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Editor's Note: At press time, Lee Enterprises Inc. had announced plans to acquire Iowa Farmer Today from Gazette Communications. IFT was set to become part of Lee Agri-Media in early July, with new IFT headquarters located in separate facilities in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The first issue of Iowa Farmer Today, printed 20 years ago, provided practical, timely and useful information to the farmers of northeast Iowa.
In 1984, in the midst of a deep financial crisis in agriculture, Iowa Farmer Today published its first issue. Times were tough on the farm, but the leadership of Gazette Communications, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, saw a need to provide timely and useful information to the Iowa farmers.

"Our research showed most Iowa farmers were lacking information that was critical to the success of their operation," says Steve DeWitt, publisher of Iowa Farmer Today and vice president of IFT Publications. "Iowa Farmer Today was conceived as a means to fill that void."

IFT's first edition was published Sept. 8 of that year and mailed to farmers in northeast Iowa. By February 1985, the weekly farm newspaper circulated to Iowa farmers statewide.

Most farmers survived the hard times of the mid-1980s. Iowa Farmer Today did so, also. Twenty years after its debut, nearly 70,000 copies of Iowa Farmer Today are mailed to farmers across Iowa and adjoining states, bringing them weekly market and weather reports, as well as award-winning articles on critical issues and trends affecting agriculture and feature stories about Iowa farm families and their lives.

In fact, a Readex publication preference study shows Iowa Farmer Today has become the publication most Iowa farmers turn to first to keep them abreast of the ever-changing business of growing corn and soybeans and raising livestock.

IFT Publications also publishes Midwest Marketer, a weekly newspaper focused on the cattle industry that it purchased in 1996, and Equipment Connection, a monthly marketing vehicle for farm machinery.

This summer, Iowa Farmer Today celebrates its 20th anniversary with a variety of activities. The centerpiece of that celebration will be a special issue to be published Sept. 4, looking back on how farmers and farming have changed over the past two decades and Iowa Farmer Today's role in reporting those changes.

The newspaper's award-winning staff of eight editors plans to profile an Iowa farmer who started farming in 1984, despite the bleak outlook for his newfound occupation. The editors will investigate the major developments that shaped agriculture in that time, such as the rise of biotechnology, globalization, structural change in the industry and the government's role in agriculture.

The issue will close with a look to the future, trying to fashion some sense of what the future holds for agriculture and Iowa Farmer Today's plans to be a part of that future.

Iowa Farmer Today also plans to have a special commemoration of its 20th anniversary at the Iowa Farm and Field Fest, to be held Aug. 26-28 near Boone, Iowa. Cowboy poet Baxter Black will attend the first day of the farm show, offering his wit and wisdom to those attending. Iowa Farmer Today is sponsoring his appearance.

The publication also is planning a variety of activities and giveaways at the second annual farm show. More details of those events will be released as they are finalized. AM

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