We love sharing our land access story because it’s a classic Decorah tale: we met somebody who knew somebody who wanted to help us out!
Last summer, we were working on our business plan. We knew we wanted to return to Iowa (we were doing a farmer training program in Washington State at the time) and we were trying to get a feel for the local food community back home.
Even though both of us grew up in Iowa, neither of us had many strong connections to Decorah. What began as an overwhelming market research assignment turned into a friendly conversation that would open up a lot of doors. It all began over a phone call to Peter Kraus to discuss selling produce via the Iowa Food Hub’s online farmer’s market.
We had a pretty long conversation, discussing the local food system and whether there would be room in Decorah for new growers.
Eventually Peter asked the million dollar question, “Do you have access to land?”
We sheepishly admitted that, while we were serious about farming and moving back to the Driftless area (I am originally from Marquette), we had no idea where to begin looking for land and when, if ever, we would be able to start our own farm.
That’s when he told us that his mother (Barb Kraus at Canoe Creek Produce) had been a farmer in Decorah for years and might just have some space for us on her land.
It wasn’t long before we were able to get in contact with Barb. She told us that she was interested in beginning what’s called an “incubator farm”—where beginning farmers are offered affordable land access as they expand their farming knowledge and prepare to move to a farm of their own in a few years. In our case, it also involves access to indoor growing spaces (a heated hoophouse and high tunnel, game changers for any farmer) and tools ranging from digging forks to a tractor. We were excited not only by the physical resources Barb had to offer but also by her passion for working with beginning growers and sharing all that she has learned in over her 20+ years of farming in Decorah.
We returned to Decorah in late fall and toured Barb’s farm. It was beautiful then, even several months after the growing season had ended, and we knew we were looking at a great opportunity!
We decided to commit to the 2022 growing season as Barb’s first “incubatees” with the potential to extend our agreement for the following few years. It felt so good to not only have a patch of land to start our dream, but also a talented and experienced farmer to guide us on our way.
We marked our new territory with some garlic—our very first plants on the farm—in early November in order to begin our own seed stock. We spent all winter crop-planning and ordering supplies. Since February, we have been seeding early spring crops in in Barb’s heated hoop house (greenhouse).
Recently, in the high tunnel (unheated greenhouse) on the property, we planted carrots, beets, and radishes… with much more to come very soon. Things are starting to look pretty green around here! 🌱
We are so grateful to all of you for signing up for our newsletter so we can share more stories like this with you. We have been so fortunate here in our new home and the best is yet to come!