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Largest Ag Museum in Iowa
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Largest Ag Museum in Iowa

As you’ve sped along U.S. 20 at Independence, you’ve likely seen a huge red barn with a glass silo on the north side of the road. That’s the Heartland Acres Agribition Center, our first stop for the day — and one we’d highly recommend.  Heartland Acres is Iowa’s largest agriculture museum. There are a number of interactive displays like cow milking, rope and fence making, and corn shelling and grinding.

That makes it a great place to take children or grandchildren—they can get a hands-on sense for days gone by while you reminisce. 

Plan to spend several hours there because this place is huge.  At the entrance to one room there’s a jukebox from the 1950s. We punched a couple of buttons on the jukebox for old times’ sake, and as it played Stranger in Paradise by the Four Aces, we strolled among a collection of some of the shiniest antique cars we’ve ever seen. 

There was a 1921 Lincoln touring car, a 1929 Packard convertible and a ’57 Thunderbird, to name a few. The Packard, by the way, was cream colored and accented with bumper-to-bumper chrome—a real beauty that had a factory list price of $4,800.  The haymow area of the barn includes a timeline of exhibits and artifacts from 1830, when the Iowa Territory was first being settled, on up to modern-day farming.

There’s a machine shed filled with farm equipment on the museum grounds as well as a one-room country schoolhouse. The country school is very fitting because in 1901, there were 12,623 rural schoolhouses dotting Iowa. That’s more than were found in any other state.  We got a kick out of a list of rules and expectations for the teacher displayed on her desk inside the schoolhouse. Among them:

 • The teacher could not marry or keep company with men during the school term.

 • She had to be at home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., unless at school.

 • She was required to wear two petticoats, and under no circumstances could she dye her hair.

 • She had to scrub the schoolhouse floor once a week with hot soapy water. 

My, how things have changed!

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

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