Living off the Land: Century and Heritage Farms in Jasper County, Iowa - CODAworx

Living off the Land: Century and Heritage Farms in Jasper County, Iowa


Client: Iowa Department of Transportation

Location: Grinnell, IA, United States

Completion date: 2016

Artwork budget: $180,000

Project Team


The Art Studio

RDG Planning & Design, Inc.


Iowa Department

of Transportation


RDG Planning & Design, Inc.

Landscape Architect

RDG Planning & Design, Inc.


Twin Rivers Engineering

Lighting Design

RDG Planning & Design, Inc.


RDG Planning & Design, Inc.


RDG Planning & Design, Inc.

Structural Engineering


Civil Engineering


General Contractor

Garling Construction


Warnick & Reeves Mechanical


VanMaanen Electric


Mingo Products, Inc.


Chadwick & Bergstrom Furniture, LLC

Graphics Installation

Tiny Mammoth Graphics


Living off the Land: Century and Heritage Farms in Jasper County, Iowa

This Iowa Department of Transportation rest area celebrates agricultural heritage through the lens of Century and Heritage Farms in Jasper County. Jasper County is home to 268 Century Farms and 10 Heritage Farms (as of 2015) through a program which began in 1976 in concert with the United States Bicentennial Celebration. It is sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, with the endorsement of the Iowa American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. The story of Iowa’s agriculture and rural history is interpreted through interviews, photographs, and artifacts from people living and working in Jasper County.


Since 2000, the studio has collaborated on the design of 17different Iowa rest areas, incorporating artwork to illuminate themes that relate to the specific culture, history, and/or influence of the part of Iowa in which the rest area is located. Two to four percent of each rest area’s budget is devoted to public art, which is folded into the entire design, from the seating and structures of picnic shelters to the exterior walkways and interior floors underfoot. Each rest area function as a ‘mini museum’, uniquely themed and designed for 20-minute visits, sharing a bit of the story of each place with visitors.


Our work is recognized for a synthesis of art, narrative, function, and specifics of place. Understanding story leads our effort. We engage in site-specific research, artistic fact finding, stakeholder interviews, community interactions and site visits, critical to the conceptual development of a project. Establishing the theme of “Living off the Land: Century and Heritage Farms in Jasper County Iowa”, we researched the history of the century farms in the county and the surrounding communities. Through the research of historical plat books of the county we also discovered the advertisements of the business that grew around the farming enterprises and their advertisements from over a century ago (some business in existence still today) incorporating the imagery into the designs telling the story of growth and engagement of communities alongside farming. Historical photos such as the establishment of “one room” public schools and the plat book map of the county from 100 years inspire terrazzo floor patterns and are reproduced throughout with custom digitally glazed blocks incorporated into the architecture.

Additional Information

In addition to custom glazed blocks, the artist collaborated with the architectural team influencing the building form and materials with pitched roofs, custom form liner concrete textures, and wood inspired by the agricultural utility typical of farm buildings of that period still found on heritage farms throughout the county.