Seven Iowa farm families will be recognized as recipients of the 2021 Way We Live Award at the Iowa State Fair. Nominations included a description of how living on a farm and choosing the occupation of farming has shaped the nominee and family's life. These families are examples of farm values derived from hard work and a love of farming.
The Way We Live Award is sponsored by Pioneer, with media sponsors Iowa Farmer Today and the WHO Big Show. The award, in its 13th year of recognizing outstanding farm families, has recognized 76 outstanding Iowa farm families so far. Each award winning family will be recognized on the Anne and Bill Riley Stage and will receive a prize package of $250, complimentary admission tickets, free parking, various coupons and a display in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center during the Fair, along with an overnight hotel stay at the Holiday Inn Downtown Mercy Campus.
Sornson Family – Exira, Iowa
Saturday, August 14 at 11:45 a.m. – Anne and Bill Riley Stage
For the Sornson family, farming has brought about the lesson of never giving up, regardless of how hard it gets. Crop production began for the Sornsons in 1883, with a focus on soybeans and corn. With several acres as permanent pasture and alfalfa ground for the family's cattle herd. The current business focus for the Sornson family is Sornson Show Steers, a show calf business that began in 1979. Galen Sornson and sons Brad and Nathan operate the farm and show calf operation. While Galen, Brad and Nathan make sure the farming operation is kept up, Galen's wife, Eileen, makes sure that everyone is taken care of and well-fed. Through farming, the Sornson's core values have consisted of hard work, perseverance and pure love for family, God and their land.
Wild Brothers Farms – Lansing, Iowa
Monday, August 16 at 11:45 a.m. - Anne and Bill Riley Stage
The Wild family has been farming in Allamakee County for over 110 years and four generations. The farm was purchased in 1910 by Edward and Maude, and son Harris and wife Evelyn later took it over. The farm is currently operated by Harris and Evelyn's sons Richard, Randy and Robert and their families. The farm currently has an Angus cow-calf operation and feed lot. They also have a 40 cow Holstein dairy herd. The farm crops include corn and alfalfa. Each member of the family has their own job to make the operation efficient. Rick, Randy, Todd, Doug and Nick work to maintain the Angus herd, and Bob and Bobbi Jo are in charge of the dairy operation. Grandsons Carson, Blake and Mason help with field work and daily chores. Family life has revolved the farm for generations; including family atv/utv rides, deer hunting camp and family picnics on the Upper Iowa River that runs through the farm.
Achen Farms – Wayland, Iowa
Tuesday, August 17 at 11:45 a.m. - Anne and Bill Riley Stage
Fourth-generation turkey farmer Jared Achen has always had a passion for farming. He currently farms with his wife, Tawnya, and three children (Brecken, Tenley and Nixon). The Achen family has been raising turkeys for generations and prides themselves on raising a safe and healthy product that consumers can feel good about eating. In addition, the family owns ChopLocal.com, an online marketplace where farmers can sell their meat directly to consumers, and The Farmer's Turkey, a new brand of turkey products. The Achens love the independence that comes with farming and raising turkeys. They also strive to live by the quote, "Be the person who plants a tree, knowing you'll never sit in the shade."
Albert Family Farms – Brandon, Iowa
Tuesday, August 17 at 11:45 a.m. – Anne and Bill Riley Stage
Following in family footsteps has been a common theme for Albert Family Farms. In 1973, Craig Albert took over management of the family farm, and son Jordan did the same for his dad in 2015. The family farm consists of cow-calf pairs and row crops. Farming has brought the family together, as working on the farm allows everyone, including Craig and Judy, son Jordan, and daughter Jackie and husband Shawn and their children (Carson, Gretchen and Kaydence), to spend time together. The family belongs to the Iowa Cattlemens Association, Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Corn Growers Association and even hosts a Thanksgiving meal for anyone in the community and surrounding area. Being a part of the family farm has taught them to help others in times of need and instilled a love for the land, livestock and each other.
Sexton Family – Rockwell City, Iowa
Wednesday, August 18 at 11:45 a.m. - Anne and Bill Riley Stage
The Sexton Family farm consists of a diversified grain operation. Corn and soybeans are the main crops on the farm, but others have included popcorn, seed and food grade soybeans, sorghum, sweet sorghum, oats, cereal rye for seed, sweet corn, asparagus and a variety of vegetables. The 240-acre Century farm was acquired by Keith Sexton's great-grandfather, and today, Keith and Barb Sexton manage the day-to-day farm operation. The most important crop raised on their farm has been their three children, Kyle, Brian and Brent, who, along with daughter-in-law Clare, use their talents to support family, friends and community as well as agricultural and charitable organizations. While Keith and Barb's children have chosen non-farming careers, the Sextons have chosen to help beginning farmers James and Paige Hepp in their farming roles.
Pullin Family Hampshires – Waterloo, Iowa
Thursday, August 19 at 11:45 a.m. - Anne and Bill Riley Stage
Ronald and Mary Esther Pullin oversee a sixth-generation family farm consisting of 100 acres that supports a purebred, registered Hampshire sheep operation. Ron's grandfather and his two sons purchased their first registered Hampshire sheep in 1926 to add to their existing Cheviot and Oxford flocks. Ron and Mary Esther raised their two sons, Doug and Dave, and daughter, Deb, on the farm. While the ownership and size of the farming operation has changed over the years, today, the primary focus of the farm is purebred, registered Hampshire sheep. The flock is exhibited at three state fairs, including the Iowa State Fair, and the show rings allows the Pullins a way to promote their sheep and genetics. Ron and Mary Esther are assisted by daughter Deb with the day-to-day farm operations, and other family members help as needed to prepare and exhibit sheep at state fairs and national shows. The family is proud of the values the farm has instilled over the decades, including hard work, diligence, commitment, citizenship, leadership and team work.
McArtor Farm – Mount Pleasant, Iowa
Friday, August 20 at 11:45 a.m. - Anne and Bill Riley Stage
McArtor Family farms began in 1960, when Duane McArtor began farming with his five sons. In 1994, son Kenneth and his wife, Brooke, purchased the farm and equipment and continued the family tradition of raising swine and sheep along with growing corn and soybeans. With their four children, son Tanner and daughters Kristina, Katelyn and Allie, the family farm is continuing with the fourth generation. Each member of the family plays an important role on the farm overseeing the swine and cattle operations. The family also supports their community by volunteering with the Henry County Pork Producers and 4-H leadership roles. Being a small farming family allows the McArtors to spend time together and keep the tradition passed down that "hard work can be fun."
For more information on past award winners or the current 2021 Way We Live Award winning families, visit https://www.iowastatefair.org/participate/the-way-we-live-award.