Keeping the family farm in the family is no easy task and keeping one in the same family for 150 years can take monumental effort.
We’ve faced numerous challenges over the past several years with our family farm in Tama County, but spent a good part of Thursday with others who have done the same.
Our farm, which dates back to 1865, was among those honored Aug. 18 at the Iowa State Fair for achieving Heritage Farm status in Iowa.
Heritage farms are those that have been in the same family for 150 years or more. Century Farms – those that have been in the same family for 100 years or more – also were recognized at the ceremony.
Families, many in matching T-shirts, took to the stage to receive a certificate and metal marker to acknowledge their achievements; some as individuals, with other groups numbering up to 50 relatives. My brother, Gregg, did the research to trace the history of our Musel Family Farm and was able to attend the ceremony, along with several other family members.
The Century Farm program began in Iowa during the nation’s bicentennial in 1976. Learn more about the program on the state’s agriculture website.
As of last year, 18,698 Iowa farms have achieved Century Farm status, with another 320 added Thursday. The Heritage Farm program is in its 10th year and numbered 837 as of 2015. Just over 100 were added at this year’s ceremony at the Iowa State Fair.
One project, which plans to come to fruition later this fall, will showcase family farm histories on a new website. Creator Mark Gannon would like to see families input data, photos, family records and more on Family Farm History.
The project scanned digital files on all of the Century and Heritage Farms with help from a grant from Humanities Iowa. Gannon hopes families will interview their aging relatives to capture memories of life on Iowa farms.
“There’s something about our farms that connect us through our families,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Bill Northey, who smiled through the hundreds of photos shot of all of the families as the presentations were made, along with representatives of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.
Even as the state celebrates the achievements of these family farmers, side discussion surrounds the permanent damage that many Iowa farmers will sustain as a crude oil pipeline is forced through their property by the out-of-state Dakota Access and Iowa faces ongoing environmental issues related to farming practices.
Still, with its food-on-a-stick and my favorite, the vegetable competition, the fair offered a break from the ongoing concerns troubling our state.
One of the entries brought our Heritage Farm award full-circle, as a blue-ribbon winner portrayed the Chelsea Melons stand, in miniature, to capture that long-ago era in which my ancestors took part.
See more images from the Heritage and Century Farm presentations and the Iowa State Fair, below: