Reasons to be a member of New Family Farm

Sometimes I get so focused on the financial reasons to be a member of our farm that I forgot to talk about some of the many other reasons. To me – the financial reasons alone are enough: receiving a great product at below market rates while supporting local business.

  • The freshest, best produce you can get. We aim to harvest within 24 hours of delivery so that items are at peak maturity for flavor and quality. Unless you have a home garden, you can’t get it any fresher than this!
  • A diverse, healthy diet based on in-season produce. We raise over 40 different varieties of vegetables.
  • Our farm’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and community. I have a Ph.D. in sustainability, and want to use the farm to help “connect people with food” while helping people see the broader implications for the choices we make in our lives. I could go on and on – please ask me if you’d like to talk more about this.
  •  Iowa’s growing local food system. Iowa continues to grow its capacity to connect food grown by agricultural entrepreneurs with people who care about the food they eat and the community those systems support. Connecting people with food – through farm memberships, farmers markets, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), are among the leading models of Iowa’s local food system.

Check out our member options for 2014!

Des Moines pick-up site confirmed!

Today we confirmed that we’ll be using Mercy Home Medical Supply as a pick-up site this summer – located at 601 SW 9th Street in Des Moines. The day of the week and specific time are not yet confirmed (though the time will likely be somewhere between 3 and 6PM, in order that it is convenient for people to stop by on their way home from work).

We’re also working toward a pick-up site in Ankeny, and hope to confirm that over the next couple of weeks.

601SW9thGoogle street view of 601 SW 9th Street in Des Moines

February is coming!

February is coming, and with it a whole lot of activity on a whole lot of different levels!

At the national level, word is that there is a new farm bill that is likely to make it’s way through congress within the next couple of weeks. As a vegetable farmer, my sense is that there is very little that will affect me directly. As an Iowan, an environmentalist, a member of the Iowa Farmers Union, and a human – there are quite a few things that will affect me. Overall I’m glad to see that the bill is moving forward and will continue to support both people who need to eat (through SNAP) as well as people who produce the food.

At the state level, the Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference was last week. It was my first PFI conference, even though I’ve been to enough events over the past year that I feel like I know everyone (almost!) who was there. Ok- so that’s a stretch. But they’re all such great people that if you don’t know someone, you just start a conversation with them and soon that’s taken care of. Highlights included Susan Jutz (my mentor) receiving the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award (PDF), Andy Dunham (another mentor) talking about Weathering the Weather, and Laura Krouse (another mentor) talking about growing potatoes. There was also a “short course” the two half-days before the conference on holistic management – focusing on how people – farmers especially – need to look beyond only the business plan to find the things that they really want out of life and to make sure that short-term decisions are aligned with that. It reminded me very much of my research work in Sweden – backcasting from desired futures, creativity within constraints, and so on –  and the masters programs (strategic leadership – MSLS and sustainable product innovation – MSPI) that are currently accepting applications to join them in the fall of this year!

At the local (farm) level – I’m just finishing up what may be the most complicated taxes ever… the combination of having been in Sweden last January, starting a consulting business to continue some academic work independently, starting a farm, and some short-term capital gains…. well, it got interesting! Between that and the PFI conference, not a lot of farm work has been done over the past week. And tomorrow I’ll head to Florida for a few days – while I’m currently cash-poor, I’m points rich thanks to some strategic use of credit cards and several years of flying to/from Sweden! Hopefully I’m going far enough south to see the 70’s. I’d still rather be going fishing this summer, but the life of a vegetable farmer doesn’t allow for summer vacations, at least not at this stage of the game.

For now, I think you should contemplate kale – and the four dishes suggested over at DM Juice. If it gets you thinking about summer veggies like I hope it does – consider joining our CSA this summer to get your weekly box of fresh produce!

One of the kale pictures from dmjuice:
The Winterset Salad Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, at at The Cafe in Ames.

Last full week of January

Just a few minutes ago I was excited to write an update – talking about how this week, it was time to move on to things now that the seed order is finished. Then I realized that I wrote that *last* week! It may well be a case of spring fever – yesterday it reached 50 degrees here. And to be fair, I did get a few other things… well, not done, but advanced. And while I’m claiming that the seed order is “done” – I also have in mind a need to review it sometime sooner than later and to extend it for fall crops. I’m fully expecting to do a “fall share” that runs during October and November. And generally that is not important right now – except that it kind of is for things like potatoes, onions, brussels sprouts, etc. Ok, so they’re not important RIGHT NOW. But now is sort of the down time to be thinking about them, priority to the busy time that will start in mid-March when we start seeding crops. Anyway – I write this to remind myself that I need to keep busy.

With those things in mind – the week *will* be busy, though with many off-farm activities. Meeting with insurance agents, a membership committee meeting with the Iowa Farmers Union, meeting with people about the CSA (i.e. marketing), and then the Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference.

Shifting gears

The seed orders are in, and now it’s time to move on to a couple of other things that are critical to get lined up before the busy spring season arrives.

The things now at the time of my priority list:

  1. Marketing materials. It’s time to get word out about New Family Farm and all of the fantastic produce that will be available from us this year. The website and facebook are great tools for this, but we also need to get printed materials out to people. Also, we’re now listed on the site – you’re welcome to check out our listing there.
  2. Space for germinating plants this spring. Many of the vegetables we grow will be started in climate-controlled environments. With an eye to energy savings, this means I need to get a greenhouse up in the next two months. This is entirely possible, but not without challenges!
  3. Equipment prep. One of my fall purchases was an Allis-Chalmers ‘G’ tractor (picture below). It was made in the 1950’s. I bought it because it’s a light-weight (minimizing soil compaction) and has the engine in the rear and a belly-mount cultivator (enabling me to see where I’m going and not run over crops). It currently does not have brakes, and the cultivator is not set up for the bed system that I’ll be using. (The bed system is basically using 5-foot wide “beds”, having between 1 and 5 rows in each bed, depending upon the crop. This differs from a row system, where every row would be the same width, say 30 inches.)

There are still plenty of other things for me to be thinking about: irrigation, delivery systems and produce handling, organic certification, and the deer fence. But I think ‘ll set those aside for right now, and focus on a few others.


2014 is the International Year of Family Farming

I was reminded by the National Farmers Union blog that 2014 is the International Year of Family Farming, designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. I post it here because I think it is a neat opportunity to say a couple of things.

First, the connection family farmers in the US have with family farmers around the world is complex and historic. Many of the farmers in Iowa today have (family) roots in Europe. In some ways, family farmers compete on a global market. Yet, because family farms tend to be smaller operations focusing on producing food for their communities, there really is – and can be moreso – a sense of support and cooperation and mutual thriving when family farms succeed.

Second, I joined the Iowa Farmers Union last fall as an indication of my support for a long-standing organization (since 1915 in Iowa!) that supports education, cooperation, and legislation that sincere support sustainable production, safe food, a clean environment and healthy communities. Whether or not you are a farmer, if you are interested in these issues I hope you will take a few moments to learn more about the Farmers Union.

Third, what better way to celebrate 2014 being the International Year of the Family Farm than by committing to support a local family farm? Of course we here at NFF would love for that to be us through our CSAIYFF