Students Intern at Norman Borlaug's Childhood Farm

Chelsea Ewen, left, and Brittney Morris sit at desks located
in Norman Borlaug's childhood schoolhouse, which has
been moved to the site of the farm.

Norman Borlaug’s childhood home seems to be a typical farm. But during the summer it provides a unique internship for Iowa State University students.

Chelsea Ewen and Brittney Morris, both seniors in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, are the 2009 recipients of the Borlaug Scholar Award and Internship. The College partners with the ISU Agricultural Endowment to make this internship possible. This is the second year the Borlaug Scholar Award and Internship has been awarded.

During their four-week internship, students live on the farm near Cresco, Iowa and work on a project related to renovation and promotion of the site. The farm was the childhood home for the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Norman Borlaug, who helped to save many lives through his Green Revolution work. Currently, there is legislation pending in Congress to make the Borlaug farm a National Historic Site.

The Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation in Cresco helps student interns with ideas of projects that will benefit the farm, but from that point forward, their internship is completely self-motivated.

Ewen, an animal ecology major with an interpretation option and a minor in history from Dougherty, Iowa, has spent much of her time planting and maintaining the farm’s gardens and landscapes.

“I began by researching about crops, in order to see what was possibly grown here during that time period, around the 1920s,” Ewen said. “I then talked to Norman’s sister, Charlotte, who agreed with my choices. So I planted the heritage seeds, such as moon and stars watermelon, purple Viking potatoes and British wonder beans, which I was fortunate enough to find from local suppliers.”

Morris, an animal science and agricultural business double major from Centerville, Iowa, is focusing on a marketing plan and promotional projects.

“My biggest project is the marketing plan. I’m interviewing the board members of the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation to see where they want the farm to go,” Morris said. “I will bring all that information together to create a plan, which will give some structure to future Borlaug Scholars.”

Both students have had many opportunities to interact with community members to help promote the Borlaug farm.

“Cresco is a neat community with a lot of interesting people,” Morris said. “Borlaug has had such an impact and just think of all the people who have impacted him.”

“It’s exciting to see people become interested in the farm. There are so many connections to Borlaug,” Ewen added.

“Educationally, this opportunity gives me a chance to meld my major and minor together. It’s great to see results from something I’m passionate about doing,” said Ewen.

At the completion of Ewen’s internship, she will begin a summer naturalist internship with the Marshall County Conservation Board. There she will provide environmental education programs for families.

Morris will be moving off the farm, but she will continue her work with the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation throughout the summer. The Agricultural Entrepreneurship Initiative in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is making the second part of her internship possible. She will continue developing her marketing plan, as well as various other projects, such as presenting information about the Borlaug farm at the Mighty Howard County Fair.

“Everything we’ve done is self-motivated and self-started. We don’t have people here telling us what we’ve got to do. That’s a great experience that you don’t get with other internships,” Morris said.

Because of Borlaug’s huge impact in Iowa and the amount of support awarded, the Borlaug Scholar Award and Internship is the most prestigious scholarship in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

By sponsoring the Borlaug scholarship, the ISU Agricultural Endowment is hoping to catch the attention of “young Borlaugs” and help cultivate future leaders. The ISU Agricultural Endowment, which was founded in 1937, supports many scholarships to Iowa State agriculture and life sciences students; supports student clubs, activities and internships; provides grants for research and demonstration projects; and supports other college programs that advance agriculture in Iowa.