Wilcox Family of Cherokee County Presented with Good Farm Neighbor Award
06-12-2017 in Awards
Fourth generation farmer, Mark Wilcox, says he finds comfort in the stability of his family’s Century Farm near Marcus, Iowa where he and his wife, Sara, and youngest son, Joe, raise a 70-head milking herd of registered Holsteins and a little over 800 acres of corn, soybeans, alfalfa and mixed pasture.
According to Mark, the longevity of their farm hinges on good communication and the strength of their relationships within their community.
“When you live in rural Iowa you’ve got to be able to communicate, and because of the nature of having livestock it’s incumbent upon us as we’re out here to explain what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” said Mark.
On Monday, June 5th, the Wilcox family was recognized with the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award for their efforts as environmental stewards, livestock caretakers and community leaders. Iowa Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Naig, presented the award to the Wilcox family, thanking them for the positive example they set for Iowa agriculture.
Quality Cow Care
Founded in 1876, the Wilcox family farm has faced its share of adversity, but Mark and the generations before him never lost sight of their commitment to managing their land and livestock responsibly.
Mark graduated from Iowa State University in 1976 with the intention of returning home to farm alongside his father, Earnest, and uncle, Les. Two months later, Earnest suddenly passed away and Mark was left to fill his father’s shoes on the verge of the ‘80s farm crisis.
“The ‘80s were brutal, but after making it through, I approached my uncle about putting up a new facility to house the dairy cows,” said Mark.
After doing research and touring other dairy facilities in northwest Iowa, Mark decided to upgrade to a 96-by-80 foot curtain-sided free stall barn. According to Mark, he chose this design to improve herd health.
“Our facility was the first curtain-sided free stall barn in this part of the country, so it was really a leap of faith my uncle allowed me to put that up,” said Mark.
Other improvements the Wilcox family has made over the years to increase cow comfort includes the addition of a double eight parallel milking parlor, the use of sand bedding and the application of sexed semen technology which Mark says has greatly reduced calving problems among his heifers.
Leadership as a Labor of Love
Even with their around-the-clock hours tending to the dairy herd, Mark and Sara Wilcox find time to serve their community. Together they have fulfilled roles on various boards including their local church, Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn School and Foundation, Prairie State AI, Western Iowa Dairy Alliance, Iowa State Dairy Association and Cherokee County Farm Bureau. Mark also coached baseball and softball for several years while his four children, Emily, Zach, Joe and Anna, were in grade school.
As for the future of the Wilcox family farm, Mark predicts technology and good communication between family members, landlords and neighbors will be key to positioning the farm for continued success and a Heritage Farm designation in 2026.
“When I was deciding what to do after college, I was fortunate enough there was something to come home to on the farm,” said Mark. “Hopefully that same thing holds true for my son and the next generation.”
The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award, presented by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Ag Radio Network in partnership with CSIF, is awarded to Iowa farm families who raise livestock. It’s given in honor of distinguished late WHO radio farm broadcaster, Gary Wergin, and recognizes families who take pride in being good neighbors and stewards of the land.
The Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers was created more than 10 years ago by farmers to help farmers raise livestock responsibly and successfully. It’s a joint partnership involving the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Cattlemen’s Association, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Poultry Association, Iowa Soybean Association, Iowa Turkey Federation and Midwest Dairy Association.
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