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The Spurgeon Family post with Gordon who was recognized as a Century Farms member. Pictured next to him are his daughters Cathy and Carol, and Stephan is on the right in the white shirt, carrying on the family tradition. Other members of the family were present for the special recognition.


The family farm in 1971 and in 1982


Iowa Secretary of Ag Mike Naig along with Iowa Farm Bureau Federation President Craig Hill made a stop in Vinton on Tuesday, September 1, to present two Century Farm awards and one Heritage Farm award to families who have kept their farms in the family for at least 100 and 150 years respectively.

In 1920, farmland was valued at $69 per acre in 1920. Today, Iowa’s agricultural land is on average valued at $7,070 per acre.

At that time, nearly 30% of Americans lived on a farm. Today, farms make up just over 2% of the population.

In 1920, a bushel of corn was worth 54 cents, now it’s about $3.25.

Yield per acres was 46.0 bushels in 1920, today it's 198.

In maps from the Secretary of Ag's website, it shows the number of century farms in Iowa indicates that Benton County is the 3rd highest in the number of farms that have been in the family longer than 100 years at 345 farms. (Tama County has 356, and Kossuth has 381) Benton County is in 7th place when it comes to Heritage Farms, those that have been in the family at least 150 years with 38 Heritage Farms.

In a statement from Iowa Secretary of Ag Naig, he said, "The
Century and Heritage Farm Program recognizes the strength and the resiliency of Iowa farm families, and the sacrifices each generation
has made to retain the ownership of the land for 100 or 150 years,”
said Secretary Naig. “These families all deserve to be recognized
and celebrated for reaching this milestone and being a part of Iowa’s
rich agricultural legacy.

and our farm families have long been critical to the vitality of
rural communities across the state and the backbone of Iowa’s
economy” said Craig Hill, Iowa Farm Bureau President. “It’s a
tremendous honor to co-sponsor the Century and Heritage Farm programs
recognizing the multi-generational farm families that have persevered
countless challenges over 100 or 150 years and kept their farms in
the family.

Century Farm families recognized include:

Spurgeon Farms, Benton County

and Linda Lohse, Tama County

Heritage Farm family recognized include:

Brothers Farm, LLC – Dale J. Martens and Richard A. Martens, Iowa

were 238 families who received the Century Farm award, recognizing
100 years of ownership, and 103 families who received the Heritage
Farm award, recognizing 150 years of ownership, this year. Families
who received the award in 2020 could choose to participate in a small
regional event or the 2021 Iowa State Fair."

Secretary Naig pointed out that this year has been especially hard on farmers. First, the farming industry dealt with the fall out from the COVID crisis and the various shutdowns that resulted from that, then the derecho hit, and now farmers are dealing with a drought. Pointing out that any one of these would make for a difficult year, he especially wanted to recognize the farmers for their strength in the struggles that they faced this year.

The local family who was presented with a metal farm marker and certificate for their Century Farm was the Gordon Spurgeon family of Shellsburg. Gordon was present and has lived on the farm since the day he was born, "80 years and 360 days ago," he said. The farm has been in the family since 1903.

J. H. (James Harvey) who went by "Harvey "and Ada Spurgeon bought 2 parcels of land on March 3, 1903, from Morgan Pratt. Purchasing a 200-acre parcel for $12,800 and a 206-acre parcel for $16,480 the journey began just south of Shellsburg.

Over the years Gordon and David had each bought small parcels of land individually and had kept the original farmland. The two each also owned and cared for their own livestock, which they eventually got out of, and just crop farmed corn and soybeans. Today it is still considered a small family farm.

Gordon still keeps busy planting vegetables and produce on the land around his house and sells it to other vendors and at farmers markets.

Gordon's parcel had a house on it that was built on it just 13 years before it joined the Spurgeon family, in 1890. Both Gordon and his brother David Spurgeon we born and raised in the house. Gordon's twin daughters, Cathy and Carol were also raised in the house. Gordon said, "We didn't know we were having twins until the second baby arrived!" Gordon still lives in the house on the farm.

The Spurgeon land passed from J.H. Spurgeon, to Homer Spurgeon and then to Gordon Spurgeon.

Gordon spoke with me briefly. He is the third generation to farm his land. Still living in the house on the farm, Gordon shared that he had farmed the land with his brother David until his brother passed away in 2008 and now David's son the fourth-generation, Stephan farms it.

Gordon also shared a few stories from his early years on the farm. He spoke about the two horses that his dad used to plow the fields with and the first tractor that he used to plow the fields with. I asked him if he could think of any funny memories he had growing up on the farm. With a grin, he remembered that when they finally had indoor plumbing put into the house. His grandpa insisted on making the trip outside rather than using the modern indoor facilities, which still gives Gordon a chuckle.

Gordon was present at the ceremony with his twin daughters, and nephew Stephan who still farms the land. Cathy Kearns and Carol Kerner, both of Shellsburg, sat next to their dad during the ceremony on one side while Stephan, who lives in Newhall but is now the official Spurgeon farmer, held the chair on the other side or Gordon.

Cathy shared a memory that wasn't really a funny one at the time, but for those that believe in the power of Friday the 13th, she told of a harvest season in October. It was a Friday the 13th and "some would view it as a superstitious day of bad luck, which Dad proved over and over again that particular day," she said.

"It was one of those harvest moments where nothing was going well for him. That afternoon the combine had developed a flat tire. As Dad was jacking up the large piece of equipment, the tire iron slipped out of position, flew up, and back down across his head with an extreme amount of force. He was knocked out and blood gushing everywhere. This was before cell phones and Stephan had to drive to a neighboring farm to call for help. An ambulance came and a trip to the hospital ensued. After several hours in the emergency room, he walked out with a concussion, a multitude of sutures across his eyelid, a fractured nose, broken glasses, and high as a kite on pain medication.

The day after, Dad said he felt like he went a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson. He commented that on the next Friday the 13th he wasn’t going to get out of bed!"

She said that her dad healed and life went on, but it was a scary moment on the farm. "Farming is considered a dangerous occupation and I am sure many farming families can relate to this experience," she said.

Carol said that there was significant damage on the farmstead from the storm, as with everyone else. A few days after the storm had gone through, the two girls brought some ham sandwiches, water and non-perishable food out to their dad's. All of the electricity was still out, and there wasn't running water on the farm. Carol said as they sat together in the living room eating the sandwiches, Gordon said to his daughters, that when was 8-years old when they got electricity in the house. With us sitting there with no electricity dad said, "I guess we are back to where we started, with no electricity again."

To view all of the Century and Heritage Farms in Benton County simply go to this link, select Benton in the county list and it will show all of the families that have been in Benton County a long time! If your family has been in Benton County for generations, it might be fun to see if you find some family names on the list. (I know I saw a couple of members of my family on the Century list and one on the Heritage Farm list. )

Congratulations to the Spurgeon family and to all of the others who were added to the list this year! Thanks for feeding the country!

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