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Iowa History Daily: June 17 - Roswell Garst

Iowa History Daily: On June 17, 1898, far famed Iowa farmer Roswell Garst was born in Coon Rapids. Perhaps best known for the 1959 visit of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev's to his farm, Garst helped to develop hybrid corn seed during the 1930s.

After graduating from Coon Rapids High School in 1915, Garst spent several years attending different colleges throughout the Midwest. In 1921, Garst found himself back in Iowa working the family farm. While founding the Garst Land Company in Des Moines during 1926, he met future US Secretary of Agriculture and Vice President Henry A. Wallace. The two worked together to pioneer and sell hybrid corn seed across the late 1920s.

By 1930, Garst got involved with Wallace’s Pioneer Hi-Bred full-time, growing seed stock and selling for the company. In 1931, Garst went in with Charlie Thomas to form the Garst & Thomas Hi-Bred Corn Company. Garst also experimented with the benefits of fertilizer, becoming a vocal proponent of nitrogen application to supplement hi-bred corn growth.

By the onset of the Cold War, Garst gained a reputation as a seed innovator, fertilizer evangelist, and supporter of global grain exports. During 1959, Garst met Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev while in the USSR and invited him to Coon Rapids. In September 1959, Khrushchev arrived and created one of the most notorious spectacles in Iowa’s history when Garst pelted reporters with silage when the press closed in on the Soviet Premier. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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