From James Benson in England in 1846 to Daniel Benson in Iowa in 1877, the Bensons of today live on through the six generations of teachers, doctors, lawyers, servicemembers, engineers, healthcare workers, ministers, naturally farmers, and countless other occupations.

The Farm

Daniel Benson came to Marshall County Iowa with brothers George and Tom Benson from Mineral Point Wisconsin in 1877 where their parents James and Francis Benson had settled after migrating to the United States from England in 1846. Tom Benson received 160 acres from Marietta Township for his service in the Civil War. Daniel Benson purchased his first 80 acres a 1/2 mile west of the County Farm and south of Old Lincoln Highway (Old Highway 30). Daniel soon bought the 80 acres directly north of Old Lincoln Highway in 1883. The first 80 acres was purchased in 1878 for $1,120 or $14 an acre and the second 80 acres was $1,200 or $15 an acre. Additional farm ground was purchased by the family in the Washington Township area, but this first 160 acres makes up the recognizable family homestead of the Benson farm. This homestead is still visible today from those traveling east or west down the road between State Center and Lamoille on Old Lincoln Highway.

Daniel Benson married Caroline Bohnsack in 1877, and they raised six sons on the Benson Century Farm - John, Fred, Albert, Lester, Thomas, and Herbert. Herbert’s son James C. Benson and daughter Barbara Baltisberger and grandson Jay Benson continued the lineage of farming the acres at the family homestead. The farm changed rapidly over this time as innovation and necessity paved the way for change. Daniel Benson raised horses on the farm, and there were horses on the farm up until World War II. Herbert farmed the land by horse with a two-row planter. The transition from horsepower to machines started in the 1930s on the Benson farm. The first tractor was an Oliver that had steel lugs, no tires, and they had to band the wheels when crossing the road to protect the cement. The farm produced corn, soybeans, oats, red clover, cattle, hogs, sheep, and chickens.

Advancements in technology required adaptability and streamlining, and the family adapted by modifying their operations to produce corn and soybeans to weather the farming crisis of the 1980s. Advancements in technology continue today as GPS, data analytics, precision farming, solar energy, geothermal, app and remote operated technologies have been implemented throughout the farming operation. Farming today, even with the advancements in technology is at its core, like farming for the first generations, it’s about making it work.

The oldest remaining building on the farm is the house built in the late 1800s and still retains its most predominant features. The farmstead evolved and changed over the years and only retained its iconic blue silos that were installed in the 1960s and 1970s. They have been converted for use in the grain handling facility. Once viewed as progressive and innovative at the time they were built, they have stood as blue tombstones in tougher times. Now, they are landmarks unless utilized. They have weathered the phase out of the livestock operation, the farming crisis of the 1980s and two derechos causing damage. These silos have stood the test of time, much like the land beneath them. These silos represent that if utilized, cared for, and adapted, they can provide and assist the generations into the future.

The Benson family operated within 5 miles of the farm for well over a hundred years, and then in this modern age and the advancement of technology, family members began to spread across the United States. Even with the opportunities beyond the farm, the land, family, and food, pull the younger generations home for holidays and to connect with family. The pull away from the farm that this modern era brings sometimes stands at a strong contrast to the work, blood, and sweat that has gone into working this land and the toil that continues for the Benson farmers today and in the future. The challenge the land gives us is to work harder than before and the connection to our food and our family is the reward it blesses us with.

Family and Faith The family has instilled a legacy of perseverance, hard work, ingenuity, service and care for others - whether this was a meal for someone passing by on the train, volunteering at a local nonprofit, serving on a church board, or rallying with neighbors in the even the roughest of seasons, such as the illness of a family member or to recover from destruction left in the wake of a storm or tornado.

Mealtime and memories centered around the kitchen are key core memories for any Benson. Whether it is homemade noodles, rolls, sides, main dishes, a local fish fry, Christmas candies, cookies, bars - there is not a section of a cookbook that the Benson family has not attempted to contribute to! Even the meals from generations past hold fond memories for the older generations who remember parents who were able to scrape together ingredients that did not appear to be enough to feed everyone and turn it into a meal where everyone went to bed filled.

While growing up under the guidance of my parents, grandparents, and great-aunt and uncle, I was instilled with a sense of service, a need to contribute to the world in a way beyond myself. At my core, my strength would come from two sources: my faith in God and the support of my family. Wherever I am in the world and whatever I am doing, I know that at my core I am simply a Benson daughter from the farm in Iowa. I want to help others however I am equipped, and I have great comfort knowing that I have other Benson cousins out there in the world living out the legacy of the generations before us. - Danielle Benson Smith, Fifth-Generation Benson, daughter of Jay Benson

The heritage farm, and the connection it provides to our Benson ancestors is the core of connection for all Bensons now and in the future. While we may span the United States and range in ages, we carry the blood of the Benson farmer - strong in faith, committed in service, and focused on family - the heart of a farmer.

In honor of this whiskey, we’d like to end with a toast:

Let’s raise a glass to honor the past and toast to the land where your relatives came from and offer a challenge to those who choose to carry the traditions and legacy onward

Corn to Whiskey