Family of the Year
Each year the Illinois Pork Producers Association recognizes a pig farming Family of the Year.
The 2020 Illinois Pork Producer Family of the Year is the Cowser Family from Bradford, Illinois.
Four generations strong, the Cowser family has been building their family owned farm in central Illinois since 1932. Current owners include brothers Steve, Andy, Marc, and Darin as well as two of Andy’s children, Cheryl and Alan. Together this team of six is focused on setting up future generations for success.
In 1932, Delbert Cowser, wife Eva, and children Rodger and Phyllis became a first-generation farming family in the Trivoli area. Delbert who had been working in a factory, wanted a change of pace and a job where he could work in the open air. He started with 80 acres, four work horses, and a herd of swine. Their farm grew to 200 acres and shortly thereafter to just over 300 acres and in 1949 Rodger joined his dad full time.
In 1951 the Cowser family found themselves with an opportunity to move to the Elmore Stock Farm in northwest Peoria County. Rodger and Annetta, his new bride of two weeks, moved to the farm and there raised six children: four sons, Steve, Andy, Marc, and Darin, mentioned above, and two daughters, Vonnie, a retired school teacher from Princeville schools, and Paula, the wife of a farmer in Southern Illinois. Different Cowser families lived at the Elmore Stock Farm until it was sold in 2011.
One by one Rodger and Annetta’s sons joined the farm. Pork production has always been a substantial focus for the Cowsers and in 1998 they grew that part of the business by purchasing a breed to wean barn with 1,200 sows. In 2005 they nearly doubled the barn. Today the Cowser Sow Farm is weaning an average of 1,100 pigs a week. In addition, the Cowsers farming just over 4,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and hay while also custom farming 1,000 acres. They also have a small cow/calf herd.
Steve and wife Charlotte live in Bradford and have two children, Mike and Shelli. Mike, who loved to work alongside his family on the farm, died in an accident at age 14. Shelli is a mechanical engineer at Caterpillar and lives in Princeville with husband Jim and their daughter Kelsie. Steve serves as Milo Township Supervisor and spent 12 years serving on the board of directors for First Farm Credit, two of those years as chairman. He and Charlotte are very active in supporting Northwoods Community Church’s Princeton campus.
Andy and wife Carol live in Laura and have four children, Cheryl, Alan, Aaron, and Adam. Cheryl lives in Princeville with her two daughters Reagan and Rylie who love to go to work with their mom. Along with being a partner in the family farm, she also serves on the board for the Peoria County Farm Bureau. Alan and wife Katie, a registered nurse, live in Princeville and have three children, Alyvia, Colson, and Kendall. Alan is an independent seed dealer along with being a partner in the family farm. Aaron and wife Kelly own a landscaping company in Princeville. Adam works in the ag industry for Syngenta and wife, Liz, is a junior high teacher in northern Illinois. Andy serves on the board at Laura United Methodist Church and enjoys umpiring girls’ softball. Andy and Carol have 10 grandchildren: Alyvia, Reagan, Rylie, Kinsley, Colson, Brenner, Kendall, Brooks, Briggs, and Ailish.
Marc and wife Carol, live in Tiskilwa and have three children, Tim, Scott, and Renee. Tim is a manager at a sow unit in central Illinois. Scott is a Deputy Sheriff in Bureau county while wife Lori has the privilege of staying home with their young children. Renee is an admin assistant at Hoosier Trail Council Boy Scouts and husband Jonathan is a mechanical engineer. Marc and Carol have four grandchildren: Jhett, Solomon, Josiah and Adeline. Marc serves on the boards of Bureau Township Community Church and Wheatland Township.
Darin and wife, Susan, live in Peoria. Darin has four children, Meghan, Seth, Zac, and Tessa. Meghan is pursuing a business degree. Seth helps with crop production on the farm and is a key component during planting and harvesting. Zac is a technician at Caterpillar and Tessa is studying to be a large animal veterinarian at Mizzou. Darin serves on a subcommittee for Pork Producers and spent twelve years as a board member for Princeville schools, including six years as president.
The Cowser family experienced a profound loss this past year when Rodger passed away in August. The legacy he left to his family is unmeasurable and one of eternal hope. Rodger had a personal relationship with the Lord that he openly shared with his family. Cowser Incorporated has a mission statement that is focused on serving God and enabling future generations to carry on the business core values. The fifth generation is already engaged, spending time at work with parents and grandparents, learning through 4-H programs, volunteering at farm related events, and telling their friends about their experiences on the farm. Already, it’s evident to see this next generation is proud of their heritage.
Educating the public about all aspects of agriculture is a core value for this farming family. The Cowsers have been a past host for the Illinois Farm Bureau’s Adopt-A-Legislator which builds relationships between urban state legislators and Illinois farmers. They’ve been actively involved in the Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom, supporting Peoria County’s program since 2011, and the Bureau’s Ag Fair Day in Bureau County both of which teach young people about agriculture. They regularly donate pigs to Wildlife Prairie Park and Barnyard Discoveries, two local businesses that educate the public about farming. The Cowsers also enjoy donating their pork to many local town organizations to serve at fundraiser meals.
Previous Illinois Pork Producer Family of the Year Award Winners:
|1989||Carl (Mary Lou) Behme||Carlinville|
|1990||Erval (Betty) Borgic||Nokomis|
|1991||Wayne A (Marlene) Maschhoff||Carlyle|
|1992||Hilding (Joann) Allen||Princeton|
|1993||Barb (late Art) Drach||Saunemin|
|1994||Mark (Sherly) VonHolten||Lyndon|
|1994||Norm (Sue) VonHolten||Sheffield|
|1995||Donald (Saundra) Huftalin||Malta|
|1996||David (Linda) Duncan||Mendon|
|1997||Paul (Judith) McClure||Newton|
|1998||Craig (Marilyn) Janssen||Lyndon|
|1999||Don (Lenora) Peter||Quincy|
|2000||Wilbur (Alice) Paulus||Lincoln|
|2001||George (Ruth) Brauer||Oakford|
|2002||Wayne (Garnet) Schlueter||Rock City|
|2003||Russell (Mary) Jeckel||Delavan|
|2004||Richard (Venita) Baker||Liberty|
|2005||Rick (Barb) Dean||LeRoy|
|2006||Jim Scheetz Family||Niota|
|2007||Roy (Fran) Weitekamp Family||Raymond|
|2008||John (Jan) Kellogg Family||Yorkville|
|2009||Nelson Family Farm||Lynn Center|
|2010||Keller Grain & Livestock||Willow Hill|
|2011||Gary (Marietta) Dunkirk Family||Morrisonville|
|2012||Scholl Family Farms||Polo|
|2013||Haag Family Farm||Emington|
|2014||Gerald (Nancy) Hartmann Family Farm||Maple Park|
|2015||Eldon Gould Family Farm||Maple Park|
|2016||Dave Conrady Family Farm||Elkhart|
|2017||Curt Zehr Family Farm||
|2018||Phillip Bradshaw Family||
|2019||Lehmann Bros Farm||Strawn|