The farm circa 1980:
“The farm” was purchased by our great-grandfather – John Sorenson – (our mother’s father’s father) around 1910. My grandfather, Charles Sorenson, born 1914, lived on the farm his entire life except for some time around WWII and the cumulative years from spending 25 winters AirStreaming in the south. He married our grandmother (Lois Miller) in 1950, and they lived together until they both passed in 2010. They farmed until the mid-1970s, when they retired. From a few years during the 1970s, the land was rented out. Our mother (Cindy) and our father (Chuck) moved to the farm in 1980, and farmed until 1985. Since 1986 (?) the land has been rented out to a farmer living a mile down the road.
The Farm is located two miles east of Elkhart, which is about 15 miles northeast of Des Moines. Click on the map to open it in Google Maps.
In the fall of 2013, we began making some preparations to utilize some land to produce vegetables. We went to an auction, bought a small plow and disc, and prepared our two-acre hayfield for a fall cover crop of winter rye. And that is where the journey… continues! (We can’t really say ‘where the journey begins’ since the farm has been around for a century, and one of our journeys began off-farm.)
In 2014 and 2015, we operated a 25- and 60-member CSA growing on those two acres while having around 100 laying hens free-ranging around the farm. In 2016 we dropped the CSA; did some sales of veggies and eggs through the Iowa Food Coop and other outlets. In 2017, our family purchased Prudent Produce, an organic food delivery business serving families in central Iowa.
Through 2017 and 2018 and 2019, we grew the few veggies (and continued with eggs) that we had time to grow and marketed them via Prudent Produce.
The year of 2019 saw us take a very big step towards our longer-term goal: we pulled a 50 acre field out of conventional row crops and started transitioning it to organic production. For the first time in 50 years, oats were grown on the farm! Other crops on the 50-acre field included cereal rye, buckwheat, sunflowers, corn, field peas, and several other cover crops that provided food for our laying hens to graze on.
Here’s a drone video from the fall of 2019 showing one of our fields where we were working to greatly increase the crop diversity:
For every two steps forward, it’s inevitable to take a step back… and 2021, following both COVID and the derecho, saw us step back a bit. The 50 acres was too much for the equipment we had, especially considering too few markets for the crops we raised. We’ve kept 13 of those acres in a highly-diverse rotation (oats, barley, sunflowers, peas, corn, buckwheat) that will provide the majority of feed for our 300-hen flock of egg layers.