ROCKWELL CITY, Iowa — Serving their community has always been a priority for Keith and Barb Sexton.
In addition to farming 1,300 acres and raising three boys, the north central Iowa couple found time to be part of a host of organizations throughout their marriage.
“We not only enjoy it, but we felt it was our duty to be active in our community,” Keith says.
The Sextons are one of seven Iowa farm families who are recipients of the Iowa State Fair’s the Way We Live award. Their award was presented Aug. 18 at the fair. Iowa Farmer Today is one of the sponsors of the award.
Keith grew up on the 240 acres that form the family’s Century Farm. He and Barb have three grown sons — Kyle, Brian and Brent. All work off the farm.
“We believe we all are created with certain talents, and we certainly support all of them,” Keith says.
But there is another generation farming this Calhoun County soil. The Sextons are working with a young couple, James and Paige Hepp, to help them get started in farming.
“We were looking for someone with a good attitude toward community service and strong personal integrity,” Keith says. “James and Paige have all of that.”
This is year two of the transition. Over the first year, the Hepps mainly worked for the Sextons to help them get acclimated to the lifestyle.
This year, they are renting about half of the farm. Next year, they will rent most of it.
“Brent is a veterinarian and has an interest in maintaining ties to the farm, so we will retain three fields in my name and James will custom farm those according to our plan,” Keith says.
Several years ago, Keith and Barb started spending more time in Florida, so they have divested themselves of many community commitments. Keith served on local and state committees for the Farm Bureau and also served as president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association several years ago.
He is also a member of the Iowa Soybean Association and Practical Farmers of Iowa.
Both have served as 4-H leaders and are active in their church, St. Francis Catholic Church in Rockwell City. Barb has served on the Iowa State University Alumni Foundation board, as well as the Iowa 4-H Foundation board.
And, she says, the family holds season tickets to ISU football games, and are eagerly awaiting the start of the season.
In addition to planting corn and beans, the families have tried different crops, including popcorn, seed- and food-grade soybeans, sorghum, sweet sorghum, oats, cereal rye for seed, sweet corn, asparagus and a variety of vegetables.
“We like to try things,” Keith says. “This year, for example, we are growing cereal rye for seed.”
Preserving and enhancing the environment are also a priority.
“We believe we need to preserve our resources,” he says. “Taking good care of the land is very important.”