Soybean farmers standing next to red tractor

(Photo: Iowa Soybean Association / Joclyn Bushman)

Member spotlight: Lance and Kerri Bell, Keota

July 6, 2023 | Jeff Hutton

For Lance and Kerri Bell of rural Keota, farming is family. And family is farming.

“We’re on the farm where I was raised,” says Lance. “This is where I grew up.”

“I also grew up on a farm,” says Kerri. “We were both in 4-H and FFA, and our daughters were part of those organizations as well.”

And while farming is ingrained in the Bells’ DNA, sharing the message about farming and the value it brings to Iowa and the world is just as important.

Giving back

The Bells and their twin daughters, Sophie and Ellie, plant and harvest soybeans and corn and raise a small cattle herd in southeast Iowa. Sophie and Ellie graduated from Iowa State University in May; they each own their own farmland and immediately started their careers in off-farm agricultural jobs after receiving their degrees.

Bell family on farm with dog

Sophie and Ellie are following in their parents’ footsteps, both of whom have given back to the farming community. Kerri and Lance have participated at the local, state and national levels with various ag associations.

Lance has served as president and Kerri as secretary for the Washington/ Keokuk County Corn and Soybean Growers, and both are involved in the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

The couple is also involved with the Iowa Soybean Association’s (ISA) District Advisory Council and Communications Squad.

“It’s important to share our story because there are so many myths and misnomers about farming,” Kerri says. “We want people to know more about a farming operation, and it’s really important that we share this story.”

Kerri is also a CommonGround Iowa volunteer.

“It’s gotten me more involved in ISA,” she says. “I want to better tell the story about where our food comes from, including sharing information about GMOs, antibiotics and other topics. People need to know we care about the soil than most people realize we do. That food on the table, well, we eat that food too.”

In the classroom

The lessons from the farm find themselves in Kerri’s second-grade classroom at Mid-Prairie School District in Kalona. Kerri says it’s important that she shares the message of farming with her students.

“Every day in my classroom, my kids are learning what we do on the farm,” she says.

She connects agriculture to subjects such as environmental impact and social studies. She invites in other guests from Washington County Extension Ag in the Classroom, FFA, and the Iowa Ag Literacy Foundation, who create lesson plans based on every level of learning.

The similarities in the classroom and what happens on the farm are not lost on Kerri. Each year of teaching brings about another season and another ‘crop’ of students.

Like in farming, effort, training and education are important in shaping students’ knowledge.

Farming family in Iowa

Passion and change

The importance of family, giving back and educating others has been the basis of the Bell mantra.

Married for 33 years, they now share the philosophy with Sophie and Ellie.

“Farming is a passion,” says Kerri. “We want to give back, like our parents and grandparents. And now we’re seeing that firsthand with our daughters becoming involved in the profession.”

Farming has evolved, and the Bells are part of the change.

Strong no-till farming efforts and more emphasis on cover crops have increased since Lance and Kerri’s grandparents were farming.

“No-till and cover crops keep the soil in place,” Lance says. “Our equipment is much more efficient — the technology that’s involved and the advancements in the seed we use has evolved.”

“We’re not walking beans as we did as young kids,” says Kerri.

Building on a legacy

Farming, in the end, is what you put into it, the Bells say.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the results of our efforts,” Lance says.

“I cannot imagine not farming — I think I would really miss it. It’s what I grew up doing; it’s what I do.” Kerri agrees.

“We don’t know any other way of living, and we’re proud to continue that legacy,” she says.

“The farm is the best place to raise a family. It’s our livelihood, and we just don’t know anything different.”