Most families have a "visceral attachment" to their land, Melissa said.
"It used to be considered a way of life; it's more of a business now," she said. "But it was originally a way for someone to make a living for his family and provide for his children."
Maurice agreed, saying family farms are systemic and a "way of life."
Melissa hopes the farm will stay in the family, though Jared nodded toward his boys: "It all depends on these two."
"You never know," Maurice said. "The future's a hard thing to see. But the land ... it's a piece of property that the value won't go to zero. The value will fluctuate but it'll never go to zero, like currency or stocks."
But, he noted, a family doesn't have to operate the farm to own it due to an increasing trend of absentee ownership.
The Gardners previously received the Century Farm Award in 1976, when it was 131 years old. The family will head to the Iowa State Fair on Aug. 13 to be honored alongside the 66 other heritage farm families.
"There's a sense of pride that goes with maintaining ownership for that long of time," Maurice said. "There's a lot of history in those 168 years."
— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to twitter.com/chelsealeedavis.