Iowa State University Students Awed by Iowa Farms

May 3rd, 2005

On two weekends in April, eight students in the College of Agriculture at Iowa State University experienced Iowa agriculture first hand as participants in a pilot program called Agriculture Weekend Experience (AWE).

AWE gives students in the College of Agriculture with minimal prior farm experience a chance to learn more about Iowa agriculture by staying the weekend with Iowa farm families. Students stayed with host families on farms across the state and learned about many aspects of farm life including decision-making, livestock production, farm management and machinery maintenance.

"Fifty-four percent of students in the ISU College of Agriculture come from non-farm backgrounds. AWE was designed to give students with little previous on-farm experience the chance to broaden their education by experiencing Iowa agriculture hands-on," said Alyx Bigelow, a staff member in the college's communications office, who coordinated the program.

Four farm families in Crawford County hosted six students on April 9 and 10. Two farm families in northern Iowa near Clarksville and Osage hosted two students April 16 and 17.

"I enjoyed the whole experience," student Susan Silveira said. "Everything we did during the weekend, one way or another, added new insights on my perspective and understanding of how life works on a farm." Silveira, a graduate student in natural resource ecology and management from Brazil, stayed with Euinice McCallaugh and Doug and Judy Gronau near Denison. The Gronau family produces corn and soybeans.

"I now have a greater appreciation for what these people do to feed the world," student Christine Jurinek said. "I will never look at food shopping the same realizing where the food came from and the dedicated people who made it happen." Jurinek, a junior in biology from the Chicago area, stayed with Larry and Annette Boeck near Denison. The Boecks have a crop and livestock operation with corn, soybeans, hay and feeder to finish pork.

"We toured the local agronomy center. The precision that is used is unbelievable," said Dustin Carter. "The calibration machine they use to measure chemicals is run off of a laptop computer and can measure to the hundredth of an ounce. I would have never expected that amount of technology in a town so little." Carter, a sophomore in animal ecology from Waukee, stayed with Keith and Deb Weller near Denison, a family that has a crop and livestock operation.

"Agriculture Weekend Experience helped me better understand Iowa agriculture by allowing me to visit with the people behind the term 'Iowa farmer'," student Luke Gran said. "We witnessed the intricate web of connections from the farmer to the community and everywhere in between." Gran, a junior in forestry from Newton, stayed with Keith and Deb Weller near Denison, a family that has a crop and livestock operation.

"I always figured farming wasn't easy," said Clayton Stage. "I was amazed at the number of hours and the amount of money farmers put into farming." Stage, a freshman in industrial technology from Dike stayed with Mark and Betty Schwery near Denison, a family that has crop operation.

"AWE showed me how hard farmers have to work to make a living," student Nick Behrens said. "I was most fascinated by the complexity of local the ethanol plant and how it was the full-size model of something we did in an organic chemistry lab." Behrens, a junior in entomology from Sioux City, stayed with Mark and Betty Schwery near Denison, a family that has crop operation.

"My perception about Iowa agriculture changed," said Beth Miller. "I didn't realize the huge impact global markets had on Iowa farmers." Miller, a junior in animal science from Ames, stayed with Don and Marylou Ahrens near Osage, a family with a crop operation.

"AWE helped me gain knowledge and network with production-focused farmers," said Elizebeth Gaskins. Gaskins, a junior in agricultural studies from Ankeny, stayed with Larry and Monica Lursen near Clarksville. The family has a crop operation.

AWE was co-sponsored by the College of Agriculture and the Iowa State University Agricultural Endowment. Founded in 1937, the Iowa State University Agricultural Endowment provides opportunities for the College of Agriculture to support the people and infrastructure vital to the future of Iowa agriculture. The ISU Agriculture Endowment provides scholarships to Iowa State students (more than 800 in the past nine years); support for student activities and internships; grants for ISU research and demonstration projects; and support for other College of Agriculture programs that advance agriculture in Iowa.

For more information and photos on the students' experience, check out this website:


Alyx Bigelow, Communications Service, (515) 294-5616,
Brian Meyer, Communications Service, (515) 294-0706,