Retirees Combined Service at Research Farms Totals 155 Years

By Megan Lutz, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Communications Service

The ISU Research and Demonstration Farms held a reception and presentation honoring four staff retirees who had a combined service of 155 years on Feb. 13.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences ISU Research and Demonstration Farms unit manages farms all across Iowa. The research at the farms is dedicated to solving problems that impact different areas of the state. More than 130 Iowa State faculty and staff use the farms for teaching, research and extension, and more than 2,000 students receive hands-on education at the sites.

But the farms can't operate without the dedication of the staff who work there every day, no matter the weather.

Dale Niedermann, Nick Piekema, Kevin Maher and Steve Goben committed numerous years to their respective ISU farms. Each of them shared their thoughts as they began to look forward to retirement:

Kevin Maher
From: Mingo, Iowa
Research Farm: Started at ISU Rhodes Research Farm and then moved ISU McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm when beef cattle were moved to Chariton
Position: Agricultural specialist
How long: 41 years

Describe your day-to-day work.
Moving cattle and working with beef breeding and calving twice a year. I was mainly in charge of the black Angus cattle. I was part of the research farm's accomplishment of having the nation's number-one black Angus bull for marbling.

What changes have you seen during your time at the research farm?
Mostly, it's raising cattle that produce better steak. The goal was to produce cattle that had just the right marbling for eating. Also, the farm has seen a lot of machinery upgrades. When I first started, the tractor didn't even have a cover on it. And herding cattle used to be done on horseback, but then eventually it was done with utility vehicles and four-wheelers.

Favorite memory?
The guys that I've worked with over the years. They've all been very memorable and stayed in touch. The friendships have been maintained and we've kept in contact over the years.

Biggest accomplishment?
We were noted for not losing a lot of calves every year during calving season. My wife, Barb, remembers during calving season how I would sleep in my office on the farm, so I could be there and check on the cattle throughout the night.

What experience did you value the most?
The people and all the friends I've made in my job. Being able to stay friends with co-workers for so long, even when they took other jobs or moved.

What are you looking forward to next?
After 40 years working on the research farm no matter the weather, it's nice to not have to go outside to go work cattle on days when it's snowing and the weather is bad. Also, I'm looking forward to spending time with kids, grandkids and traveling to visit them.

Dale Niedermann
From: Gladbrook, Iowa
Research Farm: Ag Engineering/Agronomy Research Farm, Boone
Position: Farm equipment operator - 42 years

Describe your day-to-day work.
It depended on the time of year. I was involved in everything with the farm operation. A lot of times it was field cultivating and preparing the ground for planting. I also did spraying of crops with herbicides. In the fall, there's harvest and I hauled grain to the grain bins and elevators. There were times I also operated a combine. After harvest, there's getting ready for next year's planting.

What changes have you seen during your time at the research farm?
There's a lot more electronics involved in the planting and harvest than there used to be. With GPS guidance, now you use computers. Years ago we had to mark the rows the researchers wanted to plant with tape and flags, but now they can just tell you how wide and what area they want, all with electronics. It's the ability to get the data you want quite fast. You can actually turn the equipment on autosteer and it'll take you to the other side of the field now.

Have a favorite memory?
There's a lot of research done with different people. One of the things that I appreciated the most was when I got done tilling ground or helping someone plant, a lot of them would come up to you and tell you thank you. It makes you feel better that they appreciate what you're helping them do.

Biggest accomplishment?
I worked here for just under 42 years and have hardly had a bad experience the whole time. I've had the same position since I started at the university in 1976.

What experience did you value the most?
Learning about different crops. When I started, it was mostly corn and soybeans. Now, there's a lot of sorghum, switchgrass and other types of grasses that they're doing research on. The type of research has changed and includes more of a variety of crops.

What are you looking forward to next?
Being able to spend more time with my grandchildren. We have some in the local area, but it will be fun to get time to travel and visit them.

Steve Goben
From: Chariton, Iowa
Research Farm: McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm, Chariton
Position: Field laboratory technician
How long: 45 years

Describe your day-to-day work.
I worked with the plots, cattle, machinery and helped out with everything.

What changes have you seen during your time at the research farm?
I was there for nearly 45 years, so many things changed.

Favorite memory?
I really just enjoyed working at the farm.

Nick Piekema
From: Raised in the Roland area and currently lives in Lacona, Iowa. 
Research Farm: McNay Memorial Research and Demonstration Farm, Chariton
Position: One of two managers that oversees the entire farm and is involved with agronomy and fertility research plots.
How long: 27 years

Describe your day-to-day work.
I took care of the row crops, did the purchasing and the budget and oversaw machinery maintenance.

What changes have you seen during your time at the research farm?
A lot more technology has come into play. Also, equipment keeps growing larger and people are farming more ground. It was all fairly gradual.

Favorite memory?
The research farm itself, and working with the people on campus in both our home office and with the researchers.

Biggest accomplishment?
I'm particularly proud of helping keep the farm running on a day-to-day basis. (Note: The McNay Farm is 2,000 acres with 400 beef cows.)

What experience did you value the most?
Getting to work with the professors and researchers on campus.

What are you looking forward to next?
Getting to take care of my own farm, spending time with my grandchildren and traveling more. 

 

February 2018

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