Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Getting Creative ... The Farming Way

Yesterday I blogged about the bleak picture that analysts are painting for pork farmers in 2008. I was prompted by an article that I read in the "Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman". Today, I wanted to share some good news from an article in the same issue. As soon as I saw the title, "Young farmers getting creative with products," I was hooked!

"With soaring land prices and increasing production costs, Iowa's newest farmers are coming up with creative, non-traditional ways to get started in agriculture," writes author Teresa Bjork. Let's break that down... Land prices sky high and farming inputs costs are really high ... TRUE! New farmers in Iowa are being creative ... TRUE!

The article goes on to feature a "community supported agriculture" farm and grass-fed beef operation both located in Iowa. The CSA mentioned in the article is Blue Gate Farm, which I have visited and happens to be just a few miles away. Jill Beebout and Sean Skeeham (owners of Blue Gate Farm) expect to serve 30 CSA customers this year along with the buyers that visit their booth at a Des Moines farmers market. After only three years they have already built a loyal customer base and even have a waiting list for their CSA subscriptions. That is creative, that is outside-of-the-box, that is great!

Grass Run Farm was the other beginning farm that was featured in the article. I had just recently heard about this farm so it was interesting to read a little more about their operation and decisions. Ryan and Kristine Jepsen raise beef, pork, chicken, and veal on a certified organic farm in Northeast Iowa. They also recently began a rotational grazing system on their farm and were able to use a cost-sharing program to get it up and running.

This is all great news and I am so glad that it is being reported on. But, I can't help but dwell on one little thing as I digest this article.

Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan moved to Iowa three years ago (from Houston) to start Blue Gate Farm. And, although Ryan Jepsen had attended Luther College in Iowa they came from Idaho to start Grass Run Farm. That hit me in the head like a ton of bricks! Why are all of the creative farmers coming into Iowa to begin their farms? Or more importantly, why aren't more born and raised Iowans being the creative beginning farmers?

I have always thought of Iowa farmers being resourceful, industrious, hard-working, and even creative. But, when it comes to moving to non-traditional ways of farming, and making money, it seems that Iowa farmers are behind. Listen, I'm not saying that this is true in all cases ... but, it does seem to be a trend.

Hopefully Iowans will begin to show their creativity ... begin to show their work ethic ... and begin to change the way they farm and the way the world is fed. I am so thankful for the beginning farmers in Iowa that are thinking outside-of-the-box and being unconventional, but now I think it is time for the locals to catch up and take advantage of the resources they already have.


sugarcreekfarm said...

Ethan - I believe Jill is a born-and-raised Iowan. They moved back to a piece of her family's farm.

It was nice to see an article like this in the Spokesman. They are few & far between in that publication :)

Ethan Book said...

Kelli, thanks for pointing that out! That is great, but still makes me wonder why people have to leave Iowa to figure out how to do something differently. The beginning farmers that are coming in are doing a great job (and we could use some more of them), but they have a steep learning curve in some instances. On the other hand if a farmer who has been farming in a conventional way was to think outside of the norm and do something different he would have so much going for him in the way of land, equipment, experience, knowledge, connections, and so much more!

Just a thought...

Pichinde said...

I'm an Idahoan looking to farm somewhere besides desert. Maybe Iowa?

But seriously, I feel the same way about Idaho farms. For the most part they are big, monoculture farms that use all the water our desert can give. Small, diversified farms who use their water intelligently could do much better here than the big farms.

Ethan Book said...

Pichinde ... thanks for checking out the blog and taking time to comment. I guess I'm glad to know that it just isn't Iowa ... just hope I can be part of the solution.

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