The Way We Live
The Way We Live Award, sponsored by Pioneer, Iowa Farmer Today and the WHO BIG show, recognizes Iowa farm families who have demonstrated their dedication to agriculture and strong Iowa farm values. In 2019, six families will be chosen. The award, started in 2009, has recognized 63 outstanding Iowa farm families so far. Each award-winning family receives a prize package of $250, Fair admission, a parking pass, food vouchers, lodging provided by Holiday Inn Downtown Mercy Campus and recognition in the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center during the Iowa State Fair, August 8-18, 2019. See if you know the previous winners and be sure to thank them for their service and dedication to the agriculture industry.
*You must download (save as) or print the entry form in order to fill in the editable .pdf.
2018 Award Winners
Nick and Katie Hermanson
Nick Hermanson is a 5th generation farmer on a farm that was settled by his great-grandfather in 1871 and today has multiple generations now participating in the day-to-day work for the family corn, soybean and turkey operation. About half of their corn crop is grown for their turkey operation and the organic nutrients from the turkeys is used as environmentally friendly fertilizer. The Hermanson Family is active in their local Story County Farm Bureau, Ag In the Classroom, West Liberty Foods and the Iowa Turkey Federation working on agriculture education and awareness. Nick and Katie believe the farm has always had a great influence on their lives and it is rewarding to see their kids take an interest and want to be involved.
Mick and Tricia Schwager
Mick and Tricia Schwager took over the family farm in 1989 and today raise cattle, corn, soybeans, pasture and alfalfa with their five active children Jeb, Wade, Quinton, Kambree, and Rozzlyn. Tricia keeps everyone organized, but each family member finds a special niche in the operation. In their free time, they are busy in 4-H or FFA activities or at local celebrations or events. The Schwager family feels it is very important to bridge the gap between agriculture and the misconceptions about safe and nutritious food. This 'awareness' is a very large part of all of their goals for community activities and they find it a very rewarding way to raise a family.
Dave and Becky have been 3rd generation grain and livestock farmers since 1981, beginning with a handful of sows and cows. Their kids are actively involved with the farm, helping with lambing, calving, and harvest. The kids and grandkids Julie (Ross) Tuel, Christie (Mike) Pope, David (Megan Buman), Caiden Tuel, Breanna, Tyler and Cody Pope, and Jadon Wolf love anything related to raising sheep, especially feeding and showing. In his free time, Dave is a Greene County Fair Sheep Co-Superintendent and a member of the Greene County Lamb Producers. As a family, they enjoy mentoring 4-Hers, encouraging and teaching them to care and show lambs. For over 30 years, their entire family of 13 hasn’t missed the Iowa Club Lamb Association breeding sheep show and sale during the Iowa State Fair. They believe raising their family on the farm has resulted in kids who learned from an early age that honest, hard work can lead to success, in whatever you pursue.
David & Jenny Felt
The Felt family has always had a passion for agriculture. David became a partner in Felt Family Farms after moving home in 1991, making him a 4th generation farmer. David and his wife Jenny, along with their three children Mackenzie, Marissa, and Cody raise hay, corn and soybeans, and have a feedlot operation. For 20+ years, have raised chickens with Hy-Line International. From farming a Century Farm to winning awards for land stewardship, holding board positions in the community, being a township trustee, as well as, 4-H leaders, David & Jenny are spokesman for the Ag industry. David has said many times he wants to leave this land better than he found it for the next generation.
John and Jodi Koop
Their 160-acre farm was established 140 years ago and was purchased by John’s Great-Great Grandpa in 1878. It has been in the family for five generations raising corn, soybeans, oats, and alfalfa as well as cattle, pigs, horses, chickens, and sheep over the years. The current farming operation includes corn, soybeans, cattle, and hogs. Married in 1984, the Koop’s have four children and grandchildren; Johnny (Carrie) and Sawyer and Monroe; Amanda (Travis) and Connor and Alayna; Kelsey (Allan) and Joey. John and Jodi own hog barns contracted through Smithfield and so do Johnny and Joey. John oversees the day-to-day management of both crop and livestock production and serves on multiple boards and committees including the Hamilton County Fair Board for over 20 years. As the farming operation has evolved they are adopting technology to become more efficient and hope to make the operation more sustainable for generations to come.
Tom and Kaitlin Geake
Tom’s great-great-grandpa, David Law, homesteaded on 60 acres in Wall Lake in 1877. In addition to row crops, the farm started with registered Holsteins and hogs, and in the late 60’s they focused on hogs and beef cows and have added ewes in the last couple of years. The entire family is involved from family member’s age 93-years-old to 1-years old enjoying what the farm has to offer and staying active in their community. Tom and his wife Kaitlin along with children Elaina, Claire, June, Cecelia, and William farm with John (Cathy) and William (Lucille) have continued the interest in conservation techniques, built terraces and implemented conservation practices on the farm, like no-till, before it was common. Tom is a certified conservation farmer and enjoys talking to others about conservation needs and practices. Using their land as a display of how conservation practices can be used and how they can be beneficial. They believe that farming is a constantly evolving lifestyle and in order to keep generations coming back you have to practice being grateful, never stop learning, you have to have an innate love for raising animals, seeing crops pop up every spring and see that combine fill every autumn.
VanAernam Simmental Farm
Gale and Colleen VanAernam have farmed for more than 50 years raising crops and purebred Simmental cattle in Audubon County. Corn and soybeans have been the primary crops, while the livestock has always included cattle; the family has also raised hogs and now raises boer goats. Gale joined 4-H in 1955 and went on to become a club leader and served as county livestock superintendent for over 20 years. County Fair and the Iowa State Fair hold a special place for the VanAernam family where Gale and Colleen had their first date and now spend two weeks camping at the Fair each year. Their farming operation has always allowed them to focus on the next generation, just as their father, grandfather and great grandfather did. They believe it’s a blessing to see the sixth generation of the family work the land, tend the livestock and live on what will soon be a Heritage Farm.
Andy and Lisa Hurd
Andy and Lisa Hurd and their children, Will, Chase, and Sydney live on a Century Farm, where this year marks the 110th year farming. Andy and his wife came back to the farm in 1998 after graduating from ISU with agriculture degrees. Currently, they are farming corn and soybeans on rotation and feeding cattle and hogs. Everyone from the adults to the teenagers plays a role in the family farm with each kid owning their own cow/calf herd, raising 4-H and FFA livestock and owning a sweetcorn, green beans, and pumpkin business. As the kids grow up, they are becoming very important to the different operations of the farm. The busy Hurd family enjoys sharing their message about agriculture and makes farming a family affair. They believe an important part of farming is being a part of your community where neighbors share equipment, knowledge, and support for each other and keep each other successful on the very unpredictable journey called farming.
Jerry and Cynthia Poots
Jerry grew up on his family farm since 1939 and was active at a young age. Jerry and Cynthia have been actively farming since the 1950’s with the exception of Jerry’s two years of military service. Today, the 4th generation farm consists of cattle, corn and alfalfa. For the big jobs today, they rely on help from their son and grandsons, Todd, Preston, Matthew, and Clayton for things such as; planting, calving, and harvest. Jerry and Cynthia have served as ambassadors and advocates for agriculture as mentors to their children and grandchildren who were active in both 4-H and FFA. Over the years, they have also volunteered with numerous local ag-related community groups. Their farming operation has influenced their family life by instilling the values essential to a positive life; integrity, responsibility, dedication, respect, faith and the ability to overcome adversity. Their motto is, farming is a good life and it’s hard work, but it especially rewarding.
Wayne and Char DeMeulenaere
The Wayne and Char DeMeulenaere family and their 5 children start each day at 5:00 a.m. with three generations milking cows, cleaning barns, and feeding livestock. Although each season brings different jobs from hay baling to harvest and bedding barns, no matter the season, each day starts and ends with milking the cows. All the children were active on the farm growing up and helped grow the farm to what it is today. They were all very active in 4-H, school and various sports. The family likes to host tours with the local Belle Plaine FFA Chapter and preschools to talk about life on the farm. Farming is the Demeulenaere family way of life, there are ups and downs associated with farming, but in the end, it proves to be worth it and they strive each day to live up to the expectations of our farming community.