It was 1985 and Hayden Fry, the Hawkeyes head coach, was making good on his promise to the fans; deliver a winning football team.
However, as bright as that year was for Hawkeye fans who came from towns and cities from miles around to fill the stadium, it wasn’t as bright for Iowa’s other die-hard fans; those who came from farms.
Iowa’s farmers — a cornerstone of Iowa, its way of life and a significant economic engine for the state and the Heartland — were deep in the grip of the worst farm crisis the nation had ever seen. Numerous farmers working land that had been passed on to them by generations were being forced to sell.
According to Emmanuel Melicher, a senior economist for the United States. Federal Reserve, more than one-third of America’s commercial farmers were in grave financial trouble. Before the farm crisis hit in 1985, Iowa was home to 121,000 family farms. Nearly 20,000 went under by the time it ended.
Never one to accept defeat, Fry quietly went to work on another game plan to raise awareness of farmers who were struggling.
He developed a simple but powerful message to support Iowa farmers; a message that would be delivered on a national stage by his winning team.
When Fry’s squad traveled to Ohio State, something new was noticed on their game-day helmet: A simple yellow circle, two and one-half inches wide, with the letters “A-N-F” positioned immediately above the Tigerhawk on the right side of the headgear. It stood for “America Needs Farmers”. In that moment, and the many games, many players and many wins that followed, it remains a testament to the men and women who proudly give their all to provide the nation’s diverse food supply. Yes indeed, America still needs farmers.