Farm Progress

Iowa Farm Bureau’s 99th annual meeting celebrated the legacy and innovation of Iowa agriculture.

December 12, 2017

3 Min Read
LIFE LESSONS: Keynote speaker and former Navy Seal Cmdr. Rorke Denver captures the audience’s attention with his talk about life lessons from the front lines.Gary Fandel, IFBF

Members of the state’s largest farm organization gathered in Des Moines Dec. 5-6 to begin a celebration recognizing the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation’s 100 years of success. 

The 99th annual meeting of IFBF members also launched 2018 as the Year of Iowa Farm Bureau. The designation was recently signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. It celebrates a century of innovation and leadership of family farmers who belong to the organization, said IFBF President Craig Hill, a Warren County farmer.

Hill addressed the members and shared the organization’s history. “IFBF members may not realize it, but Iowa Farm Bureau was the first organization that gave farmers a ‘voice.’ Before Iowa Farm Bureau, it was politicians or those appointed by politicians, who decided farm policy,” Hill said. He also acknowledged the challenges facing farmers today, including efforts to improve water quality, but he said progress is happening.

Farmers know water quality important
“It’s why 87% of our members surveyed say they are using conservation practices on their farm, and 71% have plans to apply new conservation practices in the next five years. Iowa farmers know water quality is important, so even though we’ve seen three years of a downturn in the market for ag products, 73% of members surveyed are spending their own money to apply conservation practices,” Hill said. 

An education session titled “It Takes a Village to Protect a Watershed” was well-attended. Several IFBF farmers explained how they found success by ramping up conservation practices. Mike Ehlers, a Buena Vista County farmer, agreed that education is the key to changing farmers’ ideas about conservation practices. And, he said, repetition is the tool that inspires change and confidence. “It really takes multiple times of showing other farmers things before they are willing to consider making a change,” he said.

Jeff Pape of Dubuque County said the competitive nature of farmers is an asset when it comes to adopting or adding new practices. “People’s minds will change when they start seeing their neighbors have positive results,” he said. “That’s really when you get a lot of people who start to be willing to try new things.”

Inspirational stories about learning life’s lessons
Another attention-getting talk at the annual meeting was delivered by keynote speaker Rorke Denver. Denver, a former U.S. Navy SEAL commander who served in some of the most dangerous places on Earth, shared inspirational stories and life lessons learned in the field of battle. 

One lesson he shared was from serving in Afghanistan. Denver and his fellow SEALS had to secure a hillside for approaching U.S. troops. Denver told how he scanned the hills for Taliban, but grew frustrated when he continued to miss existing threats, which his sniper scout quickly found.

“I was having trouble with the fact that my lead sniper had seen everything on this hillside and I hadn’t,” Denver noted. But his sniper said the problem was perspective. He pointed out that Denver’s mistake was trying to see the entire hillside rather than breaking it down into parts.

Be focused, work through manageable tasks
“If you look at less, you’ll see more,” Denver recalled the sniper saying. Since then, Denver has learned to focus his efforts on working through and crossing off manageable tasks, rather than trying to tackle mountainous challenges. He says people tasked with doing “more with less” can benefit by taking on the same focused approach. Farmers in the audience nodded in agreement.

Denver added, “As leaders, we have so much on our plate that we have to digest and manage and deal with at a given time. You’ll never get it done if you try and do it all. When you try to take it all on, you’ll get nothing accomplished. If you do one specific thing and drill in, you’ll do great things. Look at less, you’ll see more.”

For a look at presentations, award ceremonies and addresses from the 99th annual Iowa Farm Bureau meeting, visit

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