(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joseph Hopper)
Cattle, crops, community: Dolch family recognized as Good Farm Neighbors
December 1, 2023 | Bethany Baratta
When handed the microphone to provide an acceptance speech, Steve Dolch didn’t use it to lecture about how a simple handshake and honoring your commitment could make the world a better place. Instead, flanked by his wife Linda and their family, he went on to recognize those who have helped the family throughout the years.
It was the family’s day to celebrate the recognition—they were named the most recent Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award recipients. Presented by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF), the award recognizes livestock farm families in the state who go above and beyond to care for their livestock, their farms and their communities. The 178th family to receive the award in nearly 20 years, the Dolch family accepted the accolades humbly.
“I’m humbled and honored to be selected,” Steve, an Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) farmer-member said in a post-event interview.
And again, when given a chance to brag about the ways they care for their Angus cattle or the numerous conservation practices in place on the farm, the conversation reflected on those who have helped the family along the way.
When asked about what it means to be a good neighbor, Steve told the story about when his father needed life-saving blood donations. Steve reflected on the goodness of others who rolled up their sleeves to donate blood not just for his father, but for others in need. It inspired Steve—who once grimaced at the idea of donating blood—to roll up his sleeves. His father has since passed away, but the goodness of others remains with Steve. He’s now donated more than 5 gallons.
Steve and his brother Vince created the farm partnership on April Fools’ Day in 1972, but the care the family takes of their cattle, their land, and their community is anything but a joke.
They were named Farm Family of the Year for Montgomery County in 2019, they’ve volunteered for 28 years at the Cattleman’s Beef Quarters at the Iowa State Fair, and the family is the only family in Iowa with four siblings (Matthew, Michael, Marshall and Mikayla) who have all held state FFA offices.
Now, they’re the second family in Montgomery County to have been recognized as Good Farm Neighbor recipients.
“It’s an honor for us to recognize livestock families like the Dolch family who go above and beyond every day with their land and livestock in their communities,” says CSIF Executive Director Brian Waddingham. In addition to honoring farm families through this award, CSIF, with support from industry partners—including ISA—also helps farmers navigate various opportunities and obstacles in today’s farming climate. From enhancing neighbor relations to guiding farmers through the 250 pages of rules and regulations that apply to livestock farming today, the coalition is the go-to when it comes to growing a livestock farm and helping farmers welcome the next generation into the operation.
‘It takes the farmers’
There’s no doubt Steve and Linda were honored to be nominated for their award by Bryon Weesner, who was a member of the Iowa FFA Alumni Board with Steve.
“They’re people that give back with their time, talent and energy,” says Weesner. “That’s something I’ve appreciated about Steve and the Dolch family. If you’re going to be a farm neighbor, you want those kinds of people around you.”
Steve and Linda are also proud that their sons and daughter remain closely connected to the farm and agriculture through their various occupations.
“They’ve always been very involved in the farming operation—from helping their dad with chores to picking up apples in the backyard to fence repair,” says Linda, a retired teacher of 37 years. “We also have to give a lot of credit to the FFA organization, which has provided a tremendous increase in their potential.”
Outside of the farm, being a part of committees, organizations and associations like the Iowa Soybean Association are also important, Steve says.
“People don’t realize that food comes from other sources than the grocery store,” he says, mentioning the importance of getting back to the basics when it comes to talking about agriculture. “They get the milk from the cooler, the ice cream from the freezer and the bread from the bakery rack, but it takes the farmers throughout this great country to do that.”
In recognition of this award, Alex Frazier, co-owner of Frazier Nursery in Vinton, presented the Dolch family with a bur oak tree (the official tree of the State of Iowa) to plant on their farm.
“We hope this tree is not only a deserving trophy, but a reminder of being good farm neighbors,” Frazier says. “We feel like this tree has the characteristics of an Iowa farmer: It isn’t a showy tree, but it’s one that’s going to be around for a while.”
Know of a livestock farmer who exemplifies the characteristics of a Good Farm Neighbor Award winner? Nominate them here.
Read more about the Dolch family.