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ISA holds show-stopper ‘Together We CAN!’ food drive

Exhibit becomes must-see attraction

August 21, 2011
By DARCY DOUGHERTY MAULSBY, For The Messenger , Messenger News

DES MOINES - From a market-sized hog designed with tuna cans to a larger-than-life replica of the iconic Iowa State Fair butter cow, sculpted from cans of vegetables, the Together We CAN! exhibit in the south atrium of the Varied Industries Building stopped Iowa State Fair visitors in their tracks.

"We have up to 30,000 people a day who pass through this area, and fairgoers are captivated by this unique exhibit featuring thousands of cans of food," Aaron Putze, director of external relations for the Iowa Soybean Association and coordinator of the Iowa Food & Family Project

"Together We CAN! helps make the connection between the food everyone enjoys and the farmers who raise it."

Article Photos

-Messenger photo by Darcy Dougherty Maulsby
Thousands of cans of food were used to create the Iowa-themed elements of the 'Together We CAN!' exhibit, including this market-sized hog.

A committed team of volunteers converged at the Iowa State Fair from Aug. 11-21 to create this first-of-its-kind exhibit at one of the most popular celebrations of food, fun and agriculture in America.

The exhibit is designed to encourage conversations about farming, inspire greater awareness of Iowa farmers' commitment to providing healthy food for everyone and help families struggling with hunger.

"Farmers are focused on doing the right thing, from producing food to serving their communities," said Ed Ulch, a farmer from Solon who serves on the Iowa Soybean Association Board and volunteers with the Iowa FFP. "We hope this exhibit gives our urban friends a new appreciation of the farm."

Visitors to the Together We CAN! exhibit could participate in a variety of activities and contests while contributing to the Iowa Food Bank Association. They could also visit with farmers like Ulch to learn more about modern agriculture.

"While people hold farmers in high regard, they have sincere questions about farming and want to know more about the quality of their food and how it's produced," said Putze, who noted that through the first five days of the fair, the exhibit had helped raised more than $3,200 for hunger relief in Iowa.

"Farmers want to listen, engage in the discussion and, most importantly, demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement. Together We CAN! will provide that opportunity."

Fight hunger, build trust

The Together We CAN! exhibit, which featured depictions of Iowa's corn and soybean fields, took four days to build and reflects the contributions of four architectural firms who volunteered their time.

Sponsors of Together We CAN! include the Iowa Soybean Association, Midwest Dairy Association, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Hy-Vee, Syngenta, the Iowa State Fair, the Iowa Food Bank Association and the United Soybean Board.

The inspiration for Together We CAN! came from Syngenta's Weeding Out Hunger exhibit at the 2011 Commodity Classic, Putze said. "When I saw the ears of corn in that display, the first thing that crossed my mind is that we must do something like this at the Iowa State Fair."

Following the fair, all food items used in the exhibit will be donated to the IFBA to help Iowans struggling against hunger.

"Action begins with awareness, and we're pleased and grateful to the Iowa Food and Family Project for the substantial assistance the Together We CAN! project will provide," said Jordan Vernoy, IFBA's state director. "Every dollar donated allows food banks to distribute up to $15 worth of food to hungry Iowans. The generosity of fairgoers visiting the exhibit will go a long way toward assisting the more than 380,000 Iowans who are food insecure."

Contact Darcy Dougherty Maulsby by email at



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