Practical Farmers field day – Sept. 26

For Release: September 13, 2012 Benefits and challenges of diversifying through whole-­farm integration will be focus of Practical Farmers of Iowa field day – Sept. 26, near Emmetsburg – RSVPs requested

EMMETSBURG, Iowa — As this summer’s severe drought has shown, and as weather in Iowa becomes more unpredictable in general, more farmers are realizing how diversifying their farms can reduce risk, add value and build farm resiliency. But for Harn Soper, of Soper Farms, diversity means more than just adding a new crop or enterprise.

Harn and his family are working to take on-­‐farm diversity to a new level where feed, fertility, energy and food form a self-­‐supporting circle of stacked enterprises. In addition to growing both conventional and organic row crops, the Soper family raises pastured beef and chickens, has 100 acres of vegetables in transition to organic, operates a farm café-­‐bakery and store supplied by the farm’s other enterprises, and is working to close energy loops through a composting energy recovery system and other practices.

Harn will share details about the family’s journey to achieve whole-­‐farm integration at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day, Wednesday, Sept. 26, from 1-­5 p.m., near Emmetsburg. The event, “Working Toward Vertical Integration,” is free to attend, and will include a free supper at the family’s café, New Shoots Café, in Emmetsburg immediately following the field day.

To ensure sufficient food, please RSVP to Patrick Burke, Practical Farmers of Iowa office manager, at 515.232.5661 or The event is sponsored by the Farm Energy Work Group and Iowa Organic Association.

Featured topics include lessons learned along the path to integration; discussion of the farm’s various enterprises; the family’s New Shoots operations and vision; wholesale and retail markets for fresh produce and pastured meat; energy-­‐saving initiatives, including a forklift-­‐accessible Coolbot cooler for vegetable storage; and how Soper Farms is investing in new infrastructure to produce and process differentiated farm products in energy-­‐efficient ways.

Speakers will include Harn Soper; Jarret Herke, Soper Farms livestock manager; Dennis McDonald, farm operations, sales and marketing manager; and Rich Schuler, energy consultant.

“Vertical integration is like a stock portfolio: The stress on our farming system can be lessened the more diversified we are,” Harn says. In addition to managing multiple enterprises, he adds “we’ve also integrated our power. We take cattle manure and put it into the compost system that puts out heat and biogas energy, and the final product is compost that goes on our vegetable farm.

“So we can close the loop on integrating our cattle bedding all the way through compost and energy, and we can close the loop on our feed rations, because we can take our organic corn and sell it, but also process and feed to our poultry. This provides us with a diversity that helps us withstand vagaries in weather and markets.”

Soper Farms operates under three farming models: 1). approximately 300 acres in conventional corn and soybeans; 2). 400 acres in organic row crops (oats, alfalfa and corn); and 3). New Shoots Farm, with 100 acres of vegetables in its second year in transitioning to organic and 160 acres of new pasture for 110-­‐head of grass-­‐fed Angus and thousands of pasture-­‐raised chickens. In addition, the family’s New Shoots Farm Store, Bakery and Café features seasonal fare from Soper Farms’ own fields and neighbors. The café provides home cooking with a twist.

Directions: Soper Farms is located at the intersection of 310th Street and 440th Avenue, about 9 miles northwest of Emmetsburg. To reach the farm from the intersection of U.S. Route 18 (Main Street) and state Route 4 (Broadway Street stoplight) in Emmetsburg, head west on U.S. 18 for about 3 blocks. Turn right on Lawler Street (County Road N40) and drive through town, past the golf course, jogging right on College Drive / Co Rd N40 at the north end of the course, then turn left onto 460th Street / Co Rd N40. Drive 5.6 miles north to 300th Street. Turn left and go 2.2 miles. At the old corn crib, turn left and follow the signs.

Practical Farmers of Iowa is hosting more than 40 field days around Iowa in 2012. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. For the entire field day schedule, visit or call the PFI office at (515) 232-­‐5661 to request a 2012 Field Day Guide.

Practical Farmers of Iowa 2012 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University; the National Center for Appropriate Technology; Seed Savers Exchange; Blue River Hybrids; ISU Extension and Outreach; American Natural Soy; Albert Lea Seed; Gateway Market; the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service; FHR Farms; USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa Organic Association; OPINS Co-­‐op; Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); Calcium Products Incorporated; Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA); High Mowing Seeds; CROPP Cooperative of Organic Valley / Organic Prairie Family of Farms; Plantra; the Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU; and the Iowa Beef Center.

# # #

Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-­‐enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-­‐to-­‐farmer networking, farmer-­‐led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call 515.232.5661 or visit


Harn Soper | Soper Farms & New Shoots Farm | 712.852.3363 |
Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | 515.232.5661 |

Posted in