Nothin' like a farm tour to get the ideas swirlin'!

As part of the Homegrown Lifestyle class I am taking through the Iowa State University Extension Office, we have the opportunity to visit several working farms.

I didn't think this was a big deal initially. But it is.

Because it's a different type of farm that I am familiar with.

I grew up on a farm. A legit, working farm with cattle, hog confinements, bottle calves and turkeys (at times), and lots of corn and soybeans. My parents are full time farmers. So are my grandparents. Agriculture, nature, and animals are in my bloodline.

But the type of farms I toured today were different. Also working farms, but different because self-sustainability, eco-friendly practices, and community outreach were objectives of the farmers.

I visited a 600 acre farm in the morning that was run by a couple who, yes, grew corn and soybeans, but also raised shetland sheep (and sold their wool), canned and froze produce for their garden, created a native prairie on their land, and raised quail.

Also, they had a beautiful English flower garden. BEAUTIFUL. Do a Google search on "English flower gardens" and you'll see exactly what I experienced. These two had lived on their farm for nearly 30 years, so it was very well established - a true example of a long-term project.

In the afternoon I trekked to a 60 acre farm where the owners showed us a very different experience. They have only lived on their farm for 4 years, but still managed to raise 8 chickens, 2 bee hives (and harvested 40 pounds of honey per year!), a small herd of goats (and they also make 2 types of cheeses and yogurt to sell at farmer's markets), and grow a huge garden for their own use.

At this farm I also saw a grove of 180 aronia berry bushes and a small orchard of chestnut trees. This couple also grows a large amount of garlic to sell at farmer's markets.

Essentially, these farmers are living my dream. Lately...ok, over the last few years...I've been toying with ideas about how I can make this type of reality my reality.

But it will be a while.

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