Along Our Way
For the 20th year, a group of us continued a Holy Week tradition of meeting at the YMCA Camp northwest of Boone, sharing lunch, then climbing up a towering bluff there to Chapel Point, which overlooks the Des Moines River valley. Up at the top, there are a few reflections, a few stories, we sing ''This Is My Father's World'' and then Stan Moffitt of Boone plays taps on his bugle.
[FOR THE STORY & MORE PHOTOS
IN LARGER FORMAT, CLICK HERE.]
with the Offenburgers
Chuck Offenburger was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins follicular lymphoma cancer on July 10, 2009, had six months of chemotherapy & started a maintenance program. Carla Offenburger underwent surgery on April 26, 2010, for removal of a jaw tumor which was found to contain adenoid cystic carcinoma cancer. She underwent six weeks of follow-up radiation in June and July, 2010. Since then she has returned to good health, but she continues to have close medical observation. Two days after Carla finished radiation, Chuck noticed a pain in his left hip, and within days, a small mass near his tailbone was diagnosed as more aggressive large-cell lymphoma. In the fall of 2010, he underwent intensive chemotherapy, and had a stem cells transplant in November, with follow-up radiation in January, 2011. Since then he's been doing well, too, but continues to have regular check-ups. We post updates frequently here, including brief insights from Chuck, Carla and at least one of you readers.
''Hi, Chuck & Carla. I'm so incredibly happy for you guys, and hope for many more years of good reports.''
FOR THE LATEST UPDATE,
WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE
BLACK & WHITE SADDLE SHOES?
CLICK HERE FOR THE STORY OF OUR FARM IN GREENE COUNTY, IOWA.
Here's looking at life
at Simple Serenity Farm
Recently on Facebook, we posted this photo and asked, ''What do this 1960s bicycle, 2002 Chrysler and 1900 barn all have in common, besides being at our farm in west central Iowa?'' People had some interesting and fun guesses and comments.
FOR THE STORY & MORE PHOTOS
IN LARGER FORMAT, CLICK HERE.]
latest book on sports
legend Gary Thompson
''GARY THOMPSON: All-American'' is the new, 352-page biography of one of the state's genuine sports icons. From 1950-'53 Gary Thompson led the Roland Rockets to high school sports glory in basketball and baseball, giant-killers from one of Iowa's small schools. Then he led the Cyclones at Iowa State from 1953-'57, becoming the college's first two-sport All-American. He's had major success in broadcasting and business, from his home base in Ames. And he and his wife Janet have a family as solid as they come. "I'm the luckiest guy around," Thompson says.
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Our Partners & Patrons
Iowa Hall of Pride
Sam's Barber Shop
Douglas T. Bates III, Attorney
KMA Radio's ''Dean & Don Show''
The Monks of New Melleray Abbey
Want to Reprint?
Chuck Offenburger's columns
Christie Vilsack's columns
Carla Offenburger's columns
Carla's book reviews
Life at Offenburgers'
Simple Serenity Farm
Our Iowa News Digest
Along Our Way
Out in Greene County, Iowa
Most fun business news story in a long time is ethanol giant Broin re-naming itself: “Poet”!
By CHUCK OFFENBURGER
April 2, 2007
It’s one the most curious and fun news stories in a long time – and certainly the most fun business news story.
On Thursday, March 29, the corporate entity formerly known as the Broin Companies – the nation’s second largest producer of ethanol and one of the most innovative research and development companies in the bio-fuels industry – announced it was changing its name.
President and CEO Jeff Broin gathered his employees at headquarters in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and told them the company now has a new name:
The company’s site on the Internet was quickly changed to note that the company is “writing the next chapter in the story of bio-refining.”
“We wanted a name that would represent, rather than describe, who we are and what we do,” the 41-year-old Broin told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. “Just as a poet takes everyday words and turns them into something valuable and beautiful, our team takes information that comes from common sense to leave things better than before.”
There was no word how the employees reacted, although since the name change has apparently been under consideration for about a year, maybe they were all in the know.
I haven’t seen any comment in the business or farm media, pro or con, on the name change by the huge privately-held company.
But Iowa’s poet laureate Robert Dana, the former Cornell College poetry professor who lives in Coralville, had a delightful reaction.
“That’s weird!” said Dana, who is appointed by the governor. “I have to think about this for a while. It strikes me quickly as both preposterous on the one hand, and possibly marvelous on the other hand.”
One thing is certain, Dana acknowledged – rarely does poetry get this kind of corporate attention.
Argus Leader reporter Megan Myers noted in her story that Broin Companies’ subsidiaries now have name changes, too: The former Broin Management is now Poet Plant Management. Broin & Associates is Poet Design & Construction. Broin Ethanol Products is Poet Ethanol Products. Dakota Gold Marketing is Poet Nutrition. Broin Enterprises is Poet Research Center.
Two more Iowa poets
are also intrigued by
the new name “Poet”
of the ethanol company
COOPER, Iowa – Michael Carey, the nationally-recognized poet who has also been a farmer near the southwest Iowa town of Farragut, has a fun perspective on the surprising recent decision of leading ethanol producer Broin Companies to change its name to Poet.
“It’s nice to think that some ‘Poet’ will be making money,” Carey wrote in an e-mail, noting that few poets he knows make much on their work. “There is something comforting in that.”
And Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff, a poet in Dubuque who specializes in haiku, said the Poet company’s new name “really does speak to what it means to create – whether with words or with corn.”
For more reaction from Carey and Woerdehoff, see the story that follows the accompanying main story.
“The company now has built 25 ethanol production plants in the United States and operates 19 of them,” Myers reported. “It also has six plants under development, including one near Emmetsburg, Iowa, that will be converted to a cellulosic ethanol site with the help of a recently announced $80 million grant,” that grant coming from the U.S. Department of Energy.
So, Poet, which has six plants already operating in Iowa, is now the producer of more than one billion gallons of ethanol a year at its facilities scattered across nine Midwestern states. They are in a rapid growth mode, having added 100 new jobs at corporate headquarters alone in the past year.
I e-mailed Poet over the weekend, asking if I could have a few minutes on the phone with Jeff Broin to ask him just how much of a poetry fan he is, how far back his interest goes and whether he writes any of it himself. “We have a really busy schedule this week as we roll out the new name, but I’m trying to set something up for you,” Nathan Schock, director of public relations, wrote back.
The Des Moines Register, in a March 18 story about the company’s cutting-edge cellulosic plant being developed for Emmetsburg, noted that Broin “isn’t quite comfortable yet giving interviews.” That may be because the pace of activity in the whole ethanol industry has been advancing at warp speed the past few years as the nation looks for alternatives to foreign oil.
The Poet site on the Internet notes that in 1983, the Broin family started experimenting with ethanol on their farm in Wanamingo, Minnesota. By 1986, they were ready to “commercialize” their research and, in 1987, bought a foreclosed ethanol plant in Scotland, South Dakota. The company has been in a rapid growth mode ever since.
Jeff Broin has in recent times been consolidating his control of the company from other family members.
The only thing in his background that makes me wonder if he is a big poetry fan, or a poet himself, is a line in his brief business biogaphies that he graduated in 1987 with a bachelor of science degree in agricultural business from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. And we all know how Madison is.
My friend Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan in extreme northwest Iowa, tells me he met Broin at the Iowa State Capitol recently when the federal grant was announced for the new Emmetsburg plant.
CEO who heads another
bio-fuels company says
Poet’s new name “works”
RALSTON, Iowa, April 6, 2007 – We didn’t just go to poets for opinions about the Broin Companies’ choice of “Poet” for their new corporate company. We also asked the CEO of another leading company in the industry.
Jeff Stroburg, CEO and chairman of West Central Cooperative, based here, said he likes it.
“Poetry is the art of helping us see the world from a different perspective than the everyday view,” Stroburg said. “Broin has helped us see the world of agriculture and energy from a different perspective – ‘Poet’ works.”
Is there some of the 1960s spirit in Broin?
“He’s not old enough to have any real ’60s in him like we do,” said Senator Johnson, who is also a dairy farmer. “But if he did go to Wisconsin at Madison, well, that’s a perpetual ’60s environment up there, so maybe he does, and he doesn’t have to be our age.
“But he’s a very impressive guy. He’s just got to be one of the sharpest tacks in the drawer. He’s a good looking guy, too, I guess. He makes a great ‘suit,’ you know?”
Johnson said the Broin Companies “have been an operation that keeps pretty quiet. They’re developing all this technology that they are now commercializing and, as competitive as the ethanol industry is, I think Jeff Broin and his company have decided to stay pretty low profile.” At least up ’til now.
Back to Robert Dana, the Iowa poet laureate. In his initial reaction, he said the big ethanol company renaming itself “Poet” is both “preposterous” and “possibly marvelous.” So I asked him what the preposterous side of it might be.
“I have some mixed feelings about ethanol, as a matter of fact,” Dana said. “I don’t think it’s the answer to all our energy problems, and it costs as much or more to make it as it saves.”
And on the “possibly marvelous” side?
“Well, that anybody would think to link up business imagination with the literary imagination,” he said. “I can’t help but admire that.
“It makes me think how recently, I was invited out to talk at this company Pearson Government Solutions, and I decided to look around before I went to see if I could find kind of an ‘office’ poem. I didn’t have that in my own work, but I found some good material in the poems of Theodore Roethke and Ted Kooser, so I took them along and did read them. As I was thinking about that then, it hit me that, really, the imagination is the imagination, isn’t it? I mean, music and literature don’t have a monopoly on imagination.
“In fact, American industry, if it hadn’t had the imagination it did through the years, it wouldn’t be the economic driver it became. And look now at the auto industry. Detroit hasn’t used as much imagination as it probably should have in recent years and is having all kinds of problems. The Japanese, on the other hand, have used lots of imagination in their car making, and look how well they’ve done.”
I asked Dana if he thinks any other states’ poet laureates are as conversant with ethanol as he is.
“Well, possibly the Illinois poet laureate,” Dana said. “They don’t produce as much corn as Iowa does, but it’s close.”
Poet, the company, has a $10 million expansion underway at its corporate headquarters in Sioux Falls, the Argus Leader reported.
Jeff Broin declined the newspaper’s question about what the company spent on its name change, but said, “It really did take a significant amount of time, resources and money.”
He also brought in American icon Neil Armstrong, the former astronaut, to be on hand and speak at the employee meeting at which the name change was announced.
Broin said that Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon, was working in a time of rapid change in his field. “We wanted to bring in someone who lived through significant change and significant challenge…to speak to our employees,” Broin told the Sioux Falls paper.
The story continued that Broin “sees strong parallels between President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 call for a man on the Moon by the end of the decade and President George W. Bush’s recent call to increase production of alternative fuels to 35 billion gallons per year by 2017.
You can reach the author by e-mail at chuck@Offenburger.com.
Poets are “impressed that someone at the head of a large corporation would know what a metaphor is, and publicly use such a literate one.”
April 4, 2007
Michael Carey, poet and farmer, says that thinking of ethanol as a metaphor for poetry had not occurred to him until he learned that the ethanol producer Broin Companies had changed its name to Poet.
“First off, I’m impressed that someone at the head of a large corporation would know what a metaphor is, and publicly use such a literate one,” Carey responded. “Mr. (Jeff) Broin and his company have tipped their collective hat toward me and the thing I love most in the world. I have to tip my hat back. You can’t help but like someone who loves what you love and shows sensitively intelligent insight into the nature of the art.”
Carey, 53, is a native of New York City who came to Iowa to enroll in the poetry program at the University of Iowa’s famous Iowa Writers Workshop, where he earned his master’s degree. He also fell in love with a Shenandoah girl, Kelly Gee, and after they married, they settled on a Gee family farm between Shenandoah and Farragut where they’ve raised four children. Carey has been in demand as an artist-in-the-schools and artist-in-residence across the state, and has published several books of poetry that capture the soul of farming, rural life, love and his Irish heritage. He has given up active farming this year, after other family members decided to sell much of the farm property, and expects he’ll be doing more teaching after he earns a second master’s degree.
Other thoughts from him about Broin becoming Poet?
“The name change presupposes that poetry is a good thing, that it is alive and changing our lives for the better,” Carey said. “I like how Mr. Broin explained that both his company and poetry, by the grace of their creative geniuses, help us find the ‘extra-ordinary’ in the ‘ordinary’ of our lives and thereby change them for the better. I’ll buy that.
“I wonder if Mr. Bruin will buy poetry in return,” Carey continued. “If there’s one thing that human poets know, it’s that, relatively speaking, no one buys it. If you’re thinking about going into poetry for the fame and fortune it brings, then you’d better go into fiction, or memoir – something that someone can make a movie from. It’s nice to think that some ‘Poet’ will be making money. There is something comforting in that.”
Carey said the announcement of the new corporate name makes him “wonder if anyone at Poet likes poetry, reads poetry, supports poetry and its poets. Does the company have a poet laureate? Does it know contemporary American poetry? Does it know good contemporary American poetry growing in the heartland? I would be even more impressed, I would more than tip my hat, I would take it completely off, if the company funded a yearly prize in the form of a book, or helped underwrite the cost of a small press dedicated to poetry of the highest artistic integrity, poetry maybe, from the landscape, poetry with a theme such as energy, transmutation, the environment.
“I would like to see us not using gasoline or diesel at all, not supporting oil which is destroying our planet and giving people who wish us ill our hard-earned money. After all, it is we who are funding terrorists. In short, I would like to see, as soon as possible, an alternative source of energy especially for our trucks and cars. Ethanol is an alternative, a clean one, perhaps the best at this point in time. The ethanol industry is also supporting our farmers and farm communities. I just wish it weren’t so tied to big oil. Maybe it won’t be in the future.”
Carey said his hope for the Poet company is that “maybe it’s a real, money-making business that can lead the world to a new energy paradigm that will take us out of the mess we we’re in. Shelly said, ‘Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’ They change more lives than any king or president, but no one knows it. If Mr. Broin’s Poet takes that job seriously, I would be honored that he used the word ‘poet’ for the company name, and would call him one myself.”
In Dubuque, Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff, besides writing haiku poetry, has a day job as special assistant to Loras College President Jim Collins. Earlier in her Loras career, she worked in marketing.
“Changing the Broin Companies name to Poet is quite interesting,” Woerdehoff said. “The new name is beautiful – as lyrical as what the name represents.”
But she sees a challenge in it for the Poet marketing staff.
“The part of me that’s been in marketing in the past as my ‘day job’ wonders how easy this will be to translate in the marketplace,” Woerdehoff said. “But the poet in me likes the attention and credibility the new name gives such an important literary form. It really does speak to what it means to create – whether with words or with corn.”
Then, at our invitation, Woerdehoff penned a special haiku poem to help salute Broin’s name change to Poet. She says it is “a series of linked haiku,” and follows here:
Caught in the Maize
there he is again
above the corn Orion
heading to Des Moines
thousands of feet above Iowa
just the engine … and corn
ripe for the combine
in a field of cut corn
last stop this side of Muscatine
smelling still of ethanol
You can contact the two poets mentioned here by e-mail, Michael Carey at email@example.com , Valorie Broadhurst Woerdehoff at Valorie.Woerdehoff@loras.edu.