Iowa State Fair: Day for Dairy, a Super Model and the Biggest Pumpkin

DES MOINES, Iowa — While the nation is viewing the Iowa State Fair through the lens of the national media and political coverage, the fair is going on as normal.

Early Friday morning, exhibitors were showing dairy cattle in the show ring. The industry involves a lot of work milking several times a day. But that is changing due to automation, and the market is becoming competitive due to milk substitutes such as almond milk.

“Fake milk, I guess, is kind of a good term. I call it almond juice instead of almond milk,” said Alexis Costello, the Iowa Holstein Princess from Cedar Rapids. “They all have different appeals. Personally in my opinion, I’m going to advocate for milk that comes out of these guys.”

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Costello is working on a masters degree in business at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids.

“Right now my family actually has a robot barn, so we don’t have to do any traditional milkings,” said Costello. “Typically, people milk two to three times a day. In our barn, cows are free to come through as many times as they want, usually no more than five.”

Friday was also the day to crown the biggest pumpkin. Don Young, along with his son-in-law Tommy Rhodes, grew a 760 pound pumpkin on the east side of Des Moines in Young’s backyard.

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“A lot of good genetics. The seed is what we grew last year. Basically, just a lot of good gardening stuff, mostly organic,” said Young. “We use a lot of compost and seaweed, but we also spoon feed a little tiny bit of a slow release fertilizer, almost daily."

A huge business course graduation was also staged at the fair. The Goldman Sachs firm funded a business education program for around 80 Iowa entrepreneurs. Goldman Sachs Chair David Solomon interviewed former super model Tyra Banks on how she moved from modeling to running businesses. Banks said it all started when her clients wanted her to lose weight or not be a model any more. Her mother encouraged her.

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"She said 'you write down those clients because I’ll be darned if my daughter starves for this industry,'" Banks recounted. "I wrote down, through tears, Sports Illustrated, Victoria’s Secret, and cut to many years later, me breaking ground by being the first black woman on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition."

Banks said the graduates of the Iowa 10,000 Small Businesses program will now inspire others. Another class will begin next January training Iowa business leaders.

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