Community Gathers to Recognize Keokuk Farm Family

09-20-2007 in Good Farm Neighbor

The picture-perfect blue skies were as sunny as the disposition of nearly 100 people who gathered to recognize at the farm of Steve and LuAnn Swanson on a warm fall day near Ollie.

The crowd, comprised of friends, family, neighbors, elected leaders, reporters and FFA students, joined Iowa Ag Secretary Bill Northey in presenting the Swansons with the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award.

The award is presented monthly by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Iowa Ag Radio Network in conjunction with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) and Farm Credit Services of America.  It’s given in memory of long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster Gary Wergin who founded the award.  The recipients must be livestock farmers and nominators must be neighbors.

“We’re very honored, that’s for sure,” said Steve humbly.  “We’re fortunate to live around so many good neighbors.  In many ways, we’re receiving the award on their behalf.”

The Swansons raise cattle and grow corn, soybeans and hay in Keokuk County.  They were nominated by Elaine and Keith Blair who live just a few fence posts to the south.

“He just does so much for us,” said Elain while dishing out barbecued beef, baked beans, potato chips and dessert to the hungry crowd.  “We have a small acreage and anytime something happens, I call Steve and he comes right away.  In fact, sometimes he’s already on his way when I call!”

It’s all in a day’s work for Steve and LuAnn who farm with Steve’s brother Scott and parents Richard and Jo.

“Helping out others is part of living in rural Iowa,” he said while shaking hands with another well-wisher.  “Ten years ago, we had a storm blow through here, leveling practically every building on the farm.  Within a few minutes, all the neighbors were here.  LuAnn and I have never forgotten.”

Steve said the availability and proximity of distillers grain originating from places like Big River Resources, an ethanol plant located near Burlington, is piquing his interest in raising more cattle.

“I recently attended a beef feedlot tour held near Atlantic that was sponsored by CSIF,” he said.  “We’ve had good luck mixing distiller grain with corn stalks for cattle feed so there are some possibilities.  Don’t know for sure what the decision will be but it’s tempting to want to raise more cattle.”

Optimism like Steve’s is what has Iowa’s ag secretary excited about the future of agriculture in Iowa.

“There are a lot of pieces that are working together to make this an exciting time in our rural communities,” Northey said.  “We have good prices for grain, cattle, hogs, dairy and eggs and that’s important.

“We’re also seeing a lot of diversification,” he added.  “We have farmers who are raising hogs in new, modern facilities while also growing organic crops and investing in wineries.  It just goes to show that there’s room for everyone in agriculture.”

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