Everywhere you look in Iowa you will most likely see a farm. In 1965, father and son duo, Henry and Jack Bensink fit the bill of a typical farm family. They raised common farm livestock of pigs, cows and chickens while raising crops as well. Then the 80s came, and they decided to focus on raising pigs because they were the most profitable at the time. Near the early 2000s, the production of pigs across the country had increased immensely, and it became difficult for anyone not producing commercially to make a profit. They decided that a change was needed and began a whole new adventure: raising hunting birds. They began raising the birds for breeding stock on their farm for their newly licensed hunting preserve. They found after a couple of years of breeding that it was not as sustainable to do on their own, so they found a great company out of Illinois to work with that ships day-old chicks. Raising birds and organizing guided hunts became their new primary job. They soon had thousands of day-old pheasant, quail and chukar chicks taking over their existing barns and structures that once housed typical farm livestock.
With over 500 acres of land that is covered with quaint ponds, flowing creeks and attractive prairie, it was as if this was what they had been working towards their whole life. They had the perfect set up for this new and upcoming business. While many avid hunters would presumably think that having a seemingly endless land and hunting birds around is the dream job, there is much more to it than meets the eye. Getting licensed is the most important task, and after that, it is the never-ending paperwork. Licensed hunting preserves are required to keep track of every single bird that is raised, shot and even the ones that are fast enough to fly away from the farm. The farm is subject to inspection by the Department of Natural Resources at any time to check these records and ensure that the birds being raised are being cared for and managed humanely.
This exciting adventure has turned into an entire family affair. With continued help from Jack’s wife, Cindi, father, Henry, brother, Mike, nephew, Greg and Greg’s son, Hendrik everybody takes part in helping in the day to day activities and chores. While business has been great for the family, the sustainability of the land and diversity is equally important to the Bensink family. They still farm the 500 acres that they own, and they take pride in taking care of that land. Practicing no-till tillage and utilizing cover crops to diversify the farmland are all things that they do and take into consideration each and every year. They see nothing but potential in the future of the land for generations to come.