Collins farm receives Century, Heritage Farm honors at Iowa State Fair

Members of the Mike and Teri Collins family were present at the Iowa State Fair August 12 to receive the recognition of the family’s farm located at 1203 Collins Ridge Road, Harpers Ferry as both a Century Farm and Heritage Farm. Pictured above, left to right, are Iowa Farm Bureau President Craig Hill, Kathy (Collins) McGettigan, Michaela Collins, Teri Collins, Sean Collins, Mike Collins, Ryan and Samantha Collins, Mary (Collins) Kernan, Iowa Department of Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey. Submitted photo.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey recognized Century and Heritage Farm families during a ceremony at the Iowa State Fair again this year. To qualify, a family must have owned at least 40 acres for 100 years or more in the case of Century Farms and 150 years or more for a Heritage Farm.
This year, 344 Century Farms and 86 Heritage Farms were recognized. The Collins family farm now owned and operated by the Mike and Teri Collins family at 1203 Collins Ridge Road in rural Harpers Ferry had the honor of receiving both recognitions at this year’s State Fair.
“It is a great pleasure and distinct honor to help recognize these farm families that have owned the same farm for 100 or 150 years. It is a testament to the values of land stewardship, hard work, patience, dedication and perseverance that are found in Iowa’s farm families,” Northey said.
The 2014 Century and Heritage Farms Program ceremony was held at the Iowa State Fair Tuesday, August 12. Craig Hill, President of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, or Joe Heinrich, Vice President of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation, joined Northey in recognizing the award recipients.
“The program acknowledges the deep roots of Iowa agriculture and the special bond that exists between Iowa families and the land they farm,” Northey said.  “The Iowa State Fair is a celebration of Iowa and Iowa Agriculture, so it’s a great place to recognize the Century Farm and Heritage Farm recipients.”

The history encompassing the 100- and 150-year designations for the Collins family farm began in 1839 when Timothy and Bridget Collins, along with her mother and siblings, escaped the starvation caused by the Potato Famine in Ireland and sailed to America. They settled initially in Maysville, KY, where Bridget’s two older brothers had settled a few years earlier. Timothy and the Ryan brothers worked road construction until moving to Allamakee County in the spring of 1851. Timothy and the Ryan siblings settled on five adjacent farms in Taylor Township.
Timothy and Bridget raised nine children on the farm. Timothy purchased more land over the years, including a 48-acre parcel on the Mississippi River bottom in 1869. Their son, Michael F. Collins, married Maggie Hawes and purchased the farm from Timothy in 1880. Michael and Maggie had seven children, including five boys and two girls. In 1920, two of the boys died in the flu pandemic. After Michael’s death in 1928, the remaining three sons, William, Timothy and Leo, took over the land as Collins Bros. Farm.
In June of 1936, the Collins Brothers received notice of condemnation proceedings on the river bottom land. The United States government took 42 of those 48 acres to use for building Lock and Dam #9. The remaining six acres, now swamp, are still owned by the Collins family.
Collins Brothers raised Hereford cattle, Duroc hogs and milked dairy cows. They sold the cream from the milk and used the remaining milk byproduct to feed the hogs. In 1959, Timothy passed away, leaving the farm to Will and Leo. May 4, 1964 a tornado struck the farm at evening chore time destroying the milk barn, several out buildings and some livestock.  There were no injuries but it was a turning point for the farm operation, resulting in it becoming a beef and hog operation. The barn was rebuilt and life continued for this farm family.
Leo was the only member of his family to marry or have children. He married Genevieve Murphy in 1939. From that union there were five children, Mary, Jeanne, Anne, Michael and Kathleen. Leo passed away in 1979, at which time, Michael purchased the farm from his mother.
Michael and Teri were married in 1987 and they continue operation of the farm today. Mike and Teri have three adult children, Ryan, Michaela and Sean.
Michael has lived on and worked this land his entire life. He vividly remembers that spring day in 1964 when the tornado devastated the farm. Only one original building, the granary, remains standing on the farm today. Mike treasures the depth of history and family this farm represents. The original farm settled by Bridget Ryan and her family grew throughout the generations and currently totals 246 acres. The Collins family currently operates a 150-head beef cattle operation with hay and corn as primary crops of the land.