Harvesting Dallas County one farm at a time
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Ten acres of land. Four acres in production. Fresh organic produce for 100-plus families. It sounds so simple! Plant. Wait for sun and rain to do its work. And voila! Harvest. But organic farming is more detailed. And far more work intensive. “Right now, we’re working 7 days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day,” says Stacy Hartmann who, with her husband, Rick, owns, manages and works Small Potatoes Farm. “Most of our produce is marketed through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). For us, that means about 100 families in Dallas County, Ames and Des Moines receive our weekly box of fresh produce.” Harvest starts early on Small Potatoes Farm, and lasts well into fall. “Rick starts planting as soon as he can work the ground,” Stacy says, noting that they plant everything except sweet corn. Lettuce, kale and collards; melons, radishes, beets and peppers; okra, sweet potatoes, summer and winter squash; eggplant, peas, green and yellow beans; seven tomato varieties; five potato varieties; several onion varieties; garlic and raspberries …. A veritable grocery of fresh, organic produce. Typically, they plant and harvest weekly; first harvests begin around mid-May. “We finish the regular season the end of September,” Stacy says of the 19- to 21-week season. “Our winter extended share adds a few weeks of potatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, greens, kale, onions and leeks.” By Thanksgiving, harvest is finished. “This spring was so wet, we had a hard time getting planted and weeded. Then it was so hot and dry, we watered all day and into the night,” Stacy says. Drip tape trickles water down the beds, and is moved every 15 to 90 minutes. “Typically, we only water to get lettuce or carrots started. Now we’ve even watered potatoes. Plus, it’s been so hot and dry, it’s hard to keep on planting schedule,” Stacy continues. “It’s hard to till or work the soil when it is hard as a rock.”
The farm is certified organic, thus non-GMO, through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. “There are inspection, certification and application fees.” Stacy says. “Every year, Rick submits an application detailing our production practices, seed sources, field rotation and cover crops.” Every summer, the farm is inspected to be sure the submission lines up with actual practices. There are strict regulations about previous land use for a farm to earn the organic designation. Small Potatoes Farm was an unutilized farmstead. “It hadn’t been corn or beans for dozens of years. It had been owned by a family that did home gardening organically,” Stacy explains. “With a ten-year fallow window like that, you can jump right in.”
Because surrounding farms aren’t organic, Small Potatoes Farm is responsible to maintain borders. “We have buffer strips in prairie plants and grasses,” Stacy explains. They register with the state and notify neighbors and the co-op to remind them that the farm is organically certified. “We endeavor to have good communication with our neighbors. We trust that they do their best to prevent chemical drift.”
Reach Small Potatoes Farm just outside of Minburn, Iowa, through their website, SmallPotatoesFarm.com, or by calling 515/677-2438.