Progress report for ONC19-055

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2019: $33,365.00
Projected End Date: 04/01/2021
Grant Recipient: Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT)
Region: North Central
State: Iowa
Project Coordinator:
Suzan Erem, Ms.
Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT)
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Project Information


Decades ago, Iowa farms produced an average of 35 crops. Today, our farms overwhelmingly produce an average of only two annual row crops – impacting our state’s natural resources and economic health. No resources currently exist that provide a comprehensive guide for landowners or farmers who seek to learn how to grow a diversified range of fruits, vegetables and meats that will succeed in Iowa.

With the support of SARE, Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) will research and develop an Iowa Landowners Guide to Sustainable Food Crops to educate landowners and farm consultants on how to increase sustainable crops and diversify our agriculture.

The guide will advance SILT’s mission to protect land to grow healthy food by collating lessons and information from experienced growers including Red Fern, Rolling Acres and Alexander Farms, and from nonprofits and higher education institutions. The guide will align with an interactive website and be distributed to Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) offices and landowners statewide.

This project will generate interest, education, and action around developing markets for expanded crops and by offering access to critical local knowledge and resources that will build a more diverse agriculture and vibrant local food economy.

Project Objectives:
  • Work with a minimum of five experienced Iowa growers, nonprofits, and higher education institutions to research, collect, and collate information critical to providing guidance to grow a diverse range of crops

    • We have spent the first year of this project determining the scope and organization of the book so that it can adequately cover vegetables, meat, fruit and nuts that can grow in Iowa. We enlisted the support and collaboration of Denise O’Brien of Rolling Acres, David Cavagnaro of Pepperfield Project, Tom Wahl and Kathy Dice of Red Fern Farm, Jeff Jensen of Iowa Nutgrowers Association, Patrick O’Malley and Ajay Nair of Iowa State University and Kevin Wolz and Kaitie Adams of Savanna Institute among others. We have identified about 30 different crops and are going to offer relative capital and labor inputs and a basic synopsis of the crop with a photo. 
  • Cultivate diverse project ownership and build upon a network of committed partners willing to support implementation and advocacy of sustainable food production in Iowa. 

    • We have built upon our relationships with Practical Farmers of Iowa, the Savanna Institute and Iowa State University in enlisting their advice for this project. Our primary farming partners – Red Fern and Rolling Acres – have spent significant time on the project. We are now in the writing and editing stage. Once we have a complete draft, we will send it out to them again. They all understand their names will be on the book and they will be recognized for their input. We hope this will encourage them to take a close look at the near-final product to be sure of its accuracy. We expect to get the book to press by May. We have also scheduled a field day with Carmen Black (not Carolyn Scherf as originally stated in the proposal – she has left farming) to demonstrate as many different kinds of crops as possible on her farm. 
  • Leverage current NRCS grant funding to provide education and outreach to landowners in more than 10 communities across Iowa.

    • We have scheduled 3 field days and are in the process of scheduling at least 3 landowner workshops throughout Iowa in 2020. We will schedule at least 4 more in 2021 though due to the delay in the book publication we may not reach our goal of 10 by April 2021. 

  • Identify 25 farmers/landowners committed to producing by at least two new crops within two years

    • This objective cannot be met until the book is published. Our plan is to send the book to the 30 or so landowners our Farm Specialist has consulted with and ask them to complete a survey indicating their intentions. 
  • Conduct 10+ outreach and education activities to share project results
    • This objective cannot be met until the book is published. 


Click linked name(s) to expand
  • David Cavagnaro (Educator)
  • Tom Wahl (Educator)
  • Denise O'Brien (Educator)
  • Carmen Black (Educator)
  • Dr. Patrick O'Malley (Educator)
  • Dr. Ajay Nair (Educator)
  • Dr. Kevin Wolz (Educator)
  • Jeff Jensen (Educator)


Involves research:
Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Our outreach in this project occurs once the book is published. We estimate May, 2020.

Learning Outcomes

Key changes:
  • Our learning outcomes will be measured once the book and online version are published.

Project Outcomes

7 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Our project will kick into outreach gear once the book is published, estimated May 2020. 

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.