Congressman Dave Loebsack was in Jasper County yesterday to meet with several local farmers. The visit, part of the Congressman’s “Iowa First” tour, is part of Loebsack’s focus on Iowa during the August work period.
Loebsack visited with several small farmers, including Richard and Bev Floss. During Loebsack’s visit, Richard Floss took the Congressman on a tour of their farm to showcase the different types of agriculture that they participate in. The Floss’s are one of several families in Jasper county that operate a small farm, something Congressman Loebsack said is an important part of the state economy.
“I think there’s space in Iowa for small farms,” Loebsack said. “I think that we need to do more to help them, I’m a huge supporter of small farms.”
What makes the Floss farm unique is it’s diversity, in addition to row crops like corn and soybeans, the Floss’s also have a considerable amount of timber, livestock, and CRP land. CRP, which stands for Conservation Reserve Program, is a program that pays farmers to take farmland out of circulation and restore it to it’s natural state. The CRP land on the Floss farm is in it’s native prairie state.
Diversifying is an important skill for small farmers Richard Floss said. He stressed to Loebsack that farmers needed to look beyond just corn and soybeans, and consider alternative crops, like hemp. During WWII local farmers grew hemp to produce ropes for the Navy, and Floss thinks there’s still a market.
“We just need to get past that attitude that we’re going to have a bunch of potheads running around,” Floss said.
Wade Boehm, another Jasper county farmer said that creating opportunities for small farmers also opens door for younger farmers to have a chance to get into the business as well. He credited the Floss’s with supporting him when he was starting out.
Boehm, who has taught agriculture classes at DMACC as well as at the Baxter school district is a passionate advocate for younger farmers. He pointed out that creating an interest in livestock was a gateway to farming, in part because it requires so little land to get started. With a single acre Boehm said that a young farmer could raise as many as a thousand chickens.
“You’re really only limited by your imagination and your willingness to work,” Boehm said.
As they toured the Floss farm Richard Floss pointed out the many differences between a small family farm and large operations involving thousands of acres.
“We’ve got a lot of prairie here, it’s so alive, you can hear all of these sounds,” Floss said. “You don’t find that in the row crop.”
This summer lack of rain and warm temperatures mean that farmers like Floss and Boehm are
staring down another drought. Boehm told Loebsack that the drought was already having an effect on their crops, and by diversifying their operations they could mitigate the sting of a low yield in row crops. The no-till practices that Floss and Boehm engage in also help them prepare for drought and severe weather conditions.
“It used to be that you couldn’t sleep at night when you saw those big red cells moving across the weather map,” Boehm said.
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or email@example.com