Cynthia Crawford, a specialist at the Extension office, said the office has been honoring Century Farms since 1985, and the statewide program has done so since 1976.
"The farm is part of the family's roots, part of the family itself," Crawford said. "This program says longtime farm families are a key part of the culture here. There's a respect for the land that goes back for generations."
Each year, the Extension office takes applications from farmers who own 40 or more acres of farmland that has been part of their family for 100 years or more and that continues to make a financial contribution to the overall farm income. Applications for 2004 Saline County Century Farms designation will be accepted by the local Extension office until June 15. Applicants meeting the guidelines and paying a $25 processing fee will then be honored with a certificate, brochure and Century Farm sign for each approved farm in the county.
Involved in recognizing new century farms, Saline County Presiding Commissioner Becky Plattner also leads the commissioners in supporting the program and its recipients.
"To me, when you have a family that's owned and passed down a farm for 100 years, what an honor," she said. "And it says a lot for a county to be successful enough to allow these families to stay on the farm as long as they have."
One Century Farms recipient, Ruth Marsh of Marshall, said she and her husband Charles are proud to have received recognition in 1986 for the farm her great-grandfather Henry Keehart first owned in 1866.
"Today we see many large corporate farms, which are not family owned," she said. "The history of the land is often lost and forgotten. As farming methods have changed through each generation and each year, it is very important to conserve and protect our Century Farms."
Although the Marshes live in town now, they make daily trips to the farm to check on the crops, and when their sons and their families are visiting they take their children to the farm.
"We hope the county will continue to do this," Marsh said of the program. "Thomas Jefferson once said, 'Civilization itself rests upon the soil.'"
For that reason, and to share the story and history of his own family's farm, Richard Pemberton of Marshall has already applied for recognition as a 2004 century farmer. He and his wife, Carol, have farmland that has been family-owned since 1840.
"It gives us deep roots in the community," Pemberton said.
Working beside Pemberton, who serves as Northern District commissioner, Plattner said she is glad to see farm families such as his taking pride in what they have.
"It's something personal you can pass on," she said. "You can't take anything with you in the end, but at least the land remains. Just the heritage alone is to me worth the effort of applying for Century Farms recognition."
For more information about the program or to apply, call (660) 886-6908 or send application information to the Extension office at 153 S. Odell, Marshall MO 65340.
Contact Naomi Campbell at