Why Do You Love the Midwest?

Old Stone House outside of Geneva Iowa

I live in the Midwest. Along with 60 million other people.  That’s a lot of people.  Yet we often get referred to as the fly over states.  The payusnonevermind location.  The “why do you want to go there” states.

A group of us (Iowans) think the people that believe like that are wrong.  Just plain wrong.

We know how good the food is in New York, how spread out LA is and how nice it is to live on the lake in Chicago.  We’ve traveled all over the world and see how other people live.  We’ve lived all over the world.  And now we’ve come back home to Iowa.  There’s a reason for that.

Iowa rocks!

In Franklin County, where 10,000 people live, we’ve got:

  • 27 recreation areas (not including city parks)
  • 12 Historic Places on the National. Register (Beeds Lake State Park, H.E. Boehmler House, Franklin County Courthouse, Franklin County Sheriffs Residence and Jail, Hampton Double Square Historic District, Dr. O.B. Harriman House/Harriman Nielsen Historic Farm, Maysville Schoolhouse, Leander Reeve House, and Herman Wood Round Barn),
  • unique one of a kind shopping in Hampton, Latimer, Sheffield, Coulter, Dows, Popejoy, Geneva, Sheffield, Chapin,
  • and No Wal-Mart.

Iowa leads the country in wind power – renewable energy at its best.

Iowa is ranked the 2nd most livable state.

Iowa is the 8th healthiest state in the nation.

Iowa has over 1400 miles of trails for hiking and biking within its state parks and recreational areas.

You can visit Hoover Presidential Library, Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, Effigy Mounds, any one of five National Refuge Areas, follow the Iowa Wine and Beer Trail, attend the world’s best state fair, and travel scenic byways.

But the best kept secret of Iowa is it’s people.  You’ll never want for someone to help you, have a conversation with, a good belly laugh with and a personal tour guide.  We’ve been raised to be kind, treat strangers as family and to love one another.  

Aric Queen is on a mission for National Geographic.  He gets the opportunity to travel the United States and write about it.  But for some crazy reason, he’ll be staying all along the Southern states on his journey.  Good Lord!  Enough already!  Go north young man, go north.

So as Aric Queen travels the United States for National Geographic, we’ve invited him to join us here in the Midwest.  And we need your help. We’re asking you to tweet using the hashtag #TravelMidwest.  Tell us why you live in the Midwest, what you love about your home town.  Go on Facebook and follow me (Deb During Debworks Brown) and tell me those things.  We promise to get the information to Aric.  Because we are more than a flyover state and we want National Geographic to spend some time in our home towns.

Aric’s twitter description says “I’m on a road trip across America with @NatGeoTraveler to uncover uncommon stories of people who are bringing change to their communities. Help me find them.”  I say his search is over.  Come to Iowa.

(Visit Jody Halsted’s blog here and see how this entire conversation got started.)


  1. Danielle on May 10, 2012 at 3:15 am

    Wonderfully written Deb! Every word is true, this is a great place to live and visit.

  2. Deb Brown on May 10, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Thanks Danielle — I know you spend a lot of time on stay-cations with your hubby and kids. There’s a reason we love it here!

  3. Pamela Warwick on May 10, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    The question has been posed: “Why do I love the Midwest?” So thus, I begin…

    I love my Midwest. And having spent my entire life – well over one-half century – residing here now, that alone officially qualifies me to be among the class of Iowa ‘experts’ on reasons to cherish this particular space on earth.
    Yes, I too have traveled our nation’s highway and byways.
    From drinking hot chicory root ‘coffee’ while taking in the outdoor Farmers’ Markets and Bourbon Street of New Orleans, to shopping, dining and touring the sights of New York City, I have enjoyed sampling various cuisines and cultures and appreciated sipping from their various textures and nuances.
    Listening as the last space shuttle re-entered our atmosphere in 2011 while taking in the serenities and oceanic amenities of Cocoa Beach was monumental.
    Eating great Chinese food, trying to park on the hilly streets of San Francisco, and wandering Fisherman’s Wharf while attending the International Anthropology Conference was delicious.
    Taking in the Space Needle and the road-side fruit and vegetable stands while meandering down the West Coast shoreline was heavenly.
    Tent camping and hiking in the Badlands, Yellowstone, Glacier National Park, the Grand Tetons was breath-taking and inspiring. Sitting around campfires while gazing at the billions of stars – which appeared nearer and more brilliant than ever from those heights – and listening to friends play guitar and sing their folk songs touched my heart.
    Experiencing the deafening ringing-in-the-ears from the supreme silence of the Salt Flats in the Southwest; salmon fishing on a little stream known only to local Alaskans and later, ever-so briefly bathing in a glacier-fed stream provide bracingly vivid memories for me to cherish forever.
    Strolling the palatial homes and ‘Dickens on the Grand’ of Galveston; soaking up the layers of life spent wandering the brownstones, brick and wrought iron, and reverent burial sites of our nation’s forefathers in Boston and then touching Plymouth Rock myself; clamming off the shore of Chincoteague and touring the legendary island of Assateague made famous in children’s literature – I’ve ascertained that our nation truly is beautiful and breath-taking in its magnitude.
    Yet still, there is more to the Midwest than Chicago.
    Why, there are the fabulous Farmer’s Markets of Des Moines on Saturday mornings all summer long. There the parking is free and a plethora of friendly faces are ambling Court Avenue. Hoards of local folk, babies in strollers and dogs on leashes amble the entire area, which is blockaded and burgeoning with the finest of organic fruits and vegetables, locally made cheeses and wines, artisan wares, landscaping treasures, and live music. And about any day of the week, the best in music, sports, science and the arts can be savored in this growing urban area.
    Yes, Iowa has its cities and their amenities, too.
    But whenever my ever-emerging and various wanderlusts are satiated for the moment, it is so wonderful to return home to my little Danish berg of just under 300 good farm folk, luscious garden and farming spaces and unique rural Iowa serenity.
    Making a living in this tiny town is simpler. Taxes are amazingly cheaper. The air is fresher. The pace, slower. I am forever savoring the bounties and blessings from nature that are ever at my back door. Children ride bikes together through town, and the city park burgeons with baseball players, soccer enthusiasts, and families grilling outside.
    Yet, sometimes Iowa’s rural beauty is its most poignantly refreshing when first arriving back home from our world-wanderings.
    I recall flying back into Des Moines from Texas one time, and we were in awe of how clean and freshly power-washed our state looked all along the 90 minute drive home. Truly, it looked like a well-staged movie set, so tidy was it all.
    Upon returning from New York City, we were reminded of how wide-open our homeland is, allowing us to open our chests broader to better accommodate the deepest breaths we had taken in well over two weeks. And when days later I spied ducks in the nearby field, floating in ponds due to the recent over-abundance of rain – well, I suddenly realized how homesick I had been for the simplicities of these familiar fowl. The magnitude of the Statue of Liberty and the awe of Ellis Island were only merely comparable to the natural beauty of duck butts and bobbing beaks in the midst of quiet rural wonders that only Iowa has revealed to me.
    One should smell how sweet the air is while taking a 6 a.m. walk along the back gravel roads in Iowa. In early June, you come to think that when rambling those rural routes – flanked with young corn shoots that shimmer like water as the breeze rolls across them in waves and catch the morning sun – there must be some perfumed flower nearby! It is the scent of the corn plant itself, in its early youth.
    No, I have learned that my favorite things about living here are not Grand Teton-like or great in a man-made Empire Building sort of way. The individual grandeur of those entities are self-evident.
    Instead, I find Iowa to be more subtle; very nuanced. And perhaps from that fact alone, I am more intrigued and enticed by it.
    The most endearing qualities I have come to cherish have been whispered to me in the quiet, restful state-of-mind that is offered here. Like patiently opening a nondescript-looking oyster only to later discover a magnificent and luminescent pearl within – this is how Iowa’s secrets have been spoken to me. I’ve learned to listen more attentively, observe more patiently, and look beyond the obvious.
    I’ve noticed how friendly, trusting, and generous Iowans are, along with possessing a strong work ethic. More than once we have been called “Iowa Nice.” And that same work ethic has made us innovators and masters in our own fields over time – from corn rows to college campuses.
    I love how boisterous we can be at play, and how reverent and humble we are as we serve each other communion at church – generation after generation. Our service to each other and our communities is driven by passions for family life and education for ourselves and our children. As silent and deep as bedrock are these solid, earnest, foundational qualities.
    And should a family fall upon sudden and tragic times, neighbors gather food and harvesting equipment to get those crops in and lift wounded spirits up as we learn how to walk the changing landscape together.
    I could go on and on, and still never fully capture the reasons I love Iowa.
    From the beauty of frosty ice crystals on bare-limbed trees juxtaposed against an azure winter sky; the joy on the face of a young child as it jubilantly displays its first fish caught from the seat of a canoe floating on the sultry, bluffed Upper Iowa River; the summer night skies lit by a gazillion twinkling stars and just about as many lightening bugs that slowly hover and flit in back yards and over vast fields of corn; to the abundance of joy in a grandchild’s eye as it wanders a plum-full pumpkin patch and to the celebrations of bounty in local grain elevators – this land…this beautifully quiet pearl of a flyover-space…was made for you and me
    And I, for one, am staying put!

  4. Deb Brown on May 10, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Pamela –
    I could never have written anything better. Thank you from bended knee.

  5. Lynn Olejniczak on May 11, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    I live in the Midwest because that it where Chicago is. I’ve tried! Deb will tell you how I’ve tried.

    Compared to California I find the Midwest, specifically my home of Chicago, smarter, more diverse, and actually a city as compared to LA or any of those San-somthin’-somethin’s. San Fran is OK but too expensive for the privledge of being threatened by an earthquake.

    New York and the east coast are great!……in small doses. But I shouldn’t have to battle people to get a coffee, buy a newspaper or god forbid, get on a train or bus. Life doesn’t need to be that difficult people! That’s why I’m a Chicago gal and will always be!

    I look out to the lake on a beautiful day and it feels like Greece; whose food I can enjoy anytime after a short, easy #8 Halsted Street bus ride.

    I can pick up a New York Times, London Times, Paris Match or a multitude of papers I cannot pronounce from many points in the city without having to beat someone up to do it.

    I can stay up all night partying, dining and dancing and then find after hours places and breakfast just like in NYC. Well, I COULD if I was still capable without having my publicist claim exhaustion. Oh, that’s just my voicemail? OK.

    I don’t have to spend five-grand a month on a studio the size of an outhouse and then get a broker to find me a parking space which will cost me more.

    I can buy homemade perogi or better yet, meet an old Polish woman who will take me to her home and teach me to make them. Actually I know how to make them because we cook here too, part of our heritage.

    I can drink with Italian guyz on Taylor Street and not worry for a minute about my safety.

    I can go to Chinatown and get herbal remedies for whatever ails me.

    I can go to Devon Avenue and have Patak Paneer and buy lovely, comfortable, flat Indian slippers.

    I can talk to ANYONE, ANYONE about the weather for at least 20 minutes, maybe more and it isn’t boring. Know why? Because it isn’t about the weather. It is about a lifestyle and place of trust and values. Not bible-thumpin’ fire and brimstone values but real ones. Values where you still open the door for someone who has their hands full, stop and ask a visiter if they need directions if they look lost, chat with a stranger while waiting in line to buy a Vienna Beef, and sign a petition for something you believe in.

    That’s the Midwest and why I’m here.

    OH! And another reason?

    We ain’t the south.

  6. Val - Corn, Beans, Pigs & Kids on May 11, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Great post! Should I direct my tweet towards Aric or just put it out there with the #TravelMidwest?

  7. Denise on May 11, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    I have never lived anywhere but the Midwest so really cannot compare it but have been to a few other parts of the U.S.
    I can only say the I love living in the Midwest because of the wide open spaces. I like being able to be outdoors enjoying the fresh air, to see the stars & moon at night, to see the blue sky and the sun.
    Life is slower paced and much quieter.
    I love hearing the birds sing to me as I wakeup in the morning and step outside. As I walk outside in the evening the birds are still singing to me, it is so beautiful.
    I live in the country, grew up in a very small town where everyone knows your name and if you needed anything some would be there for you.
    There really is a lot of natural beauty living in the
    midwest, I feel I am closer to God.
    I’ve been to the city but country life is the life for me.

  8. Deb Brown on May 12, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Denise – you indeed are my country girl! Lynn – you can take the girl out of Chicago but can never take the Chicago out of the girl. Val – tweet using #travelmidwest and it’s okay to tweet to @GoodTraveler too! You guys all rock!

  9. Shannon Latham on May 15, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    I’m inviting The Good Traveler, Aric S. Queen, to #TravelMidwest as he embarks on a Classic American Roadtrip for “National Geographic.” After all, Midwesterners are as classic as baseball, hot dogs and apple pie! Here’s why I believe Mr. Queen should take the roads less traveled: