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Iowa’s Century Farms carry on family farming legacy

Iowa’s Century Farms carry on family farming legacy

When we were kids, my sister and I would skip through the soybean field in the summers to visit my grandparents, who lived a quarter mile down the road.

My grandmother was a meticulous housekeeper, so she insisted we enter her house through the garage, which was also ridiculously clean.

I remember my grandparents decorated the walls of their garage (seriously, it was as dust-free as an art museum) with a Century Farm sign, which they received for a farm that’s been in my family for more than 100 years.

A decade later, my grandpa earned a second Century Farm award, for another farm where four generations of our family had lived and farmed in north-central Iowa. Grandpa invited me to join him at the Iowa State Fair to receive the award.

Back then in the early 2000s, the Century Farm awards were presented in the open-air Bud Tent. We ended up sitting for hours and hours in the summer humidity until they called Grandpa’s name to receive his Century Farm sign. (The Century Farm awards are presented in alphabetical order. My grandpa was from Worth County, and his last name was Walser.)

I walked my 80-year-old grandpa up the stage, and we shook hands with then Iowa Farm Bureau President Ed Wiederstein. Grandpa grinned from ear to ear when Ed congratulated him on his Century Farm Award.

It’s been almost 10 years now since my grandfather passed away, but my mom still has the two Century Farm signs hanging in the garage.

This year, more than 360 Iowa families will receive Century Farm awards, and 149 families will receive Heritage Farm awards at the Iowa State Fair.

The awards are presented by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Farm Bureau, which also celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2018.

It’s remarkable to think that, over the last 100 years, thousands of Iowa families have carried on their farms from generation to generation.

A lot has changed since my grandfather farmed, when his family kept seed corn in the attic and my grandmother had to live with mice in her house as a newlywed. (I’m pretty sure that’s how her obsession with cleanliness started.)

For all Iowa farm families, the Century and Heritage Farm awards are more than a sign hanging in a garage or posted by the mailbox of a farmstead.

It’s a story of how Iowans worked the land, raised families and fed a growing nation - and the world - through their grit, ingenuity and generosity.

Congratulations to Iowa farm families, and Iowa Farm Bureau members, for carrying on the “Century Strong” spirit to a new generation who dreams of working the land, raising a family and feeding their neighbors across the bean field and around the world.

To learn more about Iowa Farm Bureau’s “Century Strong” commitment to creating a vibrant future for agriculture, farm families and their communities, visit www.iowafarmbureau.com/100.

By Teresa Bjork. Teresa is Iowa Farm Bureau's Senior Features Writer