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Farmers Respond to Consumer Demand For More Organic Food

Farmers Respond to Consumer Demand For More Organic Food

How can farmers respond to the increasing demand for organic food? You can learn more about this topic by attending October 21 field day at Emmetsburg in northern Iowa.

Health-conscious consumers are driving a growing demand for organic, locally produced food. Emmetsburg farmers Harn Soper, Jarret Herke and Tony Pille invite you to Soper Farms to see how they are taking advantage of this new market by adding an organic vegetable and grass-fed livestock enterprise to their farm as well as their efforts to reduce energy consumption and chemical inputs while increasing profitability. Learn more about their endeavors at a Practical Farmers of Iowa Field Day on Friday Oct. 21, 2011 from 2 to 4 p.m. The field day will be followed by supper.

In fall 2010, Soper Farms began transitioning 260 acres on two of their farms from commercial corn and soybean production to organic grass-fed livestock and vegetables. Their first step in launching their new business, New Shoots Farm, has been to prepare the ground for organic production. Last fall they planted cover crops to help retain rich topsoil, suppress weed growth and return nitrogen to the soil.

Producing grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chickens, organic vegetables

Much of this land, 160 acres, will be used for pasture to finish up to 160 head of Black Angus annually using a rotational grazing model. Approximately 10,000 pasture-raised chickens will follow the cattle rotation each season. Managed by Jarret Herke, recent projects on the farm include building a livestock barn and maintenance building that will also house a chicken-processing facility. The remaining 100 acres will be allotted to vegetable production.

Vegetable operations manager Tony Pille is over seeing the addition of hoop houses and facilities for washing, packing and cooling produce, as well as, an integrated compost-management system designed to capture heat from aerobic compost and biogas from anaerobic compost. Rich Schuler, PFI energy consultant, will be at the field day to explain the process and how this will improve the efficiency and profitability of the farm.

"In the process of producing healthy organic, locally grown food, we are also working to close as many gaps and dependencies as possible in our nutrient, feed and energy cycles," says Soper. "We welcome our neighbors to come by and share in our progress and in the information we have learned."

Closely involved with retail outlet to market organically grown produce 

New Shoots Farm is also closely aligned with a farm store, bakery and café, being remodeled in the Emmetsburg town square. The new business will feature beef, chicken and vegetables from New Shoots and other organic and locally grown products from neighboring farms.

The field day, which will highlight these new business endeavors, is free and includes supper, provided by Soper Farms at the New Shoots Café in Emmetsburg. Space is limited. Please RSVP to the Practical Farmers of Iowa office at 515.232.5661 or, if you plan to attend.

Direction to Soper Farms: From the intersection of Hwy 18 (Main Street) and Hwy 4 (Broadway stoplight) in Emmetsburg, go west on Hwy 18 for three blocks. Turn right on Lawler (N40). Drive through town, past the golf course, jogging right then left onto 460th Ave. Drive 5.6 miles north to 300th St. Turn left on 300th St. and go 2.2 miles. At the old corncrib, turn left and follow the signs.

Practical Farmers of Iowa recognizes the following sustaining sponsors: Albert Lea Seedhouse, American Natural Soy, Iowa Farmers Union, ISU Extension, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), Seed Savers Exchange, USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE), and the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in addition to the following major sponsors: Iowa Forage and Grassland Council, Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA), CROPP Cooperative of Organic Valley/Organic Prairie Family of Farms and Iowa State University Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture. This field day was also made possible with funding from Farm Energy Workgroup and Iowa Environmental Council.

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call 515.232.5661 or visit

TAGS: Soybean USDA
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