If you’ve ever crossed Iowa on I-80 en route to someplace you fancy more exotic, you might recall mile after solitary mile of soybeans and corn and the occasional side-leaning barn. Agriculture, you may have noticed, is Iowa’s most palpable characteristic — but, I’ll wager a guess, you didn’t see more than one or two farmers anywhere in sight.
Even as a small-town Iowa kid, the only farmers I knew personally were my great-grandparents — who, in their heyday, were known state-wide for their prize-winning watermelons. Iowa has undergone a lot of changes since Grandpa Clyde was grooming his gourds, though. In 1950, the state had 206,000 farmers; in 2012, that number was down to 88,637. Iowa land once cultivated a diverse range of crops, but is now seeded almost exclusively with commodity crops like corn, soybeans, and oats that are processed into ethanol or animal feed. Tell me where you can find a watermelon farmer in Iowa
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