The largest number of awards in Lancaster County Super Fair history were given out to six farm homesteads at the annual VIP Luncheon on Aug. 1, the first day of the 10-day Super Fair.
Nebraska is full of families who have been farming and keeping traditions alive for decades. Each year, the Knights of Aksarben Foundation partners with the Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska Association of Fair Managers to present the Pioneer Farm and Heritage Farm awards. These awards honor the families who have held same family ownership of land for 100 and 150 years, respectively.
Pioneer Award (100 years):
• Reiss Family Farm
• Dietz Family Farm Homestead 1
Heritage Award (150 years):
• Brown Family Farm
• Dietz Family Farm Homestead 2
• Nelson Family Farm
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• Sunny Slope Family Farm
Stories of how each farm was passed down through up to six generations were shared in front of a crowd of over 200.
Reinold Reiss family members acquired their 165-acre farmland near Crete in 1885, beginning with just a dugout in the pasture. Reinold was unfortunately kicked by a horse, which caused extensive injuries that resulted in passing the farm to his brother. Passed down ever since, the remaining 82 acres of land is owned by two descendants.
The Dietz Family Farm was awarded with both the Pioneer and Heritage awards for two separate homesteads. The Dietz Homestead near Firth was founded in 1868 by Henry Dietz when he received two 80-acre allotments under the military Homestead Act as a Civil War Union veteran. Henry and his wife produced spring wheat, Indian corn, oats, Idaho potatoes, butter, hay and molasses while keeping several horses, cattle, hogs and a milk cow on the farm. In 1907, the next farm generation was extremely productive and progressive, specializing in farming, gardening, canning, livestock, bee hives, steam engines, gas engines and threshing crews.
In 1869, Charles Wesley Gillham formed what would become the Brown Family Farm near Waverly. The Browns were well-known for harvesting ice off of camp creek to help local shops and families. Six generations, with several female leaders, have kept the place going, with 72 acres still in production today operated by the great granddaughter of Charles.
William Nelson acquired 80 acres by Bennet in 1869 as part of the Homestead Act. It was a mixed operation with crops, livestock and fruit trees, and to this day you can see the place where Nelsons' original dugout sat. The farm is now run by their grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Don Mitchell received the Heritage award for the Mitchell family as a special, surprise 82nd birthday present and celebration at the Super Fair. His great-grandfather H.F. Mitchell acquired the 40-acre farm, now called Sunny Slope Farms, by Sprague in 1869, where the family produced corn and soybeans. Today the farm is run by Don and his son’s family, reaching six generations.
To date, these are just six of more than 9,000 farms in all 93 Nebraska counties that have been honored with a plaque and gatepost marker. As the years go by people and places change, but the heart and soul of the farm carries on with each new passionate farmer keeping the Nebraska agricultural heritage alive.
To nominate a farm family, visit AKSARBEN.org/farm-family-awards/