November 27, 2021

Report: About 4,000 people visit Wallace birthplace annually

ORIENT — Deb Houghtaling, President/CEO of the Wallace Centers of Iowa, gave a report on behalf of the organization to the Adair County supervisors in their Nov. 16 meeting on recent activity at the Country Life Center.

In a followup interview with the Free Press, Houghtaling said her main objective of meeting with the supervisors was to remind them of what the Country Life Center offers and update them on projects recently accomplished there.

“I would say we’re one of the important tourism locations in Adair County, so we wanted to let them know what we’re doing,” Houghtaling said. “We want people to know what’s out here at the farm and what’s been going on.”

The Country Life Center has been working since last year on renovating certain aspects of the farmhouse. With grant funding they received, they’re almost done with that almost $90,000 process.

The center also has the Gathering Barn, prairie areas and a produce garden. This year, a historic corn plot was a big attraction and new signage and an audio tour for guests have been installed.

The Pizza on the Prairie event received an award as an Outstanding Outdoor Event by Iowa Tourism and 32% more people took part in those events this year than in the past from 23 Iowa counties and 12 total states. An art exhibit was displayed on the prairie, which featured 90 paintings, some that were painted by local artists.

“In total, we estimate we have about 4,000 people that come each year to the farm, for programs, bus tours, or people just pop in and say they’ve seen the signs,” Houghtaling said.

Big initiatives at the center this year included a harvest of over 2,000 pounds of the orchard’s apples by various volunteers. Two weeks later, other volunteers gathered to complete a “gleaning” process, and the harvest was donated to food banks.

“If I were to write a headline, I would say that our biggest priorities or focal points right now are increasing tourism and maintenance,” Houghtaling said. “It’s good for us as an organization and it’s good for other people to know and recognize the work of preserving and maintaining old buildings takes a lot of effort and money.”

The Country Life Center is the birthplace of former Vice President and Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. Wallace.

In other business, the board:

• Opened trash bids. They received only one, from Grantham Sanitation.

• Discussed, but took no action on, using sick leave to pay insurance premiums upon retirement.

• Discussed a bridge concern along Walnut Avenue south of 280th Street. There were larger vehicles going over the bridge, which led to the it being damaged, and it was closed. Area landowners Ed and Gretchen Johnson, Randy Caviness and Nathan Kuhns each use the road to get to their fields. Nick Kauffman, county engineer, suggested the bridge be replaced, but no exact cost of doing so is known yet.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson

Caleb Nelson has served as News Editor of the Adair County Free Press and Fontanelle Observer since Oct. 2017. He and his wife Kilee live in Greenfield. In Greenfield and the greater Adair County area, he values the opportunity to tell peoples' stories, enjoys playing guitar, following all levels of sports, and being a part of his local church.