Lee Tesdell

Field Day:       July 13, 2016 – Slater (5-8 p.m.)

Event Title:     Conservation Practices on a Century Farm

County:           Story


Crops Grown:

  • Alfalfa
  • Garlic in a large garden
  • Tenants raise corn and soybeans

Equipment, Implements, Tools, Infrastructure Used to Raise These Crops:

  • I hire the haymaking
  • My renters have their own equipment for row crops
  • I have gardening equipment for my garlic

Production Practices Used to Raise These Crops:

  • My renters have been no-till for 20+ years
  • Cover crops

Certified Organic?  No


Livestock Raised?  Cross-bred sheep, layer hens

Equipment, Implements, Tools, Infrastructure Used to Raise These Livestock:

  • My renters help me move large, round bales for the sheep. The rest is hand labor.

Production Practices Used to Raise These Livestock:

  • I raise my own hay and feed in a lot at the barn.
  • I purchase some grain for the sheep and purchase feed for the hens from a neighbor.


Any Farm Employees?  No

Farm Organizational Structure:   Sole proprietorship

Farm Programs Used:

  • Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)


Special Business Software Used? Excel spreadsheets

How are Crops Marketed?


Iowa Food Co-op

Other Background

  • Tesdell Century Farm has been in the family since 1884.
  • Lee’s tenants are his neighbors, Michael and Charles Helland. Lee and the Hellands are about the same age, and Lee says the decision to start leasing farmland to them was made many years before, between his father and the Hellands’ father.

“The decision to have Michael and Charles rent our land got made between my father and their father, so they’ve been renting from us about 30 years total,” Lee explains. “We know each other pretty well – and have gotten to know each other better since we’ve been working together.

  • Lee has always been interested in conservation, and works collaboratively with the Hellands to implement on-farm conservation practices. “They are pretty open-minded, so [working with them] was a natural meeting of the minds,” Lee says.
  • Lee’s father grew up in Des Moines, but Lee says he lived in a lot of different places growing up due to his father’s job as an academic.
  • Lee lived for a time Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he took part in 4-H, which he says taught him more about agriculture and conservation.
  • Lee later attended high school at Scattergood Friends School. “There I learned quite a bit more about conservation and agriculture,” Lee says.
  • Lee blogs regularly about happenings on his farmland, acreage and garden at https://tesdellfarm.wordpress.com/