Farm Progress

Master Farm Homemaker: On and off the farm, helping with 4-H and FFA, always lending a hand.

August 30, 2017

4 Min Read
THE KEITZERS: Bryan and Kelly Keitzer farm near Mediapolis in Des Moines County.

By Lynn Betts

After nearly 15 years of leading the Town and Kountry Kids 4-H Club, Kelly Keitzer decided to step down last year. She left big shoes to fill, says friend and co-leader Joyce Stover of Mediapolis.

“We appreciate her contributions to the club more now than we did before, because it has taken four of us to take over her tasks,” Joyce wrote in support of Kelly’s nomination for the honor of Iowa Master Farm Homemaker. “No kidding, we split what Kelly did among the four leaders, and we still don’t do it as well as she did! Kelly was the driving force in our community service projects. She’s very creative and talented, and our project days were always fun and productive.”

Family business
Kelly and her husband, Bryan, along with Bryan’s dad, Robert, uncle Howard  Keitzer and cousin Dan Keitzer, operate a 2,500-acre corn and soybean farm in Des Moines County in southeast Iowa. Kelly and Bryan also contract-feed hogs.

They’ve raised three daughters — Tayler, Kaci and Savannah — and the entire family has been involved in expanding a crossbred sheep flock to 150 ewes over the past 14 years.

“Kelly loves the farm, being a farm wife and a mother,” says her mother, Karlene Knock. “We knew that very early when she was in grade school, living in town.

“One day she came home after an overnight with a friend of hers who lived on a farm, and she told us her friend was rich,” Karlene recalls. “I asked Kelly what made her think her friend’s family had a lot of money. ‘It’s not about the money,’ she said. ‘It’s because they live on a farm.’ Kelly still feels that way today.”

Kelly doesn’t do much fieldwork, but she does run for parts, and cooks and takes food to the field for Bryan, Robert, Howard and Dan, who trade farm work back and forth. She also mows and looks after a 5-acre yard, and keeps up with farm news, listening daily to markets and weather. She has attended a number of Women in Agriculture conferences to learn how to optimize her role on the farm and be an advocate for agriculture.

Smartphone records
Kelly keeps all the records and book work on the sheep, and can instantly tell you the background of any of the ewes or rams in the Keitzer flock with a couple of taps on her cellphone.

She uses an app called Herd Boss to keep track of the breeding background and other information on the flock, including the 200 new lambs she and the family help bring into the world each year.

The recordkeeping that helps guide the breeding program has paid off with champion and reserve champion ribbons for market lambs, commercial ewes, breeding ewes and wether dams at county and regional shows, as well as at the Iowa State Fair. Those ribbons also translate into much more money for show lambs.

While the bulk of their lambs go to market at Kalona, the more profitable money comes from the several dozen or so lambs they sell as show lambs each year and the breeding stock they sell.

Keeping those records online is a good procedure, too, Kelly says, since they lost most of their paper records and more than a dozen sheep in a barn fire in 2010. The silver lining in that cloud was that after the fire, they built a new lambing barn with more room and better facilities.

FFA, county fair volunteer
Kelly was part of the Des Moines County Ag in the Classroom team for several years, where she helped students make soy candles and lip balm, and helped educate people about agriculture.

She was also active in FFA, volunteering to chaperone students at numerous state and national FFA conventions. She did whatever was needed to help the chapter, including babysitting for the FFA advisor when she took students to weekend contests. Kelly was named an Honorary FFA Lifetime member for her support.

Bryan and Kelly’s three daughters have all been members of the Mediapolis FFA chapter, with full parental support. Kelly’s dedication to FFA may have rubbed off particularly on one daughter, Savannah, who has held local and district offices and was state vice president of the organization last year.

Put it on the Web
When Kelly and others saw a need for a Des Moines County Fair website three years ago, she created it and maintained it, complete with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. She also helped a student create a website for the FFA.

With their girls grown, the Keitzers’ lamb show days are winding down. A year after stepping down as 4-H leader, Kelly is missing the involvement. “We didn’t show sheep at the fair, and we didn’t camp this year for the first time in years. I missed it,” she says. “I might have to go back.”

Betts writes from Johnston.

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