As Daryl and Duane Haack study an old photograph of the farm they grew up on, 17 miles southwest of where Daryl and his wife Alyda live now, they point out barns and other landmarks. The memories take the brothers back to the years they spent on the farm that their grandfather bought in 1918.

“I can remember threshing; this picture shows where the old straw pile used to be from threshing oats,” Daryl says.

Brother Duane points out the old barn — he has the original barn door at his home in Sheldon.

So much has changed in agriculture and in rural O’Brien County since John Haack Sr. emigrated from Holland and bought the family’s farm near Hospers. But what hasn’t changed is the family’s love for production agriculture, the brothers say.

“Both of us have been quite heavily involved in the farming operation; it gets into your blood more and it’s important to you — it’s part of your heritage,” Duane says.

The Haack family is one of 360 farm families who will receive the 2018 Century Farm award this week at the Iowa State Fair. Another 147 farm families will receive the 2018 Heritage Farm award. The awards are sponsored by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Farm Bureau to recognize families that have owned their farm for 100 years (in the case of Century Farms) and 150 years (for Heritage Farms).

Getting a start

The farm is where the brothers learned to drive by operating the farm’s 1953 Ford Jubilee tractor. They cultivated using a two-row cultivator and cut a lot of hay with a 6-foot sickle mower. It’s where they started their very first farm business.

“We would buy baby chicks and raise them and that was my first farming enterprise,” Daryl said. “I bought 200 baby chicks and raised them until they started laying eggs and then I’d sell them to Dad and we’d move them into the main house.”

The brothers, with their sister Beverly, also milked cows, fed cattle, raised hogs farrow-to-finish and raised crops.

Through the years, the family has worked together to keep the farm intact. But it wasn’t easy, they said. They saw their share of downturns in the market, the times when their efforts on the farm didn’t earn much of a check, if at all. So, they worked extra jobs and relied on extra income from custom farming and off-farm jobs to make it work. And relied on their faith, says Alyda.

“The '80s were an extremely difficult, trying and unsure time for farmers. We didn’t know from year-to-year if we would be able to keep farming. It’s only by God’s grace and mercy that we, thankfully, are still farming,” she said.

It wasn’t a time to encourage their children into farming, Daryl said.

But they didn’t give up.

“I guess I just loved it (farming). And by that time, I was old enough I didn’t want to do anything else,” Daryl said.

And because of those challenging times and the work it took to stay afloat, the brothers developed that “Midwest work ethic,” Daryl said, and passed that trait on to their children.

The next generation

Daryl’s son, Josh, has now taken the reins of the family’s 68-acre Century Farm piece and some additional acres. The two-row cultivators and plows have been replaced with larger, more efficient equipment, and some of those practices have been retired. The family has a heavier focus on strip-till and no-till practices these days, as well as grassed waterways.

The family has gained efficiencies due to advances in technology and machinery. “I remember when tractors got to be 100 horsepower. I didn’t think in this part of the country you would ever go any bigger than that because I didn’t see how we could with our small fields. But they’ve figured it out. Now I’ve got a 300-horsepower tractor,” Daryl said.

“That’s three times as big as what you had when we were farming together,” Duane noted.

“Ten times as big as that old Ford,” Daryl shot back.