Farm Business

June 12, 2016 – Thanks for Your Support! Auction Day

Auction day! The worst case scenario did not happen. There was not a thunderstorm or rain and the weather was less hot than previous days. These photos are credited to neighbor Nancy.

Gathered around the auctioneer.

Cars in the yard and lined up on the road past the top of the hill.

More stuff we don’t have to move!

Auctioneer Fred Van Metre in the red hat. Fred did a good job for us.

Martin on auction day sampling from the food wagon.

More folks looking for treasures.

We all look on as our stuff changes hands.

The view from the pergola.

Can’t give this man enough credit – good neighbor Don. Brought his loader tractor over and helped folks load up heavy stuff.

Our first couple of life-long neighbors and friends.

The sad looking eyes on the JD 2510 say it all as we depart from the farm.

July 26, 2011 – Harvest from the Heart of Iowa

Tonight we hosted the quarterly dinner from a new local foods group – Harvest from the Heart of Iowa.  I’m working on the group’s web site and I hope to have it live in few weeks.  I’ll post the URL when it debuts.

It was an all-local meal, with beef and  pork burgers, bison hot dogs, eggplant/summer squash feta cheese casserole, sweet corn, of course, and raspberries and whipped cream over pound cake.  About 60 people braved the hot and humid weather for the meal.

The speaker was Lois Reichert of  “Dairy Air” (don’t think about that name too long!)  She’s the owner of a goat cheese dairy with national honors for her cheeses.

one year ago…”An Open Letter to the Rainmaker”

October 11, 2009 – Front Page News, Part II

Last Sunday the local paper had the first in a three-part series centered around the program Linda started at MCC.  This Sunday was another above the fold front page story.  There was also another article about a local food system meeting that builds on the work Linda has done.

Creating homegrown food

MCC runs crop trials, begins creating food processing facility


Latino restaurants and grocery stores in this county seat community prefer to make their own tortillas. But when a local supplier in Tama went out of businesses two years ago, these tiendas started looking elsewhere for their white corn supplies.

Jesus Gaytan, who owns Gaytan Tortilleria, now travels to Chicago to get his white corn and other food supplies, but said that he would prefer to buy locally, if the food was available. He needs an estimated 600 to 1,200 bushels of white corn annually.

Enter Marshalltown Community College and several other organizations determined to help Gaytan and other local businesses with fulfilling their local food needs.

“If we can do this right,” said Norm McCoy, director of the Midwest Center for Entrepreneurial Agriculture at MCC, “Locally grown white corn would give him another marketing angle for his customers.”

Among a number of other efforts, the college, under the direction of McCoy, ran a series of white corn trials, trying to determine which corn variety works best in Iowa’s cooler soils. White corn is not only a staple for tortillas, but for other dishes, such as hominy used for menudo, a Latino soup.

McCoy also supervises the certified organic food plots the college rents to community people for growing their own produce and for selling at farmers markets. He has planted nut trees and other crops for a variety of different organizations that are involved in Marshalltown’s local foods initiative.

The college is also building a certified, organic-foods processing facility, where produce can be washed and bulk packaged according to end users’ needs, McCoy said. There are plans for greenhouses in the near future.

Although all this is happening on the college campus, no college funds are directly involved, McCoy said. The trials, the gardens, the processing facility, even McCoy’s salary, are paid through grants and other outside sources.

Trials of white corn

McCoy said he volunteered to run the white corn trials for Iowa State University, in partnership with Practical Farmers of Iowa, this year. He received 19 varieties to plant in a series of four replications. His site was a high ridge that overlooks U.S. Highway 30.

But things did not go as well as he had hoped.

Spring planting was delayed. The first varieties didn’t get planted until June, because those renting private plots needed to use the program’s manual planting equipment. Rains also kept planters out of the field and when fields were dry enough, tilling created large clods that interfered with uniformed spacing of the corn.

“Sometimes the wind blew so hard,” McCoy said, “it blew the seed away as it left the planter.” Conditions were so challenging, McCoy said, he reverted to planting many of the rows by hand in order to get the crop into the ground. The last of the eight-row trial plots were planted in mid-July.

“This was a real poor year to try this,” McCoy said, adding that he hopes to get a second chance in 2010. If so, he intends to plant the trial plots in a more sheltered area on the south edge of the campus. “But I learned a lot.”

The need to find the right kind of white corn variety for local food processors is still there, he insists.

Tortillas need a minimum-sized kernel, the bigger the better, with a waxy coating that is easily removed with a lye solution. His trials were to determine yield, by variety and soil type, at varying plant populations, and recording any stalk lodging.

McCoy expects to harvest, shell and weigh the corn by hand this fall.

Unique opportunity

“We (Marshalltown) are unique to have the Latino population here,” McCoy said. “It’s hard to get them tied into the local food movement, because of communications and because they are not fully integrated into the local culture yet.”

This local food initiative has had intensive Latino interest and involvement since the early efforts to now. John Paulis, director of the Prairie Rivers Resource Conservation and Development, based in Ames, which is assisting in the overall project, said many of the immigrant population has an agrarian background and prefer to move out of the factories and packing plants and make their living on the soil.

“We want to tap into their knowledge and expertise,” McCoy said, in creating a series of local truck farms to bring human-food grade farming to the local populace.

“They have no pre-conceived ideas about farming,” McCoy said. “This is a local foods system waiting to happen.”

Incubator building

An organic foods processing facility, which is touted as a business incubator, is being built with assistance from a federal small business development grant of $250,000, and a matching grant from the Martha Ellen Tye Foundation, based in Marshall County. Of this second grant, $100,000 can be used for equipment purchases.

One limiting factor to developing a functional local foods system, McCoy said, is the lack of a “community kitchen,” where fresh produce can be washed and packaged, or be subject to value-added processes for specific end users.

Ground was broken for the facility on the campus in September. The building is expected to be available for use by late October, McCoy said.

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 732-2141or at

one year ago…”Homecoming 2008″

September 6, 2009 – Heirloom Tomato Tasting at Grinnell Heritage Farm

We took some time away from our farm and visited an heirloom tomato tasting event and farm tour at Grinnell Heritage Farm.  It’s a 5th generation, yet new farm reinvented as a diversified organic farm with vegetables, animals, hay, and hoophouses.

andrew dunham

Here owner Andrew Dunham begins the farm tour.

heirloom tomato tasting

They planted 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes to try to decide which ones they might like to grow and eat the best and shared the varieties with the public during a tomato tasting/potluck/string band event at their farm.  I’d say there was an overwhelming turnout.


I, of course, was struck with the beauty of all the vegetable beds.  If I remember correctly, there are about seven acres in vegetable production.  These organic varietal lettuces in front of the old barn are noteworthy for their beauty and being relatively weed-free.

bright lights chard

Bright Lights Chard makes for a beautiful landscape as well.

brassica field

These bug-free cauliflower rows were a wonder to see.  Andrew and Melissa have much to be proud of as they convert this farm to organic, local food production.

one year ago…”Plum Harvest”

March 8, 2009 – Sunday Afternoon Class

The last eight Sunday afternoons Linda’s been part of a team that is teaching a class for aspiring new farmers.  It is designed as a quick start/introduction as opposed to a two-year degree program.

After completing this class, the graduates will be able to rent a portion of the college farm to start their farming enterprise.

The class attracted a wide range of people, including Anglo, Hispanic, Sudanese, and Meskwaki members.  The class has already started planning some cooperative marketing and looks forward to the planting season to put into practice some things they’ve learned.

one year ago…”Faith”

January 20, 2009 – Local Foods Move to Mainstream

For many years, many small farmers have championed the benefits of local food production based on claims of supporting the local economy, freshness, and quality. Recent books by Michael Pollan and others have given the concept a wider audience. Now, I believe the biggest producers have noticed and will soon be marketing their products as such. Following are excerpts from a speech that Bryan Silbermann, President of the Produce Marketing Association gave at his “State of the Industry” address.

After years of becoming more corporate-like and delivering fresh produce to consumers cheaply and abundantly, the produce industry is heading in the opposite direction – meeting its customers face to face. People are moving back to basics, away from industrial agriculture and back to smaller stores and local foods and trying to find the face behind their fresh produce.

“Cheap and plentiful eventually has a price,” he said, noting that consumers are more fearful of their food – and producers haven’t benefited all that much either. Producers now get about 17 cents of the consumer dollar, down from 41 cents in 1940.

At the same time, consumers are realizing they want the freshness and taste of local foods, the open space farms provide and the other benefits local foods contribute to the community – including a greater sense of security. “It’s become a social movement as people are pushing back against industrial agriculture and the over-reliance on excessively processed foods. The next big thing is not more microwavable pizza.” Silbermann said that a “perfect storm” has engulfed the produce industry, combining elements from rising input prices, a shortage of labor, concerns about food safety and a growing interest in local, sustainable food systems.

I think that Mr. Silbermann is a very astute man, and his talk reveals just the extent and possibilities of a new type of food system based on local production – coming from the leader of an industrial food organization, it is particularly informing and encouraging to those in the trenches.

one year ago…”When It’s Wintertime”

June 2, 2008 – Linda Passes the Torch!

As many of you know, Linda met a long-awaited goal a few weeks ago. While teaching full-time, she managed to create a new academic program and get it certified by the State, converted 140 acres of cash-rent land to certified organic production at the college farm, and raised around $600,000 for some infrastructure (including some Leed-certified buildings), planning, and three year’s salary for a farm manager in her “spare” time. Since projects like these are ongoing and never seem to end, I thought that this would be a good time to stop and recognize the work she’s done.

The recently hired farm manager is a graduate of the Master’s Program in Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State and also holds an MBA. He will be a great person to lead the charge full-time to train young and old, new residents and old-timers in theory, field production, marketing, and business management for entrepreneurial farmers.

The program aims to be an “incubator farm” that people who want to start farming can access land, take classes as necessary, and a be part of a network of like-minded people who see opportunity in value-added, niche, and organic products. A planned second phase will include an incubator kitchen where packaged food can be produced and sold. It’s been a long and eventful four years from idea to where the program is today.

one year ago…”Most Used Piece of Equipment on the Farm”

February 2, 2008 – Iowa Network for Community Agriculture Meeting

Today we ventured to Cedar Rapids for the 13th annual Iowa Network for Community Agriculture annual meeting.  The morning’s speaker was tangerine farmer and film-maker Lisa Brenneis from Ojai, California.  You may ask, what is a California farmer doing in Iowa talking at a local food conference?  Quite simply, if you followed yesterday’s blog entry – she was taking us down a different road.

Her film “Eat at Bills” profiles the wildly successful Montery Produce Market – a kind of market that currently does not exist in Iowa.  It was her job to stretch our understanding how local foods could be offered to eaters.

Here’s Lisa showing off some of the just-picked Mandarin Oranges from her orchard.  We got to take some home to share with the kids!  What a treat in February.

one year ago…

January 23, 2008 – It’s Cold, That Only Leaves Accounting!

The deep mid-winter is time to catch up on the pile-o-receipts from the past tax year. It’s not really too bad – I do a fairly good job of saving all pertinent materials in three-ring binders and entering sales as they happen, but the bill receipts get stuffed in a plastic pouch in the binder and finally get entered this time of year.

The scene is not especially inviting – a pile of receipts, last year and this year’s record books, and Quicken on the PC. It’s only a week or so until sales tax deadline, so that moves this up on the list of things to do. After the high hopes books get in shape, it’s time to move onto the personal taxes and accounting. Better in January than July.

one year ago…

March 21, 2007 – Committee Work

Today, I attended two meetings in Ames. One with Practical Farmers of Iowa to talk to them about the system design of their new food cooperative. It is one of the missing links in a local food system. The press release about the project follows:

Practical Farmers of Iowa to launch Iowa Food Cooperative

AMES, Iowa—Iowa consumers soon will find it easier to have their pick of a wide variety of Iowa products, under a project starting through Practical Farmers of Iowa. Practical Farmers of Iowa has received a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to launch an Iowa Food Cooperative.
The Cooperative, when launched early next year, will be similar to ones now operating in Oklahoma and Nebraska. The effort will sell only food and non-food products that are produced by members of the cooperative directly to consumers.
The benefits of a direct-to-consumer distribution system like this are many. Consumers know more about the products they’re buying and they are supporting our Iowa economy, while farmers are getting the best price they can. Customers will know exactly who produced the food, where it was grown or raised, and what production practices the farmer or rancher used. “You don’t just order five pounds of generic hamburger, you order it from a specific producer. Our food has a story, and customers of locally raised foods are part of that story,” according to Eric Franzenburg, president of Practical Farmers of Iowa.
The Iowa Food Co-op will be modeled on the successful Oklahoma and Nebraska Food Cooperatives. The older of these two, the Oklahoma Food Co-op, has nearly 1500 different items available each month. As of February 2007, the coop has 1000 members, 101 of them are producers. Total sales average $25,000 – $35,000 each month. The advantage for consumers? “We are discovering the unique and authentic regional tastes of this area and rediscovering the importance of local food production to healthy, local communities,” said Eric. The project also recognizes that Iowa is unique with various local and regional farmer-led food distribution efforts. The project will work with these efforts to help deepen and broaden the base of consumers who buy products directly from farmers.
PFI is a non-profit sustainable agriculture group dedicated to farming that is profitable, environmentally sound, and healthy for consumers and communities. Founded in 1985, PFI has over 700 farmer and non-farmer members throughout Iowa.

The second meeting was at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. There was a meeting to discuss mechanisms for small niche agricultural producers to have access to capital. It was a brainstorming session for another Leopold project.
one year ago…

December 4, 2006 – Gift Boxes

It’s now time for the shameless commerce portion of the blog. This year we’ve decided to offer gift boxes of products from our farm – various combinations of pure beeswax candles, hand made soap, and jams.

This is the big sampler box.

This is the medium sampler box.

You can look at all the boxes at the high hopes gardens web site.

For those wishing to order not in the local area, we’ll add actual shipping costs to the order and ship them where/when you want them to go. Just send us the shipping zip code and we’ll estimate shipping and let you know. The shipping should be between three and seven dollars, depending on location and shipping method.

You can pay us instantly via paypal or send a check in snail mail. Send us an e-mail to for more info or if you have questions.

one year ago…

November 4, 2006 – Politics Gone Wild!

I’m not sure what the political climate is around where you live, but in Missouri it was a whole ‘nother level. I realized certain things are taboo around here. One is political signs/advertising by businesses. It seems that putting up a political signs would offend about half your customers. In Missouri, lots of businesses had signs up in front of their establishment. At the gas station, the little computerized message screen that tells you “Begin Fueling Now” told me how to vote in the election!

Today, Linda saw Joel Salatin speak and I went to some shorter sessions and we are full of great ideas for our farm. We ended with an evening reviewing this year’s financials and setting some priorities for next year.

one year ago…

November 3, 2006 – Small Farm Conference

Today, we drove down to Columbia, Missouri to attend the National Small Farm Conference and Tradeshow. We’ll also use it as our “annual meeting” of high hopes LLC. The conference is a real interesting mix of people, some so far around each end of the political spectrum that they meet up here.

It was a nice drive down, we took some county roads (T61 from Eddyville to hwy 2 was a great drive and we avoided driving through Ottumwa).

I was able to listen to Joel Salatin talk about pasture-based farming. Joel is the poster child of ecological, community based farming. He was the hero of the best seller “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan.

Perhaps some other day, I’ll summarize his presentation, but I do want to share one story.

I asked him if had any corrections or comments regarding his portrayal in the “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” He gushed a bit about Michael Pollan and then came with one little thing that raised his hackles. Pollan notes the lack of coffee at Polyface Farm, and seemingly begrudges, or at least can’t understand why there is not any coffee. Salatin says that is not true – there is indeed coffee on the farm, and if a guest asks, they are happy to brew a pot! Had only he asked, there would have been coffee.

one year ago…

August 2, 2006 – Mobile Grocery?

O.K., the biggest thing that is missing from a local food system is a distributor. Someone to gather the product from farmers who don’t have time/inclination to market and ramp up quantities and sell to local outlets, like grocers, hospitals, etc.

We got to thinking about the 2,000 people or so who work in my building – wouldn’t it be great for them to have a stand of locally grown stuff waiting for them outside the door at 5:00 on their way home? Wouldn’t it be even better if you had a small truck – like a bread truck or so and filled it with veggies/frozen/ and refrigerated stuff and were mobile so you could be in a different location each day?

I did a quick search for “mobile grocer” on google and the only thing I came up with was an organic store in Oakland that had a mobile grocer that sold organic produce at wholesale cost in low-income sections of Oakland as part of their mission to make good food more widely available.

Ideas? Suggestions?

July 26, 2006 – A Time for Dreaming

Last week Linda went to Athens, Ohio to tour ACEnet, one of the nation’s most successful incubator kitchens. An incubator kitchen is a place where a person or aspiring company can process food for retail sale, or ramp up a recipe in a batch food environment before building or taking it to a food manufacturer. So, you may be a sweet corn farmer who sells frozen cobettes (corn on the cob broken in half) to a rib restaurant – you could rent the kitchen for a week to legally process all your corn. You may have a great family dressing or salsa recipe you’d like to try to sell – this is the place to produce test batches and do some test marketing.

This is a picture of Bill, the food scientist/chef at ACEnet. He helps people with ideas batch up their recipes, among other things.

An incubator kitchen is one part of the dream for the entrepreneurial farm Linda is planning at the community college. They hope to use the 140 acres adjacent to the farm to rent out small plots – 1/2 to many acres for someone wanting to start an agricultural enterprise. Along with the classes, incubator kitchen, and farm – it could be a great way to recapture lost food dollars, begin a local food economy and provide meaningful employment. Linda has spent her “work” summer researching other entrepreneurial farms in planning the use of the land at MCC.

It is frustrating that this type of community-based agricultural venture does not gain traction. Especially in light of the farm subsidies paid to commodity farmers to produce crops that result in overproduction. The Environmental Working Group has published all the taxpayer money that goes to commodity subsidies. In Marshall County Iowa alone, the data is from 1995-2004 and the largest farmer received $1,302,739 in taxpayer money (or national debt as the case may be). It’s not an isolated case. There were 44 farmers who recieved over $750,000 and 164 farmers who received $250,000 or more. Just the payments from one of those farmers would go a long way to helping many more entrepreneurial farmers create community wealth.

March 4, 2006 – Tax and Newsletter

It’s a drizzly, foggy day – a day for indoor work. Getting tax stuff ready and working on spring high hopes newsletter. As this is our first year filing as an LLC, I’m filling out the forms best I can, then taking it into the tax guy to finish.

February 20, 2006 – Trying to Make it all Work

The last few days I’ve been working on a high hopes newsletter and order form for the upcoming season. Today I called the locker where we take chickens to find out the minimum number we could sell to individuals and let them pick it up. They wouldn’t do it period. So something that was inconvenient for our customers becomes impossible.

Out options are to butcher the chickens on the farm or go to a locker licensed to sell retail – that would add about $3.50 to the price of the already expensive chickens without much of a margin for us. This is one enterprise where economies of scale sure help – driving 100 chickens to the locker plant vs driving 1000 would drive a lot of the costs significantly down, but growing 1,000 chickens does not fit into the balance of our farm at this point.

The chickens are such a wonderful product – but we can’t do it for free or little profit with all the risk that goes along with it. We NEED a plant closer to make it more economical.

So until we decide what to do – the newsletter is on hold.

June 28, 2005 – Soul Searching

Throughout the winter, we took a class Saturday mornings entitled “Growing Your Small Market Farm.” The culmination of the class was to write a business plan for your farm operation. Along the way, we formed High Hopes Gardens LLC for legal and financial protection of our non-farm assets, learned a great deal, and met some good people. We began writing a plan for an on-farm store – thinking that we spent too much time driving to and sitting at farmer’s markets and that our time would be better spent selling at retail from our farm – with poultry as one of the main draws.

The poultry processing rules put a kibosh on that aspect, but we still went ahead with a survey to other on-farm stores nationwide and to about 200 local consumers to gather info on profitability factors of on-farm stores and attitudes of local people towards shopping at an on-farm store.

Although not totally discouraging, we realized that it probably wouldn’t work on our location on a gravel road. So although we did lots of research, much of it original, we did not think it would work. We had our on-farm visit from our instructor last Friday and had looked at our schedules and life and found no room for a business. In some ways, Linda is starting a business in getting the sustainable and entrepreneurial program off the ground at school. The time in feeding ourselves, raising the kids, and having two other jobs doesn’t leave a lot of room for new adventures. Another challenge is that if we wanted to take the leap, having about three acres of hilly ground would be hard to replace one off-farm income.

So we’ll not have this immediate expectation of starting quite yet. We’ll look back and see if we’d like to do more long-term crops (christmas trees, nuts, lumber) or just try a short season at market with fruits, flowers and berries, or perhaps off-season hoops.

Deciding to let this drop, if even temporarily does not come easily or without its own angst. We’ll try it on for a while, breathe for a few seconds a day, and see where it brings us.

March 23, 2005 – Retreat Conclusions

We’ve only been gone less than 36 hours – but it was two full days, a night away and drive-bys of 100’s of farms – most not doing too well. Rural southeastern Iowa is not a particularly prosperous part of the U.S. It was quite jarring driving up from the south to Iowa City after two days in small towns and rural lands and seeing the difference in wealth and opportunity. What makes us value town jobs more than rural jobs? What would it take to have a person who grows your food make as much money as a person who landscapes your yard?

Yesterday was good for hunkering down and working on the farm business plan. It was raining and snowing, so we weren’t tempted to go outside. We made some great strides and are grateful for that. Today, we had a nice chat with the owner of the Bed and Breakfast whose town of 35 residents has been declared a national historic district, in whole, due to the efforts of a “newcomer” (she moved there in 1955) who made enemies for life in trying to move the town from a collection of junk cars to a place worthy of preservation and opportunity. The buildings are all built of red brick, fired from local clay by the Mormons over 100 years ago. We wondered why it was when you lived in a shithole it was so hard to flush and make something new and better? Kudos to those in the Villages of Van Buren for making something new out of a treasure of history and architecture.

Today we visted Premiere Fencing near Washington, IA – one of the biggest purveyor of fencing supplies. We then went to Red Fern Farm to pick up some chestnut trees for our silvopasture. Tom is experimenting with alternative crops in Iowa like chestnuts, heartnuts, persimmons, medlars, and others. Red Fern had 6 inches of snow overnight.

An upshot from this time away and bit of perspective is that we are now thinking that we are going to stop offering poultry for sale. The lousy return (even charging $2.00 lb) and huge risk (predation, disease, dogs, weather) along with the liability insurance cost, just doesn’t make sense for us to sell on a small scale and we are not willing to grow the thousands it may take to make it worth our time. For our small farm, it just does not work right now. This might change if there was an inspected locker close by.

It is not easy to drop this enterprise as it is a product our customers cannot easily get in the store and we are not happy with the conditions commercial broilers are raised, but we can’t do it without a reasonable return. We are going to shift our focus a bit – but more about that later, as I am now rambling.

March 21, 2005 – Vacation or Fence?

You know you are a real farmer when you’d rather spend your money on a new fence than a caribbean vacation! I started building the fence for this year’s tree planting. I ultimately decided on the cattle panels as they will be most flexible and “always on” even though they are a bit pricey. Today, I finished pulling the snow fence posts and got about 6 panels (96 feet) worth of fence hauled and up. That means I’m about 1/14 done with the fence. Here’s about half the pieces on the wagon.
Tomorrow morning I leave with Linda on a 2 day get-away to the Villages of Van Buren County. We’re renting a “cottage” and today I went shopping for food and drink. It looks like the weather is going to be crummy, so we’ll probably spend less time hiking at Lacy-Keosauqua and more time working on the farm business plan.

March 14, 2005 – Googled Out

The most time-consuming part of the “Growing Your Small Market Farm” class has been writing the surveys and finding survey recipients. Today, I sent out a web survey to 83 people who have on-farm stores or stands. It took a lot of searching and dead-ends, as many farms did not have e-mail addresses on their web sites, just phone numbers. We’ll see how many respond. I was steadfast and did not follow any web tangents and only sent e-mails to others three times for things I found along the way! Next task is to compile addresses for 200 or so local residents. I went to the Post Office to buy 400 stamps today (gulp!)

Here’s a picture of the rest of the people going through the class with us! No doubt each of their enterprises will improve along with ours.


Random unrelated thought
Men’s NCAA Tournament teams from basketball happy Indiana: 0
Men’s NCAA Tournament teams from Iowa: 3

March 9, 2005 – Pasture Improvement

This morning Martin and I tried a low-cost experiment. We broadcast (by hand) some seeds into two acres or so of ho-hum pasture. We spread some Birdsfoot Trefoil, clovers, and some pasture mix grasses. It was a cool, but sunny day and not too windy day to do this. Now we just wait for the freeze/thaw to gently place the seeds where they need to be for spring rains. We also cleaned up part of the barn.

Late in the afternoon the UPS man came with some marsh seeds from Ion Exchange for the small mudhole we are trying to renovate – a mix of sedges, grasses, and flowers. Yesterday the UPS man brought beehive boxes for Joanne’s supers.

There’s been a story off the radar – Iowa’s biggest grass/brush fire, consuming between 12-25 square miles, including burning down some homes and farms. It happened this windy weekend.

I checked the Secretary of State web site, and found a new company! High hopes gardens L.L.C. is now a registered entity. So, also applied for IRS EIN number for tax reporting. Also worked some on adding farm store survey to web survey tool

March 4, 2005 – Catch-up Day

Today was a day to play catch-up. Got the LLC Articles of Incorporation completed, ordered pine,hardwood trees, and native marsh mix for back pasture, and did some updates to the high hopes brochures. Figured out the fencing, but did not order yet.

One of the Sustainable Ag classes from the school came out today and looked at fruit trees for a pruning lesson. Also got some goat hoof trimming done on the side. That’s about all for now.

March 3, 2005 – On the Bubble

It’s the time of year that the NCAA basketball tournament brings talk of “bubble” teams – endless speculation about which teams might or might not make the tournament. Enough of bubble teams, what about bubble items for high hopes gardens? But first, what’s in this year:

More flowers
Tree planting in the pasture
Whizbang chicken plucker

The following are on the bubble for this year:
Establish breeding flock of chickens
Scrape and paint one side of house
Heirloom turkeys
Beginning sauna construction
Reroofing house

The following are out for this year:
Belted Galloway (cattle in general)
Vacation in Sedona (Daughter is traveling instead)
Vegetable gardening for fun and profit

I’m sure all of our venerable readers will chime in with their bubble ideas as well.

As a postscript to the corn cob comments to yesterday’s post, I posted a question to the Whizbang Chicken Pluckers Yahoo! group about the best use for ground corn cobs. High absorbancy was a landmark trait reported by all respondents, so the use of the ground cobs as a helper for “eliminational hygiene” may indeed be good for certain textures of “elimination” whereas the whole cob may be good for other more firm “eliminations.”

February 18, 2005 – Turtles Lurking

Although it is still early in the season, it seems that a turtle is crawling out of the mud and commenting on this blog. They say turtles are one of the wisest totems and have been thought of that way for a long time. I think this turtle is no exception.

Stopped in for lunch at the “Alternatives in Agriculture” conference today put on by local extension, (thank you Sally Wilson) and was a able to meet some more interesting people.

Spent some more time going through the paperwork to set up the LLC. Was trying to get a checking account set up, but found out you can no longer get a checking account for an LLC until you have the Federal EIN number, so that goes on hold until another bit of paperwork gets completed.

It was nice to have an “average” February day – about 36 and sunny. Most of the snow is gone, except for the blazingly white drifts along the ditches and crests of hills.

February 13, 2005 Valentine’s Eve

Although we are leaving the dead of winter, high hopes is bustling. This week we have decided to take the plunge into forming a LLC (Limited Liability Corporation) as a result of a “Growing Your Small Market Farm” class we are taking. Tomorrow our plan to integrate an agroforestry component goes before the local NRCS council. If approved, it will offer us cost share to improve our small pasture.

It’s a foggy rainy day, and we’re tempted to toss some lettuce seeds out… but the rain has melted the last of the snow and it’s a tad muddy outside.