Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig presented the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor award to the Bates family, owners of Bates Family Farms, on Thursday, July 14 in Washington, Iowa at 11:00 a.m.

This family farm is based outside of Washington and run by Mike and Karen Bates along with their daughter Courtney Bates and one employee. Mike established the operation after he graduated from high school in 1972 and has been farming ever since.

“As leaders in Iowa agriculture, the Bates family has made animal care and environmental stewardship the foundation of their operation for the past 50 years,” said Secretary Naig. “Pairing their farming practices with their longstanding commitment to supporting their local community, the Bates family embodies the true character of Iowa agriculture. I am proud to present them with this award.”

The Bates family farm includes corn, soybean and alfalfa production, a black angus herd and, for 33 years, a turkey operation. While the turkey operation recently transitioned to another young farmer in the area, it remains an important part of the farm’s leadership story.

Through their turkey operation, the family implemented many innovative animal husbandry practices. All their turkey barns were environmentally controlled and equipped with comprehensive biosecurity programs made possible by digital monitors and alarms. The Bates family kept detailed records of their antibiotic-free flock and were reviewed annually by West Liberty Foods. They are also Beef Quality Assurance certified, further ensuring their ability to provide top-notch animal care.

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In addition to their dedication to high-quality animal husbandry, Mike has consistently emphasized the importance of conservation. As a result, the family has incorporated terraces, buffer strips and no-till practices on most of their row crop acres. They have also planted rye cover crops on potions of their land and use solar energy to power their house and turkey barns.

Outside of their work on the farm, the family is extensively involved in the Iowa agriculture community and other organizations. Mike has served on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, the U.S. Meat Export Federation, the Farm Bureau Poultry Advisory Committee, the Agri-Way Partners board of directors and the West Liberty Foods board of directors. He is currently a member of the Iowa Turkey Federation, the Iowa Farm Bureau, the Iowa Soybean Association, the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Cattlemen’s Association. They are active members of their church and are involved with Water for Life, an organization that helps ensure people in Haiti have access to clean drinking water.

The Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award is made possible by the Coalition to Support Iowa’s Farmers. This award recognizes Iowa livestock farmers who take pride in caring for the environment, their livestock and being good neighbors. It is named in memory of Gary Wergin, a long-time WHO Radio farm broadcaster who helped create the award.