Decade of Fair Delights

Just before formally launching the Iowa Food & Family (Iowa FFP) in April 2011, Aaron Putze found himself marveling at a two-story-tall ear of corn constructed solely from canned goods.

“It stopped me in my tracks,” he says, fondly remembering the moment he first saw a Canstruction creation at Commodity Classic, an annual farmer-led, farmer-focused convention and trade show. “I knew it was the perfect concept for Iowa FFP. It was big, bold and the perfect way to bring the connection between food and farming to life.”

Putze, who led the creation of Iowa FFP and serves as the senior director of information and education for the Iowa Soybean Association, quickly jumped on the phone to run the concept by the other commodity group partners. All agreed a Canstruction display was a perfect activity for soon-to-be formed Iowa FFP, but the big questions of “when?” and “where?” remained.

“To be honest, the answer was obvious,” Putze recalls. “We had to bring an Iowa Food & Family Project Canstruction display to the Iowa State Fair.”

The iconic Iowa State Fair is a limitless celebration of Iowa. Each year, it offers creators a chance to spread their wings, provides space for innovation and pushes the envelope of bigger and better.

Since the very first Canstruction display in 2011, the Iowa State Fair has granted Iowa FFP boundless opportunities to showcase food and farming to millions of fairgoers. From LEGOs® to Sandscapes and Canstructions to Paint-By-Numbers, the Iowa FFP display in the Southeast Atrium of the Varied Industries Building has built a reputation as a wow-worthy attraction for fairgoers.

“Our annual presence really helped put Iowa FFP on the map,” Putze says. “A loyal group of volunteers and visitors make sure a stop at the display is on their fair ‘to-do’ list each year.”

The past decade of fair fun has provided an invaluable opportunity for Iowa FFP to connect with Iowa consumers well beyond the 11-day celebration. Thanks in large part to the Iowa State Fair presence, Iowa FFP has grown its fanbase of social media followers and Fresh Pickings eNewsletter subscribers to continue meaningful conversations on all things food and farming.

Photos from 10 Years of Iowa State Fair Fun


In 2011, Iowa FFP brought Canstruction to the fair, building a farm scene with thousands of canned goods.

“Pete the Plate” welcomed fairgoers to the display in 2011.

In 2012, Iowa FFP brought Canstruction to the fair with a “Back to the Farmer” themed display.

Fairgoers marveled at The Delorean constructed completely out of canned goods in Iowa FFP’s 2012 “Back to the Farmer” themed display.

In 2013, the “Get Connected to Farming” display featured LEGO artwork built by a certified LEGO Professional. Governor Kim Reynolds poses for a picture with the Iowa LEGO artwork.

The 2013 display was comprised of 38,000 LEGO bricks.

Local celebrities and fairgoers faced off in LEGO building challenges throughout the fair. Pictured is Iowa Soybean Association CEO Kirk Leeds, Ambassador Terry Branstad and Channel 13 News Anchor Erin Kiernan with Garrett and Grant Putze.

Volunteers welcome fairgoers to the 2013 display.

Fairgoers enjoy food and farming trivia at the Iowa FFP spin wheel.

The 2014 Sandscape sculpture was created from 50 tons of sand.

Fairgoers take a selfie with the Sandscape sculpture in 2014.

Fairgoers try their luck with the Iowa FFP trivia spin wheel during the 2015 fair.

Volunteers pose with the Sandscape sculpture in 2016.

In 2017, the display showcased a farm scene sculpted from 23,749 balloons.

Volunteers handed out Iowa FFP tote bags during the 2017 fair.

The 2017 fair included a fun food and farming photo booth provided by Midwest Dairy.

In 2018, fairgoers were invited to follow a farmer from the field to the kitchen table. Randy Miller, a farmer from Lacona, shares his perspective on farm life with visitors.

The 2018 display included a mural that was painted during the course of the fair. Pictured is Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig and his family who jumped in as guest painters.

The 2018 display included a mural that was painted by Cate Newberg.

The 2019 fair display included a paint-by-number mural with more than 32,000 squares.

The 2019 fair display included a green screen photo booth for fairgoers to “picture” themselves in fun farm scenes.