Farming couple standing in field

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Learning by touring with Experience Class

June 28, 2024 | Kriss Nelson

What Sam Lane expected to be a simple visit to the ag industries turned into something much greater.

Sam and his wife, Josie, ventured to the western part of the state with a few dozen other farmers as members of the 2023 Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) Experience Class.

Last year’s Experience Class comprised an eight-stop, three-day tour showcasing ISA’s involvement with industry partners.

“I was looking forward to the industry tours, but I found out it was so much more,” says Lane. “Once we started, I quickly realized how our checkoff dollars are being used. I transitioned my thoughts to ‘this is more than just a tour.’ ”

The ISA Experience Class is all about making those connections, says Kennady Henry, ISA producer services coordinator and manager of ISA’s Experience Class.

“We want to demonstrate to farmers how their checkoff dollars support various aspects of the industry in Iowa, and how our partners also support the work they do on their farms and within the association,” Henry says.

Farmers walking in field

Demonstrating ROI

“It was very eye-opening,” says Lane. “I thought I understood the checkoff, but for example, I didn’t realize those dollars couldn’t be used for policy. They (checkoff investments) are being returned directly to farmers through research, development and information.”

Last year, the group of farmers toured Corteva Agriscience in Johnston, Flynn Wright, Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa State University Field Extension Education Laboratory (FEEL) in Boone, the A.J. and Kellie Blair farm near Dayton, Landus Cooperative’s SoyPlus facility in Ralston, Wilson Trailer in Sioux City, Port of Blencoe in Blencoe and Benson Hill Ingredients in Creston.

Although Lane enjoyed the entire tour, he says the most impressive was the Port of Blencoe visit.

Living in southeast Iowa, Lane says he has marketing advantages of having access to the Mississippi River.

“It’s an incredible market for us,” he says. “I was not aware that the Missouri River is underutilized in that region of the state. It caught my attention how the Iowa Soybean Association and checkoff dollars were used to assist in launching the Port of Blencoe, and now there is a local market to help farmers in the area. This not only gives them a place to sell their soybeans but also gives them better access to fertilizers and crop inputs.”

While traveling from location to location, Lane found the time valuable visiting with other farmers.

“I had the chance to visit with farmers of all ages from all across the state,” he says. “I think I tend to get into a bubble down here in southeastern Iowa, and I enjoyed getting their perspective on how they are raising soybeans and what is going on with their operations.”

The ISA Experience Class can be a great starting point for ISA members to get involved with the association, Henry says.

“We hope to familiarize farmers with our association so they may become more involved in advanced program areas,” Henry says.

Lane was introduced to ISA programming through the Experience Class and is excited to become more involved with the association. He plans to continue using ISA research data and is considering joining ISA's Soy Leaders Network.

Lane appreciates not only the lessons learned but also how they were taught and highly recommends other farmers to participate in ISA Experience Class.

“It’s one thing to attend a meeting, listen to a lecture and sit through a PowerPoint presentation. It’s another to experience and see for yourself how our checkoff dollars are currently being used and meet and talk to the people using them,” he says.

The 2024 Experience Class will be held July 22-24, showcasing agricultural industries on the state’s eastern side.

Stops will include Iowa State University, a cover crop tour highlighting ISA research, a panel offering insight into the soybean industry featuring ISA, American Soybean Association, and United Soybean Board board members, a port tour on the Mississippi River, and more.

For more information, contact Kennady Henry at or 515-491-3539. You can also visit the Iowa Soybean Association’s Experience Class webpage at

The key takeaways participants can expect to gain from participating in Experience Class include:

  • Understanding of how the soy checkoff works and how the ISA 22-farmer member board directs funds
  • Connections with state and national soy industry partners, including the American Soybean Association, United Soybean Board, U.S. Soybean Export Council, Soy Transportation Coalition and more
  • Connections to ISA resources
  • Knowledge of ISA policy developments and directives
  • Networking opportunities with industry partners and ISA supporters
  • Relationships with current and veteran ISA leaders.