Student Shares Norman Borlaug’s Story

By Christina Riessen

This summer, an Iowa State University student learned about and shared the story of Iowa native Norman Borlaug as the  2013 Borlaug-Thomson intern. Daniel Doeing, a senior in agricultural and life sciences education, helped Iowans remember Borlaug, a native of Cresco who devoted his life to helping save millions from starvation.

Many know Borlaug as the “Father of the Green Revolution” and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. Doeing explained how Borlaug created disease-resistant, dwarf wheat varieties that developing nations used to help stave off hunger. Most wheat varieties today trace their heritage to one of Borlaug’s wheats.

Doeing at the Borlaug farm near Cresco.

Doeing was selected as the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Borlaug-Thomson internship that is offered to a student with a major in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The Borlaug-Thomson intern receives a $3,000 scholarship, a housing stipend and a weekly internship paycheck for 8 to 10 weeks of summer work. The entire program contributed more than $7,500 to Doeing’s education.

Doeing said a number of factors convinced him to apply for the internship.

“Cresco seemed to be a great community to live and work in, and I was excited to meet new people who share the same passion for agriculture that I do. I really wanted to learn more about Norman Borlaug’s life and coordinate projects at the farms he grew up on,” he said.

One of Doeing’s internship responsibilities was organizing and preparing materials for the Howard County Extension 4-H day camps and STEM week, one of which he cleverly titled “NB Wins the Hunger Games,” relating to the popular book series The Hunger Games.

His other internship duties included planting and maintaining the Borlaug farm garden, assisting with the Mighty Howard County Fair, leading farm tours at the historic Borlaug farms and working in partnership with the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation and the Howard County ISU Extension office. He also started a project to create signs for farm equipment and plants at the farm.

Prestigious internship

“This internship is one of the most prestigious awards offered to undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” said David Acker, associate dean of academic and global programs. “We want our students to know about Dr. Borlaug and this internship includes an opportunity to really get to know about this extraordinary individual.”

Jack Thomson and his late wife, Fran, and Maury and Martha Kramer provide funding for the Borlaug-Thomson internship. Both Jack and Maury are members of the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation. They support this internship as a way to honor the work of their late friend Norman Borlaug.

“The Borlaug-Thomson internship broadened my understanding of what Dr. Borlaug did for the world. Reading Noel Vietmeyer’s bibliographies in conjunction with completing the internship almost made it seem as though I was talking with Norm,” Doeing said. “I got immersed into Borlaug’s life and became a part of the welcoming community of Cresco. Borlaug has become such a great role model, and I hope others aspire to be like him as well.”

Doeing also encourages other students to go out on a limb and go somewhere new for an internship rather than return home every year. 

“Being from Illinois, I was a bit nervous moving to a small community in Northeast Iowa where I didn’t know anyone. But I got involved and interacted with the community, which made the experience fun but also harder to leave. Whatever you do, get involved and be passionate in what you do because it continues with you in your career.” After all, just look at how Norman Borlaug’s passion helped him succeed in feeding millions.