The Way We Live Award
sponsored by Tractor Supply Company and WHO Newsradio 1040
The Way We Live Award recognizes industrious Iowa families who demonstrate a daily dedication to animal agriculture and exemplify farm values derived from hard work and a love for the occupation of farming. Entrants were asked to submit a short essay describing how living on a farm and choosing the occupation of farming has shaped their family’s life. Six recipients of the award were chosen from a pool of 64 entries representing a variety of commodities and locations throughout Iowa.
Each family will receive a prize package including $250 cash, Fair admission tickets, free parking, Fair food tickets, and recognition in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center during the Fair. The Way We Live Award is sponsored by WHO NewsRadio 1040 and Tractor Supply Company.
Dale and Kay Anderson’s 120-acre century farm has been in the family for five generations. The family raises corn, soybeans, oats, alfalfa and a 150-head cow-calf herd. Their farmland spans five different farms all within six miles of each other. Dale is the only full-time, stay-at-home farmer in the area. Their son, Axel, and daughter, Laura Loots, followed in their footsteps and now work alongside their parents caring for the cattle and crops.
Both Dale and Kay grew up on a farm, like their parents, and now occupy their farm, which was built in the late 1800s and then doubled its size in the 1950s. Over the years the farm has housed milk cows and hogs and now crossbred Angus cows. However, the Andersons have struggled to increase their herd because of the lack of pasture land. Their pastures have miles of fences to maintain, and they would drive 48 miles every other day to check on their pastures, feed and look over their cattle herds. The Andersons base their lives on the cattle’s needs. Livestock is their way of life.
“Hard work is more than sitting in the cab of a tractor while the GPS does its job. It’s the smell of fresh dirt in the spring and the sound of mama cows talking to their new baby calves,” said Laura Loots. “It’s working the land, being proud to not be the biggest, not the best, but being the third, fourth, even fifth generation to still be here trying. It’s the way we live. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Duane Boyle, the youngest of 12 siblings, grew up on his family’s farm north of Danbury. When Duane was 3, his father died in a tractor rollover accident. The 11 older siblings stepped into their father’s role and continued to manage their parents’ farming operation. By the time Duane was a sophomore in high school, he had earned the trust of his mother to take over the management of the farming operation.
Duane and Mindy, his high school sweetheart and wife of 13 years, have managed to not only maintain their small, independent farm but also continue to grow and diversify it. Despite difficult times, the Boyles currently farm 600 acres, 460 of which they own themselves, and 100 additional acres to tend to each summer. Duane has developed a thirst for animal husbandry, and he now has 90 head of stock cows, 30 head of ewes, 100 head of sow farrow-to-finish operation and 120 head of cattle. Duane grinds his own feed for all his livestock, feeding out 120 head of feeder calves, 50 head of market lambs and 1,200 head of market hogs each year.
Duane and Mindy have three children, Carter (13), Madison (12) and Mya (5). Previously working as a dental assistant, Mindy has spent the last three years at home as Duane’s full-time hired hand. The Boyles lead by example, and their three children have already become active participants on the farm, feeding baby calves and lambs, shearing sheep, moving cows, collecting eggs and catching pigs. This family is also active in 4-H, and Duane and Mindy belong to the Woodbury County Farm Bureau, the Iowa Pork Producers Association and the Pork Quality Assurance group.
The Boyles were nominated by Duane’s older brother Kevin. He says, “It is difficult to find small, independent operators who are able to support the way of life of previous generations or know the definition of chores. My brother Duane has successfully persevered in this. To know that Duane grew up without a father to guide him early on in this labor of love makes me even more proud of his accomplishments.”
Rodney and Polly Metzger’s family continues to grow, with five children and 500-plus Jersey cows, heifers, calves and bulls. In the 1930s, Rodney’s parents bought the dairy farm and specialized in beef cattle and Jersey cows. When Rodney graduated from high school he became an owner of the farm, and he and Polly moved onto the farm when they got married.
Dairy farming is not just a job, it is a lifestyle. When his children were younger, Rodney milked his dairy cows at 4:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., both milkings lasting five hours. Their five children, Emma (23), Vance (21), Eric (18), Neil (16) and Toby (14), grew up knowing their dad loved them but also understanding that the cows came first and hard work and desire kept the farm running. As the kids got older, Rodney began milking at 2:30 a.m. so he could be in by 7:30 p.m. each night. This made a huge difference in their lifestyle and now the family could participate in evening activities.
All children were involved in 4-H and FFA, which helped deepen their involvement on the farm. As youngsters, Emma, Vance, Eric, Neil and Toby had an assortment of jobs, whether it was bottle feeding the lambs, searching for chicken eggs or fattening up the runt pigs. After high school, Emma went to college for Dairy Science and returned to the dairy farm, wanting the lifestyle she grew up with. Vance works full-time on the farm, and Eric, Neil and Toby all plan to be involved with the farm after graduation.
“Our farm has been the one thing that has enabled us to spend so much time together,” Emma said. “We know it is not the perfect life but would not trade it for any other. We dream of working together for the rest of our lives on the farm where our dad was raised and passing on the legacy of this farm to a fourth generation.”
Brad and Kristy Pellett are sixth-generation farmers in Cass County who found love at the 1996 Iowa State Fair. Kristy, from California, worked as a Barn Tour guide for the Fair, and Brad worked as an Assistant Beef Superintendent. After graduating from California Poly Tech in agriculture, Kristy moved to Iowa and they were married a year later. Brad graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Animal Science and then returned to his family farm in Atlantic with his father and brother. They farm 2,400 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, feed out 400 head of cattle and have a 100 head cow-calf operation, which is the sole responsibility of Brad.
Brad and Kristy’s three children, Connor (12), Caroline (10) and Claire (7), all help out on the farm, checking, feeding and caring for the cows and calves. As an extension of their beef production, they also have a business selling whole, halves or quarters of beef for local, custom processing. This is a growing business for them, and they write a newsletter to current and former customers about their farming operation and the production practices they follow to provide home-raised, safe, quality beef as well as recipes.
Despite the hectic nature of the farm and numerous kids’ activities, Brad and Kristy are active in their community. Kristy is the current president of the Atlantic School Board, and she has worked 15 years with the Governor’s Traffic Safety Board program, part of Farm Safety Just for Kids. Brad continues to work as an Assistant Beef Superintendent and he also serves as the Superintendent of the Livestock Judging Contest at the Cass County Fair and is a member of the Iowa Cattlemen’s Board of Directors. Brad is also involved in assisting the area youth by volunteering as a coach for his son’s tackle football team.
Dennis Seyb and Liza Alton not only run their family farm but promote farming, too. Dennis’s great grandfather began the farm and then passed it down to his son, who then in turn passed it to his two sons, Darrell and Harvey. Darrell’s sons, Dennis and Doug, are fourth-generation farmers. Their three sisters, Karen, Pam and Karla, maintain a strong connection and love of the farm.
Dennis and Liza, alongside Dennis's brother, Doug, now operate this diversified family farm: a cow-calf herd of 90 cows, farrow-to-finish 80 sows, corn, soybeans, hay and pasture ground. Liza was a “city girl” who came to the farm 35 years ago and has immersed herself in the farm life. Dennis and Liza have two children, Tucker (25) and Hannah (23). Both children were involved with 4-H and showing livestock.
The Seybs are true community supporters and are active in county, school and church events. Dennis and Liza are members of the Lee County and National Pork Producers’ Associations. Dennis is one of the Lee County Pork Producers’ grill masters, and Liza is also a member of the Pork Safety and Human Nutrition Committee for the National Pork Board. They are often promoting agriculture and pork in many planned and impromptu settings. The Seybs might be best known for their Pig Parties, a celebration complete with a pig roast, canoe trip and live music, thrown every year over Labor Day weekend.
The Seybs were nominated by their friend, Cindy Waters. She says, “Their values and priorities have revolved around the land. They are good stewards, using wise conservation practices and caring for the fields. They are humble in the bounty of their farm, enjoying what they’ve gained, but always making sure to give to the community.”
Ron and Mary Beth Zelle both grew up on farms in Iowa, Ron in Waverly and Mary Beth in Hampton. In 1987, Ron and Mary Beth were married and made their home in Nashua.
When Ron’s father passed away from cancer in 1996, the couple moved their young family to the Waverly farm. Originally purchased in 1934 by Ron’s grandfather, the farm today is a diversified operation, raising sheep and growing corn, soybeans, oats and hay on 300 acres in Bremer County. Their livestock operation consists of 130 ewes that are lambed from late January until early May. Using no-till corn and soybeans, they market their grain through the local cooperative and their hay to local buyers. They run the farm in a sustainable way using soil conservation methods.
Mary Beth is the daily shepherd of the ewes and year-round bookkeeper. She assists the local FFA and 4-H clubs, teaching classes and planning programs. She is a member of the Waverly-Shell Rock Career and Technical Education advisory committee for the Agriculture Education program. She serves on the Bremer County Extension Council and is President of the Waverly-Shell Rock FFA Alumni Association.
Ron teaches Agriculture Education and FFA in the neighboring school district, mentoring future agriculture leaders. He serves with the Iowa FFA Foundation, FFA Alumni, the Iowa Association of Agriculture Educators and the Nashua Plainfield Education Association.
The Zelles wanted to raise their children, Debra and Benjamin, on the farm, and today, both children are involved with agriculture and the family farm. Together, the Zelles provide most of the labor for the year-round operation and instill and share their values with others.