Farming is an energy-intensive business, from the fuel needed to run equipment to the nutrients plants need to grow, to the energy it takes to power farm buildings and the farmstead itself. These days, that means energy costs can be a significant farm expense which is one reason more farmers are starting to integrate renewable energy sources into their farm energy mix.
Tim Landgraf and Jan Libbey, owners of "One Step at a Time Gardens" near Kanawha in northern Iowa, are working to make solar energy a central power source on their vegetable and pastured-poultry farm. They will host a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day Sunday, June 23, from 2-5 p.m., near Kanawha, which is in Hancock County. The public is invited to spend an afternoon exploring the many ways they're harnessing the sun's energy to power the farm.
The event, "Working Toward a Sun-Powered Farm," is free to attend and will feature many opportunities for hands-on learning. Tim and Jan will discuss energy projects underway at the farm including their walk-in cooler efficiency project, new voltaic solar array and energy-efficient features of the farmhouse. Attendees can learn about photosynthesis in the field and solar power through several hands-on activities, including a scavenger hunt; solar print-making; demonstrations of solar cooking, photovoltaic cells and a solar oven; and a chance to generate their own energy with PFI's Energy Generation and Conservation demonstration.
They have a number of solar energy projects underway on this farm
"We are interested in constantly exploring sustainable practices on the farm," Jan says. "Energy use is our latest focus and we are trying, in line with our name, to model steps others could take as well. This will be an unusual field day because the spotlight is on the field in a whole new way; thinking about our farming through the lens of solar energy."
Speakers will include Dave Hade, a homebuilder with Iowa Home Crafters; Steve Guyer, solar array installer with GWA International, Inc.; and Rich Schuler, PFI On-Farm Energy Program consultant. After the field day, Tim and Jan will host a dessert potluck. Bring a dessert to share, tableware and lawn chairs; beverages will be provided. The field day is sponsored by the Farm Energy Working Group, GWA International, Inc., Iowa Home Crafters and Wheatsfield Cooperative.
One Step at a Time Gardens consists of 130 acres nestled in the rolling, glacial landscape of southern Hancock County. Tim and Jan raise vegetables and poultry on 8 acres for members of their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business; 2013 will be their 18th season providing CSA shares. The duo also works on wetland restoration and has warm-season plantings intricately mixed with farmland.
Directions: One Step at a Time Gardens is located at 1465 120th St., about 7 miles east of Kanawha, or 13 miles northwest of Belmond. To reach the farm from Belmond, go north for 5 miles on U.S. 69. Turn left at County Road B63 at Goodell and go 3 miles. At the top of the hill, turn right onto Co. Road R65 and go 1 mile. Turn left at the first gravel road onto 120th Street and go 1.25 miles. Turn right into the driveway (East Twin Lake will be on the south).
Practical Farmers of Iowa's 2013 field day season features more than 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. For the entire field day schedule, visit the PFI website or call the PFI office at 515- 232-5661 to request a 2013 Field Day Guide.
Practical Farmers of Iowa 2013 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including Albert Lea Seed; Bio Till Cover Crops of Saddle Butte Ag; Calcium Products, Inc.; CROPP Cooperative of Organic Valley / Organic Prairie Family of Farms; Gateway Market; Featherman Equipment; Grain Millers, Inc.; Green Light Renewable Services; Harvest Innovations; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying, Inc.; the Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Food Systems Council; Iowa Learning Farms; Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach; the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU; Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA); Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT); USDA North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Platinum Supplemental Insurance; SunRackSolar; and the Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU.