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Celebrating the “AG” in RAGBRAI

Article cover photo
RAGBRAI, or the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is the nation’s largest and best-known bicycle ride — a perfect opportunity to showcase all things Iowa agriculture. (Photo: Joseph L, Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association))

By Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist

Whether it’s fuel, food or philanthropy, the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) is celebrating the “ag” in RAGBRAI® this year. The one thing everyone sees along the route is agriculture, through soybean and corn fields, pig and poultry barns, cattle lots and more!

RAGBRAI, or the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, is the nation’s largest and best-known bicycle ride. While Iowa may not have beaches or mountains to see, the beautiful countryside and Iowa hospitality has made the event immensely popular amongst cyclists, attracting riders from all 50 states and many countries. Officials are expecting over 35,000 riders this year.

Every year since 1973, bicyclists have started at the western side of the state and pedaled across Iowa to the Mississippi River over a seven-day period. Towns all along the route make riders feel welcome when RAGBRAI rolls through town and ISA and Iowa soybean farmers are no exception!

Building on past success

ISA Director Robb Ewoldt was excited about the success of this unique, out-of-the box marketing opportunity RAGBRAI provided ISA last year. His family also hosted an “open farm day” on their farm outside of Davenport on the Sunday after RAGBRAI.

“I thought it was a wonderful way for ISA to reach out to farmers and non-farmers across the state by riding and wearing the ISA jerseys,” Ewoldt said. “These riders were seeing soybean fields across Iowa for seven days. Having them out to our farm was a great way to continue to engage with them and showcase the importance of Iowa agriculture.”

Even in Iowa, a deeply agriculturally-dependent state, there is a tremendous portion of the population with no personal connection to agriculture. David Ausberger, a Jefferson soybean farmer and ISA member, said RAGBRAI is a great opportunity to put a personal touch on food and farming in Iowa.

“In the past, everyone had a personal connection to agriculture — an uncle they might bale hay for, a neighbor they might do chores for," he said. "But that’s no longer the case. Any opportunity we have to explain what we do and how we do it is another chance to foster understanding and trust.”

Ausberger, passionate about continuous improvement of his operation and protecting Iowa’s land, water and air, believes RAGBRAI is a unique opportunity to immerse riders in agriculture while they are in the midst of it that week.

“When the audience is on a bike, rather than traveling 60 miles per hour down the highway, it provides an opportunity to see real-world examples of conservation practices, farming equipment and more — it also gives the information a little more time to soak in.”

Fueling riders

ISA is a Premier Friend of RAGBRAI this year. Presented by ISA, an “AG OASIS” will give riders a chance to hop off their bikes when there is a long stretch between towns to hydrate and rest. Riders will have the opportunity to learn about agriculture in our great state and taste some Iowa-grown treats!

The AG OASIS will open on day three of the ride and be located at Howell’s Greenhouse and Pumpkin Patch, between Winterset and Cumming. RAGBRAI is expecting 35-40,000 riders this day alone. The Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA) and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association have joined in sponsoring this opportunity.

Historically, ISA has taken the opportunity to reach and engage with the thousands of riders who participate in RAGBRAI. Officials are expecting over 35,000 riders this year. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Fueling transportation

Equipment haulers and buses that transport the bikes and equipment will be powered by Iowa biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from soybean oil and other feedstocks.

Iowa biodiesel producers made about 365 million gallons at 11 biodiesel plants throughout the state in 2018, according to the National Biodiesel Board, making Iowa the leading biodiesel-producing state. An ABF Economics study of biodiesel production levels shows Iowa biodiesel supported about 4,700 full-time equivalent jobs in the state in 2018 and adds $568 million of GDP annually. 

Economic research shows soybean, corn and livestock farmers all benefit from biodiesel production. The clean-burning fuel helped soybean farmers realize an average of $36 per acre in additional value from 2007 to 2015. At the same time, it helped lower the cost of soybean meal for livestock producers by $21- $42 per metric ton.

ISA member and Madrid soybean farmer Morey Hill engages with the Dream Team during their training on June 1. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Fueling the future

ISA is also taking the opportunity to help bring agriculture to Iowa’s youth through sponsorship of RAGBRAI’s Dream Team. The Dream Team assists youth in developing a healthy spirit, mind and body by developing a productive, positive approach to life’s challenges through preparation for and participation in RAGBRAI. ISA is a proud supporter of the Dream Team and will continue to connect throughout the summer on rides and events.

The Dream Team rode from Des Moines to Jefferson for a campout and then back to Des Moines June 1-2 as part of their training. ISA and IPPA sponsored the cookout and several farmers attended and engaged with the youth on the agricultural sights they see riding through the Iowa countryside and why agriculture is important to Iowa and the world.  

See more photos from the June Dream Team in the gallery at the top of the page.

Contact Lauren Houska at lhouska@iasoybeans.com.

For media inquiries, please contact Katie Johnson, ISA Public Relations Manager at kjohnson@iasoybeans.com or Aaron Putze, ISA Communications Director at aputze@iasoybeans.com

For permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos contact Aaron Putze at aputze@iasoybeans.com. Iowa Soybean Association | 1255 SW Prairie Trail Pkwy | Ankeny | IA | 50023 | US

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