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What a Road Trip in Jefferson County Reveals

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

A century ago numerous small towns thrived in Jefferson County with names like Perlee, Absecum, Krum, and Veo. Many were on now defunct railroad lines. Today they’re gone or are mostly empty shells of their former selves. You can learn more about these once lively areas of commerce in Villages and Towns of Yesteryear in Jefferson County

by William R Baker. I always wanted to explore where these towns once stood, so when my brother came to visit in early July, we set out to investigate.

What struck me as we drove up through Abingdon and Linby, around to Salina, Beckwith, Four Corners, and other former enclaves was just how beautiful rural Jefferson County is with its rolling hills and lush green farmland.

What also stood out was how few CAFOs we came across in our travels, so unlike what we see driving through Washington and Keokuk Counties.

No doubt Jefferson County has hog confinements. We didn’t venture near malodorous “CAFO Alley” in Penn Township or the confinement cluster in Liberty Township. That’s a different tour for another day. Nonetheless, there are large swaths of rural Jefferson County that remain untouched by CAFO development. Our county has only one-fifteenth the number of hogs found in all six surrounding counties, according to recent Iowa DNR and USDA figures. Think about that.

Southeast Iowa is certainly ripe for CAFO development, with slaughterhouses in nearby Ottumwa and Columbus Junction, a large feed mill in Hedrick, and a large corporate pork producer in Wayland, all an hour or less from here. So why isn’t Jefferson County inundated with CAFOs like Washington and Keokuk Counties with their 1.7 million hogs just between the two of them?


JFAN’s ongoing efforts over the last 14 years plays a significant role in preventing runaway CAFO growth in Jefferson County. Early on, JFAN board members believed Jefferson County was targeted for CAFO development after discovering pork industry ads in regional papers recruiting local farmers to build confinements.

But when JFAN emerged with robust community educational programs on the multitude of harms that CAFOs may impose, among its other efforts, the Jefferson County community took action in response, and together helped to deter a tidal wave of factory farms.

Nor has JFAN let up with our ongoing and empowering community education program, biweekly CAFO monitoring, early neighborhood alerts of proposed CAFOs, and a partnership with 30+ organizations through the Iowa Alliance for Responsible Agriculture (which JFAN co-founded) that is actively advocating for a factory farm moratorium in Iowa.

JFAN is able to do all this with and because of the grassroots support of Jefferson County residents. That’s you. You are helping JFAN to protect Jefferson County in two important ways: by showing up and speaking out against injurious CAFOs and by your financial support to keep JFAN going strong. These two equally important efforts send an unmistakable deterrent message to the CAFO community that infringing CAFOs are not welcome in Jefferson County.

Please take action today to keep JFAN thriving. We are currently in the middle of our 2019 fundraising drive with a $25,000 matching grant if we can reach that goal by Wednesday, July 31. These funds are essential to JFAN’s daily operations to help protect you and your family’s quality of life. Donations may be made online or by sending a check payable to JFAN to PO Box 811, Fairfield, IA 52556

We can never let up on protecting Jefferson County. We live in a state where the CAFO threat always looms. But with one-fifteenth the number of hogs found in all six surrounding counties, we’re obviously doing something right. With your support, we can keep JFAN working to help protect your quality of life for a long, long time.

Published in the July 18, 2019 Fairfield Weekly Reader.

Rural Iowa Photo Credit:

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