Behounek Family receives Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award

Chelsea area family farm recognized for service and commitment to community

Iowa Sec. of Agriculture Mike Naig, right, presents the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to Joe and Francine Behounek this past Tuesday morning while visiting their farm, Bawnmore Farm located in rural Chelsea. PHOTO BY HOPE BRECHT/COALITION TO SUPPORT IOWA’S FARMERS

CHELSEA – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig presented the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to the Behounek family of rural Chelsea during an event held on their farm this past Tuesday morning.

Consisting of a purebred Suffolk sheep herd, a purebred Large White swine herd and crop production, Bawnmore Farm (Bawnmore meaning Large White or White Pig in Gaelic) is a multi-generational family farm located in Poweshiek County. The farm is owned by Joe and Francine Behounek and they are assisted by their daughter Kate Kiebach, grandson Kade Kiebach and granddaughter Hadley Kiebach. Jay Dvorak, a nephew, farms the land. Shane Behounek, a son, and grandsons Wesley and Bennet Behounek are on-call helpers. Tommy Kiebach, Samantha Behounek and Andrew Veit also help out on occasion.

“The fabric of so many Iowa communities is stronger because of farm families like the Behouneks and I’m pleased to present them with the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award,” said Secretary Naig in a news release ahead of the event. “Not only have the Behouneks demonstrated a lasting commitment to their land and livestock, but they have established a long track record of service to and care for their community and neighbors.”

Joe’s father, Leo Behounek, started farming in 1939 after he bought the farm from his father, Emil. Emil had purchased the farm in 1930 from John Benda for $1 and whatever else was negotiated. In 1962, at age 10, Joe went to the Chelsea bank with his father and signed a note to buy his first Yorkshire sow. In 1970, Joe graduated from high school, increased his herd to 20 sows and started selling breeding stock. In 1976, Joe and Francie graduated from Mount Mercy College, got engaged, and officially bought the farm from his father. In 1977, the couple got married and expanded the herd to 100 purebred Yorkshire shows. In 1980, they increased the herd to 200, introduced Large White genetic lines and sold a high volume of breeding boars and gilts. In 1983, they started exporting swine all over the world to places such as Mexico, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan. In 1998, as the swine industry underwent major changes, they decreased the herd to 100 sows. They liquidated the last of their herd in 2000. However, in 2016, the Behouneks started up a Suffolk sheep herd. In 2017, they reintroduced Large White swine to the farm to help with the preservation of genetics and the breed.

A high standard of animal care is important to the Behouneks. The swine and sheep are housed to keep them comfortable throughout Iowa’s changing seasons. In their swine herd, emphasis is placed on identifying good maternal lines to ensure sow productivity by evaluating litter size, birth weights, weaning weights, pig survival, durability and disposition.

Multiple generations of the Behounek Family gather for a photo on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at their rural Chelsea farm, Bawnmore Farm as part of the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award ceremony. The family is pictured alongside Iowa Sec. of Agriculture Mike Naig (third from right), state Sen. Annette Sweeney (second from right), and state Rep. Dean Fisher (right). PHOTO BY HOPE BRECHT/COALITION TO SUPPORT IOWA’S FARMERS

The family incorporates proven conservation practices. From 1977 to 2007, crop production was rotated between corn, soybeans and hay. They utilized minimal tillage, maintained grassed waterways, and let trees grow around creek beds to help prevent soil erosion. From 2007 to 2017, the farmland was enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). In 2017, Jay Dvorak began farming the land, rotating crops between corn and soybeans. Jay utilizes no-till and has planted radishes as a cover crop.

The Behouneks are actively involved in the community. Joe served eight years on the South Tama County Community School District Board of Directors. They are members of the Farm Bureau and the Tama County Pork Producers. When their children were in 4-H, they were leaders of the Chelsea Challengers 4-H Club. In 2003, after five years of study, Joe became ordained as a Deacon in the Catholic Church and was employed as a pastoral associate for the Circle of Saints Parish Cluster. He retired from that role in June of 2023.

Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award

The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award is made possible through a partnership with the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers (CSIF) and The Big Show on WHO Radio. This award recognizes Iowa livestock farmers who take pride in caring for the environment and their livestock and have demonstrated a commitment to their community. The award is named in memory of Gary Wergin, a long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster who helped create the award.