For most Americans, farming is a way of life experienced only through books, an occasional TV show, nostalgic photos or memories of trips to Grandma and Grandpa’s farm.

That’s about to change for one lucky family, courtesy of an innovative contest titled “Be Our Guest, Be A Farmer” launched recently by the Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) with support from Iowa’s other farm commodity organizations.

“Iowa farm families take pride in what they do and want to demonstrate their commitment to producing safe and nutritious food,” says Aaron Putze, ISA director of external relations. “The ‘Be Our Guest, Be a Farmer’ contest offers an opportunity to showcase farm life in a unique, authentic and personal way.”

One lucky contestant, accompanied by up to three guests, will win a four-day, three-night trip to Iowa in August to personally experience Iowa agriculture up close. The vacation will include guided tours of several Iowa crop and livestock farms, an opportunity to feed cattle, drive a tractor and enjoy a home-cooked meal prepared and served by a farm family. The winner and guests will also receive red-carpet treatment at the 2011 Iowa State Fair, an annual celebration of food and agriculture.

In addition to the grand prize, 10 semi-finalists will receive an all-Iowa farm gift basket featuring an assortment of food and ag-related products.

Registration is easy and can be completed by logging on to and clicking on the “Be Our Guest, Be a Farmer” icon. The contest runs through April 29 and is open to anyone 21 years of age or older who’s involved in a profession other than farming. Entries have already been received from across the country, ranging from Maine to Texas and from Ohio to Arizona.

More than 90 percent of Iowa’s land area is devoted to farming, the most of any state, and nearly 96 percent of the state's farms are owned and managed by families.

Iowa farmers and farm families nationwide are proud to provide an abundance of nutritious food choices that are also affordable. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports average Americans devotes less than 11 percent of their annual disposable income for food. In some countries, more than 50 percent of income is used to purchase food.

Because Iowa farmers are so good at what they do, much of the meat and grain they produce is enjoyed by people throughout the United States and around the world. For example, turkey meat provided by an Iowa farm family is served at Subway and Jimmy John’s.

Source: Iowa Soybean Association