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Henry Wallace – The Most Influential Iowan of the 20th Century
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Henry Wallace – The Most Influential Iowan of the 20th Century

Henry Wallace, born in 1888, was U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Vice President and Secretary of Commerce during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. He was also editor of Wallaces Farmer magazine and founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred International.

The Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center near Orient includes the farmhouse in which Wallace was born, a replica of the barn and 40 acres of what was once the Wallace farm. As we walked the grounds, one of our takeaways was that greatness is not confined to big cities, the well-connected or persons with blue-blooded family lineage. For it was a simple frame farmhouse surrounded by bluestem prairie owned by a struggling farm family that gave birth to Wallace, a man the Des Moines Register named the “Most Influential Iowan of the 20th Century.”

It’s a monument to Iowa hope and optimism—that if this farm boy could achieve greatness, we all have potential to go as far as our dreams will take us. 

Wallace was an ardent soil conservationist. He once said, “I have always had a great affection for grass. It seems to stand for quietness and strength. A countryside shorn and stripped of this thick green grass is weakened just as Sampson was.” 

With that in mind, nine acres of the Country Life Center is planted to native prairie grasses and wildflowers. The walking path is like a journey back to the way Iowa looked before the prairie was put to the plow.  There’s also an organic garden that produces about 10 kinds of fruits and 30 to 40 varieties of vegetables—including a patch of the prettiest cabbage you can imagine.

Those fruits and vegetables, along with other locally grown produce and meats, are served at the Gathering Table Restaurant in the Wallace barn. The restaurant is open only on Fridays for lunch (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and dinner (5:30 to 8 p.m.) during spring, summer and fall.

This content previously appeared in the popular “Road Trip” series in Our Iowa Magazine. Learn more about the publication at

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