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Just bein’ good neighbors

By Staff | Apr 24, 2009

Joel and Karen Schuiteman of Sioux Center were named April's Wergin Good Farm Neighbor recipients. Their award was presented April 20 by Deputy Secretary Karey Claghorn.

INWOOD – Whether it’s their farming practices, or contributions to their local communities, churches or farm organizations, a pair of farm families in Northwest Iowa have recently been recognized by their neighbors as being, well, good neighbors.

The monthly honor, called the Gary Wergin Good Neighbor award, is issued by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The April award was given Monday to Joel and Karen Schuiteman, of Sioux Center, and in March it was given to Mike and Sarah Ver Steeg, of Inwood,

Joel and Karen Schuiteman

The Schuiteman’s custom-feed cattle and farm row crops in the center of Sioux County.

The Schuitemans were nominated by neighbors Steve and Peg Mouw for their hard work and dedication to agriculture and their community.

Lyon County farmers Mike and Sarah Ver Steeg accepted the March Good Farm Neighbor Award from Deputy Agriculture Secretary Karey Clagehorn on March 30 at the Inwood Community Center.

“They are an amazing family,” the Mouws said. “One day as I was looking through my e-mails several had come from Karen on 4-H and church activities and I thought how this Schuiteman family was a natural for this award, especially for their help to my brother-in-law who had been deployed to Afghanistan.”

Her brother-in-law, Al Bloemendaal, who has livestock and crops, said his orders arrived in March of 2005. “I was number 17, (when) 16 National Guard members were (summoned) to be deployed. When one failed health requirements, I was called up.”

With less than two weeks to prepare, Al and his wife, Lynne, made the decision to run an ad to rent the ground for the months he would be away. The ad ran in the paper the week Bloemendaal left for deployment.

Schuiteman, who had been doing custom work for the Bloemendaals, knew the family’s fields and its farming style. He called Lynne.

“He (Al) said not to worry, he would just take care of it,” said Lynne.

That phone call was a big relief to the Bloemendaals, Lynne noted, adding that Schuiteman took care of the land for two full years, never accepting one penny for his time or costs.

“He would give you the shirt off his back,” said Al Bloemendaal. “That is the kind of neighbors they are.”

Mike and Sarah Ver Steeg

Farming in eastern Lyon County, Mike and Sarah Ver Steeg put a tremendous emphasis on being good neighbors.

Chad and Jodie Van Regenmorter, nominated the Ver Steegs for the honor, describing their neighbors as “always willing to lend a helping hand to people whether it’s a neighbor or someone from the other side of the county. The Ver Steeg’s are very mindful of their neighbors and their farm is always well kept.”

The Ver Steeg’s operation includes an 850-head sow operation and row crops. Ver Steeg farrows, selling the weaned pigs to his father Dr. Eugene Ver Steeg. A former veterinarian turned farmer.

Several farm management practices the Ver Steegs have implemented recognize their commitment of being a good neighbor. “To minimize odor from the earthen manure storage facility, we take a Vermeer Hay Buster shredding cornstalk bales,” said Mike Ver Steeg. “That is blown over the facility.”

Ver Steegs also inject all manure directly into the soil, reducing odor and conserving nutrient value.

Mike and Sarah have made a presentation of their farm to use in telling the story of modern day agriculture. He has shown it in both small rural towns and in larger urban area such as Sioux Falls, S.D.

Their award was presented by Deputy Secretary Karey Claghorn on March 30 at Inwood.

Contact Renae Vander Schaaf by e-mail at renaefarmnews@gmail.com.

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