Iowa Farmland

Iowa is Agriculture. Since its first settlers crossed the Mississippi River in the 1830s, Iowa’s history has been shaped by the richness of some of the best soil in the world. Bordered by two major river systems, Iowa’s gently rolling countryside was originally covered by thousands of acres of prairie grass, some of it so high that to see over it required riders to stand on top of their horses. Nearly 35 inches of rain falls each year and the average annual temperature hovers around 50 degrees, providing Iowa with a growing season sufficient to raise abundant crops.

Native Americans whom the French fur traders first encountered in the 1700s were the Ioway, whose name means “beautiful land” or “this is the place.” Others, including the Sac, Fox, Winnebago, Pottawattamie, Otoe, and Illini tribes, came into Iowa after losing their homelands to the westward advancement of white settlers. These varied groups blended the woodlands culture of the northeast with the existing plains and prairie civilization to produce a semi-nomadic lifestyle that relied primarily on hunting, fishing, and gathering of fruits. In small garden plots the Native American peoples also grew maize, tomatoes, potatoes, squash, and other vegetables. These New World crops were an important addition to the European food base and served as the foundation for future agricultural developments.

By 1833, most of the Native Americans had been displaced and the territory was opened to new settlement. The nearly treeless prairie offered little hindrance to the wave of pioneers that moved inexorably across what would soon become the 29th state in December 1846. Like their counterparts in other Midwestern states, Iowa’s nineteenth-century settlers were a mixture of pioneers and foreign-born people. After the Civil War, many families moved westward from Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, stopping in Iowa. Some settled permanently while others stayed only a short while. By 1890, nearly 20% were foreign-born, almost entirely from northern and western Europe, with the majority being of German ancestry. In the early part of the twentieth century, the burgeoning coal-mine industry attracted immigrants from southern and eastern Europe.

As of 2012, there were 92,200 farms in Iowa and a total of 30.7 million acres of farmland. The average size of each farm was 333 acres, with an average per acre value of $8,296.

Iowa currently ranks first in the nation in corn and soybean production, producing 2.1 million bushels of corn and 525 million bushels of soybeans annually. Iowa produces 25% of the country’s supply of ethanol, twice as much as any other state. Studies show without ethanol, Americans would pay 20 to 40 cents more per gallon of gasoline. Each year, Iowa farmers also produce approximately: 17.3 million hogs, 28% of all U.S. pork, 13.8 billion eggs, 3.8 million cattle, 4.13 billion pounds of milk, 148,000 pounds of cheese, 1,230 million pounds of wool, 235,000 sheep and 8.2 million turkeys.