There is a small town in Northeastern Iowa named Cresco. By small I mean roughly 3,750 people. But don’t let its size fool you. With this population it is the largest town in its county and also has the honor of being the seat of Howard County. It has five public (and one private) schools. Its unemployment rate is below the state average. People come from miles around to attend its annual “Mighty Howard County Fair”. And I couldn’t write this without mentioning that Cresco is home to the greatest “long john” pastries I’ve ever tasted.
Now, not that you should, but you could push all of this aside and it would still be able to impress you further with the fact that it is the birthplace of Norman Borlaug.
For many of you this name might mean nothing. But for millions around the world this Nobel Peace Prize winner has changed their entire existence-for the better. He was awarded the prize in 1970 for increasing food supply and thus contributing to world peace.
More specifically, Borlaug developed high-yield, disease-resistant wheat varieties and then introduced them, along with newly developed agricultural techniques, to Mexico, Pakistan, and India. Because of this incredible contribution Mexico became a large exporter of wheat by 1963.
A few years later Pakistan and India’s wheat crops almost doubled in size! From these increases in food, and food security, this collection of swells in agriculture became known as the Green Revolution-which Borlaug is known as the father of. In his work, this 94 year old man has been credited with saving over a billion people from starving to death.
And Cresco, Iowa is where this worldwide hero began.
They continue to honor him to this day. His boyhood home, farm, and one-room schoolhouse are being preserved by the Norman Borlaug Heritage Foundation. It is manned by an all-volunteer board. They continue to use these places for educational programs and projects. One such opportunity is the spring, summer, and fall educational residency program.
In September Cresco hosts its annual Norman Borlaug Harvest Fest! There is live music, food vendors, a parade with a “Feed the World” theme, a quilt auction, and even a petting zoo! And of course there will be tours of Borlaug’s boyhood home.
There is also a statue in the downtown park dubbed the Norman Borlaug Statue. This is dedicated to a man who is one of just five people in the world who has won not only the Nobel Peace Prize but also the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It takes a town that loves and honors its members this well to make the world a better, more peaceful, and well-fed place.