Robb Ewoldt poses by tractor

Robb Ewoldt is a crop and livestock farmer from Davenport.

New Iowa Soybean Association president sets priorities for the year ahead

September 23, 2021 | Bethany Baratta

Conservation, conversation and farmer profitability top the list of priorities for Robb Ewoldt, who recently accepted the gavel as the president of the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) from Past-President Jeff Jorgenson.

“To be elected president of this association is truly humbling,” Ewoldt says. “I’m excited to work with my peers as we navigate this next year of farming.”

Ewoldt started farming full time in 1996 after attending Iowa State University for ag business. He initially attended college to become a teacher but soon realized a career in agriculture was his calling. A farm became available to rent near his parents and thus began his full-time farming career.

He expanded the family’s cow herd and built hog barns to further diversify their income streams.

Robb and wife Jennifer, a veterinarian, married in 2002. His parents retired in 2004, allowing Robb and Jennifer to buy their equipment and rent farmland from them. The couple expanded their crop acres and focused on growing and selling alfalfa to protect less desirable crop ground. They were awarded Alfalfa Producer of the Year in Iowa in 2006. They’ve since added a bioreactor, buffer strips and cover crops to their farm to prevent soil and nutrient loss.

Robb says ISA is a leader when it comes to promoting environmental practices and services in the state. He was one of the first participants in the Soil and Water Outcomes Fund, a partnership of Ag Outcomes, a subsidiary of ISA, and ReHarvest Partners, a subsidiary of Quantified Ventures. The Fund provides financial incentives directly to farmers who transition to on-farm conservation practices yielding positive environmental outcomes like carbon sequestration and water quality improvement.

ISA’s role in creation of the Fund will be a great legacy, Ewoldt says.

“We are truly leading this movement, and we’re leading it from pretty much from the ground up,” he adds.

Conversations are essential

Ewoldt says it’s vital that Iowa’s soybean farmers participate in conversations regarding farming and agriculture.

It’s because of those types of conversations that Ewoldt got involved with ISA.

Seeking research and data for a conversation about water quality in 2014, he was directed to ISA for scientific data showing farmers’ efforts. After that conversation, he was asked to attend a conference talking about farmers’ efforts in conservation and nutrient reduction. Since then, the Ewoldts have hosted more than 1,000 people on their eastern Iowa farm.

The Ewoldts received the 2020 ISA Advocate for Iowa Agriculture Award, presented by Bayer CropScience, for their efforts in telling the story of modern agriculture.

With their sons Alex and Isaac, the Ewoldts host an annual “Picnic in the Pasture” for 300 people to learn more about life on the farm. Jennifer authors a biweekly column for the Quad-City Times detailing the activities and events associated with operating a family farm. The column is so popular, the newspaper turned the fan-favorite pieces into a book, “Into the Fields: A Celebration of Farm Life.”

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers recognized the Ewoldts in 2019 with its Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award. It recognizes farm families for establishing and promoting good neighbor-to-neighbor relations as livestock farmers. The family has also been named an Iowa Farm Environmental Leader. The program is a joint effort between the offices of Iowa’s Governor and Lt. Governor, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

In addition, the Ewoldts have been recognized with an Eddy Award by River Action, a group that fosters environmental, economic and cultural vitality of the Mississippi River. They were the first farmers to win the award, a recognition of the family’s efforts to build relationships with non-ag groups.

Robb has participated in Congressional hearings, legislative visits and conversations at the Iowa Statehouse in Des Moines and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

“It’s vital we have these conversations,” Ewoldt says. “Farmers are about 2% of the population growing the food for the rest of the world. But most of the people making policies and regulations we live by don’t understand farming and agriculture.”

Farmer profitability

The current challenge, Ewoldt says, is sustaining profitability in agriculture.

“We see profitability right now,” he says. “But all too soon, input costs and land rents follow suit and margins get squeezed.”

What is ISA’s role in helping farmers create profitable opportunities?

“We have to figure out how to help Iowa farmers grow soybeans with fewer inputs so we can try to keep that profitability,” Ewoldt says.

We are truly leading this movement, and we’re leading
it from pretty much from the ground up.”

— Robb Ewoldt

This story was originally published in the October 2021 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.