By William Smith
Beckman Heritage Farms north of Burlington is celebrating 175 years this weekend. However, owner Doug Beckman said the farm is about a decade older than that.
The farm is so old, Beckman said, it technically has two first-time sales dates — the first from before Iowa was even a state.
“We have one barn on the property that we are positive was built before the Civil War,” Beckman said.
Doug and his wife purchased the farm from Doug’s grandparents in 2016. While Doug doesn’t make a full-time living from the farm (he works for BNSF Railway), the Beckmans grow corn and soybeans there.
“I grew up on the farm and helped my grandpa with all that. We worked side by side for many years,” Beckman said.
Not long ago, the Beckmans started growing pumpkins. That led to an annual fall festival that has grown exponentially over the past few years.
“We had over 1,000 people the first year,” Doug Beckman said.
The next iteration of the fall festival is set for this weekend, and more than 70 vendors will be on hand. So will the YouTube personality who goes by the name “The Farm Babe.”
She’s in town today and will be featured at the Saturday event.
“We are going to have a special program at 11 a.m. where she is going to talk a little bit, and she will touch on the advances of modern agriculture,” Doug said.
If you miss the Beckmans this weekend, there’s still time to enjoy the fall atmosphere at the farm before the year ends.
“We are going to stay open every weekend through Halloween. We put an 80-acre corn maze out there, a big bounce house,” he said.
The original 140-acre farm borders Flint Creek and is located along the Flint River Trail system.
The Beckmans live on a 240-acre neighboring property that connects to the original farm on its northern boundary. Over 30 acres of native prairie grass on the farm is part of the Conservation Reserve Program, and there are six acres of pollinating plants to support bees and butterflies.
The farm even features a trail system for visitors leading to a natural spring surrounded by limestone. That spring has slowly been hollowed out over the course of thousands of years.
“We call the farm our hobby. It seems like more work than a normal hobby,” Doug said.
The history of the farm extends well beyond the Beckmans. Alexis Phelps, one of the founders of Oquawka, Ill., sold the 160 acres to Maria Mathilde Beckman for $250.
That was the first time she bought it.
Maria Beckman (also known as Mary) was born in Germany on Nov. 12, 1789, and emigrated to the United States in 1841 at 52 with her four children. About a year before Iowa was admitted to the Union as the 29th state, Beckman sold the 160-acre farm to Frederick Weidekind for $900.
The farm was briefly out of the Beckman family for a few years, but it didn’t take long to get it back. The bank foreclosed on the property while Weidekind owned it, and Mary Beckman bought it back at auction for $538.50 in 1848.
The farm stayed in the family after that. Though Maria Beckman was the head of the farm, she still wouldn’t have the right to vote in U.S. elections until 78 years later.
The history fascinates Doug — so much that he constructed a timeline on the farm’s website.
The farm’s legacy belongs to everyone who touched it — not just the Beckman family, Doug said.
“The farm and its history have always been important to me,” Doug said. “It’s just a legacy that’s ongoing, and we’re one little piece of that. We hope that we can build up on that and sustain it, take good care of the property, and make good sound decisions when it comes to conservation.”
Beckman Heritage Farms is hosting a Fall Market on Saturday (Sept. 23) and Sunday (Sept. 24) with 75 unique vendors and crafts, food, music, and family activities.