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Second Farm to Fair event helps Iowa agriculture shine

Article cover photo
Morey Hill, ISA district director from Madrid, visits with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig during the Farm to Fair dinner at the Iowa State Fair. About 500 attendees had the unique experience of enjoying Iowa-grown food under the lights of the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Lauren Houska, ISA communications specialist

Iowa State Fair officials and Iowa’s agricultural commodity groups gathered 500 eager participants — 400 consumers and 100 farmers — for the second Farm to Fair event at the Iowa State Fair.

Catered by The Machine Shed in Urbandale, Farm to Fair participants sat down to a meal in the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion on Aug. 16. Hosted by the Iowa State Fair and sponsored by agricultural commodity associations — including the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) — the event aims to connect farmers and consumers and foster positive conversation about agriculture.

As each table was served dishes featuring Iowa’s agriculture commodities, farmers and consumers dove into a wide range of conversations.

Tables were provided with discussion questions, which helped get the conversation flowing, said Pat Murken, an ISA member and soybean farmer from Story City.

“The prompts really helped narrow down what people at my table are interested in,” Murken said. “I sat with two young men who were awestruck by the amount of work involved with some forms of farming, like baling hay. We talked at length about what it takes to run a farm.”

Murken thought event the event was worthwhile, yielding fun, casual, low-pressure conversation. He was one of 10 ISA farmers and spouses who attended the Farm to Fair event to represent ISA and Iowa soybean farmers.

“I also had a lengthy chat with a woman who had just purchased a few acres on the outskirts of town and was interested in CRP,” Murken explained. “It’s conversations like those that leave a positive impression in the minds of our fellow Iowans.”

Within 24-hours the Pioneer Livestock Pavilion was transformed from a show ring to unique dining experience for about 500 farmers and fairgoers during the Farm to Fair dinner at the Iowa State Fair. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy)

In order to attend, consumers were selected for the event via an application on the Iowa State Fair website.

Chris and Shannon Gaesser, ISA members and soybean farmers from Lenox, also attended the event. They were seated at a table with a few people who grew up on or around farms and a few who had no agriculture experience at all.

“They had a lot of questions about what we are doing now and why, like utilizing cover crops and new technology,” Chris said.

He feels that consumers are more accepting and trusting of information coming directly from farmers.

“This event is a great way to connect with those people who are truly interested in learning more,” Gaesser said. “This event really helps consumers put a face to farming.”

Contact Lauren Houska at

For media inquiries, permission to republish articles or to request high-res photos, please contact Katie James, ISA Public Relations Manager at © 2020 Iowa Soybean Association. All rights reserved.

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