Professional Improvement Tours

Expect light walking on all tours, and potentially sunny and humid/hot conditions. Insect repellent is recommended. Water and snacks will be provided on all buses.


Tour 2: Alternative Livestock Tour

Iowa is ranked in the top ten for pork, poultry, beef, eggs and turkey production nationally, but we are also home to many direct meat marketers. This tour will visit one producer who is a part of the largest direct pork market systems, Berkwood Farms, featuring high quality Berkshire pork. Then travel to the Market on Main, also a family owned business featuring their own Black Angus beef along with locally produced meats, honey, milk, Ice cream, cheeses, soaps and wine.  We’ll have lunch at the Dreesman Buffalo Ranch and view 400 acres of woods and hills and the buffalo that roam there, and end up at the home of landscaping goats.

Maximum 30 participants.
This tour is sponsored by SARE.

Tour 3: I-80 West Tour

A blend of historical sites and sustainable agriculture. The farm is organic raising corn, soybeans, small grains, popcorn, hay and cover crops, Red Angus, swine, and egg layers. Shop at their on-farm store featuring crafts and food items. Enjoy a fresh farm lunch featuring the farms’ meat and produce catered from their restaurant. See the sights to and from the farm, freedom rocks, the Little Mermaid with a stop at the Danish Windmill in Elkhorn, IA on the way. Going home we swing through Winterset IA, taking a look at the covered bridges and visiting the John Wayne Museum and birthplace, alternative tour of quilt museum.

Short time walking on farm and at museum.
This tour is sponsored by SARE.

Tour 4: Dairy in Iowa Tour

Welcome to Iowa’s dairy industry! Home of amazing innovation, grand traditions, and world-class research. The 2023 dairy tour will showcase all three elements starting with a tour to the Lely North American plant where robotic milking, automatic feeding, manure handling and calf care are taken from concept to reality. The new campus boasts nearly 60 acres and
opened 2022. It includes approximately 100,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing and professional space as well as a state-of-the-art training facility for use by employees and Lely’s distribution partners throughout North America. The current production activities include manufacturing of the Lely Astronaut A5 robotic milking system and Lely Luna cow brushes.

The next stop will be a chance to see a Lely robotic system in action. In December of 2017 Caleb and Nathaniel Stam saw two Lely Astronaut A4s robots arrive at their Oskaloosa, Iowa farm. Stam Dairy started with their dad, Calvin, in the late 1970s with a small herd, which has grown to 120 today. They credit their dad who had the insight to investigate milking automation 20 years ago when it was brand new technology. See how they use dairy herd management software to better care for their milking herd.

Our lunch stop will be at Tasselridge Winery to learn about the history of grape growing in Iowa, the vineyard planting and harvesting process, and the processing, fermenting, blending, and bottling of wine. A box lunch will be provided along with a wine tasting paired with some of Iowa’s finest cheeses.

The final stop will be at the Iowa State University dairy where nearly 400 cows are milked each day in the double-12 parallel parlor. The farm fulfills the three pillars of the land-grant mission by demonstrating technology, training students and providing animals and facilities for a wide variety of research and outreach through a group of world-class faculty.

Then we can “all scream” for our favorite flavor of ice cream from the Iowa State University Creamery. Come see how dairy innovation and research is done, at the oldest land
grant college, where innovation is the tradition!

Light walking. Closed toed-shoes required.
This tour is sponsored by Organic Valley, the Iowa State Dairy Association and the Midwest Dairy Association.

Tour 5: Kinze and Amana Tour

Kinze Manufacturing is another story of local Iowa farm business gone global. Jon Kinzenbaw started Kinze Welding in 1965 as a small welding and repair shop. It grew from doing repairs for local farmers to custom fabrication projects such as wagons and fertilizer spreaders to repowering John Deere 5020s with 300+ horsepower Detroit Diesel engines. Today, Kinze is a leading manufacturer of row crop planters, grain carts, and high-speed disks. And in 2013, they opened a production facility in Vilnius, Lithuania to meet the growing demand for their products in Central and Eastern Europe. You will see the manufacturing plant as well as their Innovation Center.

Then on to lunch and a historical tour of the Amana Colonies. The seven villages of the Amana Colonies were founded in 1855 by German immigrants as a collective community. Amana is well known for its beer, wine, great food, and woolen mill. Learn more about this National Historic Landmark at the Amana Heritage Museum, and browse the many craft and beverage stores.

Tour 6: Beef, Water, and Wine Tour

Join us on the Beef, Water, and Wine tour where our first stop will be at Hands On Tiling and Excavating, where we will learn about the importance of subsurface drainage to Iowa agriculture. You will get an up-close look at tiling equipment and learn how proper tile drainage system design coupled with edge-of-field practices can improve water quality. Lunch will be aboard the Scenic City Empress Riverboat for a cruise on the beautiful Iowa River where you will learn about the history of the area. After lunch we will visit Couser Cattle Company and Modern Ag Farm to learn about their 5,200 head feedlot facilities and innovative nutrient management practices. The Couser family are recognized as leaders in conservation and sustainable beef production. The tour will conclude with a relaxing stop to sample from a variety of local libations at Prairie Moon Winery and Alluvial Brewing Company.

Maximum 50 participants.
This tour is sponsored by Prinsco.

Tour 7: Exploring Ecosystem Engineers in Iowa: Beavers, Bison, and People

Widespread historic practices such as conversion of prairie and woodland to row crop agriculture and urban land uses, stream straightening, removal of riparian vegetation, and artificial subsurface drainage make Iowa arguably one of the most altered landscapes in the United States. Witness firsthand the legacy environmental impacts of these alterations, but also the large-scale restoration efforts aimed at regaining ecosystem function, as we tour the beautiful Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge (NSNWR) in central Iowa. The day will kick off with a bus tour through watersheds dominated by intensive row crop agriculture, where we’ll discuss how historic and current practices are impacting soils, water quality, wildlife, and the agricultural enterprise. As we enter NSNWR, you’ll be immersed in nearly 4000 acres of near-continuous restored native tallgrass prairie and oak savanna. You’ll experience bison herds and elk, and learn how prescribed fire is being used to restore oak savannas. Next, we’ll walk the tallgrass with prairie and pollinator experts, and view how prairie seed
is collected and harvested for restoration purposes. We’ll end with discussions on impressive water quality research occurring at NSNWR, as well as how beavers are factoring
in on Iowa’s water quality.

Expect light walking on maintained trails, and potentially sunny and humid/hot conditions. Insect repellent is recommended. Water and snacks will be provided, and bathrooms are located near all stops.
This tour is sponsored by SARE.

Tour 8: All Alcohol All Day Long Tour

Enjoy a tour planned around all thing’s alcohol!! Got you interested in reading. Well, you are in Iowa, and we make alcohol from different feedstocks for different purposes. Meet the manufacturing team of a corn-grain to ethanol producing facility and have a facility tour learning about ethanol. This facility produces alcohol for use in transportation vehicles which comes from a renewable source – corn. Iowa is one of the leading states in the nation in cellulosic conversion to renewable biogas. Tour the site where corn stover is harvested, baled, and stored for use as a feedstock for producing biogas. This biogas is cleaned and injected into the natural gas pipeline serving a town of 50,000 residents. Enjoy lunch at the oasis of Reiman Gardens, which has a natural genesis as part of Iowa State University’s mission to educate stakeholders around horticulture. Enjoy a tour of this 17- acre university-owned public garden which has over 20 distinct garden areas, an indoor conservatory, and an indoor butterfly wing. After enjoying your lunch and a garden tour with some quality time in the sunshine, head off to learn about renewable fuels production from algae, miscanthus, and other feedstocks at the Bio-Century Research Farm. Wrap-up your day with a stroll in the Prairie Moon Vineyard and indulge in some fine wine and cheese tasting while learning the art of making wine from a master wine maker. After wine tasting, we will travel a short distance directly to the Farewell Supper.

Moderate walking, casual attire with close-toed shoes required. Max 50 participants.
Participant names required in advance, so no trading of tour allowed.
This tour is sponsored by SARE and VERBIO.

Tour 9: Iowa’s Equine Industry Tour

Iowa is not often thought of as a major horse state, but the equine industry is a significant contributor to Iowa’s economy. Tour the backside of Prairie Meadows racetrack, and an equine therapeutic facility. Also see what ISU Large Animal Clinic has to offer the equine industry. Moderate walking and limited seating at stables. Participants must register in advance so names can be approved by the Iowa Racing Commission in advance for the racetrack tour.

Participant names required in advance, so no trading of tour allowed.

Tour 10: Beef Cattle and Cruise Tour

Enjoy an overview of the cattle industry in Iowa along with a scenic cruise on the only floating riverboat in Iowa. Join us for a stop at the nationally recognized Iowa River Ranch operated by David Petty for over 40 years. Dave is the 2001 national winner of the Environmental Stewardship Award Program, sponsored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association; a 2002 Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator’s Award for Environmental Excellence to name a few. Petty has served on the Rural Farm and Ranch Agricultural Committee Advisory to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Next, we will visit a diversified grain and cattle operation operated by Larry Zoske and see open front and confinement beef that is part of his corn and soybean operation. Then we will depart aboard the “Empress” for lunch on the Iowa river while learning about the rock formations that created this picturesque river. After lunch we will visit Summit Farms, a division of Summit Agricultural Group. Summit utilizes both open feed lots and confinement barns for feeding cattle. They feed out cattle in several states but are based west of Alden, Iowa. We will see their feedlots, feed handling facilities, and meet with key personnel. They also operate 12,000 acres of crops and are diversified in other investments.

Moderate walking.

Tour 14: Cotton, Cars and Corn Tour

Join us for the cotton, cars and corn tour! Our first stop will be John Deere Des Moines Works where you’ll learn about the worldwide cotton harvester manufacturing industry, benefits to the central Iowa economy and reasons behind the central Iowa manufacturing location. The second stop will be the Albaugh Classic Car Collection, owned by Dennis Albaugh, chairman of Albaugh Crop Protection. Here, we’ll enjoy lunch and classic Chevrolet convertibles produced from 1912 to 1975. We’ll also learn about Albaugh Crop Protection products, worldwide product offerings, crop protection industry trends and importance to the Iowa economy. Our last stop will be Syngenta Seeds near Slater where we’ll learn about hybrid and variety testing in central-Iowa, parent seed production and the use of genetically modified crop protection traits.

John Deere requires attendance list one week before tour. There will be no attendee substitution during the conference.


Tour 16: Central Iowa Agronomy Tour

A tour featuring corn and soybean production? It only seems fitting in Iowa! If you are also all about the corn and soybeans, join us as we travel around central Iowa to learn more about some important aspects of corn and soybean production. Up first, we will be swinging by the Corteva Agriscience Pioneer headquarters in Johnston Iowa to learn more about not only the history of the seed industry but also to tour and learn about the latest innovations in the seed industry. Lunch is up next and will be a BBQ-style picnic lunch at one of Iowa’s most historic and unique nature destinations, Ledges State Park. During lunch, we will hear from a local watershed coordinator about how Iowa farmers are helping to improve water quality and about the Beaver Creek Watershed’s unique approach for improving water quality. Following lunch, we will visit a central Iowa corn and soybean farm, visit with the farmer, and see some of the equipment used on their farm. The final stop will feature a tour of the NEW and only one of its kind, ISU Kent Feed Mill and Grain Science Complex. From the feed mill, we will head on over to the Sukup End Zone at Jack Trice Stadium for supper and evening activities before heading back to Des Moines.

Closed toe shoes and long pants required. Spouses that are employed by competitive seed companies cannot attend this tour. Pioneer Hi-bred requires attendee lists two weeks before
the tour. There will be no attendance substitutions for this tour during the conference.

Tour 17: Covered Bridges, Wildflowers and Wine Tour

Welcome to Madison County, home of the famous covered bridges. Only 30 minutes from the bustling capital of Des Moines, step into a peaceful valley to experience the best of iconic America. The birthplace of agricultural “firsts” and prominent Hollywood legends, Madison County businesses continue this innovative spirit today.

Our day begins with a visit to the Hogback bridge, built in 1884, for a photo op. Hogback, which got its name from the limestone ridge nearby, is one of the six covered bridges, as we hear the celebrated history of this region.

We will also visit The Allendan Seed Company, which grows more than 250 species of wildflowers and native plants for U.S. and international markets. Our noon stop at the Madison County Historical Complex provides guided tours of 14 restored 1880’s buildings and Victorian Manson. We’ll enjoy local foods lunch by the region’s cattle and pork producers.

Our tour day ends with a stop at Covered Bridges Winery for a tasting opportunity and learning about growing Iowa grape varieties and marketing wines throughout Iowa.

Tour 18: Grains and Trains Tour

Travel the path of grain from Iowa State’s Agronomy and Ag Engineering Research Farms, to a local farm, the seed corn processor and enjoy fantastic scenery by rail through the Des Moines River Valley.

Our day will begin with a stop at the Iowa State University Research farm outside of Ames. We will tour the facilities and visit with staff about on-going research projects. Our next stop will be the Blomgren Family Farm just a couple of miles away. Sean will share the story of their family farm and how technology has been incorporated into the operation. We will board the Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone for a trip into the Des Moines River Valley for spectacular views and a great lunch. We will then visit the Bayer seed corn facility which is next the Farm Progress Show site before retiring to the Sukup Endzone at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames to conclude our day.

Closed toe shoes required.

Tour 19: Water Quality: From Research to Action Tour

Iowa State University is a national leader in developing new conservation practices to protect our waterways. Join us if you’re interested in seeing, firsthand, the research to implementation pathway! The tour includes four stops that showcase water quality research, statewide innovations, and the people who are putting these conservation practices on the landscape. The first stop will be at the Marsden Farm long-term experimental research plot to examine the effects of cropping system diversification and crop-livestock integration on soil health and water quality. We will then head north to Lost Lake Farm, a dairy that specializes in artisan cheese making, to enjoy lunch and discuss controlled grazing. The third stop is along Bear Creek at the nation’s first saturated buffer installation, a conservation practice that reduces nitrate from tile drainage. The tour concludes at an active research site where Iowa State University and Iowa Soybean Association are investigating drainage water recycling and its potential to improve both water quality and quantity.

Expect light walking and potentially sunny and humid/ hot conditions. Sun protection and bug repellent is recommended. Water and snacks will be provided, and bathrooms are located near all stops.
This tour is sponsored by Prinso and SARE.

Tour 20: Cattle, Groceries and ISU Research Tour

Hy-Vee is an employee-owned chain of supermarkets with over 90,000 employees and over 280 stores in eight states. The Chariton Distribution center has over 1,500 employees working out of 4 different buildings. During the tour, visitors will see their Produce departments as well as the location where they ripen bananas.

McNay siblings, Harry and Winnie, generously donated 480 acres of land just southwest of Chariton, Iowa in 1956 to establish Iowa State University’s McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration farm. Since the initial donation of land, the McNay farm has been able to expand its size to 1,968 acres.

The farm is home to cattle, forage, and crop production research. The cattle herd is comprised of 400 purebred Angus cows that are used to study markers associated with growth and meat quality, animal disposition and more. Forage trials are conducted to study grass yields, grazing systems and management, alfalfa trials and more. Corn and soybean trials at the farm are centered around tillage systems, weed and insect control, and crops for ethanol production. Research trials that take place at McNay continually shift and change to meet the needs for both cattle and crop producers.

Tour 21: Iowa State University Horticulture Tour

Horticulture has been a part of Iowa State University since the beginning and more than 150 years later, it is still thriving. This tour will showcase some of the horticultural facilities at Iowa State. Starting at Jack Trice Stadium, tour participants will get to learn about one of the best managed natural turf fields in collegiate football including the details of how the field was completely replaced in 2022 with sod grown at Iowa State University by faculty and students. Reiman Gardens is a public garden that serves both Iowa State University and the city of Ames. The Gardens offer 17 acres and 26 unique garden areas. Inside there are two large glass houses: the breathtaking Christina Reiman Butterfly Wing, holding one of the most diverse collections of live, exotic butterflies in the country, and an indoor, tropical Hughes Conservatory open year-round. Next participants travel to the Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic (PIDC) to learn the important role they perform in Extension and Outreach for Iowa State. Completed in 2018, this state-of-the-art lab helps farmers, producers, and home gardeners identify and manage the diseases and insect pests they may encounter. Finally, the tour ends with the Iowa State Horticulture Research Station. This 235-acre research facility has extensive horticultural plantings and projects, including apple orchards, vineyards, pest control in muskmelons, demonstration home gardens, vegetables, fruit, hops yards, turfgrass and ornamentals. The farm has active research related to areas outside of horticulture too, including turtles, honeybees, wasps, and tree swallows.

Tour 22: Des Moines Walking Tour

Des Moines’ East Village and the Principal Riverwalk are home to an impressive collection of buildings notable for their architectural expression. This walking tour will explore the area of downtown from the capitol to the Des Moines River.

Enjoy the impressive capitol building with stunning four-story law library. Built in 1871, in addition to serving as the seat of Iowa government, the Capitol is a showcase for artwork, woodcarvings, artifacts, and decorative wall and ceiling painting and stenciling. The building’s interior features 29 types of marble, as well as many varieties of wood.

The tour will continue through the East Village where visitors will find one-of-a-kind shops, food and drink. Among some of the more notable boutiques, stops will include the bold and cheeky Raygun, and the color and texture of Sticks.

The tour will conclude at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates where visitors can appreciate Dr. Norman Borlaug’s legacy and further learn how laureates have explored the intersection of agriculture and science to feed the world. The space is a showstopper that will send you home telling others about the wonders found inside.

Tour 23: SARE Reading the Farm Tour

Participation in the Reading the Farm Tour requires participation in the Reading the Farm Super Seminar (held on Wednesday afternoon, August 16th).

The super seminar will provide the program overview, a profile of the farm, and time to prepare for our visit. On tour day, we will visit Dogpatch Urban Gardens. What started as an urban farm has evolved into so much more! Dogpatch Urban Gardens is a community destination to support local food. They make farm-inspired products that are available in grocery stores throughout the state of Iowa. Dogpatch Urban Gardens hosts farm-to-table dinners and even have an on-site AirBnB! Jenny Quiner started Dogpatch Urban Gardens in the fall of 2015 to promote health/nutrition, enhance community and environmental conservation. Sustainable and regenerative agriculture is the foundation of their farm model. While the farm was founded on growing healthy, fresh produce for our community we have diversified our business to be more than crops.

The Super Seminar and tour will be led by the 2018 cohort of SARE Fellows: Jessica Kelton, Soil Health Institute; Kathleen Painter, University of Idaho Extension; Nicole Santangelo, Penn State Extension; and Claire Strader, University of Wisconsin Extension.

Moderate Walking.
This tour is sponsored by SARE.