cattle • pigs • vegetables • corn • soybeans • wheat • alfalfa • eggs
Centered on our Community
I run PrairiErth Farm with my two sons and daughter-in-law. We’re a USDA Certified Organic farm and we raise a diverse selection of vegetables, garden plants, fruits, cows, heritage breed pigs, chickens for eggs and grains. Our farm is centered on the idea of diversity, soil health and lasting relationships with our community.
Opting for Organic
I started down the organic path back in the late 1970s. Later on, becoming organically certified made economic sense for us. We were already using organic practices, so certification allowed us to keep doing that, but get paid for it through higher prices for the grains we grow.
It goes beyond economics, though. We enjoy working with the land and sharing our products with customers. We believe organic is more than just a practice, it’s a way to influence a healthy lifestyle in our community and provide a sustainable way of growing food. We find the bond between the land and those who live and work on it to be very important.
A Family Affair
My sons, Graham and Hans, as well as Hans’ wife, Katie, share the work by helping me with chores. My daughter Kristin is an elementary school educator and shares her expertise about teaching little ones as she helps facilitate children's tours on the farm.
About my familyLocated in the center of Illinois, my family and I run a diversified organic farm and raise a bit of everything, including produce, cows, pigs, chickens and grains. I started farming 30 years ago, and today I manage 400 acres with the help of my two sons, Graham and Hans, and daughter-in-law, Katie. My daughter, Kristin, uses her background in elementary school education to help facilitate children’s tours on the farm.
My Blog Posts
|Organic Offers a Different Approach to Farming|
"Becoming USDA Certified Organic made sense for our farm."
Organic Offers a Different Approach to Farming
We’re most excited about the sense of community and the relationships we’re building. Local food systems create a community of farmers engaging a community of consumers. I enjoy the energy and excitement of it.
For us, it began back in the late 1970s when prices for traditional grains were low and neighboring farms were getting larger, less diversified, and using more fertilizers and pesticides, we thought there could be a better way, so we moved toward organic. The choices at the time were pretty much, get big, get out, or get different.
We began to diversify, adding beef cattle, hogs and wheat to the crop rotation (varying which crop is planted in the same field). We added legumes (hay) to put nutrients back into the soil. And around 2000 we got into veggies to satisfy a local demand. We began to change the system.
We use a different system to manage the weeds and pests. Most chemical pesticides (including those allowable in organic systems) kill all insects present - good guys and bad guys alike - and disrupt the natural balance that otherwise limits damage. Once you start spraying, you have to keep spraying. We encourage predatory insects (providing habitats for them), as well as using focusing on a diverse mix of plants and animals, extended crop rotations, trap crops (attracts pests away from the crop we want to grow) and other techniques designed to reduce the “competitive advantage” of harmful insects.
Becoming USDA Certified Organic made sense for our farm because:
- Certification allowed us to do what we were doing before, but get paid for it through higher prices.
- USDA certification is needed for those who buy from us and need documentation. If we’re selling to a store for example, the USDA certification becomes
more important, as does our brand.
- For our customers who buy directly from us, the USDA certification isn’t as important because they have made the effort to “know your farmer”, usually
have visited the farm, and have confidence in how we operate and in what they’re buying. So there’s generally no price premium there for the paperwork
in a face-to-face situation.
- One of the advantages of local food systems is that you can actually get to know the people that produce your food and so don’t have to depend on a government certificate.