Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


In 1997 there were 807 total farm units in Van Buren County. This was an increase of 7% during the previous 5 years, although the number was 27% fewer than in 1969. Even so, the rate of decline was slower than the state’s 35% over the same period.

Van Buren County was once the center of Iowa’s sheep empire. Only 60 farms sold sheep and lambs in 1997, compared with 151 in 1982. Farms selling cattle also decreased significantly, from 155 in 1978 to only 52 in 1997. Hog farms and poultry farms decreased by even larger percentages.

45% of farm operators worked 200 or more days off the farm in 1997, and the age of farmers in Van Buren County increased by 6 years from an average of 49 to 55 years of age. Full ownership of farms increased by 8%.

The profile suggests that more farms in recent years are strictly agricultural, with few if any existing livestock. It also leads to a conclusion that fewer young people follow their parents’ footsteps and engage in farming as an occupation, continuing a trend that developed during the 1950s. Specialized rather than general farming is preferred.

In 1997, 55% of Van Buren County was in cropland, down 4% from 1982. 14% of the county’s acreage was made up of house lots, ponds and pastureland. Woodland areas increased from 27% in 1982 to 31% in 1997. The percentage of cropland in soybean production has increased, while corn production has decreased.

In 2006, the trends continue in the same direction although the statistics are not available on line for Van Buren County. Farm production continues to show an increase in soybean acres, a decrease in corn, and a decrease in total cropland under cultivation. Areas of woodland and wetland have increased significantly. The increase of woodland acres is a unique aspect of Iowa that produces much scenic beauty and continues to reduce the amount of open prairie.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick