In the depths of the Iowa winter, I’m always on the lookout for signals of springtime and warmer weather. And thankfully, a couple heartening signals tumbled into my inbox last week.

The first was a call for nominations for this year’s Iowa Conservation Farmer of the year. The award, co-sponsored by the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF), highlights an Iowa farm family that is outstanding at conserving soil and improving water quality.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit with, and write feature articles on, most of the recent conservation award winners. It’s great to tour the farms and see terraces, wetlands and other conservation structures.

It’s even better to visit with the farm families and learn why improving water quality and preserving soil is so important to them.

Click here for more information on the conservation award and to nominate someone.

Century, Heritage Farms

Another way to feel good about Iowa agriculture’s future is to take a look back at its past. So I was also cheered last week to see the first call for Century and Heritage Farm applications.

The awards, also co-sponsored by IDALS and IFBF, are given out each year during the always-balmy Iowa State Fair to recognize Iowa farm families that have owned their farms for 100 years, for Century Farms, and for 150 years for Heritage Farms.

Take a moment to think about that: These Iowa families have been on land for a century or a century and a half. Just consider how much has changed in agriculture, and in everything else in the world, over that span of years.

But farm families celebrating Century and Heritage designations have persevered by caring for the land and other resources. Over the decades, they have adjusted cropping patterns, refined the way they nurture livestock and supported their rural communities. And most importantly, they have raised generations of children eager to keep farming our state’s rich soils.

It’s quite an accomplishment, and one that should be recognized. You can find out more at

Now, if we could just get this winter over with so we can get on with the fun stuff.