How Corn is Grown in Iowa | Corn & Black Bean Salsa Recipe

This post is created in partnership with Iowa Corn. All thoughts, opinions, recipes and experiences are my own.

One of the things I love about my job is having the privilege to visit other areas of the country with amazing partners to learn about how our food is grown.

person holding ear of corn in a field

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Iowa with other content creators to learn how corn is grown and its uses. From animal feed to biofuel, I learned a lot in this trip.

group of people standing in front of a corn harvester in a field

If you followed my Instagram Stories, you might have seen me visit the Iowa Distilling Company, hold newborn pigs, hang out with gorgeous cows, and even harvest corn!

It was a trip packed with both exciting activities and learning. They say that experiential learning is one of the best ways to learn anything; and in this trip I feel like I did! I mean, I got to ride the combine and harvest corn -it was better than any theme park attraction.

corn being harvested

I consider myself a city girl living in suburbia, and while this was not my first trip out to a farm or experience learning about farming, I still had a lot of questions about how corn is grown.

One of the things I learned is that “sweet corn” is what we, humans, eat; and that animal feed and biofuel are made from other corn varieties -and this is where the GMO debate comes in -and trust me, I asked lots of questions!

Laura Standing in a field of corn

Fact: Less than 1% of the corn grown in Iowa is for human consumption.

We met with farmers, veterinarians, and ranchers during this trip. And the one thing the all had in common is that they care about the food they grow and put animal welfare at the top of the priority list.

Woman and dog standing on a farm

I was surprised to learn that most of the farms that produce crops are still small family-owned and family-run. They sell their crops to the brands we know from the grocery store; but the corn itself is grown by people like you and me.

Two minutes into any conversation with a farmer and it was apparent that they are highly educated in efficiencies of scale when it comes to running their farm. In addition, I found it fascinating how they use technology to maximize crop yields without sacrificing quality.

woman holding corn kernels in hand

Quality of the corn is very important since it’s one of the main sources of nutrition for pigs -and there are a lot of pig farms in Iowa! Check out this video of a previous Iowa Farm Visit.

With every farm visit came more questions and the farmers patiently answered all of our questions. All.of.them!

At the cattle ranch, I learned that nearly all beef is grass-fed the main difference is if it’s grass or grain finished. So basically, the “grass fed” label really applies to all beef you see at the grocery store unless it clearly states, “grass finished.”

Woman standing in front of group of brown cows

In the finishing ranch, cattle eat a variety of hay (dried grasses) and custom-made feed based on their nutritional needs made of corn and soy.

Woman laughing as she feeds a cow

Our last day, we had the privilege of having an open discussion with Dr. Ruth MacDonald, Chair and Professor of the Department of Food Science & Human Nutrition at Iowa State University.

What I loved most is that Dr. Ruth is a scientist and does not work for a “big seed” company. She answered our questions about GMOs, organic vs. non-organic farming, and what the technology improvements in both research and farming practices mean for the consumer.

I learned that GMO seeds allow farmers to use less pesticides and grow stronger crops that will be more resilient against what nature throws at them. 

Woman standing in front of a large tractor

At the end of the day, whether you eat conventional or organic corn, the choice is yours. It’s a personal preference and a privilege to have the choice.

My trip to Iowa was very educational and eye-opening. I left with the sentiment that the people that grow our corn, both for human consumption and for animal consumption as the feed of the food we eat, are proud to grow our food and have our safety and health at heart.

Spooning avocado pices into corn and bean salad

Once I came home, I got out a can of sweet corn and made this corn, black bean, avocado salsa recipe; which of course, you can serve over a bed or rice or top your favorite tacos.

large bowl of corn and avocado salsa

Corn and Avocado Salsa

  • Author: Laura Fuentes
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 mminutes
  • Total Time: 4 minute
  • Yield: 4 cups 1x
  • Category: dips


  • 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 15 ounce can sweet corn, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and diced
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, plus more for serving
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, corn, black beans, red onion, avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Toss to mix well.


  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 300
  • Sugar: 8.7g
  • Sodium: 720.3mg
  • Fat: 11.8g
  • Saturated Fat: 1.7g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 45g
  • Fiber: 15g
  • Protein: 11g
  • Cholesterol: 0mg

2 thoughts on “How Corn is Grown in Iowa | Corn & Black Bean Salsa Recipe”

  1. Angi says:

    This is one of my daughter’s favorite recipes. We leave the corn on the side (one kid is allergic) and service it over noodles.

    1. Laura Fuentes says:

      That’s a terrific idea! -to serve the salsa over noodles.

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