A Legacy on the Farm: Preserving and Improving the Land

Don and Pat Swanson are the sixth generation to farm near Ottumwa. With a farming heritage that dates to 1845, the couple has a certain respect for the past and a desire to care for the land entrusted to them.

“Every farm we’ve ever been on, whether owned or rented, we’ve tried to make it better for the next generation,” Don said. “That’s what my dad and grandfather and great-grandfather did, and we just carried on that tradition.”

The Swansons have been using cover crops since the 1970s. They also practice no-till and have ponds to protect the watershed.

“Our family protected this land for us six generations ago, and so we are committed to doing the same thing for the next six generations,” Pat said. “It’s very important to us.”

And as the cost of land continues to rise, the Swansons focus not on expansion but on improving the land they already farm.

They have found their conservation practices and the farm’s success go hand-in-hand. “It’s important that we continue to have voluntary conservation practices because every farm is different,” Pat said. “The soils are different.”

The motivation to continue their conservation practices is right in front of them: the eighth generation has already started to help them on the farm.

“I’m raising my kids and grandkids right here on this land,” Pat said. “So it’s important to me that the water be safe and we do everything to take care of the land and water.”