Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Rich (04/26/12)
TITLE: Black Gold
By Laura Hawbaker
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In God’s perfect timing, the glaciers melted and the grasses grew. Not just your polite meadow grass; this was serious grass, thick and lush, sometimes growing twelve feet tall. Iowa was covered with this tall grass, home to many wild animals, birds, butterflies and earthworms. The Native Americans lived along the streams leaving the tall grassland undisturbed. The land of Iowa was part of the President Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase in 1803, but he was more interested in what lay beyond the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers than what lay between them. He had no idea of the wealth that lay below his four cents per acre bargain.
The first settlers coming from the east found the vast prairie overwhelming, something to be endured on their way to the promised land of California. Eventually a few homesteaders, (those more interested in farming than gold digging) tried their hand at breaking the Iowa prairie. The hopeful farmers didn’t have to fight tree stumps or rocks, but they did battle with the thick, stubborn grass roots deeply entwined in the soil. The wooden plows they brought from the east were not up to the task, only steel blades could master the sod. And beneath that sod they found the soil, deep and black and promising. More and more farmers settled in Iowa, hard working folks, eager to conquer the land.
The year the state of Iowa turned thirty, the United States was celebrating its 100th birthday. A great centennial celebration was planned in Philadelphia and all 38 states in the union were invited to showcase their state. How did Iowa choose to represent their young state? With soil, of course. Soil samples were collected from the thirty-five Iowa counties and displayed in six foot glass cylinders. The samples were presented just as they came from the earth, the bottom of the cylinders showed the clay, shale and lighter colored soil, and the top three to four feet displayed the black, rich top soil. The Centennial Exposition was a perfect chance for Iowa to show off its greatest resource as ten million people toured the exposition from May to November of 1876.
Farming in Iowa has gone through many changes from the first sod-busters to the present day GPS guided farmers. The prairie that so prolifically grew grass is now the top corn producing state in the nation. The farmers have done their part implementing soil conservation, crop rotation, fertilization and the judicious application of chemicals. Science has played a role in developing corn hybrids, insecticides and herbicides. God faithfully does his part providing timely rains, heat and humidity. Of course, farming is still a gamble, with nature holding the ace card, but most years the soil produces bumper crops and the Iowa farmer cashes in on the black gold beneath his feet.
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