That diversity is just as important in incorporating new technology, Heather said, including new farming methods, soil conservation, crop rotation and cover crops — something new the Gardners tried this year.
"Cover crops greatly reduced and almost eliminated soil erosion when the more conventional tilled ground was more severely eroded by the big Memorial Day rains we had," Maurice said.
With three 500-year floods since 1993 and a severe drought last summer, the family has learned to manage its risk through crop insurance, contracting feed hogs with Cargill and hedging cattle.
The difficulty in handing down family farms is financial, he said, since many times brothers or sons no longer live on the farm.
"We just did a buy-out from my brother two or three years ago and part of that was keeping it in the family," he said. "That's the difficulties that farm families are having now is the transition between generations.
"But I work with lots of farm families, and there's a lot of effort to keep family farms in the family if there's somebody in the family that wants to operate it."
While Lorenz said family farms would appear to be a thing of the past, that's not reflected in the number of century (owned for 100 years or more) and heritage farms she sees every year.
"I get turned around when I see the numbers each year still holding steady," she said. "I just think it's amazing that we still have this many every year. All their hard work to keep it in the family — and there's so many things that can come up, weather, economy — it's so important to them, so this is a great way to honor them."