Cyclists participating in RAGBRAI will have a close up view of Iowa's landscape including rolling hills of prairie, soybean and corn fields. (Photo: Iowa Soybean Association).
From the Missouri to the Mississippi, Iowa agriculture is on display for RAGBRAI riders
July 21, 2022 | Kriss Nelson
It is estimated that 15,000 people will embark across our state for the 2022 Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGRBAI).
For 462 miles, bicyclists will be taking in all that is Iowa, including the vast landscape of Iowa’s soybean and corn fields.
The event kicks off Sunday when bikers travel from Sergeant Bluff to Ida Grove on that first day.
Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer-member Jolene Riessen from Ida Grove will greet the bicyclists for their first overnight stay with her duties in traffic control. She is also assisting with preparations for her church’s food stand.
“I am volunteering because that’s just what we do in Iowa,” she says. “I am a bike rider, have done some of RAGBRAI, and know the work that must happen for a successful overnight stop. It’s also a chance to meet people from all over the country.”
Cyclists will be traveling by her farm, where they can view a display of Riessen’s farm equipment.
“We want them to see our equipment. We are going to have our combine, tractors and a semi on display,” she says. “I am hoping to have conversations on where their food comes from and how dedicated we are to conservation and the humane treatment of our livestock. I feel it is important for people to know where their food comes from and the people that grow their food.”
After traveling through towns including Pocahontas and Emmetsburg, riders will embark on the longest leg of the event – more than 100 miles that will take them through Klemme in Hancock County.
“I think it is awesome that thousands of people get to go through rural Iowa and see what we do,” says Brent Renner, ISA at-large director from Klemme.
Renner, who also serves as a commodity board member representing Iowa and ISA on the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), says he had an “eye-opening experience” regarding RAGBRAI while in London for a USAPEEC meeting earlier this year.
“I met someone that lives near Greece, and when he learned I was from Iowa, the first thing he said is ‘you are from the place with the great big bike ride,’” says Renner. “He says it is something he and his friends would love to participate in because there is nothing else like that in the world. It’s amazing the international attention our state gets during RAGBRAI.”
ISA District 1 Director Brent Swart from Spencer in Clay County will participate in RAGBRAI. For him, Iowans should look to RAGBRAI as more than a bike ride.
“It’s great to have so many people across the U.S. and other countries visit Iowa,” he says. “As farmers, we sometimes struggle to find good ways to connect with our consumers. For one week a year, they come to us. We shouldn’t miss such a great opportunity to tell our farming story.”
Swart has been riding RAGBRAI for 15 years, and he enjoys seeing farmers putting their equipment on display and sharing Iowa’s agriculture story.
“Every year, people ask questions about Iowa and our beautiful small towns,” he says. “Once I tell them I’m a farmer, they usually have many more questions. They are enthralled with the beauty of our state, what all the equipment is for, and how everyone is so nice.”
Not only will RAGBRAI riders see the beauty of the flourishing green soybean fields, they will also have the opportunity to eat soyfoods.
The United Soybean Board (USB) is supporting RAGBRAI 2022 as part of its Soy Fitness program aimed to promote the benefits of soy protein and soyfoods for exercise and recovery. This program marks USB’s first effort to reach a fitness-minded consumer audience, whose USB-funded research has shown eat soy sports and meal replacement bars are largely soy-positive.
Along the route, soy bars made with U.S.-grown soy will be served to riders, and signs that include fitness messages will be set up to promote soy and soybeans.
If you are participating in RAGBRAI or plan to be at the Mason City evening event on Wednesday, July 27th, please contact Joy Blakeslee by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for location and more information.
RAGBRAI is the oldest, largest and longest recreational touring bicycle ride in the world. Started in 1973 by Des Moines Register reporters John Karras and Donald Kaul, RAGBRAI is a seven-day bicycle tour that goes from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River with stops in overnight towns along the way. One of the largest tourism events in the country, a 2008 study by the University of Northern Iowa estimates RAGBRAI’s economic impact between $24 million to $25 million for the weeklong ride.