Keeping the Farm in the Family

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SCOTT AND CLINTON COUNTY, Iowa (KWQC) – A look at the economy shows the agriculture industry is down. Financial analysts constantly tell us, farming is a cyclical business full of ups and downs.

Some families in the Quad Cities area have been able to navigate the ups and downs for more than 100 years.

“You might think that this is a lot of hard work, it’s not work at all, and that’s because I love what I’m doing,” Steve Witt, a farmer in Clinton County, said.

The Witt Farm has been in the same family for 149 years (1867). Witt says the farm is still going strong today, because of the work his ancestors did.

“We did not know if times were good or bad growing up because mom and dad took very good care of us,” Witt said.

These farms have thrived in good times, and survived trying times like the Great Depression and the Farm Crisis of the 80’s.

“The hard work that you put in, you know, to keep that around for 100 years and even 150 years is really special really it shows fortitude and what needs to be done as far as a work ethic,” Rob Cousins, a farmer in Clinton County, said.

The Cousins Farm has been in their family since 1916. Like Witt’s farm, it also received the Century Farm recognition this year at the Iowa State Fair.

“It’s a nice recognition for you know the family,” Cousins said.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says farmers are proud of the honor.

“Somewhere along the way these farms people found a way to be able to keep them in the family and obviously felt very attached to these farms as well,” Northey said.

Farms that have been in the same family for 150 years or more are recognized as Heritage Farms. John and Hans Schnekloth say they’re proud to be the fifth and sixth generations to farm land that has been in their family in Scott County for 156 years (1860).

“Grandpa wasn’t able to expand this operation much because he had to survive the Depression,” John Schnekloth said. “They made it through the Depression selling apples, eggs and chickens, and he was always known to have a little money so he helped out relatives and so on.”

Farmers have passed down endless stories of hanging on to their relatives through the ups and downs.

“There’s days that you come out and you pull your hair out and think, ‘Oh my God, what’s going to happen next?’ And it’s them type of days that maybe you don’t push real hard, or do stuff real fast, you kind of ease through that day, because you know the next day is going to be a lot better,” Cousins said.

Financial analysts say the agriculture industry is in a down cycle right now. John Deere has seen layoffs and 2016 brought low grain prices, but their history in the business has prepared farmers for the hard times.

“It’s stuff you do as a kid that, you know helps you become a better driver when you get older and respect machines and respect animals and do all the hard work that needs to be done,” Cousins said.

Witt, Cousins and the Schnekloths all believe the future is looking bright for family farms in Iowa.

“It’s a neat story to tell, it kind of makes you feel like you have something that you hope to pass on to the next generation because who wants to be the one that breaks the chain of 6 or 7 generations you know?” Hans Schnekloth said.

“That’s a load to carry, isn’t it?” his father, John Schnekloth added.

Northey says more than 19,000 Century Farms have been recognized in the state and 940 have been recognized as Heritage Farms. To learn more about Century and Heritage Farms or to find out how to sign your farm up for the program, visit the Iowa Department of Agriculture’s Website or email the Program Coordinator, Becky Lorenz at CenturyAndHeritageFarms@IowaAgriculture.gov.

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