Sutherland farm family earns ag award

Twin sisters Alexa and Savanna Sickelka are proud of the fact that their family’s rural Sutherland farm will be recognized with the The Way We Live Award this year. The Sickelka family will receive the agriculture-based tribute during the 2019 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

SUTHERLAND—Members of a N’West Iowa farm family want people to know about the way they live.

The Joel Sickelka Farm of rural Sutherland will receive The Way We Live Award during the 2019 Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

The honor recognizes Iowa families for their hard work and love of farming.

The Sickelka family will be honored during an award ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 13, on the Christensen Farms Stage inside the Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center.

“I feel really honored because we work so hard,” said 21-year-old Alexa Sickelka, one of Joel’s daughters. “My dad doesn’t want to be recognized for things like that.

“I thought this was a good way to recognize not only my dad, but all the farmers in our area and around the world because we’re feeding America and the world,” she said.

Alexa nominated her family for the award. The Sickelkas were one of six entries chosen to receive the honor out of 46 from a variety of commodities and areas in Iowa.

“They want everyone around to know where the cattle and the hogs and all the animals at the fair go after,” Alexa said.

“Some people think that they stay at the Iowa State Fair year-round,” she said. “That’s not the case.”

Wendi Sickelka, Joel’s wife, added to her daughter’s point.

“The animals don’t stay at the fair all year,” Wendi said. “They go home. They have normal lives at home.”

The Sickelkas raise Black Angus beef cattle and cow-calf pairs on their family farm located about eight miles northeast of Sutherland.

“We’re either getting them or we’re selling them,” Alexa said. “My dad’s always looking for more cattle or selling cattle.”

“We watch quite a lot of livestock auctions on TV,” said Savanna Sickelka, Alexa’s twin sister.

The Sickelka family also takes care of a Texas Longhorn named Linda.

“She’s more of just for looks,” Savanna said. “She always gets out. My dad gets so mad at her, but we won’t let him sell her.”

Feed and sweet corn, soybeans and hay are grown on the Sickelkas’ family farm, which also is home to a pond that will be used for fishing in the future.

“We share it with a lot of people — the sweet corn,” said Wendi, a paraeducator at South O’Brien Elementary in Primghar.

For the past couple of summers, Alexa and Savanna, who attend Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, have come home to help out on the family farm.

The twins and Wendi have assisted Joel by spending hours baling hay, fixing fences, picking up rocks and sorting cattle.

“They help him a lot,” Wendi said. “They’re kind of at his beck and call.”

“The girls do a lot,” said Joel, whom was described by his daughters as “strong-willed.”

“He doesn’t like to leave the farm,” Alexa said. “He doesn’t like anyone else to have to take care of his cattle.”

The older Sickelka children — 25-year-old Cole and 22-year-old Olivia — also have helped out on the family farm in the past.

“When we were all in high school, we baled hay together, picked up rocks and were all in the O’Brien County Fair,” Alexa said.

In addition to taking part in the county fair in Primghar — Olivia was the 2014 county fair queen — all four Sickelka kids were involved in 4-H when they were younger.

They also all graduated from South O’Brien High School in Paullina. Alexa and Savanna are part of the 2017 class.

The Sickelka children represent the third generation on the family farm. Their maternal grandparents, Roger and Carole Negus, moved there in 1973 with their four children.

The farm is truly a family operation for the Sickelkas, including during the planting and harvesting seasons. Neighbors help them out, too.

“It has to be not only my siblings and my parents, but my uncles and some of my cousins,” Alexa said. “We all plant together and harvest together and work cattle together.”