Due to COVID-19 proclamations and necessary safety precautions, the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) held a virtual 2020 business session electing leaders for the organization on Dec. 18, with only county voting delegates invited to participate in person from designated locations in their region.
In lieu of IFBF’s traditional in-person breakout sessions and program during the annual meeting, IFBF’s Annual Meeting Webinar Series provided members a closer look at some of the lessons learned through COVID-19, from supply chain disruptions and the future of economics surrounding agriculture. Members who missed the opportunity to view the series via livestream can view the recordings at www.iowafarmbureau.com/annualmeeting.
“Our goal was ensuring the safety of members while still providing the valuable information they’ve come to expect from our Annual Meeting educational sessions,” says IFBF President Craig Hill. “Despite not being able to meet in-person in Des Moines this year, we were able to share the expertise of a fantastic line-up of speakers through our webinar series and recognize and acknowledge our outstanding county leaders and award winners virtually.”
Joe Heinrich of Maquoketa was re-elected IFBF Vice President, a position he has held since 2011. Heinrich, a Jackson County farmer, farms with his family, including his wife Shelley and a nephew, and together, they have a diversified farming operation including corn, soybeans, oats, and hay. They also have a beef cow-calf herd and a dairy operation. Heinrich was first elected to the IFBF board in 2004, representing District 6, prior to his service as vice president. Before his election to the state board, Heinrich served as Jackson County president, vice president, voting delegate, young farmer chair, and served on the state internal study committee.
Andy Hill of Manly was re-elected to the IFBF board in District 2, representing 11 counties in north central Iowa: Kossuth, Humboldt, Winnebago, Hancock, Wright, Worth, Cerro Gordo, Franklin, Mitchell, Floyd, and Butler. Hill raises corn and soybeans, and he and his wife, Michelle, have two daughters. Hill has held several offices in the Worth County Farm Bureau including president and voting delegate. He’s been an AFBF voting delegate and is a past chair of the AFBF Budget and Economy Issue Advisory Committee.
Rick Plowman of Douds was re-elected to the IFBF board in District 7, representing 11 counties in southeast Iowa: Muscatine, Keokuk, Washington, Louisa, Wapello, Jefferson, Henry, Des Moines, Davis, Van Buren, and Lee. Plowman has held several offices in the Van Buren County Farm Bureau, including president and voting delegate. He has served on the Hay and Forage Advisory Committee for both IFBF and AFBF. Plowman and his wife, Lisa, raise corn and cattle near Douds. They have two children, and their son, Cale, is active in the family farm.
Will Frazee of Emerson was re-elected to the IFBF board in District 9, representing 12 counties in southwest Iowa: East and West Pottawattamie, Cass, Adair, Mills, Montgomery, Adams, Union, Fremont, Page, Taylor, and Ringgold. Frazee previously served as president and vice president of the Montgomery County Farm Bureau and on the State Resolutions Committee. In addition to his leadership in Farm Bureau, Frazee previously served as the Chair of the Iowa Beef Industry Council and was a member of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board. Frazee, a fifth-generation farmer, feeds cattle and grows corn and beans with his wife, Deb, and son, Curt, on their family farm. He’s also very involved in conservation, installing three miles of terraces and buffer strips along waterways on their farm as part of the Walnut Creek Watershed program.
Nine delegates were elected to represent Iowa at the 2021 American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) virtual Annual Convention, January 10-13. They include: IFBF President Craig Hill of Warren County; IFBF Vice President Joe Heinrich of Jackson County; Brian Feldpausch of Grundy County; Tim Kaldenberg of Monroe County; Dave Bolin of Butler County; Ben Albright of Calhoun County; Jeff Pape of Dubuque County; Chris Prizler of Iowa County; and Eric Nelson of Woodbury County.
Darrick Hall of Jones County was elected to a three-year term on the IFBF internal study committee. The internal study committee serves as a liaison between the county Farm Bureau voting delegates and the state board of directors.
Distinguished Service to Ag
For the past four decades, IFBF’s Distinguished Service to Ag (DSA) Award honors individuals who have played a significant role in the agricultural industry at the local, state, and/or national level.
For Dave and Pam Bolin, faith, family, farming, and service to agriculture define them. Both come from families with years of service through Farm Bureau and the dairy industry, so leadership is nothing new. In fact, the Bolins have served on the Butler County Farm Bureau Board since 1981 and were active in growing IFBF’s Young Farmer program in the 1980s. Dave currently serves as Butler County’s voting delegate, and both Bolins have amassed many awards and distinctions over the years.
Long before dating, marriage, children and grandchildren, Dave and Pam competed against each other as youth, showing cows at the Butler County Fair. In fact, animals in the Bolin’s herd trace back to Pam’s first Holstein, purchased when she was in fifth grade, as well as lineage from Dave’s herd. Today, the Bolins and their son and daughter-in-law operate a dairy on the family’s 125-year old farm.
“We are so honored to win this award, and it’s fitting that Pam and I won together,” Dave said. For as long as we’ve worked together and farmed together, it’s a tremendous honor to accept this DSA award together.”
“We stay involved to serve, but it’s what we get back that makes it so rewarding,” Pam said. “Between Farm Bureau leadership and involvement in dairy, we are honored to have great friends all across the country.”
Dr. Tom Baas has left his mark on agriculture not only through the research, technology and industry advancement he led, but also through the hundreds of students he inspired over a 21-year career in education. Baas is renowned as a leading researcher in ultrasound technology in swine breeding, playing a leading role in industry advancements improving animal genetics and the quality of pork in the grocery store meat case. He has been cited as a presenter or contributing author in over 500 swine-related journals and publications.
In addition to holding leadership roles at Iowa State University (ISU) and ISU Extension for decades, Baas has shaped the next generation of pork producers by sharing his on-farm experiences and expertise in the field from years of groundbreaking research. Industry advancements led by Baas have helped farmers raise their animals more responsibly while improving animal genetics and the quality of the meat produced.
“I told my students in the classroom that the best animal welfare examples come from pork producers,” Baas said. “It’s in their best interest to do the best they can to take care of the animals and the environment, while being good stewards of the land and conserving resources.”
As the 2020 DSA award winners, the Bolins and Dr. Baas received plaques honoring their extensive achievements and dedication and service to agriculture, and they will be added to a permanent display at the IFBF home office in West Des Moines.
Young Farmer Achievement
Three young Iowa farmers received the IFBF Young Farmer Leadership Award for their inspiring work in agriculture and within their communities. Heath Blomquist of Guthrie County, Laura Cunningham of Floyd County, and Kate Edwards of Johnson County were presented the award. The Young Farmer Leadership Award celebrates young farmers under 35 who are actively contributing to their communities, county and state and growing as leaders. The award is presented in honor of past IFBF President Bob Joslin who was well known for his support and encouragement for young farmers.
Despite having very different backgrounds and farm operations representing various aspects of Iowa ag, the 2020 Young Farmer Leadership Award winners share a passion for Iowa agriculture and have found working through Farm Bureau is a great way to achieve their goals. The young farmers were recognized as innovative leaders, passionate about telling the story of Iowa agriculture and building relationships between farmers and consumers.
Heath Blomquist, who farms with his family near Guthrie Center, raising corn, beans and hogs, has noticed a disconnect and lack of understanding many consumers have about modern agriculture, and he’s made it a goal to bridge that gap and make connections in his community.
“We need to change the conversation,” Blomquist said. “We need to help people know all that we are doing for the betterment of the land and the environment.” Between incorporating new conservation practices and expanding on existing practices on his farm, Blomquist notes there’s no right answer for all farms, but he sees opportunities to be innovative and evaluate what works on each farm. By sharing experiences and success stories with other farmers, there’s always an opportunity to learn and grow.
To forge relationships and develop connections in his community through education, Blomquist has participated in the local STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) festival in local schools to help younger students learn about opportunities in agriculture. Blomquist and his father are working with the Guthrie County Farm Bureau to build a tractor cab simulator to engage with older students. With one in five Iowa jobs dependent upon agriculture, the Blomquists have used the simulator to connect with older students interested in agricultural careers, showing the growing role of technology in modern ag and opportunities ahead.
He’s also been a leader in Guthrie County Farm Bureau’s “Grocery Cart Race” program, which highlights real food facts and raises donations for local food pantries serving those in need.
Laura Cunningham, of Floyd County, works full time as marketing manager for Latham Hi-Tech Seeds, and along with her husband, Aaron, operate a cow-calf herd and have built a direct-to-consumer beef business, called Sky View Beef.
Cunningham is passionate about agriculture education and sees it as the engine for rural vitality and prosperous rural communities. She works with other farmers in the community to develop agricultural education programs for their local school district, Central Springs, to show students the bright future and opportunities in Iowa agriculture.
“About 30 percent of our area’s workforce is involved in ag,” Cunningham said. “But if young people don’t have a connection to ag through school, they don’t always see the opportunities here at home and believe relocating is needed to find a fulfilling career. We want to change that and show them that agriculture will play a huge role moving forward.”
Cunningham sees no better way to have dialogue about food production than over a good meal, and that’s why she’s led Floyd County Farm Bureau’s “Farm to Fork” dinners. The dinners connect members of the community with local farmers and help get the conversations about modern ag started over a locally sourced meal.
“We want to put a face on farming and answer questions about agriculture for people in our community, and the best way to do that is over good food.”
Kate Edwards always dreamed of being an Iowa farmer, but without access to land, she was unable to follow the traditional path of Iowa farmers. After spending time working in the Twin Cities, Edwards moved back to her home state to pave her own way in Iowa agriculture.
After returning to Iowa, she still had limited access to land, and overcame that hurdle by starting a vegetable farm in Johnson County, which required just an acre or so to get started. Edwards founded a direct-to-consumer CSA marketing program, where members buy shares in the farm’s harvest.
The CSA model was an instant hit, and today Edwards’ CSA, Wild Woods Farm, is one of the largest in Iowa, with more than 200 members. The farm grows a variety of produce on close to 10 acres.
Edwards seeks to be a role model to others, as well as a liaison between agriculture and consumers. “I have 200 families that I talk with on a weekly basis, and I get to communicate about agriculture and challenges farmers face,” Edwards said. “I also have connections to more conventional farmers, so it’s a good position to be in to get the conversation started.”
For a look at presentations from the webinar series, videos featuring the DSA and Young Farmer Leadership Award winners and other award winners from the 102nd virtual annual Iowa Farm Bureau meeting, visit www.iowafarmbureau.com/annualmeeting.