10 Things You Didn’t Know About Iowa
by Darcy Maulsby, author of Images of America: Calhoun County
When you live in Iowa, it’s as common to see presidential hopefuls around the area as it is to see tractors in cornfields. While the Iowa Caucus has become a key event in the U.S. presidential election process, I’m always amazed at how little some of the candidates and national media know about Iowa.
Iowa is so much more than flyover country, as I detail in my new book from Arcadia Publishing, Calhoun County
, which showcases the stories of small-town and rural Iowa life through the eyes of those who lived it.
Here are top 10 things you didn’t know about Iowa:
1. The real Iowa is off the beaten path. Located at the crossroads of two major interstate highways (80 and 35), Iowa is truly the heart of America. As you explore the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties, you discover a mix of modern cities, unique small towns and thousands of farms like my family’s Century Farm in Calhoun County, which has been owned by our family for more than 100 years. Think Iowa is flat? Think again. Anyone who has ever experienced RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) can tell you Iowa’s landscape features streams, river valleys and hills from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River.
2. “Iowa Nice” is real. Iowans may be the friendliest people in America. In 2015, Governor Terry Branstad proclaimed Nov. 2-8 as the second annual Farmer Wave Week in Iowa. This honors the one-finger wave (with the index finger, not the middle finger!) that Iowans use to greet neighbors and strangers as they drive by.
3. We’re farm strong. While fewer than five percent of Iowans farm, Iowa’s status as an agriculture powerhouse is known worldwide. Iowa has 88,500 farms (of which 97 percent are family-owned) where families produce corn, soybeans, pigs, cattle, dairy, eggs and more. Not only does the average American farmer feed about 154 people worldwide, but one in five Iowans go to work because of agriculture. Also, agriculture accounts for about one third of the dollars driving Iowa’s economy.
4. It’s all about the Cyclones and Hawkeyes. We don’t have an NFL or NBA team, but we’ve got the Iowa State University Cyclones and the University of Iowa Hawkeyes—and we’re fiercely devoted to our favorite team. If a Hawkeye marries a Cyclone, it’s a house divided.
5. We’re a provincial/progressive mix. Iowans are known for traditional values, and we’re also leaders in civil rights. Examples range from Jack Trice, an African-American football player who helped break the color barrier in the early 1920s at Iowa State (where the university’s football stadium now bears his name) to Edna Griffin, a civil rights pioneer from Des Moines who was known as the “Rosa Parks of Iowa.”
6. Conversations revolve around the weather. From blizzards to tornadoes, we have it all. Temperature swings of 30 or 40 degrees in a matter of hours aren’t uncommon. Don’t like the weather here? Wait 10 minutes, and it will probably change.
7. We speak our own language. Don’t call it soda. Around here, it’s pop. Also, if you hear us talking about the crick, we’re referring to the creek.
8. Iowans embrace unique food traditions. We love serving chili with a homemade cinnamon roll or caramel roll on the side (a throwback to our school lunch days). We’re also sweet corn connoisseurs, we love to celebrate the best breaded pork tenderloins in Iowa (preferably ones that are the size of dinner plates), our moms and grandmas know at least 47 different ways to make Jell-O salads, and we’re adamant that loose-meat Maid Rite sandwiches are much different—and vastly superior—to sloppy joes.
9. Nothing compares to the Iowa State Fair. Since 1854, the Iowa State Fair has been a highlight of the summer. In 2015, more than 1 million people attended the state fair in Des Moines to see the famous Butter Cow, sample pork chops on a stick and celebrate all things Iowa.
10. Once an Iowan, always an Iowan. Iowans are immensely fond of their state. Even people who moved away years ago are quick to note that Iowa will always be home.
Darcy Dougherty Maulsby’s ancestors came to Calhoun County, Iowa, in 1889. Five generations of Maulsby’s family, including Dougherty Maulsby and her brother, have carried on a heritage of farming, caring for the land, and supporting the local community. Along with running her marketing and communications company, she serves on the board of various Iowa agriculture groups and Central School Preservation. Learn more about her book, Calhoun County