AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences recently dedicated the new Stanley L. Balloon Turkey Teaching and Research Facility, the only facility of its kind focused on turkey production at a major university.
The university’s first-ever dedicated turkey teaching and research facility provides students a living classroom to experience hands-on learning in modern production practices and state-of-the-art equipment for research that addresses current challenges and helps advance Iowa’s turkey industry, one of the largest in the United States.
Located south of the Iowa State campus on 520th Avenue in Ames, the facility also offers continuing education, outreach, peer-to-peer opportunities for professionals in the industry and observation areas where visitors, including schoolchildren, can see first-hand examples of turkey production systems and learn about turkey production.
“We are so excited to see this cutting-edge facility come to fruition and strengthen the innovative teaching, research and learning our faculty, staff and students do in the area of turkey science and management in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences,” said Daniel J. Robison, holder of the endowed dean’s chair in Iowa State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “The hands-on experience our students will gain from working and learning in this modern facility will prepare them to become the next generation of great employees and leaders in turkey industry and science.”
The facility is named in honor of Stanley L. Balloun, an international expert, pioneering researcher and leader in the science of turkey feed who received his bachelor’s degree and doctorate from Iowa State and served as a professor in animal science at the university.
The Stanley L. Balloun Turkey Teaching and Research Facility was made possible through a university-industry partnership and is fully funded through contributions from industry partners and private donors.
A lead gift was provided by Jim and Julie Balloun of Atlanta, Ga. Jim Balloun received his bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from Iowa State and is the retired chairman and CEO of Acuity Brands Inc., a lighting and building management firm headquartered in Atlanta. Balloun is the son of Stanley L. Balloun.
“Dad and his colleagues’ research established how soybeans could be a source of protein in poultry diets,” Jim Balloun said. “Since that time, soybeans have become a major export for Iowa farmers and annual turkey production has grown from a few hundred thousand to 10 million. This is a good example of the impact of Iowa State University, and we hope this facility will help advance this record.”
Initial investments were also provided by the Iowa Turkey Federation, headquartered in Ames; West Liberty Foods, headquartered in West Liberty; and Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale, Ark.
“Many generations of turkey farmers will engage with the students and apply the research from this facility,” said Gretta Irwin, executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation. “We look forward to a long and active relationship with the university, students and faculty.” The Iowa Turkey Federation, which represents more than 130 turkey farmers in Iowa, was formed in 1948 to advocate for the enhancement of the turkey industry and its members.
“West Liberty Foods and our grower-owners appreciate all Iowa State University does to benefit the turkey industry,” said Brandon Achen, president of West Liberty Foods and an Iowa State alumnus. “We trust the new facility will help Iowa State remain a leader in providing training and research for our industry.”
West Liberty Foods was formed in 1996 by 47 Iowa turkey growers. The company and its grower/owners are committed to animal health and welfare and delivering superior-quality turkeys.
“We are excited about this partnership with Iowa State University and the Iowa Turkey Federation for this new research and teaching (turkey) facility,” said Russ Dierenfield, group manufacturing director for Tyson Foods. “This facility will help equip students with the appropriate industry training to join the workforce upon graduation. We support the growth of our next generation of leaders within the turkey industry and believe this facility will create a hub for the future workforce in the agriculture space.”
The donors made their gift commitments through the Iowa State University Foundation. The foundation is a private, nonprofit organization committed to securing and managing gifts that benefit Iowa State.
Ranking seventh in turkey production and raising approximately 12 million turkeys annually, Iowa’s turkey industry supports over 38,000 total jobs and is responsible for more than $10 billion annually in economic activity throughout Iowa. Iowa State plays a critical role in preparing professionals for Iowa’s poultry industries. Poultry science has been part of the university’s curriculum for over a century, and the university has one of the world’s strongest research programs in poultry genetics, breeding, nutrition, and management.