November 28, 2020

Doing Things Right: Barry Anderson Family Receives Good Neighbor Award

Barry AndersonWhile the poet Robert Frost noted that good fences make good neighbors, Barry Anderson and his family know there’s more to it than that. In rural Clay County, being a good neighbor means protecting the environment and connecting with the community.

“I’ve always wanted to farm, and I like helping to feed the world,” said Anderson, who is honored that he and his family received the April 2012 Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award. “Agriculture is a huge part of life, and we need to tell the story.”

The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award recognizes Iowa livestock farmers like the Andersons who take pride in doing things right. In April, nearly 90 guests gathered at the Legends Events and Social Center in Spencer to celebrate the Anderson family’s award, which included a presentation by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers and a live radio broadcast on Des Moines’s 1040 WHO Radio.

“Barry is a great neighbor and community member,” said Leo Stephas, president of the Clay County Farm Bureau, who nominated the Andersons for the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award. “He has taught his family to be volunteers, help others, and always do what is right. Barry and his family spend countless hours helping others, which is the core of just about every farmer you meet.”

Speaking up for agriculture

While farming is Anderson’s passion, it wasn’t always a clear-cut option for him after he graduated from South Clay High School in 1984. He double majored in agri-business and history at Buena Vista in Storm Lake but didn’t have the opportunity to return to the farm right after college.

Anderson took a job with Norwest Financial and moved to Chattanooga, TN, where he worked as a loan officer/branch manager. He later took a job with Associates Financial and moved to western Tennessee, where he spent the next eight years of his career.

When Anderson’s father, Wendell, called him one day in 1996, Barry knew the time was right to come home to northwest Iowa. “I enjoyed my job but disliked the corporate side of the business. When Dad said he was thinking about slowing down, I jumped at the chance to start farming.”

Barry AndersonAnderson is proud to carry on a family tradition that started when his great-grandfather began farming in the Greenville area decades ago. In 1996, Anderson built a 2,000-head swine finishing barn, and five years ago he added a tunnel-ventilated, 2,400-head finishing barn. Anderson also got into the cattle business about seven years ago and runs a cow-calf operation with his cousin, Brad Anderson.

Caring for livestock is second nature for Anderson, who handled plenty of hog chores when he was growing up on the farm. “I’ve always liked working with livestock, and I enjoy seeing new life come into the world,” said Anderson, who added that he and his wife, Dana, are glad they’ve had the chance to raise their children (daughters Megan and Taylor and son Christopher) on the farm.

While row-crop farming and livestock production are full-time jobs, Anderson makes time to give back to the community. He’s an active member of the Clay County Pork Producers Association and has served as president of the Clay County Farm Bureau. He has also served on the South Clay School Board and has contributed his time to MaxYield Cooperative’s Nominating Committee. Thanks to his training with Farm Bureau and other ag organizations, Anderson is prepared to give his 30-second “Why I enjoy being a farmer” speech whenever the opportunity arises.

“We need to speak up for agriculture, because we have a good story to tell. If we don’t speak out, someone else will, and they may not share such a positive message.”

Farmers protect the environment and the economy

Part of this positive message includes conservation practices, noted Anderson, who farms near the Little Sioux River. His fields include terraces that Wendell installed a number of years ago to prevent  soil erosion. In addition, the Andersons use minimum tillage practices to protect soil and water quality, said Anderson, who also relies on advice from MaxYield Cooperative’s agronomy specialists to help him produce higher yields with fewer crop inputs.

When the Andersons apply swine manure from their livestock barns, they knife the nutrients into the soil to control odors—a practice that the neighbors appreciate. The family has also planted many trees around their hog barns and added a windbreak near their home.

“Protecting the environment and focusing on the future are huge parts of what farmers do every day,” said Anderson, who is glad his father still plays an active role in the farming operation. “We have to be forward thinkers, so agriculture can continue to support the local economy.”

“Agriculture is a huge part of life, and we need to tell the story.”

—Barry Anderson, Clay County farmer and recipient of the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award

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