Practical Farmers and Impractical Citizens


aired 1/18/09:

in the first half hour, Sally Hertz and Nehemia Rosell joined me to discuss the Practical Farmers of Iowa conference we attended January 9-10 about sustainable agriculture in the Midwest, season extensions for practical farmers, and midwest CHEESE.

Nehemia and I were impressed by the first session we attended, titled “Fledgling Farmers.”  Speakers included new farmer couples Scott and Julie Wilber, whose primary crop has been pumpkins/squash, Janice and Ryan Marquardt of Wild Rose Pastures (raising turkeys and chickens), and Jerry Peckumn’s banker in Jefferson, IA.

Take-home messages for future farmers:

-Renting is a struggle financially, but owning is a big leap, so pay attention to the property market and find a good realtor to get in on little known land sales.  $1800-5000 per acre is typical for IA.  It’s often wise to go with land that has the infrastructure you’re looking for even if the soil quality is poor because soil is reparable.

-You’ll need to start with at least a part time job outside of your farming venture, and continue gradually, judging the pace of your growth carefully.  Start small and get an idea of how much you can handle before biting off more than you can chew.

-Take advantage of the internet for a broader market, make ordering online easy, with maps and pictures.  Word-of-mouth marketing is often the best way to advertise cheaply.

-Work with a banker and know her or him well.  Be prepared with a specific plan and outlined budget, but be flexible, because situations always change unexpectedly.

The next session we all attended was on season extension for vegetable production with Chris Blanchard, of Rock Spring Farm.  Tips from Chris:

-organize your crop rotation around popular summer crops, and sell what no one else has so that you stand out in a larger market.

-sunlight is the limiting factor, but freezing and thawing are actually ok for plants, it won’t necessarily kill them.  Keep in mind that winter growth still happens, it’s just much slower.

-use mobile greenhouses and layer crops, take advantage of height in the greenhouse space. Some greenhouse options that are cheap and effective: Desian style with metal clips, field tunnels.

After a delicious all-Iowa meal (and a morning of snow shoveling and ice avoidance), we reconvened for a brief IA Cheese, Please session with CJ Bienert of Gateway Market, and the Bandstra brothers, of Fresia Farms.  Did you know that 90% of cheeses are imported!?  This is completely unnecessary and we should be proud of the cheese produced in our own region.

in the second half hour

Seth McCoy, a Kirksvile resident, shared his perspective on a town often misrepresented among privileged and sometimes ignorant college students.

As it turns out, Seth thinks that Kirksvillians are more concerned about the student population than they’re willing to let on.  Since business depends on the yearly migration of maybe 10,000 people every fall and spring, the town is constantly in flux.  Students who stay in summer or winter know the peacefull quiet that falls on Kirksville when most others hit the road back to Kansas City or St.Louis.

Geographically, the two groups find themselves separated in town.  Underclassmen stay on campus too much, and even upperclassmen tend to stick around a few bars, where locals rarely mingle.  If we want to find common ground, we’ll have to do it by socializing with eachother and by sticking around town in the “off-season” or post-graduation.

A joke from Seth: “You know how women with big breasts work at Hooters?  Well where does a woman with one leg work?” …. “at IHOP”


~ by hannahlh on January 28, 2009.

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