By Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture
Agricultural sustainability has been a hot topic in recent years. It is an important conversation and I’m proud of all the work that has been done by Iowa farmers to care for the land and protect water quality.
I believe it is critically important that everyone recognize the long-term view of our farmers and landowners as they care for their land and help feed and fuel the world. They live on the land and care more than anyone about providing opportunities for the next generation.
I had the opportunity to grow up on a Century Farm in Palo Alto County and saw first-hand the values of perseverance, hard work, care for the land, the importance of family and community, and countless other lessons that come from a life on the farm.
This point was again driven home for me as I considered the 359 Century Famers and 148 Heritage Farms I have the honor of helping to recognize during the Iowa State Fair.
Century Farm awards recognize farms that have been in the same family for 100 years. Heritage Farm awards recognize farms that have been owned by the same family for 150 years.
The Century Farm program was started in 1976 as part of the Nation’s Bicentennial Celebration. To date more than 19,000 farms from across the state have received this recognition. The Heritage Farm program was started in 2006 and more than 1,000 farms have been recognized. Each of these families has a unique story, and they are proof of what innovation, determination, a belief in community and the Iowa spirit can produce.
Think of the amazing changes we have seen in Iowa agriculture over the past 100 years or 150 years. Mechanization, increased yields, hybrid seed, increased automation, improved environmental stewardship, and countless other changes have helped make Iowa into the agricultural powerhouse it is today.
Also consider the unique challenges that our farmers have faced. Storms, drought, family emergencies, market disruptions and countless other trials that have tested the resolve of our farm families.
To keep a farm in the same family through all of these challenges is a true testament to the passion and perseverance of each of the families and a true picture of sustainability.
I am humbled and proud to honor the rich history of these farms and farm families, and I firmly believe the best is yet to come. At the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, we are working with all Iowans to create a culture of conservation. These stories inspire us every day to roll up our sleeves, identify innovative conservation solutions and forge new public-private partnerships to ensure sustainability for generations to come.