Agriculture is at the very heart of life in the Hawkeye State and especially so as spring unfolds. The renewal of the earth is also a time when the pace quickens on Iowa's more than 92,000 farms.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture a huge portion of the state's land is devoted to farming - an estimated 30,800,000 acres as of 2010. That's hardly a surprise to anyone familiar with the Iowa economy because agriculture has been the key to prosperity here since pioneers first arrived.
Even though farms have always been center stage in Iowa, the business of agriculture is changing rapidly.
The impressive scope of Iowa agriculture can't be captured fully in numbers, but the statistical portrait the USDA has assembled provides an intriguing overview of the 21st century Iowa farm world.
Here are some of the numbers:
Iowa ranks first in the nation in production of corn and soybeans.
Iowa leads the nation in hog and egg production.
As of Jan. 1, 2011, the state's livestock inventory included almost 4 million cattle and calves, about 19 million hogs and pigs, and 200,000 sheep.
Iowa ranks near the top of American states in total agricultural exports.
Conservation is widely practiced by Iowa farmers. Nine out of every 10 acres in crop land is farmed using some type of conservation practice.
Innovation in farming techniques and the development of new products have helped keep the agricultural economy vibrant. A good example of the latter is Iowa's central role in the booming renewable fuels industries. It already leads the nation in the production of ethanol and the rapidly growing biodiesel sector is becoming an important market force.
Soon the Iowa landscape will be transformed as the state's farmers - assisted by hopefully gentle rains and warmer weather - bring now empty fields alive. The bounty those farms produce is the lifeblood of our state.