This week in the Spokesman, we celebrate Iowa’s Century and Heritage farms. There’s plenty to celebrate.

First, there are record numbers of awards this year. On Aug. 20, owners of 366 Iowa farms that have been in the same family for 100 years will receive Century Farm awards to commemorate their accomplishment at Pioneer Livestock Pavilion at the Iowa State Fair. Another 101 families who have owned the same farm for 150 years, since the end of the Civil War, will take home their Heritage Farm awards.

But these awards are about a lot of more than just holding a deed to land over the decades. They really are a testament to the character of farmers from all over Iowa.

The Century and Heritage Farm awards this year, and all the years before now, celebrate the backbone of Iowa farm families who persisted through the 1930s Great Depression and 1980s farm crisis and a couple of world wars. They highlight America’s strong tradition of passing farmland from generation to generation, a practice that is envied in many parts of the world that I’ve visited.

Commitment to caring

And Iowa’s Century and Heri­tage Farm awards show Iowa farmers’ strong commitment to care for the land and water, as well as for the people in their families and in their communities.

Farming, and the way Iowa farmers care for the land and the environment, has certainly changed over the years. Practices that were common a few generations ago, such as moldboard plowing, have been replaced with conservation tillage techniques.

More and more Iowa farmers are planting cover crops to reduce nutrient loss and to build up the soil fertility, something that was hardly on the radar a decade ago. And other new conservation techniques, such as buffer strips, bioreactors and wetlands, are increasingly finding their way onto our state’s fertile landscape.

And farmers are passing knowledge and insights about these conservation practices down to the next generation.

Conservation tools may change over the years, but the commitment of Iowa farmers does not. Whether a farm goes back decades, or back 100 or even 150 years, caring for the land has always been the key for Iowa’s Century and Heritage farmers. And it’s a commitment that is just as strong today as it has ever been.