Dwight Dial receives Good Farm Neighbor Award | News

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig presented the Wergin Good Farm Neighbor Award to Dwight Dial, a pork and lamb producer and row crop farmer in the Lake City area, on March 31 at the Lake City Community Memorial Building.

“Since Dwight Dial started farming in 1978, he has worked to make his operation more sustainable for future generations through the implementation of conservation practices,” said Naig. “Dwight is a great example of someone who takes pride in caring for his pigs and sheep, while recognizing the importance of caring for his land and being involved in his local community, making him a deserving recipient of the award.”

For 40 years, Dial farmed alongside his parents (Gerald and Alice Ann Dial), wife (Jane) and two sons (Ethan and Andrew). Today, he continues to manage his wean-to-finish hog operation, commercial ewe flock and row crop operation with help from his brother-in-law (Duane Sporleder) and a neighbor (Kevin Poen). Poen and his wife, Lynn, received the Gary Wergin Good Neighbor Award in 2012.

Conservation has always been top-of-mind for Dial. To leave the land in better condition than he found it, Dial has transitioned his corn and soybean fields to 100% no-till and has implemented cover crops, grassed waterways and terraces. He has also increased organic matter and sequestered carbon by applying hog manure to his ground. Dial has farmland enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Farm to River Partnership, Soil Health Partnership (SHP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

Dial said the Farm Depression in the ’80s prompted the switch to conservation practices.

“The word sustainability wasn’t even used back then,” he said. “That’s really what it was about: how do you do what you’re doing and survived to farm another year?”

Dial recalled that he told his dad, “I’m parking the moldboard plow. He said, ‘OK, what are you going to do?’ I said, ‘We’re not going to do anything. We’re going to no-till.”

Dial graduated from Westview High School in Lake City in 1968 and Iowa State University. He taught vocational agriculture at Iowa Valley Community Schools before returning here.

“I saw what (farmers) did down there,” he said. “We were tillers up here in Calhoun County, but Iowa County was no-tillers back in the ’70s. I said, ‘We’re going to move to that.’ … I’ve never looked back. I made the comment to somebody that the tillage equipment I bought when I started farming, I haven’t bought any ever since. My banker noticed the savings. He said, ‘I think there’s something wrong with your fuel bill. Is that right?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I plant, and I harvest. I don’t do what I consider to be recreational tillage. So we’ve been going at this since the late ’80s, 30 some years now. Then I started adding cover crops, and last was the first year I was 100 percent on everything.”

Dial said conservation practices are key to soil, water and air quality, as well as helping the wildlife population.

“It’s the whole gamut,” he remarked.

“It’s a great way to hold your soil, grow everything that makes a healthy soil, and I’m doing it without cutting back on yields,” he said. “No, I don’t hit those top-end yields, but I don’t have the expenses some of those have with tilling the soil. I don’t have to have that yield to pay for fuel, machinery and things like that.

“So it’s been a lifelong journey in trying to improve these soils from what I found when I came here. The soil health meter is saying, ‘Yes, our soils are very healthy,’ and that’s what I was after.”

Dial farms both his home farm 3 miles east and a mile north of Lake City as well as his folks’ farm west of Lake City.

In addition to Dial’s focus on environmental stewardship, the well-being of each animal is of utmost importance and where his love of farming started. From selling feeder pigs to growing home-raised hogs and now contract finishing for Alliger Farms, Dial’s operation has evolved over the years, but his devotion to quality animal care has remained steadfast.

When not working on the farm, Dial helps organize the Calhoun County Sheep Producers and Iowa Sheep Industry Association. He represented Region III on the American Sheep Industry Association’s first executive board from 1989 to 1993 and became an Iowa Master Lamb Producer in 1994. Dial serves on the Stewart Memorial Community Hospital Patient Advisory Board, Lake City Historic Central School Board and the Lake City Community Memorial Building Board of Directors. He is actively involved in Iowa Farm Bureau, Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

Dial taught vocational agriculture part time for a number of years in Lohrville school district before it became part of Southern Calhoun. Southern Calhoun combined with Rockwell City-Lytton to become the current South Central Calhoun. Dial still substitute teaches.

“It’s a way to stay on top of what kids are thinking about,” he said.

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 longtime WHO Radio farm broadcaster who helped create the award.

Led by Secretary Naig, the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship serves rural and urban residents. Through its 14 diverse bureaus, the Department works to ensure animal health, food safety and consumer protection. It also promotes conservation efforts to preserve the land and enhance water quality. Learn more at iowaagriculture.gov.

In addition to farming and teaching, Dial has been active in community projects such as a renovation of the Community Memorial Building on Lake City’s town square and plans to develop a mini Reiman Gardens with walking paths on the grounds at the historic Central School. At the Wergin Award ceremony, Dial received a small burr oak tree that he will donate to the Central School project.

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