They are among four Iowa farm families who were recognized during ceremonies in West Des Moines in March. This marks the 75th year the awards have been presented by Wallaces Farmer, and the 2011 selections bring the total to 429 Iowans who have been honored since 1926.
Jim Hultgren returned home from graduate school at Iowa State University to the family farm near Albert City to help full-time when his dad suffered a heart attack many years ago. He has been on the present farm near Alta since 1975. Jim earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Ag Engineering at ISU, and was starting on a doctorate when he came home.
Hultgren says he has been fortunate to have had people help him in farming.
"My family is supportive," he said, "and my wife Jolene is wonderful. She's busy teaching school and coaching, but comes home and helps when needed. And we have a long-time employee, Terry Peterson, who's helped us for 25 years. His wife Roxanne helps us, too."
Hultgren has had 35 years of corn and soybean variety test plots on his farm, and was one of the founders of an Agronomy Club of 15 to 20 area farmers many years ago.
While serving on the board of ISU's Northwest Iowa Experiment Farm, Hultgren helped launch a program associated with that project to get more farmers involved in on-farm research and to establish strip trials in their own fields. Jim is also on the ISU College of Agriculture's Ag Endowment board.
Jim has a global perspective. A few years ago, he worked several weeks at an orphanage in Guatemala. He has also hosted Russian agribusiness people, and went to Russia when ISU was co-ordinating such exchanges. Hultgren has also been to Brazil and China.
A believer in value-added ag, Hultgren has invested in ethanol and biodiesel plants. Serving as treasurer of Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative, he pushed to get two wind turbines installed to power two ethanol plants - "renewable energy producing renewable energy."
Hultgren remains an independent hog producer. With a 120 sow farrow-to-finish operation, he also belongs to a sow co-op, which provides isowean pigs to feed out. Hultgren markets about 5,400 hogs a year.
Jolene Hultgren has taught science at Cherokee Washington High School for the last few years and she also serves as the school's track and cross country coach. Prior to coming to Cherokee, she taught science and coached in the Aurelia School District.
The Hultgrens have seven children (four are Jim's from a previous marriage and three are Jolene's) and four grandchildren. The children are all ISU graduates, or will be soon. Jenni (Hultgren) is married to Mike Kaskey, is a physical therapist in Aurelia, and also serves on the Aurelia School Board, as did her mother and father before her.
Jeff Hultgren is married to Tricia, and is a project analyst with Union Pacific in Omaha, Jon Hultgren is a civil engineer in Kansas City and his twin brother Joe is in graduate school in Vancouver.
Jolene's children are Bryan Rubendall, who is currently employed as an accountant in Minneapolis, Curtis Rubendall, who is serving as a helicopter pilot with the Army National Guard, and Sophie Miller, an ISU journalism student.