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Owners of a nearly 160-year-old Heritage farm want to strengthen the community of Black farmers

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

The number of non-white farmers in Iowa is less than one percent, according to the 2017 Agricultural Census.

The census reported only 72 Black farmers in Iowa, though state and national numbers may be underreported because some Black growers of vegetables and flowers may not consider themselves traditional farmers.

The Westerns are a proud Black farming family. They've owned land for 150 years or more, qualifying them as a Heritage farm. The land the Westerns own in Mahaska County is likely the only Heritage farm owned by a Black family in Iowa. They also actively farm 35 acres east of Waterloo.

Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Gazette reporter Erin Jordan about a series of stories she's written on Black Iowa farmers in the past year, including the Westerns.

Nebbe then talks with three generations of the family about the challenges, changes and triumphs they've experienced in farming and preserving their legacy, while also seeking more sustainable practices for the future.


  • Erin Jordan, investigative reporter, The Gazette
  • Charlene Montgomery, great-granddaughter of Thomas Western
  • Barbara Western, CEO, Western Family Farms
  • Todd Western III, son of Barbara, farmer
  • Christopher Western, son of Barbara, farm mechanic
  • Todd Western IV, son of Todd Western III, farmer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.