story:

Harvest into the night

Iowa farmers work long hours as they race Mother Nature to harvest the 2014 crop.

Dennis Bogaards, an Iowa Soybean Association member from Pella, checks the quality of a soybean plant as his father Dale Bogaards approaches in the combine. The two were trying to finish harvesting a field before forecasted rain settled into the area for several days. Click on the photos below to see expanded views and video of the Bogaards .

Harvest time in Iowa

Anderson Soybean Harvest-3

Steve Anderson, an Iowa Soybean Association member from Beaman, started the 2014 harvest season on Sunday. With cool temps and sunny weather it didn’t take long for him to finish his first field. It also didn’t take long for him to see that the current crop could be one of his best crops.

To see a photo essay of Anderson starting his harvest follow this link:

Hands across generations the TED Talk


Mark Jackson reads his speech on stage at the TED@Unilever event in New York City on Wednesday.

TED Talks partnered with Unilever to place a spotlight on ideas, projects and insights they hope will contribute to shifting perspectives and a brighter future yesterday in New York City. The program called “TED@Unilever” provided a voice to 16 people, spanning several continents, to share their ideas of creating social and business change for billions of people.

Mark Jackson, an Iowa Soybean Association director and farmer, was one of the speakers featured in the program. He painted a picture of the struggles and joys that his family has gone through since the 1800’s while farming land near Rose Hill.

“I now see how the profession I have devoted my life to impacts the world. I want to share with you a story of where we’ve been in agriculture, where we are now and where we are going,” Jackson told the audience during the opening of his presentation.

His grandfather first planted soybeans on their farm in the 1920’s and since that time each generation has strived to produce sustainable and environmentally responsible crops.

“I owe my passion for my profession to my father, an agriculture giant in my eyes,” Jackson told the crowd. “He was a fiercely independent man, short stature but tall in character.”

Jackson was invited to participate in the program because of his work in partnership with Unilever, the Iowa Soybean Association and ADM over the past year. The partnership created the soy sustainability project encouraging farmers to document the sustainability of their soybean crops from planting to harvest.

“Today, the U.S. farmer represent only one percent of this country’s population but we are growing nearly half of the world’s soybeans,” Jackson continued as a crowd of 150 people, mostly from New York, listened. “Using science to provide assurances to the American consumer I’ve worked on a first-of-its kind sustainability effort with soy.”

He highlighted technology he uses on his farm to aid in conservation, decrease pesticide use while saving on fuel costs. He finished the six minute talk by asking the audience a rhetorical question.

“What will the future look like? It will include soybeans and other crops that produce more with less water and less inputs that will adapt to changing climates. ”

At the conclusion of the event Jackson and the other speakers visited with those in attendance, including executives from Unilever.

“We thought the event was a great success. Our speakers have traveled far and wide to educate and inspire sustainable practices and it’s great to hear them shed light on how they’re working to create bright futures around the world,” Jessica Sobel, North American Sustainable Living manager, said.

The individual speeches were recorded and will be broadcasted after being edited by TED team members. Jackson reflected on his time in New York for the speech while thinking about the upcoming harvest back home in Iowa.

“TED was a unique opportunity,” He said. “Modern agriculture has had to embrace change to align with the needs of our customers. We strive to bring an abundant and safe crop that enables the expanding world population to be fed.”

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager

Mark Jackson talks TED in New York City

Jackson Hat in Timesquare

Mark Jackson displays his Iowa Soybean Association hat at the Crossroads of the World in Time Square. Jackson is in New York this week to participate in a TED Talk about sustainability and farming.

Mark Jackson traded the black soil of his Mahaska County farm for the concrete streets of New York City this week. The trip that carried him from Iowa to Manhattan was to raise awareness of his livelihood and how farmers strive to be sustainable in a changing food system.

Jackson, a farmer from Rose Hill and a director with the Iowa Soybean Association, was invited to take part in a Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talk this week in the big apple. His speech titled “Hands Across Generations” will focus on his family’s passion for agriculture dating back to the 1800’s on the rolling prairie of southern Iowa.

TED Talks are a series of speeches that are given to a live audience and shared through social media. For many connected to social media TED is a place to listen and learn.

“TED is a community with global reach,” Ronda Carnegie, head of Global Partnerships and Strategic Initiatives at TED, said. “There are over 1,800 Talks on, which have been viewed nearly 2.5 billion times. What’s more, we have over 11,000 volunteer translators from around the world translating TED Talks into 105 languages.”

Jackson with TED

TED representatives talk with speakers during a rehearsal for the event. 

The talks are recorded and broadcasted on the TED website and then shared through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The result is millions of people around the world can see the conversations that were initially presented to several hundred people.

For Jackson sharing his family’s history and more importantly the work he has done to make his farm sustainable while increasing yields is a chance of a lifetime.

“The importance of having TED as a platform to tell my story is a unique opportunity. Stepping outside of our normal avenues to relate the importance of modern agriculture is critical to defend the sustainability efforts that farmers have achieved,” Jackson said. “The Ted-Unilever collaboration is a first of its kind for the “TED Institute” and being selected to share the Iowa farmer’s story is a major accomplishment within itself as Unilever realizes the value modern agriculture has brought to the sustainability conversation.

Mark’s work with the Unilever soy sustainability program made his story a natural fit for the TED presentation. Last year Jackson hosted top executives from Unilever on his farm to help them better understand modern agriculture practices and how soybeans move through the supply chain before being used as ingredients in Unilever products like Hellmann’s Mayonnaise.

“This TED event is about bringing the outside in, in the area of sustainability. Across many platforms, with many voices, many nationalities and many topic areas,” Jonathan Atwood, national vice president of sustainable living and corporate communications for Unilever, said.

He went on to say that Jackson brings a voice to the Iowa soybean story that in partnership with Unilever is creating a conversation about sustainability and how the worlds of business and agriculture can come together to make a difference.

“We reached out to Mark and others in the Iowa farming community to say come on a journey with us,” Atwood said. “We are thrilled that Mark is here to say ‘this is who we are, and this is what we stand for’ and that’s exciting.”

Jackson with Gina Speech

Jackson speaks with Gina Barnett during a rehearsal for his TED presentation.

This week has been busy or Mark. He attended rehearsals, met with other presenters and learned more about the TED organization. All the preparations are leading up to his moment on the stage and the ability to tell his story of hands across generations.

Check back here to find out more about his presentation.

Story and photos by Joe Murphy, ISA member communications manager