Sheffield across the pond: This is what life is like in city’s namesake in Iowa, USA

Three thousand, nine hundred and ninety miles from Sheffield, UK sits a community in the United States of America that shares its name.

By Kelli Lage
Tuesday, 02 April, 2019, 14:45

Sheffield, Iowa is a modest farming town. There are 14 other states in the US that have a town with the name of Sheffield. However, I am going to tell you what makes Sheffield, IA remarkable, not only to the people who live here but to those who pass through.

Sheffield is located in Franklin County. Franklin County is made up of 12 towns, with Sheffield being the second largest. The first settlers in Sheffield arrived in 1854 and 1855. Businessman C.C Gilman founded and gave Sheffield its name, in 1876, after a close friend. 

The sign welcoming people to Sheffield, USA. Picture: Kelli Lage

Sheffield has a population of 1,172 and is 5.8 square miles. The majority of the businesses and buildings are on the main street that goes through town. It takes approximately two minutes to drive through the town. With it being a small town, there is a real family dynamic among the community. If you don’t personally know someone in Sheffield, you’ve probably at least heard their family name before. Driving through Sheffield every person you pass, whether you know them or not, will lift their pointer finger from their steering wheel to give you a wave, accompanied by a smile. When going into businesses around town everyone often says hello to one another.

I moved here a little over a year ago, with my husband. I grew up in a small town 30 minutes away and my husband grew up in this area. Even though we live in rural Sheffield we still feel like we are very much a part of the community. It is a two-minute drive for me to arrive in downtown Sheffield. We spend a lot of time in Sheffield, whether it be for community activities or to run errands. Just like moving to any new community big or small, it was a little intimidating, but my worries were not borne out in reality, because everyone was warm and welcoming.

Between going to different stores and events I would always be greeted. People take notice of who you are and are kind enough to point out your accomplishments and compliment them. 

My husband and I are farmers and although we live on an acreage, my husband farms at a separate location with his father and grandfather. Together they grow soybeans and corn, and raise cattle. On our acreage, we care for laying hens and grow vegetables.

The Sheffield Fire Department. Picture: Kelli Lage

Last spring we built a coop painted it a bright robin’s egg blue. I wanted something around that was always cheery. This is often a common talking point when I run into fellow Sheffield residents, since many drive by our acreage. A handful of times I have run into people in Sheffield and they don’t know who I am, but they know I live in the house with the blue coop. This just goes to show, in Sheffield it’s easy and possible to identify someone without even knowing their name.

In rural Sheffield, we have to keep our eye out for wild animals, in order to protect our hens and dog. It is quite common to spot a family of deer roaming in and around Sheffield. Other wildlife commonly seen include red foxes, gray foxes, opossums, raccoons, and coyotes. In the dead of night, I have seen foxes sneak up our driveway, hoping to break into our chicken coop. Unknown to them, it is under lock and key. It is always important to be careful, especially during the nighttime because, we can never fully know for sure what creatures are out and about in our yard.

This was proven one night when I was letting my dog out. As I opened the door she froze refusing to step a foot outside. The fur on her back stood and she began to growl. I looked into the distance and saw a pack of six coyotes laying in front of our barn. By making a commotion I was able to scare them off. Coyotes are more commonly seen in rural areas, rather than in town.

The largest business in Sheffield is Sukup Manufacturing Company, referred to as Sukup by locals. Sukup opened in 1963 and manufactures grain bins, dryers, material handling equipment, and metal buildings. Sukup sells across the United States and in 81 other countries. They also design Safe T Homes, which are grain bins that have been turned into houses. They construct Safe T Homes in devastated areas to help residents find safety and shelter.

The main street in Sheffield, Iowa. Picture: Kelli Lage

Other businesses and buildings in Sheffield include a flower shop, a photography studio, a bank, a veterinarian, a newspaper, city hall, a public library, a school, a pharmacy, an antique store, a cooperative, a care center, a fitness center, a gas station, a saloon, a dollar store, a golf course, and three restaurants.

Sheffield also has its own police force, fire department, and EMS squad. Each member of the Sheffield Fire Department and Sheffield EMS are volunteers. 

Winter 2019 was one of the most brutal winters Sheffield has experienced in 20 years. We received a snow total of 39 inches, and we even experienced some low temperatures of -31.7 °C, and on those days the windchill dropped to -49 °C. 

Due to high wind speeds, many snow drifts formed in town and in rural Sheffield. Many people in rural Sheffield were snowed in due to drifts in their driveways and had to wait to be ploughed out. Snowdrifts were reported as tall as 10 feet. Iowans are used to the cold however, with temperatures this low alerts were sent out instructing residents to stay inside.

The US Post Office in Sheffield, Iowa. Picture: Kelli Lage

With a lot of snowfall coming in late February and early March, the spring weather caused large amounts of snow melting, putting Sheffield and a lot of the Midwest, under a flood warning.

Spring is now coming into full bloom, and farmers are making plans for their upcoming planting season. Children are getting their bikes out, and livestock and pets are spending more time outside taking in the fresh air, basking in a warmer breeze.

Despite a rough winter and start to spring, the Sheffield community came together, making sure everyone had what they needed to get through it. You can always count on Sheffield.

The antiques shop in Sheffield, Iowa. Picture: Kelli Lage
The Sheffield Press - The Star's Stateside equivalent in Iowa. Picture: Kelli Lage