Larry Buss

Larry Buss – Harrison County

Larry Buss was raised on a farm south of Onawa, Iowa. He grew up helping his parents work on the farm and tend to the land and livestock. It was clear to Larry that he really loved to row crop farm, and, for a lot of people, that would lead to the natural next step of becoming a farmer themselves. But, Larry’s story is a little different. After he graduated from high school, Larry’s parents encouraged him to go and do “something else.” “Anything but farming,” they had told him. His parents did not own any land, and in their opinion, there wasn’t any money in farming and it was just too much work.

So, Larry did just that. After graduating from high school, he headed to Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa to study agricultural engineering. A hard worker at his very core, Larry spent summer breaks working for the Soil Conservation Service in Sioux City, Iowa to start his engineering career. It was during one of these summers that he met his future wife, Bunny. Just like Larry, Bunny had grown up on a farm and was familiar with the hard work and opportunities that came with it. In 1968, Larry graduated with his degree in engineering and shortly after, he and Bunny headed west for a job that was waiting for him with the US Navy in the San Francisco bay area of California working on nuclear submarines. But, as fate would have it, it didn’t take long for these two Iowa raised kids to realize this area was a bit too crowded for them. They missed the wide open spaces and views the only the Midwest could provide. So, after some time spent in the army and on a trip back to Iowa, Larry stopped in Omaha, NE at the US Army Corps of Engineers to inquire about any job openings. After interviewing that morning, the Corps offered Larry two jobs that same afternoon. He ended up taking one, which precipitated their move from California to the Omaha area. Although this move brought them closer to “home”, Larry and Bunny still felt the pull of a rural lifestyle calling for them. Being farm kids themselves, they knew they didn’t want to raise their children in the city, so the search for their final destination continued. And with a little help from the police chief of a small town called Missouri Valley, Iowa, Larry and Bunny’s search was almost complete, but their story was just about to begin. After moving and renting a small home in Missouri Valley, they started to put down roots and build relationships, Larry started to feel the familiar pull again. On a lazy Saturday in 1972, while looking for something to fill the time, Larry found himself at a land auction south of Missouri Valley. And, as these stories sometimes go, the next thing Larry knew, he and Bunny, equipped with only a pickup and a working attitude, were the proud new owners of some land. 19 acres of loess hills property, 5 of those acres being alfalfa hay, to be exact, making them officially farmers. A year later, in Fall 1973, still working as full-time engineer, Larry and Bunny purchased 50 more acres of farmland south of Magnolia, Iowa. With more land, so came the need for equipment, and in the spring of 1974, Larry being conscious of where his money went, spent no more than $1000 purchasing a tractor, planter, disc, cultivator, sprayer, and a plow to help keep pushing his farm operation forward. And push forward they did. In 1974, Bunny and Larry with equipment in hand and land to farm, made the decision to pursue row crop farming, starting off by raising 50 acres of soybeans. When it came to field work, the family did it together, even if it meant weeding the soybeans by hand with their 6 year old son helping and a 2 month old baby in a bassinet joining in on the fun, as well.

In 1975, Larry’s determination and love and passion for farming combined with his and Bunny’s work ethic kept the farm growing, next expanding west of Logan, Iowa by purchasing 120 acres this time with a house and old buildings, where they currently live, about 7 miles from their original land purchase. The couple upgraded and added to their equipment which included a combine, giving them the ability to do all of the farmwork themselves. Larry, still a full-time engineer, would work during the day and do his farming during nights, weekends, holidays and vacations ensuring it got the attention it deserved in order to be as successful as he and his wife had envisioned from the beginning. Larry has always been a goal setter to keep focus on where he wanted to go in both his engineering career and his farming career. From the beginning, Larry and Bunny knew what they wanted to do, and have been working toward that goal ever since 1972. Although they started with little, the two have built a large farming and agricultural business in West Central Iowa and Eastern Nebraska that consists of corn and soybeans, which they sell to Cargill in Blair, NE (corn) and Bunge near Council Bluffs (soybeans). To support their growing farm operation, in 1994 they purchased a grain elevator complete with 750,000 bushels of upright storage, four buildings that would hold 1 million bushels, grain dryer, scale, and an office for Larry, Bunny, their two sons, their wives and grandson, who are all now part of the family business.

Larry continued to work both full-time jobs until 2011. He retired from the Army Corps of Engineers in 2007 but was immediately rehired by the Corps full time for another four years. He was recognized nationally and internationally as an expert in flood plain management and flood risk reduction. In 2011, he transitioned to only farming as his active career and started to devote time to local organizations, local efforts and to organizations that supported his farming career. In 2012, he was asked to join the Iowa Corn Growers Association which he did as it just made sense to him. Like Larry, Iowa Corn is an organization that sets goals, both for itself and for its growing member list, in the work they do in giving farmers a voice. Larry accredits Iowa Corn for the existence of ethanol, as they saw the big picture for what a crop so many farmers in Iowa grow and what it could do for our state.

Although Larry’s life may have originally taken him in a different direction, there’s just something about the farm that has the ability to bring a person back home. Or, in Larry and Bunny’s case, create a new home, built on determination and Iowa values that just can’t be compared to those created anywhere else.