Greene County couple to be honored at Iowa State Fair

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson

Karen and Dennis Fay, of Churdan, will be one of six farm families to be awarded the Way We Live award.

-Messenger photo by Kriss Nelson Karen and Dennis Fay, of Churdan, will be one of six farm families to be awarded the Way We Live award.

CHURDAN — The Iowa State Fair has a tradition of celebrating everything there is about Iowa, including its strong agricultural roots.

In an effort to recognize certain individual’s dedication to agriculture and their strong family values, DuPont Pioneer and WHO News Radio 1040 partner together to sponsor the Way We Live award each year at the Iowa State Fair.

Six farm families will be recognized throughout the 2017 Iowa State Fair, which begins Thursday and runs through Aug. 17.

These six farm families were chosen from 42 entries submitted.

Entries were submitted in the form of a short essay describing how the occupation of farming and living on a farm has shaped their lives.

A Churdan couple, Dennis and Karen Fay, will be among the recipients of that award during this year’s fair.

They were nominated by their granddaughter, Michaela Fay, who wrote an essay about the couple.

“I was shocked,” Karen Fay said. “We had no idea.”

“It was a big surprise,” Dennis Fay added.

Michaela Fay’s essay was dedicated to her grandparents’ 57 years of farming and also spoke of the couple’s six children.

She stated that, although not all of them are active with the farm, that they are still tied to their deep agricultural roots thanks to their parents’ upbringing.

“Two of our children stayed to help with the farm, although they both have full time jobs,” said Karen Fay. “Not everybody could stay on the farm. But they all like to come back. It is still home to them.”

In fact, Fay said just last week the whole family gathered together to freeze sweet corn.

4-H provided a bond for the Fay family.

Dennis Fay said each and every one of their six children, their children and even the next generation is beginning their turns at 4-H and showing swine.

“All six of our kids loved 4-H,” he said. “It’s a great program for so many people and we always looked forward to the state fair. We would renew many friendships.”

Fay said all six of his children raised show pigs and were active in 4-H, as well as both county and state fair with their swine projects.

Helping with various swine shows and projects at county and state levels is something Fay said he has enjoyed doing since the 1970s.

He served as swine superintendent for several years in both Calhoun and Greene counties and was assistant swine superintendent at the Iowa State Fair, a position that he and Karen’s son, Mike Fay, now holds.

“I enjoy working with kids,” Dennis Fay said.

He added their family likes to help others with their swine projects. They have helped people find the right pig, and have even housed animals for 4-H’ers that don’t necessarily have the facilities for their project.

They do this to help them have the opportunity to be involved.

“It gives kids a learning experience and to intermingle with other kids that participate and they can be either urban kids or rural kids,” said Dennis Fay. “We’ve met people from all over the state through the years.”

Although Fay no longer serves as assistant swine superintendent at the Iowa State Fair, it doesn’t mean his family isn’t still helping out at the event.

“I still volunteer,” he said. “I don’t think I can ever retire from that.”

Dennis and Karen Fay, along with their sons, Pat Fay and David Fay, work together to farm the family’s 600 acres of corn and soybeans in Greene County.

Both Pat Fay and David Fay work full-time off of the farm, but are able to assist in the family’s farm operation when needed.

David Fay owns and operates the family’s herd of purebred and crossbred sows.

Dennis Fay said his son’s primary focus is selling show pigs to 4-H members for their projects, which is actually carrying on a tradition that Dennis himself started.

Although Dennis and Karen live in town, they are both active with their farming operation. Dennis Fay said he helps with daily pig chores and is busy with the row-crop farming and Karen Fay said she no longer is out working in the field, but plays an important role as keeping the men fed and is available for anything else they might need.

Each of the award-winning families will receive 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 Iowa State Fair.

The Way We Live award started in 2009 and has recognized 54 Iowa farm families.

“It is a great honor,” Karen Fay said. “There is no doubt about that.”

Emily Wynn, agricultural education coordinator for the Iowa State Fair gave a few reasons why the Way We Live award is given.

“The award started as a way to recognize Iowa’s farm families and to allow fairgoers the chance to see Iowa farms up close and personal,” she said. “Also, as a wayto show fairgowers that the animals housed in the Animal Learning Center during the fair do not live there year around, that they go back to Iowa farms and Iowa farm families.”

Being a part of the award is extra special to Wynn.

“I would have to say that being able to recognize these families and visit each of these farms is one of the highlights of my job here at the fair,” she said.

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