Farm Life Journal - January 2018
By Darcy Maulsby
Greetings from rural Yetter, Iowa!
I'm Darcy Dougherty Maulsby, and I'm so glad you're here. As you'll quickly discover, I love my family's Century Farm and telling the stories of Iowa's rich history in all things food and farming. I feel so fortunate to work with hardworking farm families and now to have the opportunity to share those stories with you through the Iowa Food & Family Project. Follow along with the Farm Life Journal as I discover fun facts about our great state, share tried-and-true recipes, and capture the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets that can only be viewed from the tractor cab.
Where's Yetter, you ask? It's northwest of Lake City ("Everything but a Lake") in Calhoun County, about 100 miles northwest of Des Moines. "Everything's Better in Yetter," according to the motto of this tiny town. When I say tiny, I mean it. The 2010 census noted that Yetter had a population of 34, and I suspect that might include a few random dogs and cats. But just as iconic Iowa Hawkeye quarterback Chuck Long shared in a tour of my family's farm in the Iowa Food & Family Project's Expedition Yetter adventure a few summers back, it's a bucket list item to visit (and I'd love to welcome you!).
I grew up on my family's Century Farm between Yetter and Lake City and am now a fifth-generation farmer. I've always been fascinated to think of all the previous generations who have lived and worked on our Calhoun County farm. I'm also proud of our Irish heritage.
While many Irish families who immigrated to America in the 1800s remained in large East Coast cities; some like my great-great grandfather, John Dougherty, a native of County Cork, Ireland, sought new opportunities in rural Iowa.
In 1889, John purchased 160 acres in Lake Creek Township here in Calhoun County after working on the East Coast and moving west from New York, New Jersey and Chicago. Of John's nine children, his oldest son, Charles, also became a farmer. Our three Century Farms are his legacy.
My Grandpa Glenn (Charles' son) and Grandma Katherine raised their three sons, including my dad, Jim, on the farm. My dad served in the Army, and then earned his agricultural business degree from Iowa State University (ISU) before working as a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food inspector. He started farming full time in the 1960s, raising corn, soybeans and hogs.
"Be a Man"
In 1971, my dad married my mom, Jan, a "city girl" and elementary school teacher from Fort Dodge. I loved growing up on the farm. To me, there was no better place to be, especially when kittens were born in our 1800s-era barn.
By the time I was 18, however, I couldn't wait to get away. While I liked caring for the hogs, there was the infamous "corn incident" which temporarily pushed me away from the farm.
I had to take a five-gallon bucket of corn to feed some larger hogs in a pen near the garage. A recent rain had turned the lot into a mud hole. As the hungry hogs charged at me and my bucket of corn, I tried to run. No luck. My foot slipped free and pitched my whole body forward as a horrible sucking sound indicated my muck boot had stuck in the mud. Down I went, face first into the mess, as a barrage of hogs assaulted me to get their dinner.
Not knowing what else to do, I started bawling. When the ruckus attracted other family members' attention, my flabbergasted father could shout just one thing, "Be a man!"
I "manned up" and decided I'd had enough. Sure, I had joined FFA and enjoyed many aspects of farm life, but I had no intentions of pursuing agriculture as a career. And few people encouraged me. After all, my generation was the legacy of the 1980s Farm Crisis. The unspoken message? There's no future in rural America.
Facing an uncertain future, I took my dad's advice and studied agriculture, along with journalism and mass communication, at ISU, landing a career as an editor at the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman in West Des Moines in 1997. I later went on to earn my Master of Business Administration (MBA) from ISU. While I was quite content to enjoy metro living, something began to change by my late 20s. I couldn't quit thinking about how much I truly missed the farm.
The Farm Today
After working in public relations in downtown Des Moines and later as an editor for AgWeb.com in West Des Moines, I decided to move back to Calhoun County to be closer to our farm. My husband, J. (yes, that's how he spells his name), is a Rockwell City native, so we were delighted to be able to buy a parcel of land, complete with a hay pasture, just south of my family's Century Farm in 2006.
We built a house, J. landed a job in the maintenance department at the local hospital in Lake City and we never looked back.
Our farm is small by many standards, just 520 acres. While we no longer raise hogs, we still raise corn and soybeans. My younger brother, Jason, is the primary farm operator now, while my dad still plays a key management role. I help throughout the year, including running a tractor or combine, or serving as "Chief Information Officer" where I handle media interview requests related to our farming operation and act as the spokesperson.
I'm also the "Chief Memory Officer" here at the farm. I'm one of the biggest history geeks you'll ever meet and love to hang out in museums. Case in point: I serve as vice president of Central School Preservation, the local museum in Lake City that's housed in an 1880s school building. I'm also an active member of the Calhoun County Historic Preservation Board.
Maybe it won't surprise you to hear I also love to cook and bake. I've won blue ribbons at the Calhoun County Fair, the Clay County Fair (dubbed "The World's Greatest County Fair") and the Iowa State Fair for my molasses cookies (Dad's favorite) and my mixed-berry jam. I'm also a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge and know my way around a great piece of pork or beef. Speaking of beef, my meatloaf burgers have been such a hit that they were featured in "Our Iowa" magazine and are the Burger-of-the-Month once or twice a year at the Lake City Drive In. Stay tuned for a "taste" of farm life and some of my favorite recipes to enjoy while gathered around the dinner table or from the back of a tailgate during harvest season.
My marketing communications company, book signings and cooking classes take me to all parts of Iowa and beyond. "Where words mean business" is my motto, and I help some of America's largest ag companies, as well as local firms like Business Publications in Des Moines, write everything from quarterly newsletters to blogs to dining guides. While I love talking food, farming and business, I'm also a history buff who's an "author-preneur." I've published three non-fiction, illustrated Iowa history books in the past few years, including Calhoun County, Dallas County (where I lived from 2001-2006) and A Culinary History of Iowa: Sweet Corn, Pork Tenderloins, Maid-Rites and More. My book signings take me all across Iowa, where I meet the most interesting, gracious people.
You could call me a "Roads Scholar," since I spend much of my time on the back roads and farms of Iowa, exploring all the things that make our state great. I can't wait to take you along for the ride!
Talk to you soon, my friends.
P.S. If you'd like more stories from farm country, I'm on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn, plus you can sign up for my free e-newsletter at www.darcymaulsby.com. Let's stay in touch.