Raised on a farm in Monona County in western Iowa, Larry Buss earned a degree in ag engineering from Iowa State University. Before graduating in 1968, he worked three summers for the Soil Conservation Service in Sioux City. After graduation, he worked for the U.S. Navy in California for two years as an engineer, and then took a job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Omaha, Neb. All of this enabled Larry to “come home.”
Over the next several years, he and wife Bunny began building their farming operation. They started with 19 acres in 1972, and over time bought and rented more acres in the Loess Hills and nearby flatlands of the Missouri River Valley. Their hard work paid off, earning them the title of 2019 Master Farmers.
Today, this farming operation includes sons Troy and Jason, daughters-in-law Sharon and Jennifer, and grandson Jordan. Granddaughter Jessie will soon graduate from ISU, and Larry is encouraging her to join the operation. Nonfamily employees also work on the farm, which covers several thousand acres. Most of the land is in Iowa, but some is on the Nebraska side of the river.
Building from bottom up
Larry didn’t have things handed to him; he built what he has from the bottom up. With a full-time job at the Corps of Engineers, he worked evenings on the farm with Bunny and their young sons.
As an engineer for the Corps until his retirement there, it was a full-time job for over 41 years and a part-time one for three years. Serving the Corps in leadership positions, he became a recognized expert in flood risk reduction nationally and internationally. He also worked on issues in the Missouri River Valley and Iowa-Nebraska area.
Farming a wide-range of soil types, Larry and Bunny saw the importance of soil management early on and have used no-till and other conservation practices for many years. They have a history of buying farmland and making it better.
“Reducing erosion and increasing water infiltration, improving drainage, and enhancing soil health have always been a focus for us,” Larry says.
Larry and Bunny received an Iowa Farm Environmental Leadership Award in 2018 from the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “Larry has always sought good advice and asks good questions,” says Gary Guge, retired ISU Extension director in Harrison County, who nominated Larry and Bunny for the 2019 Iowa Master Farmer Award. “Larry keeps good records, calculates economic returns and manages cost of production.”
Along with farming, Larry and Bunny bought a small privately owned grain elevator in Missouri Valley in 1994. For a few years, they operated it as a commercial elevator, and eventually made it their own grain handling and storage facility as the Buss family farming operation grew. They also started Mo Valley Pelletizing, making pelletized limestone to sell to other ag businesses.
Ready to listen, glad to help
Larry and Bunny know what they need to do to reach a goal, says Jason Sporrer, agronomy manager for Agriland FS. “I worked with Larry on our town’s 150th year celebration. Leading our group, he brought people with different backgrounds together to have a great three-day event for the town of Logan.”
Larry heads a meeting each year with the Harrison County roads department to discuss local infrastructure needs. He gathers farmers from various areas of the county to present their concerns to officials.
IOWA CORN: Larry serves on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and is active in the Iowa Corn Growers Association.
During the 2011 flood, Larry spearheaded efforts to protect local communities and farms as the waters rose. He brought together a group of local farmers and others to fight the battle against the water. He’s still involved with making sure dikes and drainage are sound.
“Larry’s knowledge from working for the Corps of Engi-neers was key to help us cope with the 2011 flood,” Guge says. “When Larry is involved in a project, he’s all in.”
As chair of a local levee district board in Harrison County, Larry guides improvements to deal with future flooding. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of State Floodplain Managers and is a member of the American Academy of Water Resources Engineers. He maintains his license as an engineer in Iowa.
Crop pest resistance
As a director on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, Larry is active in the Iowa Corn Growers Association, chairing its Grass Roots Committee. Locally, he heads the Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program in Harrison County. He worked to get Palmer amaranth officially declared a noxious weed by the state in 2017. The Harrison County project is adding crop disease resistance management to its weed focus.
“We’ve had the privilege of working with Larry on creation, development and implementation of the Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program for the past four years. Larry has been a leader in the Iowa program from its inception in 2015,” says Evan Sivesind, program manager at ISU.
The pest program is a voluntary effort to slow the development of pest and weed resistance to chemical, genetic and agronomic control practices. The on-farm demonstration projects are at four locations in Iowa.
As project lead for the Harrison County pest resistance project, Larry assembled a diverse team of stakeholders. “This is an excellent team,” Sivesind says. “The time and effort Larry devotes to the Harrison County project is the reason it is the farthest along and serves as a model for our other projects.”
A member of the External Advisory Council for ISU’s Ag and Biosystems Engineering Depart-ment, Larry helped raise money to improve its facilities. He and Bunny also made a significant donation toward the new ABE building, and an auditorium is named in their honor.
Active at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Logan, Larry is vice president and Bunny was the church pianist for many years.