4-H Brought This Couple Together and Binds Their Family

The Sunkten family of Belmond, Iowa, gathered in May 2012 for Kellen’s high school graduation. They’re looking forward to being recognized during the 2013 Iowa State Fair for their Century Farm. Front row, from left, is Kirsten, Katelyn and Katelyn’s husband, Ryan Borcherding. Back row, from left, is Jon, Kendrick, Kellen and Tami.

Jon Suntken and Tami Pralle’s shared passion for 4-H brought them together in 1979 when they were selected to serve on the Franklin County 4-H Council. Nearly 30 years later, they’re still preparing for the annual county fair and trekking to the Iowa State Fair.

“All of our children began showing bucket calves at the Franklin County Fair when they turned 5, and it’ something we did for 17 consecutive years,” says Tami. “This helped them develop a passion for showing and judging livestock. Our boys also have been involved in woodworking. Both of our boys entered the Franklin County Fair livestock judging contest in 4th grade, and two years ago they were on a team that placed second in the state for 4-H Livestock Judging. The girls have been involved in Food & Nutrition, Sewing, Clothing, Clothing Selection, Challenge, Working Exhibits, Photography, Needle Arts, as well as showing sheep and cattle.

4-H teaches and allows our children to experience many things that are important in life: work ethic, responsibility, how to start and finish projects, character development, meeting new people, public speaking, helping others and developing new friendships.”

Raising livestock and being active in 4-H are important to the Suntkens, who had the honor of earning second place in the 2011 Iowa 4-H Livestock Judging circuit. From left to right: Kellen Suntken, Joe DeVries, Kendrick Suntken, and Drew Abbas.

The Sunktens have four children. Their 23-year-old daughter, Katelyn, is married to Ryan Borcherding. They live in Davenport where Katelyn is a teacher’s assistant at a daycare, and Ryan is employed with John Deere Information Systems as a Dealer Advisor. Oldest son Kellen, 19, is a freshman at Iowa State University, with a major in Ag Studies and a minor in Animal Science. He’s a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, serves on the ISU Freshman Council and is a member of the Veisha Tournaments Committee. Kendrick, 16, is a sophomore at Hampton-Dumont Community High School. He’s involved in football, wrestling, track, 4-H, FFA and RCYF at church. Kirsten, 11, is a fifth grader at Hampton-Dumont Community Middle School. She is involved in basketball, softball, band, 4-H, and dance.

“We enjoy raising our children on a farm,” says Tami. “They have the freedom to play in wide, open spaces. They learn to get along while playing and working with their siblings. They learn responsibility from doing chores. They get to experience nature and gain an appreciation for God’s creation through the birthing of animals, as well as smelling fresh cut hay, silage and fresh tilled soil in the spring.”

The family resides on the Sunkten home farm, which will be recognized in 2013 as a Century Farm. Jon started farming full-time upon graduating from high school and worked winters for 12 years at Latham Hi-Tech Seeds. Their diversified operation includes corn and soybeans plus a cow-calf herd and a custom hog finishing operation. For the past 16 years, he and Tami have worked side-by-side with the crops and livestock. They’re proud their children also are actively involved in the day-to-day operations.

Livestock judging helped the boy develop confidence when selecting their own calves, says Tami. They spend a lot of time researching genetics and sale cattle. They A.I. their own cows, and recently started doing embryo transfers to improve cattle genetics. All of the Suntken kids wash, clip, fit and groom their own cattle. In 2012, they were able to sell some of the calves they produced to other 4-H members.

Today Kirsten helps promote Iowa beef by sharing with us one of her favorite recipes for pot roast in a crock pot. Tami also shares a recipe for grape salad with an Irish twist.

Pot Roast in the Crock-Pot


  • 3-4 lb. boneless chuck roast (lean)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 pkg. dry brown gravy mix
  • 1 pkg. onion soup mix
  • 2 cups ginger ale


  1. Put flour in a Ziploc bag, add meat and shake.
  2. Put floured meat in a crockpot, keeping the extra flour in the bag.
  3. Next add the package of gravy mix and the onion soup t to the remaining flour; shake together.
  4. Pour the flour mixture into a batter bowl and add the 2 cups of ginger ale; pour all over meat in crockpot. Cook on low for 8 hours.

Grape Salad



  • 8 ounce Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2-3 lbs. Holiday red, seedless grapes (large ones)



  1. Mix all together and pour over washed grapes; gently mix together.