Borlaug Inspire Day 2023

roadside sign in iowa for norman borlaug heritage farm

Years before his research at the University of Minnesota launched his career as a key figure in the Green Revolution and eventually led to his Nobel Prize, Norman Borlaug grew up in a farm family and attended a one-room schoolhouse near Cresco, Iowa. Much of the world has changed since Norm’s childhood, but the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation (NBHF) in Iowa has preserved Borlaug’s boyhood farms as well as the schoolhouse he attended. 

Brian Steffenson and Becca speak at Borlaug Inspire Day

Among the slate of educational programs and projects hosted by the NBHF is its Inspire Days, during which Iowan 5th graders take a field trip to the sites of Borlaug’s childhood and get ample learning experiences in both science and history. In addition to touring the sites of importance, speakers with expertise in topics such as entomology, agronomy, plant pathology, environmental preservation, and global food security issues. 

Borlaug statue buckled into car seat

University of Minnesota Plant Pathology department members brought another piece of Borlaug’s history to life by attending Inspire Day 2023 and engaging students in an interactive lesson on Borlaug’s field of research, rust disease in cereal grains. Professor Brian Steffenson, Senior Teaching Specialist Becca Hall, PhD student Yoonjung Lee, researcher Oadi Matny, and post-doc Eric Nazareno all made the trek from Saint Paul to the Cresco area, along with the department’s Norm statue (buckled up for safety, of course)!

Two kids do an outdoor wheat threshing activity at BOrlaug Inspire Day in Iowa

UMN-PLPA presented on wheat plants, cereal rusts, and Norman Borlaug history to the crew of attending students. To add some hands-on fun, all the students were given wheat samples and got to thresh them, competing to see who had the highest yield. Could future CFANS students, or the next great plant health researchers, have been in the crowd of students that day? Only time will tell! 


Yoony, becca, oadi, and eric in the Borlaug one room schoolhouse