It's been almost 180 years since land that is now the state of Iowa was opened for settlers. The America of the 21st century is far different from the nation presided over by President Andrew Jackson in 1833. There is, however, one constant feature for Iowans - agriculture is at the very heart of economic life in the Hawkeye State.
Consequently, it was a fitting celebration of agriculture and the generations of Iowans who have farmed here that in 1976 - as part of the nation's Bicentennial Celebration - the Century Farms Program was established. The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation created the recognition program. It had the endorsement of the Iowa American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. Since its inception, 17,486 farms designated as Century Farms.
To be eligible for this recognition a farm must constitute at least 40 acres and have been owned continuously by members of the same family for 100 years or more. The present owner must be related to the person who owned the land a century ago. An even more prestigious honor is the Heritage Farm designation. It celebrates farms owned by members of the same family for 150 years. The Heritage Farm Program was launched in 2006. So far, 583 farms have qualified for Heritage Farm status.
Each year at the Iowa State Fair, which is itself a celebration of Iowa agriculture, there is a ceremony honoring that year's additions to the Century Farm and Heritage Farm honor rolls.
For those farm owners who are eligible to seek Century Farm or Heritage Farm status, it is time to prepare their applications, which must be postmarked by June 1. Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey issued a reminder last month of the upcoming deadline.
Applications are available on the Department's website at www.IowaAgriculture.gov by clicking on the Century Farm or Heritage Farm link under "Hot Topics."
Applications may also be requested from Becky Lorenz, coordinator of the Century and Heritage Farm Program via phone at (515) 281-3645, email at Becky.Lorenz@IowaAgriculture.gov or by writing to Century or Heritage Farms Program, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Henry A. Wallace Building, 502 E. Ninth St., Des Moines, IA 50319.
"These awards are an opportunity to recognize the hard work and commitment by these families that is necessary to keep a farm in the same family for 100 or 150 years," Northey said, in his call for applications. "If you consider all the challenges and unexpected obstacles each of them would have had to overcome during their life on the farm, it gives you a greater appreciation of the dedication and perseverance of these families. ... I hope eligible families will take the time to apply and then come down to the State Fair to be recognized."
That's a sentiment The Messenger heartily endorses.