Farm, May X 2013
Dr. Glen A. Halva-Neubauer, Political Science
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Description of Program:
Few Americans know how the food they consume is produced, and even fewer are knowledgeable about the current controversies in agricultural policy. This May Experience course allows students to develop expertise in the practices and policies that have a profound impact on their daily lives. Moreover, a hands-on, experiential approach to the subject that is possible only from living on a working farm will heighten the students learning. Iowa is the leading corn, soybean, egg, and hog producer in the nation; The Hawkeye State also has been at the center of numerous agriculture-related issues, including nitrogen run-off and its impact on the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico and the effect of bio-fuels (read: ethanol) on world-wide food prices. As a result, Iowa is an especially good place to witness the profound differences between commodity agricultural and sustainable agricultural practices.
Cost is $1,250 plus transportation costs to Iowa.
What issues will we consider in the course?
We will cover the rudimentary issues—what is the federal government's "farm" policy? What are its origins? What is the status of current legislation in Congress regarding farm policy, especially its implications for Iowa farmers, notably the ethanol subsidy. The trade-off between corn as a food source and corn as a biofuel will also be considered. Moreover, we'll look at the degree to which agricultural policy favors commodity agriculture over sustainable agriculture and consider the role that interest groups play in shaping those outcomes. Agricultural policy, however, is related to a host of other issues, especially those regarding the environment. As such, we will consider the issue of nitrogen run-off and its impact on the "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen is an important chemical in the production of corn, but its run-off into the waterways that drain into the Mississippi River has raised the eyebrows of many environmental organizations and the Environmental Protection Agency. Soil erosion is another important environmental issue as Iowa's rich topsoil is among its most precious commodities. Business-oriented students will enjoy learning about the marketing strategies for soybeans and corn in a globalized economy as well as the economics of running a family-farm operation. Finally, we will consider the role of the family farm in the American psyche and how the "myth" of the farm matches with reality. By interacting with the farmers in the Radcliffe, Iowa area as well as learning about the Neubauer Farm's history (it's been in the family since 1917), students will know a bit about agricultural history, the changing nature of the family farm operation, and life in an agricultural community that is at once insular but is more profoundly influenced by globalization than nearly any other business in the country.
What's unique about Farm?
Farm participants will have hands-on experiences (under proper supervision, of course) in planting soybeans and taking care of animals in a commodity animal facility. Your instructors in these activities will be the farmers who do this work and who are soybean and hog producers. The course is designed to expose students to a wide variety of viewpoints in a highly-charged policy area. We will visit farms that are quite different in their approach and speak to farmers who farm in different ways. On several nights, we will show films related to agriculture and invite locals to join us for conversations about the films. But perhaps most unique will be that students will live together with their professor in a place that has such a profound personal connection to him.
Farm requires students to be somewhat physically active because many of the activities will require walking, climbing, or lifting.
Students will enroll in PSC 516, Farm, which is worth two credits. This course can be taken in partial fulfillment of the political science department's engaged learning requirement.
Dr. Glen Halva-Neubauer, Dana Professor of Political Science, will lead the program; Ms. Nancy Roberts, Halva-Neubauer's sister, will assist. Ms. Roberts taught middle school language arts, social studies, and mathematics for 32 years in the Chesterfield (VA) county schools, and she is currently retired in Florida. She brings a wealth of experiences from her own background on the Neubauer Farm, and she's an extremely well-organized person. Mr. Denny Neubauer, Halva-Neubauer's brother, will serve as one of the course's primary instructors.
Mr. Dennis Friest, a neighbor and longtime friend of the Neubauer family, who holds a B.S. in Animal Science from Iowa State University, and has served as a leader of numerous soybean and hog producer organizations, has graciously agreed to share the expertise with Farm participants that he has developed over many decades of work in the agribusiness field. Mr. Friest and his family operate a corn, soybean, and hog operation. Recently, Friest's work on reducing nitrogen run-off was featured in a Green Fire video, "Ocean Frontiers." The Honorable Annette Sweeney (R-Alden), Chair of the Agriculture Committee in the Iowa House of Representatives, is a lifelong friend of Dr. Halva-Neubauer. Representative Sweeney is a champion of Iowa agriculture and rural issues in the state, and she is serving as one of the key advisors to Farm. With more than 30 years of experience as a corn, soybean, and beef farmer who possesses significant connections into the livestock industry in Iowa and nationally, there are few people who know the players in Iowa's agriculture community better than Representative Sweeney. Both Friest and Sweeney are interested in telling the story of Iowa's farmers and their contributions to the nation and world. Farm is blessed to have two top-notch consultants to shape the curriculum for the 2013 May Experience.
The program cost is $1250 plus the cost of an airplane ticket from your destination to Des Moines (DSM) airport. The program cost covers food, housing, entrance to museums and events, and ground transportation in Iowa. Students also will have to purchase clothing that is appropriate for living and working on a farm in a safe manner. Students will be responsible for paying for incidentals. Tuition for the two-credit course is included in your comprehensive fee.
Students will complete the application on Horizons by January 29, 2013
by 11:59 PM. All students will be interviewed and notified of their statuses by Wednesday, February 8. A total of seven students will be selected for this experience.