Each year, Aksarben pays homage to the dedicated and hard-working Nebraskan families who have met the incredible milestone of owning at least forty-acres of farmland within one family for one-hundred or one-hundred and fifty years, respectively.
The Aksarben Foundation, along with Nebraska Farm Bureau and the Nebraska Association of Fair Managers, announces this year’s 122 honorees for the Aksarben Pioneer Farm (100 years) and Aksarben Heritage Farm Awards (150 years).
To commemorate this milestone, each of these families will receive an engraved plaque and gatepost marker at the county fair in the county where their farm is located. Among the award recipients are Dawes County residents LaVerne and Shirley Stetson for the Stetson Family Ranch established in 1895, and Ron and Marisa Betson of the Betson Family Farm, established in 1915.
Of the Stetson Family Ranch, LaVerne Stetson said he found a land patent filed in 1889, which proved his grandfather, Eugene, had “proved up his five years.” He further explained that, under the Homestead Act, land patents were granted five years after a land claim was filed, providing that those laying claim followed the rules.
Eugene’s father brought him and his brothers to Nebraska in 1884, Stetson said, and Eugene homesteaded the same year. He passed away in 1913, but his wife Annie oversaw the land while the brothers worked it in the 1920’s and 1930’s. When Annie passed in 1938, it became a homestead shared among the family until 1943, when LaVerne’s father, Orville, bought up the shares from the others.
Orville passed in 1984, but his wife, Anna, managed the farm until 1989, when she gave it to her three children, Laverne and his sisters Jewel and Frances. In 1996, LaVerne and Jewel bought Frances’ shares, and in 2012 LaVerne bought Jewel’s.
Though the land included two full sections in 1943, LaVerne noted over the years various acreages have been sold and the ranch is now about 690 acres.
As for the Betson Family Farm, Ron Betson said his great-grandparents, Alfred and Augusta, first established their homestead in 1915. The couple lived in a small building and Augusta gave birth to twin boys — Collis, Ron’s grandfather, and Hollis, his great-uncle.
Collis later bought the homestead, which is where Ron’s parents, Mark and Myrna lived alongside Hollis. Ron noted Hollis lived at the homestead until he passed, and some years in military service were the only time he didn’t sleep in the same bedroom his whole life.
Hollis passed in 2004, and Mark and Myrna inherited the homestead, which Ron and Marisa bought in 2007. Ron added the size of the property is about two quarters, and his grandparents and great-uncle bought out their neighbors to add to their land over time.
The original home of Alfred and Augusta is on the property, as well as an old schoolhouse. Ron said his grandfather could recall memories of growing up on the farm, such as when the new school was built and cooking in the old house while sleeping in the new. Though a new home has been built, Ron said the original homestead is still used by his family.
Aksarben began awarding the Pioneer Award in 1956, and since that time, nearly 10,000 farm families have received the award statewide. The Heritage Award was established in 2014, has been awarded to nearly 100 farm families.
“We’re proud to recognize these Nebraska farm families each year. The dedication and perseverance demonstrated by these families is a testament to the strong Nebraska values that set our state apart and have been making Aksarben proud, for over 120 years,” said Sandra Reding, Aksarben Foundation President.
Due to COVID-19 many County Fairs are still questioning whether to have the fair this year. Instead of handing out the awards at County Fairs, we are working with both Nebraska Farm Bureau and the County Fair managers to get these awards out to our recipients across the state.
“Nebraska Farm Bureau will work with our regional managers, our county Farm Bureau leaders and county fair managers to set up times to deliver these prestigious honors! Nebraska Farm Bureau is proud to help sponsor these farm family awards and are happy to share in this tribute. Nebraska Farm Bureau’s heritage and continuous mission is to serve Nebraska farm and ranch families, and these awards recognize the commitment to preserve and build Nebraska agriculture for future generations,” said Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson.
For Sioux County, an award goes to Walter Spencer, LLC for the Spencer Family Farm, established in 1920. Other Panhandle award recipients are Eugene and Alice Radke of Deuel County for the Adam Radke Family Farm, established in 1919, and Dan Dalton of Cheyenne County for the Patrick Dalton Family Farm, established in 1892.
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