Birthplace Farm of Henry A. Wallace
Open daily, self-guided tours of the Country Life Center are available any time of the day or evening. The Center is staffed Monday-Friday from 9 am to 4 pm nearly year-round. Free will donations are accepted.
The Country Life Center is located at 2773 290th Street, Orient, IA, just off the Henry A. Wallace Road. From I-80, take Exit 93 at Stuart, IA and travel south 12 miles to Highway 92. Turn west and travel 2 miles, then south 5 miles on the Henry A. Wallace Road (this is a two-lane paved road). The Center is 1/4 mile west on 290th Street.
The Country Life Center is the birthplace farm of Henry A. Wallace, born in 1888. He served the nation as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 1933-1941, U.S. Vice President from 1941-1945, and U.S. Secretary of Commerce from 1945-1946. Earlier in his career, he founded seed corn company Pioneer Hi-Bred in 1926 and was an editor at Wallaces’ Farmer magazine. In 1999, The Des Moines Register named Wallace the “Most Influential Iowan of the 20th Century.”
The birthplace farm includes:
- 40 acres of the original Wallace farm
- Restored Farmhouse with Gift Shop
- Gathering Barn
- Restored Iowa Prairie and Pond
- Sculpture Walking Path
- Orchard and Produce Gardens
The Country Life Center includes 40 of the original 160 acres of the Wallace farm. The land was owned by “Uncle Henry” Wallace who later become the first editor of Wallaces’ Farmer magazine. His son, Henry C. (Harry) Wallace moved there in 1886 to raise purebred Shorthorn cattle, Percheron horses, Poland China hogs, and feeder cattle. His new bride, May Brodhead, joined him in late 1887. Harry planted a grove of fast-growing catalpa trees to provide wood for the operation, and the farm became known as “the catalpa farm.” Henry A. was joined by his sister Annabelle in 1891. Farm prices were poor, and after five years of struggle, Harry decided to return to Iowa State College to finish his education.
The farmhouse is an example of common early 20th century rural homes throughout Iowa. Often a one-story home would serve the farm family for a few years until the farm was established, then the two-story addition would be built. Currently the house serves as the gift shop.
The Gathering Barn was completed in 2003 as a meeting and educational facility, replicating the original barn that stood west of the house in the early days of the farm. It adds authenticity to the historical site, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Iowa’s preeminent historical architect, William Wagner, designed the building so that it is similar in general appearance to the original Wallace farmstead structure. The Barn is available to rent. Reservations for its use can be made by calling 641.337.5019.
Sculpture Walking Path
Five outdoor sculptures and other features along a gentle three-quarter mile prairie walking trail beckon visitors to see and contemplate. Each piece tells something about the work and accomplishments of Henry A. Wallace.
Orchard & Produce Gardens
Vegetables and fruit grown on the farm are used for locally-sourced meals and program refreshments at both the Country Life Center and the Wallace House. In addition, the fresh produce is sold through wholesale sales and occasional on-site sales. The Center produces 8 to 10 different kinds of fruits and 30 to 40 varieties of vegetables from its eight working acres.
Restored Iowa Prairie
Located west of the Gathering Barn, this nine acres of former pasture was renovated to Iowa prairie in 1996 and reconstructed in 2007 to incorporate additional native grasses and forbes. Currently, about 20 grasses and 120 forbes result in an ever-changing vista.
In 1996, more than 100 members of the Iowa Land Improvement Contractors Association volunteered their time to construct this 1.5 acre pond along with three grassed waterways and a terrace. The Country Life Center was selected as a field day location because Henry A. Wallace, while U.S. Secretary of Agriculture during the 1930s, brought the idea of soil conservation to the forefront of agricultural practices. He was a very vocal advocate for constructing terraces and ponds, contour farming and reforestation.
Gift Shop & Market
The Gift Shop consigns a diverse selection of items from artisans throughout southern Iowa. Gift items include jewelry, pottery, hand-loomed rugs, wood walking sticks and canes, photography, note cards, primitive art, bath salts, and garden art. Along with the handmade gifts, the shop also stocks an array of Iowa wines and WCI’s Abundance food products such as flavored salts, apple butter and tomato compote. Other WCI merchandise includes magnets and a tea towel with quotes from Henry A. Wallace.