First generation Poweshiek County farm family is dedicated to their community, livestock and land

06-03-2024 in Good Farm Neighbor

DES MOINES, Iowa (May 30, 2024) – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will present the Boelen Family from Poweshiek County with the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award during an event on Friday, May 31 at 11:00 a.m. The award presentation will take place at the Brooklyn Ruritan Building, located at 3830 175th St., Brooklyn.

“Even though the Boelens are still relatively new to Iowa and the United States, they have followed a similar pattern of generations of Iowa farm families who chased their dreams, found fertile soil, settled in Iowa, and established themselves as involved members of their community,” said Secretary Naig. “Not only do the Boelens excel on their farm by taking good care of their cattle and land, but their community contributions and education efforts exemplify what it means to be a good farm neighbor.”

Established in 2009 by Jan and Dorine Boelen, Bear Creek Dairy also includes son Joris and daughter-in-law Katherine Boelen, as well as son Teun and daughter-in-law Jennifer Boelen. Other family members include Dorine’s father Rens Kouwenberg, daughter Dieuwertje Boelen and fiancé Johnny Phillipo, son Geert Boelen and family, and son Hessel Boelen. Jan and Dorine have four grandchildren: James, Joanna, Kate and Kassidy.

Before starting Bear Creek Dairy, Jan and Dorine owned a 160-head dairy in the Netherlands. In 2009, they embarked on a journey to move their family to America to pursue a more sustainable life. The family settled in Poweshiek County, and immediately started building a new life in Iowa. When they purchased the farm, it included 234 milk cows. Over time, with the goal of making it a generational success, they have made additions to expand the operation. Today, the farm includes approximately 4,000 cattle, including 2,000 Jersey and Holstein crossbred cows that are milked three times per day. In addition to the work of family members, the farm’s 20 employees help keep the operation running efficiently as they milk for 23 hours per day. The farm grows corn for silage, soybeans, and utilizes rye as a cover crop, which is seeded at the end of corn chopping season and also provides feed for the cattle.

In order to produce high quality Grade A milk, which is sold to Prairie Farms, the Boelens believe strongly in ensuring a high standard of care for their cattle. The family uses innovative technologies to track health, fertility, nutrition and production. They take pride in paying close attention to detail, including regular veterinary visits, professional hoof trimming and foot baths, and incorporating sprinklers and an advanced ventilation system for cow comfort.

Bear Creek Dairy demonstrates their commitment to environmental stewardship and sustainability through a number of practices. In addition to utilizing cover crops, they upcycle food waste to create a gluten byproduct in feed rations. They have added LED light utilization in barns and incorporated a plate cooler to conserve energy. Sand is recycled and reused for bedding in the barns.

Ever since they moved to Brooklyn, the Boelens have worked to put down deep roots in the community. They host farm tours, educational outreach programs, Clover Kids 4-H presentations, and have an annual drive-thru event on the farm every spring to help connect consumers to agriculture. The event has turned into a fundraiser for the community, with past donations supporting the local food bank and new playground equipment for the school. They are active participants in local events

such as the Brooklyn Flag Festival, community parades, Grinnell Lions Club Ag Day, Montezuma Freedom Fest, and trunk-or-treat Halloween events at Diamond Lake and St. Johns Lutheran Church. Various members of the family are active in both the Poweshiek County Farm Bureau and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. In 2023, after a fire destroyed one of the farm’s machine sheds and its contents, the Brooklyn community surrounded the Boelen Family with support. This year’s proceeds from the drive-thru event will help support the same local fire departments that responded to their fire.

The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award is made possible through a partnership with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF), The Big Show on WHO Radio, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. Now in its 20th year, this award recognizes Iowa livestock farmers who take pride in caring for the environment and their livestock while being good neighbors. It is named in memory of Gary Wergin, a long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster who helped create the award.

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About the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Led by Secretary Mike Naig, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship serves the rural and urban residents that call Iowa home. Through its 14 diverse bureaus, the Department ensures animal health, food safety and consumer protection. It also promotes conservation efforts to preserve our land and enhance water quality for the next generation. Learn more at iowaagriculture.gov.

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