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Beyond Iowa Nice: Conventional v. Organic, Farmers Want Diversity Too


There’s lots of farmland in Iowa, but only about 1 percent of that land changes ownership in any given year. So if you’re a beginning farmer looking to start out, you’ve got to network with people willing to rent you somewhere to farm or work with your family.

Farms have doubled in size in the last 100 years, and the consolidation of farmland makes it that much harder. That’s according to Chad Hart, an economist at Iowa State University.

“As agriculture has continued to evolve here in Iowa, we have watched our farms get larger and larger. In 1900, the average farm is right about 150 acres. Today, they have doubled in size,” Hart says. “You find that nationwide. Farms have gotten larger throughout the country.”

During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with Hart about how farming has changed. As technology and ideas about growing food change, there is a perceived divide between more conventional farms and farms trying something new. 

Austin Wood is a farmer near Garner, Iowa. He works with his dad at Dandyland Farm, which is nearly 10,000 acres and produces corn and soybeans. There are a few small CSAs around  the area he lives, and he says that's a good thing.

"I'm glad they are doing what they are doing," he says. "We can't all work on the same farm. Diversity is important." 

Denise O’Brien, who farms near Atlantic; Doug Darrow, who owns Rapid Creek Ranch; and Curt Frazee who farms in Mills County also join the conversation. 

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer