As this year’s soybean harvest draws to a close, one farm family is looking back on the last 100 years to plan for the next century. Laura Foell and her husband, Bill, are two soybean farmers in a family tree that has deep roots in Schaller, Iowa. The couple was recently recognized at the Iowa State Fair as Century Farm designees.


Iowa’s Century Farms program recognizes and honors families who have had a farm in the same family for 100 years or longer. An important part of maintaining the same farmland for over a century is putting sustainable practices in place that allow the land to be productive and profitable for generations.

Laura Foell, who serves as U.S. Soybean Export Council chair and a United Soybean Board director, says she and her husband are the fifth generation of their family to live on and work their farm, and they take great pride in their stewardship of the land.

“All five generations of our family have been innovators in their farming techniques,” says Foell. “Bill’s dad was one of the first to try ridge-till in the area, and Bill was the first to start no-tilling and strip-tilling, even though neighbors doubted whether these would work.”

Mary and Tom Foell will be the sixth generation of Foells to run the family farm in Schaller, IA
Mary and Tom Foell will be the sixth generation of Foells to run the family farm in Schaller, IA

Reducing tillage is just one of the ways U.S. soybean farmers produce a sustainable crop. By leaving this covering of stems, stalks and leaves on their fields, the Foells are actually improving the moisture, organic matter and even the microbes in the soil.

The Foell family was ahead of its time with no-till. Today, nearly 70 percent of U.S. soybean farmers practice some sort of conservation tillage to not only protect but also improve the soil for the future.

“As a farmer, I have a personal interest in protecting our land and resources,” adds Foell. “I want this land to be productive for my kids and future generations.”

The Foells’ children, Tom and Mary, each take a keen interest in what is happening on the farm. They will be the sixth generation to manage the farm, which was founded by their great-great-great grandfather in 1894.