Tama County adds record seven Heritage Farms in 2023

Earley Acres in rural Traer among the recipients

Tama County farmer Keith Earley, center, pictured last week in Traer alongside his children Mark Earley, left, and Diane Panfil with their 2023 Heritage Farm sign. Earley Acres was honored this year during the Iowa State Fair as part of the annual Heritage Farms Award Ceremony. PHOTO COURTESY OF DIANE PANFIL

DES MOINES – A record seven separate Tama County farm families were honored on Thursday, August 17, at the Iowa State Fair Livestock Pavilion with 2023 Heritage Farm designations. The seven farms were located throughout the northern Tama County landscape and include Abernathey Family Farms (est. 1871), the farm of Richard and Connie Draper (est. 1859), Earley Acres/Keith F. Earley (est. 1865), Schuchart Family Farm (est. 1873), the farm of Mike and Wendy Wieben (est. 1873), the farm of Mitchell and Barb Wieben (est. 1873), and the farm of R. Sam and Ellen Young (est. 1864).

While the Century Farm program began in 1976, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship in conjunction with the Iowa Farm Bureau only began honoring Heritage (150 years or more) Farms in 2006. Honored farms receive both a certificate and a farm marker.

A total of 398 Iowa farm families – 156 Heritage Farms and 242 Century Farms – were recognized this year. Tama County currently has 43 Heritage Farm designations and 364 Century Farm designations. One of the county’s Heritage Farm honorees is profiled below.

Earley Acres

Earley Acres located southwest of Traer in Crystal Township has been stewarded through the years to both a Century and Heritage Farm designation by farmer Keith Earley. While he received the Heritage designation this year, his farm was given a Century Farm designation back in 1976.

Diane Panfil, left, and her younger brother Mark Earley pictured in the fall of 1976 holding their family farm’s Century Farm marker in front of the original farmhouse where they grew up. Diane was 10 years old when the photo was taken, while Mark was five years old. PHOTO COURTESY OF DIANE PANFIL

Unfortunately, Keith was unable to travel to Des Moines for the award last month, according to his daughter Diane (née Earley) Panfil. In his place, Panfil along with her younger brother Mark Earley and their respective family members accepted the award on the family’s behalf.

“[Our] dad is very proud,” Panfil told the Telegraph following the ceremony. “When he saw the picture we took at the [Iowa State Fair] he got a big smile, then happy tears!”

The Earley farm originated in May of 1865 when Keith’s great-great-grandfather John Stevenson purchased 160 acres at a price of $5.50 per acre, according to the Century Farm application submitted in May of 1975.

The farm later passed to Stevenson’s son William Stevenson, followed by his granddaughter Eva Stevenson Earley and her husband Frank Earley before making its way to Keith’s father William Stevenson Earley.

The Earley house is the only original building that remains on the property today – the original barns were all destroyed by a tornado in 1888.

The Earley Acres farmhouse – built in 1873 – pictured today. The house is the only original building that remains on the Heritage Farm. PHOTO COURTESY OF DIANE PANFIL

“The barns that were rebuilt after the 1888 tornado are not there anymore,” Panfil said. “One blew down in the July 2011 derecho and the other we had to take down a couple years ago because the foundation was crumbling.”

While Panfil and her brother grew up in the pretty white farmhouse, Keith lived there almost his entire life save for a few years following his marriage to the late Lois (née Christensen) Earley.

“After he and mom first got married, they lived a mile away until my grandparents moved to town and dad and mom could move back to the ‘home place,'” Panfil explained.

Keith and Lois remained in the farmhouse until 2013 when they, too, made the decision to move to town, but even then Keith made sure to keep an eye on the place, Panfil said.

“Dad would continue to go out to the farm almost every day for several years after that.”

Today the farmhouse is occupied by Joe and McKenna Kvidera and their young daughter; the Kvideras help Panfil and her brother with the farm.

When asked what the next 150 years might bring for the Earley farm, Panfil isn’t sure but she knows one thing is certain — and it’s something sure to bring another smile to her dad’s face.

“As of now, Mark and I intend to keep the farm in the family.”

2023 Tama County Heritage Farms

In addition to Earley Acres, six other farms received Heritage designations this year. Ceremony photos from most of those six farms were part of a supplement section included in last week’s Telegraph.

-Abernathey Family Farms is located in rural Clutier in Oneida Township. The land was purchased on March 8, 1871, by Carsten and Catharina Jensen. Present farm owners include Chad and Sorina Abernathey of Cedar Rapids along with their children and grandchildren Ethan, Carsten, Haaken, Kaelan, River, and Holden Abernathey. The farm originally comprised 80 acres.

-Richard and Connie Draper’s farm – Draper’s Acres – is located in rural Buckingham in Buckingham Township. The land was purchased on September 24, 1859, by Norman Draper, the great-grandfather of present owner Richard Draper of Buckingham. The farm originally comprised 240 acres.

-The Schuchart Family Farm is located in rural Dysart in Clark Township. The land was first purchased on April 8, 1873, by Justus Schuchart, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather to current owners Don Schuchart and Ryan Schuchart, respectively. The farm originally comprised 80 acres.

-Mike and Wendy Wieben’s farm is located in rural Clutier in Oneida Township. The land was first purchased in 1873. The farm originally comprised 156 acres.

-Mitchell and Barb Wieben’s farm is located in rural Clutier in Oneida Township. The land was first purchased in 1873. The farm originally comprised 158 acres.

-Robert Samuel ‘Sam’ and Ellen Young’s farm is located in rural Traer in Perry Township. The land was first purchased on March 30, 1864, by Robert Young, the great-great uncle of the present owner. The farm originally comprised 80 acres.