Animal Genetic Leaders from Poweshiek County Recognized as Good Farm Neighbors

09-13-2023 in Good Farm Neighbor

CHELSEA, IOWA – September 13, 2023 – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig honored Joe and Francine Behounek as Wergin Good Farm Neighbors during a ceremony held on September 2nd, 2023. Joe and Francine, along with help from their daughter Kate Kiebach, grandson Kade Kiebach, and granddaughter Hadley Kiebach, operate Bawnmore Farms in Poweshiek County.

The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award, sponsored by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, is given to Iowa livestock farmers who raise livestock successfully and responsibly, care for their land, and are involved in their community.

“Good Farm Neighbor awards are about recognizing wonderful families that are deserving of the award because of what they are doing in their livestock operations, because of what they are doing in terms of caring for the land, and because of what they are doing in their communities,” said Mike Naig, during the ceremony. “That’s the reason for the award.”

Animal care has always been a top priority for the Behounek’s who raise purebred Suffolk sheep and purebred Large White swine. The two species are housed indoors to help them stay comfortable in Iowa’s variable weather. Genetics plays a large role in the two herds as well. In the swine herd, they focus on identifying good maternal lines to ensure sow productivity through evaluating litter size, birth weights, weaning weights, pig survival, durability, and disposition.

Caring for the land has also been a top priority for the family. From 1977 to 2007, the family utilized crop rotations, minimal tillage, grassed waterways, and grew trees to prevent soil erosion. Starting in 2007 the farmland was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) until Jay Dvorak began to farm the land in 2017. Dvorak has been rotating crops and utilizing no-till practices to preserve the soil. He also plants radishes as a cover crop.

Community involvement is another priority for the family. Joe served eight years on the South Tama County Community School District Board of Directors. They are also members of Farm Bureau and Tama County Pork Producers. When their children were growing up, Joe and Francine served as 4-H leaders of the Chelsea Challengers 4-H Club. Joe is also an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church and was employed as a pastoral associate for the Circle of Saints Parish Cluster and recently retired from this position in June of 2023.

“If you are going to farm, go help your neighbors and see what happens,” said Joe upon receiving the award.

Growing up Joe’s father always told him to help his neighbors because someday he might need help. Joe has taught his children and grandchildren to do the same thing. This simple message has played a large role in not only the Behounek’s farm, but also the community.

“It’s the neighborhood that makes this award more meaningful to me than anything else,” Francine stated during the ceremony as she shared about how their neighbors have helped them when they needed help the most. “It’s all of you people that make this a celebration and I want to thank you for that.”

The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award is made possible through a partnership with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and The Big Show on WHO Radio. This award recognizes Iowa livestock farmers who take pride in caring for the environment and their livestock and have demonstrated a commitment to their community. The award is named in memory of Gary Wergin, a long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster who helped create the award.

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