20 Years of Being Good Farm Neighbors

02-21-2024 in Anniversary

“The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award just speaks of Iowa. It defines us,” says WHO Radio Farm Broadcaster Bob Quinn. WHO Radio, along with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers present the award to Iowa farmers who take pride in doing things right and who go above and beyond as environmental stewards and animal caretakers.

CSIF has presented 179 awards in its 20 years of existence.

“More people are moving to rural areas who have a limited understanding of agriculture, especially livestock farming,” says CSIF Executive Director Brian Waddingham. “The best way we can help build trust and understanding about what happens on the farm and why it matters to Iowa is to be good neighbors. So many of the farmers who receive this award are so humble and insist they don’t deserve it. But they do. Because they do things right. That’s what this award is and why it’s important. It’s to recognize those who go above and beyond on the farm, and in being involved in their communities.”

CSIF sponsors, promotes, and highlights the award, with presentations broadcast live by Quinn on WHO Radio’s The Big Show. Along with Quinn and Waddingham, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig is on hand for the ceremonies.

“As a partner with CSIF and The Big Show on the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to honor many Iowa families who are leaders in their communities, good stewards of their land and livestock, and champions for keeping Iowa agriculture productive,” says Naig.

The award is named for Gary Wergin, a long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster. Quinn says Wergin created the award, then named the Helping Hands Award. “It personified Gary and his approach to life. If anyone should get a good farm neighbor award, it should be him.”

When Wergin died unexpectedly in 2004, the award was renamed and continued with CSIF as a sponsor. “It goes hand in hand with what the Coalition is about,” says Quinn. “The award is very popular with our listeners. They take as much pride in it as the honorees do. They want to be proud of Iowans.”

Nominees must meet four key criteria: be a family operation, be active in their community, produce livestock or poultry to the highest animal care standards, and be dedicated to conservation and environmental stewardship on their land. Application is made to CSIF and processed through a selection committee.

“The nominees for this award do what engaged Iowans do,” says Quinn. “They’re the early adopters and leaders in conservation. They pride themselves on animal care. They sit on the school board, the fair board, the church board, the Farm Bureau board. And they help their neighbor.”

“I’m sometimes asked how we find a good farm neighbor,” adds Quinn. “I tell them, ‘Raise your window shade and look across the field. You’ll probably find the very definition of one.’”

Preston Family Farms of Swea City in northwest Iowa received the award in July 2023.

Sara Preston and her husband, Jared, are raising the 5th generation of Prestons on the farm that grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa along with the beef herd started in 1926. Preston Family Farms incorporates proven conservation practices and emphasizes sustainability using corn silage as livestock feed and planting cover crops on their silage acres.

Animal health is a priority as is animal comfort with hoop buildings to protect cattle from the elements, as well as reduce runoff from dirt lots. They utilize the latest breeding technologies and are a reputable source for seedstock and 4-H and FFA calves.

“It was a real thrill for our family to be honored with the Good Farm Neighbor Award,” says Sara Preston. “So many farmers work tirelessly to do what they love to do. Like most farmers, we weren’t looking to be highlighted, but we’re very appreciative of the recognition.”

The Prestons are active in ag advocacy and commodity groups. Their “adopt-a-cow” program gives second grade classes across Kossuth County the opportunity to “own” a cow, and her eventual calf, following her care and progress and seeing the result firsthand at the end of the year. “It’s a way for kids to connect with farmers and our passion,” says Preston. “

Like most farmers, they are active in their community, sitting on various boards and committees and offering that farmer common sense and ability to think on their feet.

“Farmers bring hard work and dedication to the table,” says Preston. “They’re good problem solvers, they aren’t afraid to make hard decisions, and they know how to keep moving ahead even when the conditions aren’t ideal.”

“The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor award is the perfect way to recognize livestock farmers, like the Preston’s, for going above and beyond,” says Waddingham. “It also provides a way for Iowans to see agriculture with a new perspective, to see what farmers are doing and how they are going above and beyond on their farm and in their community.”

Nominations to honor an Iowa farmer with the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award can be submitted through the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers website at https://www.supportfarmers.com/goodfarmneighbor/.

 

 

The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created by farmers to help farmers raise livestock successfully and responsibly. It’s a joint partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation, Midwest Dairy and the North Central Poultry Association. The non-profit, non-partisan organization provides assistance to farmers at no cost. CSIF does not lobby or develop policy. Farm families wanting a helping hand can contact the Coalition at 1-800-932-2436 or www.supportfarmers.com.

(By Terri Queck-Matzie for CSIF. Queck-Matzie isa freelance writer from Greenfield).

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