By nearly all measures, Cascade native Justine Stevenson was living an idyllic life. After growing up in Cascade, the daughter of Peter Hosch and June Knepper, Stevenson met Chasen Stevenson while attending Iowa State University. After obtaining her Masters in meat science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she moved to Knoxville, Iowa, where she and husband, Chasen, bought a family farm that was in Chasen’s family for five generations.
Things got even better for the Stevensons, when Justine gave birth to their son, Nolan.
Then things got much worse.
Chasen died in 2018 after battling a rare and aggressive form of cancer. As tough a time as it may have been for her and Nolan, Justine also eventually saw it as an opportunity to help others dealing with similar circumstances, to give them hope.
“The Seeds of Hope Foundation was established in January 2018 in honor of my late husband, Chasen Stevenson,” Justine said. “It is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization that seeks to offer spiritual, financial and emotional support to young farm families that are challenged by their health. As farmers, we see life, death and hardship in such a different way, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it is someone we love. Families, friends and community members are encouraged to reach out to the foundation on behalf of their loved ones.”
The Stevensons were active in the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Cattleman’s Association and, through networking with those in the industry, Justine was offered an exciting opportunity.
“We had the opportunity to meet many farm families across the state of Iowa,” Stevenson said. “One of those acquaintances from the Monroe County Cattlemen reached out to me earlier this year regarding the Governor’s Charity Steer Show. We are so humbled to be a part of the 2019 Governor’s Charity Steer Show. This event is near and dear to our hearts.”
The show is Saturday, Aug. 10, in Des Moines at the Iowa State Fairgrounds Show Pavilion.
Looking back at the family’s cancer battle also allows Stevenson to look forward. “I’ll never forget the day we found out Chasen was diagnosed. He held on tight to Nolan and cried, ‘I’m just so glad it’s not him.’ During our cancer fight, we were so lucky that we were able to sleep, play, eat and relax at home in between treatments. Some families don’t have that opportunity, but they do have the gift of the Ronald McDonald House. Last spring, I took several teammates from Farm Credit Services of America to the Iowa City house to clean and cook a warm meal for the families.”
Stevenson said even a temporary escape can make all the difference. “Now we have an opportunity to pay it forward. An opportunity to give a family a place to rest their heads and a warm meal to eat. An escape from the hospital, if only for a couple of hours. A place they can call home.”
Stevenson said the couple had discussed the idea of forming the Foundation while Chasen was still alive. “Chasen and I had a conversation about establishing the Foundation in his memory, and he was deeply humbled. Through the Foundation we have had the opportunity to help a fellow young farm family and it has been a very rewarding experience. During our cancer journey, we were very fortunate to have the support of family, friends and community members and we hope through the Foundation we are able to bring that sense of comfort to others.”