Coon Rapids?

Who was the first leader of the Soviet Union to visit the Unites States of America? That’s right it was Nikita Khrushchev along with his family, even his son-in-law Alexei Adzhubei back in 1959, from September 15th to the 27th of the same month.  And Khrushchev saw all the sights to see in America, he visited the White House obviously and Camp David too, but he also went to many major cities. He and his family visited the major cultural centers of New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, being met by the mayors of each respective city and even Eleanor Roosevelt in New York. There were also visits to Pittsburgh and Des Moines Iowa, with the trip to Pittsburgh being that Khrushchev wanted to see the steel industry there and Des Moines because of the meat-packing businesses located there. Now there were two other towns that Khrushchev visited: Beltsville Maryland and Coon Rapids Iowa, these seemed to be the odd balls of the list of places that Khrushchev saw in America. Beltsville isn’t so strange since it’s only about half an hour away from the White House and it was home to an Agricultural Experiment Station. But Coon Rapids, Iowa, what could be so interesting to Khrushchev in Coon Rapids? Apparently corn and a man named Roswell Garst.


Joe Munroe. Roswell Garst and Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev and Roswell Garst

There needs to be a little bit of background information to understand why Khrushchev would be so interested in corn and Garst. First off state enforced rationing in the Soviet Union didn’t end until 1947 and Khrushchev gains power in 1953, so there’s a major reason for Khrushchev wanting to improve the quality of life in the Soviet Union. Second, Khrushchev’s visit to Coon Rapids wasn’t his first time meeting Garst, Garst had been in the Soviet Union before in 1955 trying to sell his corn. The reason that Garst was in the Soviet Union at this time was because of a sort of agricultural exchange program between the United States and the Soviet Union. As for Khrushchev’s interest in corn, he viewed it as a way to supplement the overall meat production. Corn would be used as a feed crop for cattle, corn fed cattle usually grew larger and a larger cow means more meat.

Short video of a conversation between Khrushchev and Garst when Khrushchev was visiting Garst’s farm

This new Corn Campaign, along with the Virgin Lands Campaign, were implemented to provide more food for the Soviet Union. The Corn Campaign was a success, for the first two years but Soviet farmers soon discovered that corn was not really suited for their land. The first two years were largely a success because of unusually hot weather which was favorable for growing corn.



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8 thoughts on “Coon Rapids?

  1. This was a really interesting post! I like how you used Khrushchev’s visit to the US to frame Krushchev’s corn campaign. Since this campaign failed after just a couple years, how do you think the Soviet people responded to this?


  2. Did not know that a big reason of Khrushchev’s visit to the US was focused around his corn campaign and meeting with Garst. Do you know if Khrushchev continued to talk to Garst and get his advice during the 2 year of the successful campaign and when it started to fall apart?


    1. I wouldn’t call it a big reason for Khrushchev’s visit to America, but definitely one of the reasons. I know there was one account where Garst was visiting the Soviet Union and Khrushchev asked him to check on one of the collectivized corn farms. Garst was apparently displeased with how the farmers were spreading fertilizer and told them the correct way to do so, but they didn’t want to listen to some foreigner they didn’t know. Garst got pretty mad and threatened to report him to Khrushchev, that changed the farmer’s mind.


  3. Focusing on Garst really adds depth and perspective to your post. We’ve got lots of interesting discussions of corn this week, and this one really invites the reader to dive in with its engaging tone. Connecting the corn campaign to the Virgin Lands campaign, and Garst’s earlier efforts to sell the Soviets on corn as a fodder crop works really well. Nice.


  4. I too talked about Khrushchev’s love for corn in my post. I found it really interesting that he went and talked to American farmers to learn how to grow corn better. I want to know if Khrushchev continued to speak with Garst during his time as the leader of the Soviet Union.


    1. I don’t know how deep the relationship was between Garst and Khrushchev, there was the language barrier and the distance after all. But Garst made several trips to the Soviet Union while Khrushchev was in power and both men had a mutual respect of each other.


  5. I found your investigation into this visit to Coon Rapids incredibly interesting. I does seems like such a random, middle of no where, location to visit. I also find it funny how the leader of the Soviet Union is just touring a corn farm with the owner. It just sounds kinda surreal at times. Great article!


    1. Garst the owner of the corn farm apparently got mad eventually at all the people on his farm and kicked the reporters and everyone off his property, one reporter claimed to have Garst’s boot print on his back.


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