(check back – others coming soon!)
I grew up on our family’s farm. My earliest memories are of riding in a tractor with my dad on the land that’s been in the family for a century. For the past decade, I’ve had in the back of my mind to finish the degree (completed my PhD in Sweden in December 2012) and have the credentials to do some consulting while getting the farm “started.” What I mean with getting the farm “started” is really a combination of things. First, finding a way to earn a living off the land – for myself, and hopefully several others. Then, eating good food. And also, finding a way to build and maintain soil quality.
There’s also a more logical or strategic appeal. Having studied sustainability (including a little on climate change) and product innovation for the past seven years, my appreciation for the role of agriculture in addressing society’s sustainability challenges has grown. I’d like to be part of the solution.
I also have a sense of obligation. If I were not so connected to this land – this place that I keep coming back to – then farming would likely not be on my radar. But I do, and it is, and so I will.
Ultimately, my dream is to model a family farm for the 21st century – taking the best of the old, adding some of the new, and arriving at something that works. I have many ideas about what this could look like – CSA, non-CSA veggie produce for the central Iowa market, livestock, timber, fruits/nuts, etc. – and I’m trying to wrap my mind around if, which, and when. And even more questions: how much how fast? Full-time, part-time, hobby only? Implications on other future plans and dreams – family, world impact, travel!?
After spending the summer of 2013 exploring options, participating in The Farming Institute, joining Practical Farmers of Iowa and the Iowa Farmers Union… I decided that a CSA is a good way to start in order to meet some of these goals.
In 2014, New Family Farm operated our first CSA season. The summer was wonderfully successful – we delivered 10 or more tasty produce items every week for 16 weeks to our 25 members. We also ran a fall share – 5 deliveries over 10 weeks – also to 25 members. In 2015, we went with two 10-week seasons (early summer and late summer), providing shares to around 60 families.
In 2017, we realized that we were in a unique position to pursue some significant innovations in the local food arena, and we bought Prudent Produce — a central Iowa-based organic grocery delivery business. This helped us access useful software, delivery capacity, and many folks interested in the food we, and other farmers like us, are growing.
Over the past several years, we’ve continued to operate Prudent Produce as an on-line farmer’s market + more. In doing so, we’ve directed hundreds of thousands of dollars to scores of Iowa’s food producers, while continuing to grow a few crops ourselves.
And – it should be noted that this is not an individual effort. Many people are helping to make it possible – family, friends, mentors, customers, volunteers! The support of so many wonderful people is helping to make this dream possible.
Thanks for reading-
Tony (and Layla, in our 2021 annual sunflower photo)