Why I Returned Home

Lifestyle, See All | 01/31/2019

Kelsey Byrnes

By Tia Snyder, sales and communications intern, tsnyder@cultivationcorridor.org

Agriculture runs deep for Kelsey Byrnes, the consumer outreach director at the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA). Byrnes grew up in rural Wellman, Iowa, helping take care of pigs and other chores on her family’s farm. Her childhood on a farm solidified her hard work ethic and led to her realization of the important connection between food and ag. She realized that “ag is everything.”

After graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in food science in 2012, she accepted a position with Johnsonville in Wisconsin where she simultaneously completed a Master’s Degree in food science. Two years later, she chose to return to her roots and start her family in the state that truly owned her heart. Byrnes now lives in the global epicenter of agriculture, America’s Cultivation Corridor, with her husband and daughter.

We sat down with Byrnes to learn about her unique story and why she chose to return home.

What were some key qualities about Ankeny, Iowa, that caused you to settle down there?

Location wise, Ankeny is a perfect halfway point for my husband and me since he works in Ames while I work in Clive. We also enjoy the proximity to Des Moines and its diverse cuisine for date night.

Family and access to amenities were other driving forces. My husband and I wanted to be closer to our parents before starting our own family. Now when our little girl grows up, she’ll have great child care and school systems.

What do you think makes Iowa the “Best State in America” as U.S. News likes to call it?

The state of Iowa offers vast resources to young professionals. It’s a spectacular place to start a career with established corporations or startups. The low cost of living and variety of events I can experience in my free time make Iowa a great place to live, work and play.

I love live music and many musical stars come through such as Luke Bryan in Boone or Kenny Chesney at Wells Fargo. Also, my family and I can experience different cultures at the World Food & Music Festival. The Des Moines area offers a multitude of biking and hiking trails at state parks.

Overall, I appreciate the amenities of the big city while still being a short drive to appealing rural towns where I can reminisce.

How do you think growing up on a farm benefitted you professionally?

Due to my lifelong relationship with agriculture, I look at it with great respect. Agriculture is everything especially when tied with the food industry.

Ag also instilled my hard work ethic. I woke up at 4 a.m. to assist with vaccinations or bring the new baby pigs into the barn. My dad always said we’d get our work done before we play, and I carry that mentality to this day.

What makes Clive, and Iowa in general, a great place for pork producers and the pork industry? 

Iowa is the best place in the world to raise pigs. In agriculture, there’s no better place than Iowa from our fertile soil to central location. We are close to other ag commodities and collaborate with Iowa State University.

We also collaborate with soybean producers. We use their crops to feed the pigs and they use the manure to restore soil health. It’s a sustainability cycle that isn’t as effective anywhere else in the world.

Due to these benefits of producing in Iowa, we raise nearly one-third of the nation’s hogs and are the top state to export pork.

World Pork Expo is held at the Iowa State Fairgrounds annually. Why does Iowa deserve to continue hosting the global event?

Iowa is home to the National Pork Board and many of our allied industry members. When 1,000 international guests visit, we can quickly and easily provide a tour of the production process, harvest facilities, manufacturers and much more. Again, we are the epicenter of pork production, so it doesn’t make sense to have it elsewhere.