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Iowa Vegetable Farm Grows Tons of Food


FarmHer Kate and I started this journey seven years ago and today so much and not much at all has changed. First off, her farm has moved not once but twice. She is now married and not renting land anymore. She is a grown-up farmer in many ways. Today her farm is the largest community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm in the state of Iowa. She and her team grow food for over 200 families. That spans 30 crops and 150 varieties!

Her story is still the same. Growing up she loved visiting her grandparent’s farm and dreamed of being a “farm kid.” After college, she was pursuing a career in engineering but just wasn’t satisfied. Despite her grandmother’s advice to stay away from farming, Kate jumped in with both feet, moving to Iowa and spending a summer with family to learn more about the industry she wanted to be in. She learned how to drive a tractor and grow a large garden and the rest is history.

The early days weren’t the easiest, but she learned a lot of lessons. She expanded her acreage, got a great mentor to help her through it, and found her people through farm organizations such as Practical Farmers of Iowa. She landed on the CSA concept because of the low overhead needed. Over the years her customer base has grown to now over 200 families and a long waitlist. She has perfected her craft (though is always still learning) and today has help on the farm, including her husband when he isn’t working at his off-farm full-time job.

As I pulled down the long driveway and into the shaded yard of the farmhouse and barn, I was instantly in awe of Kate’s new farm. It was a little slice of heaven! After quick hellos we went straight out to the field where a crew was just finishing up the harvest, working hard to beat the spring heat that had arrived a bit too early. Once they were done Kate had some cultivating work to do on her bigger tractor in that same field.

From there we ventured up to the greenhouse where she explained they start ALL of the seeds that are planted on the farm. They start them in waves in the greenhouse and transplant out to the field throughout the season so they have produce for their customers as long as possible. There I met her husband, who was happily helping out on the farm that day.

The last few stops were to check garlic in the field and harvest one stalk. Kate gave it a good pull before it would come out and as soon as it was out of the ground I could smell it! So cool!

Last but not least, she harvested some Chinese Cabbage from a field back up near the barn. There she showed me the basics of washing and talked through the best methods to keep the produce fresh once it has been picked and delivered and makes its way home. The key is washing it with just water (no special cleaners needed), then drying it and getting it cold!

My day with Kate was wonderful. It was so gratifying to see how she has grown and changed, and also to see that she is still at it. Farming is hard work and is not for the faint of heart. Kate has always had the heart and soul of a FarmHer and seeing her live out her dream and share fresh food with her community was one of the highlights of my FarmHer career as well!