Six Iowa farm families will be recognized as recipients of the 2017 Way We Live Award at the 2017 Iowa State Fair. The fair runs Aug. 10-20, and a different farm family is honored each day.
Each entrant for this award was asked to submit a short essay describing how the occupation of farming and living on a farm has shaped their lives. Six families were chosen based on their dedication to agriculture and their strong Iowa farm values. Forty-two entries were submitted in all.
Each family receives a prize package of $250, complimentary admission tickets, free parking, various coupons and individual recognition in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center during the fair. The Way We Live Award is sponsored by DuPont Pioneer and media sponsor WHO NewsRadio 1040. The award started in 2009, and has recognized 54 Iowa farm families.
Special thanks to Mindy Williamson, Kate Van Manen and Rebecca Banger of the Iowa State Fair Marketing Department for supplying the following information and photos.
Hingtgen Family, Bellevue — Aug. 10
Scott Hingtgen began farming with his father in 1989 and started milking cows in 1990. He worked alongside his father until 1995. In 2011, Scott and Jessica purchased their farm and began renting other farms across the county. Their diverse farm operation includes dairy cows, beef steers, horses, chickens, soybeans, hay and corn. The family uses two Lely robotic milkers to milk 120 to 130 cows a day. The Hingtgens also work to promote their farm operation on their social media channels. Like most farm families, their family life centers around the farm, teaching their children the benefits of hard work and responsibility.
Holst Family, Eldridge — Aug. 11
Kevin Holst along with his wife, Jessica, and their six children farms corn, soybeans and hay, and raises Gelbvieh cattle 6 miles from the Mississippi River. They also sell bulls to breeders, produce locally raised beef and eggs, and produce fiber from their two Angora goats. Kevin was in 4-H as a child, continued with FFA as a teen and most recently has served three terms with the Farm Service Agency. Jessica has kept a blog since 2006, outlining their daily life. She reaches readers across the globe, keeping them informed about the busy days of a large homeschooling family living on an Iowa farm.
Boyer Family, Weldon — Aug. 15
In 1995 Jason Boyer, wife Amy and 40 purebred Limousin cows moved from the East Coast to Weldon to escape urban sprawl. The pair purchased 140 acres of land and slowly worked to build up their operation. In 2001, the family purchased and restored a 1930s hip-roof barn, and opened the Harvest Barn Marketplace. The store started with fresh produce and country-inspired gifts. Since then, it has evolved into a seasonal business with a corn maze, pumpkin patch and food products. In 2008, the family began to directly market their products at the downtown Des Moines farmers market. The Boyers current farm operation consists of purebred Limousin bull and cows, feeder hogs, and a small flock of commercial club lambs. The farm also grows crops, including corn, soybeans, pumpkins and alfalfa hay.
Fay Family, Churdan — Aug. 16
Dennis and Karen Fay started farming in 1960 in Calhoun County as fourth-generation farmers. Through the years, they have raised corn, soybeans and cattle. Currently, they have a herd of Spot, Hampshire and Crossbred sows to sell as show pigs to 4-H and FFA members. The whole family, which includes six children and 16 grandchildren, has been involved in the operation. Dennis and Karen live in Churdan, but that doesn’t stop Dennis from visiting the farms every day to do hog chores and check on the crops and equipment. Dennis was a past county swine superintendent and assistant 4-H swine superintendent for the Iowa State Fair. Son Mike followed in his footsteps as the Dallas County swine superintendent and is currently the assistant 4-H swine superintendent for the Iowa State Fair.
Meyers Family, West Liberty — Aug. 17
Mike and Pam Meyers are fifth-generation farmers and raise their kids on the family farm established in 1876. Mike started farming with his dad and brother out of high school and bought his first farm at the age of 21. After marrying his wife, Pam, their family grew, and they expanded their farm through investments in land, building a custom-harvesting operation and raising livestock. Today, the whole family is involved in agriculture; their children help with the calving operation, as well as the corn, soybeans, lambs and goats. Their son-in-law is also the adviser for the West Liberty FFA Chapter, which keeps the family involved.
Hansen Family, Dallas Center — Aug. 18
In 1986, Jeff Hansen bought his first load of feeder pigs. Shortly after, he began raising corn, soybeans and alfalfa and adding cows to his dad’s beef herd, along with starting a farrow-to-finish operation. Jeff raised Hy-Line breeding stock from 1996 until 2010, when he changed his hog operation to comply with Niman protocol. Jeff and wife Barb started the Dallas County 4-H club, Granger Strivers, in 2001, where they helped guide both farm and nonfarm kids with livestock projects. Everything they’ve done revolves around the farm – their daughters’ extracurricular activities, family vacations and even college choices. This focus has unified their family on a common goal, to all work together to make the farm successful.
For more information on past award winners or the current 2017 Way We Live Award winning families is online.
The 2017 Iowa State Fair — ranked as one of the top events in the country — is the single-largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair is located at East 30th and East University Avenue, just 10 minutes from downtown Des Moines. For more information, visit iowastatefair.org.