Secretary Naig to Present the Lawless Family with the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award

04-12-2024 in Good Farm Neighbor

DES MOINES, Iowa (Apr. 9, 2024) – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig will present the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to the Lawless Family of Monroe County during an event to be held on Thursday, April 11 at 11:00 a.m. The presentation of the award will take place at the family’s farm, located at 5316 235th Trail, Melrose.

Lawless Farms Partnership, which originally began during the 1930s, is today a highly diversified multi-generational family farm. The operation includes John Sr. and Mary Kay Lawless, a retired nurse, and their son John and his wife Jo Beth Lawless, a nurse practitioner. John and Jo Beth’s two sons, Blake and his wife Ashley, a general manager for a direct-to-consumer beef business, and Dalton and his girlfriend Trinity Schnor, a 4th grade teacher in the Chariton Schools, are also actively involved. John and Jo Beth’s daughter Brandi Reupke and her husband Tyler, an employee of Johnson Machine Works in Chariton, along with their children Addilyn and Maverick, live in Russell and own a catering company. The farm also employs John West and Ed Flattery, two full-time farm hands that have each been with the farm for over two decades.

“Hardworking, dedicated and entrepreneurial farm families like the Lawless Family keep rural Iowa strong and make our state a wonderful place to make a living and raise a family,” said Secretary Naig. “Because of their deep devotion to their community and their love and care for their land and livestock, I am pleased to present the Lawless Family with the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award.”

The family grows corn, soybeans and alfalfa and they place a high priority on conservation. Over the past eight years, the Lawlesses have utilized wheat and oats as cover crops. They deploy innovative precision technology on their row crop acres to maximize inputs, utilize no-till, enroll some acres in CRP, build ponds, and also carefully spread their cattle manure for maximized nutrient optimization.

They also raise Shetland Sheepdogs for pets and maintain a herd of Black Angus cattle. Their calves are fed at the farm from weaning until they are ready to head off to a feedlot for finishing. The family works closely with their herd veterinarian and a local nutritionist to ensure a high standard of health and nutrition.

Diversification has been a key to their growth and success over the years, as they recently started offering custom services, including trucking, row crop farming, haying and spraying.

Melrose, known affectionately as Iowa’s Little Ireland, maintains a population of approximately 100 people. The family believes that citizens must be engaged and integrated into the fabric of small, rural towns if they are to survive and remain safe, clean and welcoming. They take great pride in giving back to the community, just as the community rallied around them in 2022 when John and Jo Beth’s home was lost to a fire. They are active with numerous roles in the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and the Knights of Columbus. John, Jo Beth, Blake and Dalton are all members of the volunteer fire department. Jo Beth’s tenure of over two decades includes the roles of EMS Service Director, Fire Department Treasurer and Secretary. Jo Beth also plans the annual Melrose 4th of July fundraiser, which raised over $40,000 for the fire department in 2023. They are longtime champions and supporters of 4-H, and John and Jo Beth were active leaders of the Melrose Majors 4-H Club for over 10 years.

The family is actively involved in the Monroe County Cattlemen’s Association and Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. In 2022, John Sr. was inducted into the Iowa Cattlemen’s Hall of Fame. Every year, they recruit 22 volunteers to work a food shift at the Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters at the Iowa State Fair. Brandi, Blake and Dalton each showed four times in the annual Iowa Governor’s Charity Steer Show. They are also members of the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation.

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 also 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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