Brent Halling is a longtime farmer who lives south of Perry with his wife, Brenda, a retired pharmacist, and their rescue dog Jack, a yellow lab mix. Brent has been active in the community at both the local and state levels for decades.
Brent is a board member of Perry’s Raccoon River Pet Rescue, which aims “to provide safe shelter for pets, strengthen the human-animal bond and prevent the overpopulation of pets in Perry and the surrounding communities,” according to their mission statement.
“It’s a great addition to the city of Perry, filling a need that the city had regarding feral cats and stray dogs,” said Brent. “One of the goals is to provide low-cost spay and neuter services to help control the animal population. It’s a warm, friendly place to surrender a pet that you can’t take care of. A pleasant thing to see—a really good asset.”
Beyond his service to the animal community, Brent was active in the Dallas County Pork Producers Association from the ’70s to the ’90s, and he served as a district director on the Iowa Pork Producers Association board and then as president in 1995. For eight years, he served as the Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. (Don’t confuse this with being a politician.)
He sits on the board of directors of the Bock Family Foundation and on the board of Western Iowa Energy, a biodiesel plant in Wall Lake, Iowa.
Plus he’s the rural Spring Valley Township clerk (Whew!) and he actively farms.
Laura: Name a song you could listen to on “repeat” for forever.
Brent: The last one I heard. Big band to country to pop and everything. I lean toward older country music.
Laura: Most enjoyable way to spend $50?
Brent: Out for dinner with friends. Brenda and I love Noah’s Ark (Ristorante) in Des Moines.
Laura: What’s your favorite thing to do in Perry?
Brent: Going to the Hotel Pattee for lunch or dinner.
Laura: What’s the most impressive thing you can cook?
Brent: Anything on the grill but usually pork chops.
Laura: What’s the best trait you inherited from your parents?
Brent: Sense of humor and work ethic.
Laura: If you had to take a tourist one place in the Perry area, where would you take the person?
Brent: Around to see the rural aspects of the town–the beautiful farm fields and rivers. Perry sets in the middle. It’s a typical rural, small-town community.
Laura: What do you really like about Perry?
Brent: (From the past) Sunday nights at the A&W, going with dad to Trotter’s DX gas station and going into Whiton Feed and Milling Co. to deliver corn. One thrill was the rare occasion when mom would bring us to town to ride on the pavement instead of the gravel roads.
(To paved bike path and city street riders: You truly have no idea the luxury of cement until you try pedaling on a rocky, ever moving, rutted rural gravel road with sometimes scary dogs barreling toward you. The heaven, ease and comfort of pedaling on cement can’t be overstated. It’s gliding.)
I like the resilience of the leadership in Perry. It’s easy to throw your hands up—too easy to go somewhere else (our closeness to Des Moines), but we keep trying new things and never give up on the city of Perry. I like the importance of local foundations and the philanthropy that takes place in Perry.
Joyce Conklin-VanKirk is an example of the philanthropy and giving back to the community which is such a big thing for Perry. The Raccoon River Pet Rescue is one of the biggest things in the last few years. starting with the hotel and DMACC. Smaller but just as important are the small businesses in Perry. It’s encouraging. People are trying to improve what we have here.
Laura: What one thing would you like to see happen in Perry that hasn’t happened yet?
Brent: Winning football and basketball teams. Boys and girls to finally get back into the winner’s circle.
Laura: Favorite Perry comfort food?
Brent: Mrs. Council’s popcorn. (Celeste Council was Perry’s “popcorn lady” for years with her stand of yummy popcorn located at the corner of Second and Willis.)
Laura: When people come to Perry for the first time, what do you think surprises them the most?
Brent: The rebuilding of the downtown over the last few years. There’s some life coming back to it.
Laura: What’s the one thing that you really wish all Perryites understood about you personally?
Brent: People think that I was in the legislature, that I was a politician. I was never in the legislature. I was in state government as the deputy secretary of agriculture for the state of Iowa under Patty Judge.
Laura: Name one of your hidden talents or interests that may surprise people.
Brent: Singing. (You can catch Brent singing at the upcoming Fourth of July Talent Show and ice cream social at 2 p.m. July 4 at the First United Methodist Church in Perry.)
(Since I couldn’t pin Brent’s love of music down to one song on repeat for forever, I am sharing links to two songs he mentioned he enjoys singing—a patriotic number, “Under God,” and an Easter song, “Ten Thousand Angels.”)
Laura: What was your favorite thing to do on the playground when you were a kid?
Laura: What school subject came easy to you?
Brent: Recess. Band. (Brent played the cornet.)
Laura: What is the best TV show of all time?
Brent: Twelve O’clock High (a 1960s military drama about a World War II bomber group).
Laura: Motto/saying/rule to live by?
Brent: The old golden rule: Do unto others as you would have others to do unto you. I think we should all live by that or try to.
Laura: What are you looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Brent: The crop to mature to its best and a nice, warm, dry harvest. (The farmer’s motto. Let’s all hope for this.) On a global basis, some sanity to come to the rest of the world.
Laura: What do you look back on and think, “I’d never do that again”?
Brent: Combine corn in the snow. It makes a tremendous mess out of things—it plugs up and freezes inside the combine.
Laura: Person you’d most like to meet.
Brent: Both of my grandads, who died before I was born. (One was a farmer and the other a conductor on the Milwaukee Railroad.)
Laura: What is the most scenic landscape you’ve ever travelled through?
Brent: Most impressive is the Grand Canyon. Almost brought tears to my eyes. You just keep looking and looking (down and down to get to the bottom). Its magnificence and grandeur make anything man-made seem pretty trivial.
Thanks for the joyful trip down memory lane of shared farm-life experiences, Brent, and your continued giving back to the community. Here’s hoping Mother Nature provides the corn and bean fields just what they need when they need it!
The Raccoon River Pet Rescue always welcomes volunteers. They are located at 14360 Ivy Place and are open Tuesday to Friday 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
(Name one of my hidden talents or interests that may surprise people. I can tap dance, do calligraphy and twirl a baton but not all at the same time. And I have the talent of nearly never using the stove — once a year — or oven — once, maybe twice a year if I must.)