A family dedicated to caring for their livestock, their land and their community was recognized last week as recipients of the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award.
De Meulenaere Farms is a three-generation dairy, stock cow and grain farm. Wayne and Char farm with their son, Kraig, and grandson, Keegan, in Iowa County. The family operates a Grade-A dairy and milks 90 cows in a 12-stall herring-bone parlor. They also grow corn, soybeans, hay and oats as part of the farming operation.
Wayne and Char started farming when they were in their early 20s. They started raising dairy cows and had to work to improve soil quality to raise a good crop.
“It didn’t raise very good crops when we first got here because the land had been let go for about 15 years without anything being done to it, anything put back into it,” Char said.
Since then, the family has put a focus on conservation. In his nomination for the De Meulenaere family, neighbor Larry Beyer noted the family’s commitment to conservation, using rye cover crops, grassed waterways and minimum tillage. They have also reserved some of the hillier ground for permanent pasture.
The family has received both district and state soil conservation awards.
“We don’t feel like we do anything more than anyone else,” Wayne said. “We just try to save the soil so it’s better for my grandson than it was for me.”
Beyer said the De Meulenaere family sets a good example for others in community.
“They always have a good attitude about agriculture and farming in general,” Beyer said. “They value their family and community, and they’re overall good neighbors.”
The family has been involved in various school and community activities and have been involved with the Iowa County Cattlemen for 50 years.
Not only is the family focused on animal care, they’re also interested in sharing their story of agriculture.
They’ve hosted many students on their farms from local schools and from the Boys and Girls Clubs in Cedar Rapids.
The De Meulenaere family truly represent the livestock farmers in the state who deserve recognition, said Deputy Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig, who presented the family with the award last week.
“The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award gives us a chance to go out and recognize the good work that’s happening across the state, related specifically to animal agriculture,” he said. “This family, like a lot of our Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award winners, are doing the right things from an environmental standpoint, and they’re doing the right thing in terms of how they interact with their community and their neighbors when it comes to their livestock.”
The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award, made possible through the financial support of the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, recognizes Iowa livestock farmers who take pride in doing things right. It is named in memory of Gary Wergin, a long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster who helped create the award.