DECORAH, Iowa — When Hannah Breckbill and Emily Fagan started farming together at Humble Hands Harvest in 2017, they took an unconventional approach: They structured their business to function like a cooperative.
“We think this approach needs to be replicated in order to bring more farmers onto the land,” Hannah says.
Humble Hands Harvest is a 2-acre organic vegetable farm that sells to local restaurants, at farmers markets and through a CSA. Hannah has been farming since 2009 and started Humble Hands Harvest in 2013. After a flood during harvest in 2016 destroyed half of the original land she was farming, she decided to relocate. In 2017, she bought an old hay field and teamed up with Emily to build a diversified farm from scratch. In addition to vegetables, they are developing a perennial polyculture system, integrating nut and fruit crops, and incorporating livestock.
Hannah and Emily will share details of their unique collaboration and business set-up at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Thursday, June 21, from 3-6 p.m., near Decorah (2742 Hidden Falls Road, about 9 miles northeast of town).
The event – “Teaming Up and Starting a Vegetable Farm” – is free to attend, and will feature a potluck after the field day. Hannah and Emily will provide a main dish; guests are asked to bring a side dish to share. Please RSVP for the meal to Debra Boekholder, email@example.com or (515) 232-5661, by Monday, June 18. The field day is sponsored by Iowa Farmers Union.
Guests will get to tour the farm and see how a hay field was transformed into a diversified organic farm, and learn about the cooperative business structure of Humble Hands Harvest. Hannah and Emily will discuss their infrastructure needs and share the decision-making and financing processes they’ve used as they have added new infrastructure to the farm. They will also share their business plan and discuss the farm’s financials – including the nitty-gritty of the farm’s enterprise budgeting.
“Emily knows down to the penny how much it costs the farm to grow a head of lettuce,” Hannah says. “This field day will be full of good information for aspiring farmers, and it will be an elucidating example for anyone who hopes to see more young farmers empowered on the land.”
“I want people to understand that it is possible to start a farm from scratch, even in this economy,” she adds, “and how that possibility relies on using unconventional systems.”
Directions from Decorah: Go north on County Road W38 / Locust Road for 4 miles. Turn right (east) on Canoe Ridge Road. In 4 miles, turn right (south) on Hidden Falls Road. Go to the end of Hidden Falls Road; enter the farm by the greenhouse on the right.
Practical Farmers’ 2018 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; Blue River Organic Seed; Cascadian Farms; Center for Rural Affairs; Farm Credit Services of America; Gandy Cover Crop Seeders; Grain Millers, Inc.; Green Cover Seed; Green Thumb Commodities; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); ISU Extension and Outreach; La Crosse Forage and Turf Seed; MOSA Organic Certification; Natural Resources Defense Council; Organic Valley / Organic Prairie; PepsiCo; Pipeline Foods; Premier 1 Supplies; Sunrise Foods International; The DeLong Company; The Fertrell Company; The Scoular Company; Unilever; University of Iowa College of Public Health (I-CASH); USDA: Natural Resources Conservation Service; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed & Honey Co.
— Practical Farmers of Iowa
For more news from Iowa, click here.