In volatile times like these in agriculture, it’s easy to get caught in a crisis and lose perspective. That’s why I’m always happy to see the Century and Heritage Farms awards, which will be presented this week during the Iowa State Fair.

This year, 476 Iowa families will earn Century Farm designations for owning farms for 100 years. Another 205 families will earn Heritage Farm awards for owning Iowa farms that go back to 1871 or earlier and have 150 years of history. 

As we prepare the names of the Century and Heritage Farms for the Spokesman each summer, I always try to imagine what it was like to start an Iowa farm 100 or 150 years ago. 

Certainly, nearly everything about farming would have been different. On most of these farms, actual draft horses would supply the horsepower. Crop rotations were mostly corn and forages to feed draft horses and livestock, and soybeans weren’t even on farmers’ radar. Farm work would be sunrise to sundown because there was almost no access to electricity in rural Iowa. And communication was mostly confined to conversations with neighbors or visits to town on market day.

But there are fundamental things that haven’t changed for these Century and Heritage Iowa farms. Just as when these farms were formed 100 or 150 years ago, there’s still a dedication to family, a commitment to caring for the land and livestock, and an overriding faith in the future. 

It’s these enduring values, generation after generation, that provide Iowa ag’s real strength.