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Iowa farmer shares stage with President Obama

Agriculture.com Staff 04/23/2009 @ 6:27am

Richard Mulbrook, the maintenance manager for Trinity Structural Towers in Newton, Iowa, introduced President Barack Obama to the invited guests and members of the media Wednesday after helping show Obama around the plant.

"I remember when Maytag closed. That was a tough day for me," he told a crowd of about 150. Mulbrook had worked at Maytag for 22 years. It helped a little that he also farms, along with his father, Dick, and son, Richie.

But Mulbrook was glad to have a job again when he helped open the Trinity plant at the old Maytag factory on the north end of town. And he was justifiably proud to show Obama a manufacturer that can make several claims to being green, besides contributing to a shift toward more wind-generated electricity.

Trinity makes towers from recycled steel shipped from Davenport, Iowa. And all of the old 400-watt mercury vapor lights in the factory have been replaced with fluorescent bulbs that use only 10% as much electricity.

And what was Obama's reaction to the wind tower manufacturing?

"He was impressed, I think," Mulbrook told Agriculture Online after Obama laid out his goals for a nation that could lead the world in the use and production of renewable energy.

He confided that he was a little more nervous than he expected when he introduced Obama. But it was a memorable day.

"It was good. Something I'd never done before. Being an Iowa farm boy, you never think you're going to be on a stage with the President," he said.

Mulbrook is from a farm that's been in his family for more than a century. And he's as proud of his farming skills as working for a cutting-edge manufacturer.

He farms "pieces here and there that nobody wants," he said. "All the bigger farmers in the area, they take the 100-, 200-acre fields. I try to get the 10-, 20, 40-acres. The biggest I have is 70 acres."

He puts them to good use.

"I've adapted a seven-row John-Deere planter to plant 20-inch rows," he said. And he converted a Deere four-row combine head to harvest seven rows. Last year his family planted a little over 200 acres of corn and 150 of soybeans, and ran cattle on small patches of pasture and timber.

In 2008, one of his fields of corn that he entered into the National Corn Growers Association yield contest came in fourth in Iowa, with a yield of 260 bushels an acre. The year before, he had a field entered into the Sully Cooperative Exchange's yield contest that produced 309 bushels an acre.

Richard Mulbrook, the maintenance manager for Trinity Structural Towers in Newton, Iowa, introduced President Barack Obama to the invited guests and members of the media Wednesday after helping show Obama around the plant.

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