Wallaces Farmer has honored four farm homemakers with the prestigious Iowa Master Farm Homemaker award. The recipients were recognized during ceremonies in Johnston, Iowa, September 11, 2009.
This year's winners include Doris Johnson of Fairfield, Carole Kleis of Zwingle, Judith Leistikow of Readlyn and Marcella Schneckloth of Davenport. Wallaces Farmer has been a sponsor of the Iowa Master Farm Homemaker Award since 1940. The honor recognizes these women for their fine work with their families, homes and community service.
Since the program was started in 1928, the Iowa chapter has had a total of 320 members and four honorary members and belongs to a national organization made up of award winners from many states.
DORIS JOHNSON – Fairfield, Iowa
Doris Ringelspach Johnson was a farming partner with her husband Don for many years. Approximately 20 years ago, a family farm corporation was established with Don, Doris, their son, Doug, and daughter-in-law, Lynne, as stockholders. After Doug's untimely death in July 2007 and Don's passing in July 2008, changes were made. Doris and daughters, Dian Johnson and Dee Johnson Sandquist, continue to manage the 700 acres Doris owns.
Besides keeping farm records, Doris helped Don with the farming by driving tractors, herding cattle and providing daily meals, often delivered to the field. Doris wanted to be at home when the children came home from school, so she raised laying chickens for extra income. For 10 years, her flock of 2,000 hens kept her busy raising and feeding chickens, and gathering, washing, candling, boxing and selling eggs on contract.
After the children left for college, Doris worked at the Jefferson County assessor's office for 25 years.
In spite of her work on and off the farm, Doris also volunteered as a 4-H leader and was a member of the county 4-H committee, county president of the Republican women and board member of the Iowa Federation of Republican Women, and as a member of the county Farm Bureau Women. She served on the Jefferson County Board for the Agency on Aging and was a delegate to the Silvered Hair Conference representing Iowa for the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, for two years.
Doris and Don supported each other's activities in community involvement. Don was active in several organizations at local, state and national levels. They shared an interest in travel. Don, Doris and the children often spent family vacations traveling to annual Soil and Water Conservation Association meetings.
A lifelong member of First Lutheran Church in Fairfield, Doris' great grandparents Charles and Sarah Wendling Schmidt were founding members of the church in 1856. Doris has served in many ways including as a Sunday school teacher for 20 years. She's served on her local church council and with Lutheran women's organizations in which she has held offices at local, district and state levels. She was an active member of the ecumenical Church Women United for 45 years.
CAROLE KLEIS – Zwingle, Iowa
When Carole Kleis is not working on the farm, she is cooking, painting, quilting, reading or helping out in the community. She and her husband Richard (Dick) operate 590 acres and milk 170 cows near Zwingle in Dubuque County. Son Steve farms with them and has taken over most of the milking chores which allows Carole time to pursue her passions.
In addition to milking Holsteins for 48 years, this busy couple also raised five children. They received the Outstanding Dairy Farm Family Award in 1979.
Besides cooking, one of Carole's primary passions is sewing. She sewed wedding dresses and attendants dresses for all four daughters. She also made the cummerbunds and ties for the guys and at the last wedding made the outfits for all the grandchildren (seven at that time, now 11).
This effervescent seamstress is also into quilting. Last year she gave all the kids and grandkids a quilt at Christmas. Carole has also become interested in wooden barn quilts and she and a friend have made several. Carole took painting lessons in the early '90s as a hobby and her home is decorated with a wide array of farm and outdoor scenes painted on a variety of materials.
One of the biggest activities now for Carole is upkeep and cleaning of a closed church the family bought so they could have Mass there three to four times a year. In 2001, the church was closed due to a shortage of priests. The plan was to sell the church, which was built in 1896, as two other churches had been sold. Since then Carole has arranged with a retired pastor to say Mass every three or four months and the church community holds a potluck.
Carole has always volunteered time for many groups including the Rosary Society, Community Club, County Women's Food Stand and Creative Arts Building at the county fair. Carole and Richard have been big supporters of dairy activities in Dubuque County including donating items for the Dairy Princess Contest and supporting the local Dairy Herd Improvement Association. Carole is a former member of the Dubuque Senior High School Ram Booster Club and the Zwingle Athletic Association. The Kleises enjoy travel and have been to China, India, Egypt, South America and Europe.
JUDITH LEISTIKOW – Readlyn, Iowa
Judith (Judy) and Ron Leistikow are retired dairy and beef producers. They milked side-by-side for 38 years, as many as 110 cows at a time. Judy maintained all production, health and DHIA records. Today, they operate 1,400 acres of corn and soybeans near Readlyn in Bremer County. Ron and Judy were named Iowa Master Farmers in 2003.
Even though semi-retired, Judy still maintains all records for their personal cash-crop business as well as for a 3,500-acre farm partnership which includes sons Kevin and Kurt and son-in-law Marty Marticoff.
She also manages payroll and employee records as well as coordinates many of the meetings involving banks, FSA, crop and tax consultants, etc. She is Ron's partner when it comes to marketing the crop and they make decisions together on land rental, selling prices, government program options, etc.
Cooking is one of her many passions. She likes reading recipe books and loves to cook for family and friends, often trying out new recipes. Gardening is a passion. Judy has flowers of all kinds and, with Ron's help she grows a large garden and cans hundreds of quarts of salsa, green beans and cucumbers.
Above all is family, however. It's rare to find a family of six children, six in-laws and 20 grandchildren that can all get together as often as they do. The whole group tries to get together at least twice a year – at least once in summer for a family weekend and once in winter to celebrate Christmas. Judy also knew it was important for her children to have exposure to other cultures. As part of that, the family hosted three foreign exchange students (from Spain, France and the Philippines) while her children were in grade school and middle school.
Judy's record of activities is too extensive to list but here are a few highlights. She has been involved for many years with the Bremer County Dairy Promoters, Bremer County Fair Queen Committee, Bremer County Farm Bureau, Bremer County Republicans, Bremer County 4-H and St. Matthews Church.
She is currently president of the Readlyn Community Club, treasurer of the circle at their church (St. Matthews), and on the Readlyn Historical Society Board.
All six children were active in 4-H and three were involved in FFA. Judy and Ron love to travel and have been to Germany, Australia and Mexico and are planning a trip to Ireland this fall to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary.
MARCELLA SCHNECKLOTH – Davenport, Iowa
Working every day with her husband Ronald on their livestock and crop farm north of Davenport, Marcella Schneckloth also crams in several hours or days a week of volunteer activities to help others learn about agriculture.
The Schneckloths feed about 75 head of beef cattle and collect eggs from about 500 laying hens, in addition to 160 acres of row crops and hay. They live and work on the farm Ron's parents purchased in 1940 and have raised their three children in the same big, comfortable farmhouse. All three children and grandchildren live close by and return to the farm often to visit and help out.
Marcella and Ron have carved out a niche market that sustains their farming operation. They sell eggs to several health food stores and grocery stores in Davenport area and across the river in Illinois. They also have customers who stop in at the farm to buy eggs. The Schneckloths offer "close to organic" eggs, says Ron. "We don't use drugs or antibiotics in our chicken feed. We use our own grain and forages and grind and mix it ourselves. But we aren't wholly organic because we use fertilizer and pesticides as needed on our crops."
When the Schneckloths aren't doing farm chores, they like to help others, especially urban dwellers in the Quad Cities, understand the role of agriculture and what farmers do on a daily basis. As one of the few farms left that raise laying hens, they have spent the past 30 years sharing their expertise about poultry. They have hosted many tours for schoolchildren and foreign visitors to give others a chance to learn about a diversified farming operation.
Marcella and Ron are both active with Scott County Farm Bureau. Marcella has held most of the offices available to township women; she's currently president. Since 1990, Marcella has co-chaired the Ag in the Classroom Committee.
Marcella and Ron have been involved with 4-H and the Mississippi Valley Fair for many years. Although it's been a longtime since their own children were in 4-H, Marcella and Ron continue to help other youngsters with 4-H projects. They are longtime supervisors of the fair's poultry department and the grains department. The Schneckloth family still meets every summer at the fair to help Marcella and Ron with the grain exhibit.