Farming is a Blessing for Dallas Center Family

02-18-2008 in Good Farm Neighbor

For Dallas Center farmers Tom and Judy Barrett, a successful farm includes a love of family, taking care of the livestock and land and helping others in need. It’s been their way of life for 40 years and why they were honored last week as February’s Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award recipients.

“I’ve always admired how they run the farm and how they help their neighbors,” said Lloyd Jungmann, who with his wife Doris, nominated the Barretts for the award. “I’ve been on a lot of farms and am really impressed with their cattle and how they care for their livestock.”

The Good Farm Neighbor Award, presented by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Iowa Ag Radio Network in partnership with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers, is presented ten times annually to an Iowa farm family who raises livestock. It’s given in honor of distinguished WHO Radio farm broadcaster Gary Wergin and recognizes families who take pride in being good neighbors and stewards of the land.

The Barretts raise cattle and grow 1,300 acres of corn and soybeans.  They have three grown children – Cynthia, Christine and Chad – and nine grandchildren.

Farming, just like family, is a blessing.

“Farming is a privilege God has granted us,” said Judy while welcoming friends and neighbors to their home during the award ceremony. “It’s a tremendous responsibility to be caretakers of the land.  Tom has always had such a passion for farming – it’s what he’s always wanted to do.”

And while they excel at being good neighbors, the Barretts were humbled by the outpouring of support generated by the award recognition.

“We were shocked when told about the award,” said Judy. “It’s a little overwhelming. There are so many good people in the area who are also our neighbors. We never felt like we were doing anything special. Taking care of each other and helping each other out is what neighbors do.”

Tom and Judy are true partners, both in marriage and when it comes to managing a successful farm. Judy tracks income and expenses and operates machinery during harvest, including the family’s 8-row John Deere combine. Tom cares for the livestock and manages the cropping enterprise.

“We’ve always considered ourselves to be partners on the farm we’ve always known Iowa to be a special place to live and work,” Tom said. “It’s unique because of the strong values we as Iowans share. It’s also one of the best places to raise a family.”

And while they both share a love of Iowa and farming, they differ on some things including their favorite seasons.

For Tom, fall is best. “It’s a great time of year because a farmer gets to reap the benefits of their labor. I like the warm days and cool evenings, the energy of harvest and bringing in the crops.”

For Judy, spring is most enjoyable. “The freshness and newness never gets old,” she says. “There’s new life springing forth from the ground. It’s like everything starts anew and new is good.”

Tom’s parents, Harold and Lilla Barrett, live nearby and attended the award ceremony. Throughout the years, the families have raised hogs, hosted presidents and presidential candidates, welcomed scores of media and opened their doors to numerous camera crews.

Most recently, the Barrett farm served as a backdrop for the production of a 16-minute DVD by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. The DVD, titled “Good Neighbors Building Trust,” chronicles steps livestock farmers should take in growing their farms successfully and responsibly. Since its launch November 2006, nearly 22,000 copies of the DVD have been distributed to farmers in more than 28 states and four countries.

Throughout their successful farming career, Tom and Judy have witnessed many changes.

“The way technology has evolved has been impressive, including all the things that allow farmers to farm with greater precision,” said Tom. “From global positioning systems, which allow farmers to plant, fertilize and harvest crops by the square foot to the explosion in genetics that helps plants tolerate diverse weather conditions…  It’s just amazing how we’re fine tuning everything.”

Although technology and farming have always changed, the Barrett’s love of farming hasn’t.

“It’s a great way of life,” said Judy. “But it’s also a business. There’s a huge gamble when you put that seed into the ground. We depend on God to water it and nurture it. And we depend on a lot of people to help us get the job done.

“There’s a quality to farming that you can’t easily explain,” she added. “We feel blessed to be a part of it and to live and work in such a special neighborhood.”

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