Growing fall crops without a high tunnel is focus of Abbe Hills Farm field day – Oct. 18, Mount Vernon

For Release: October 9, 2015

MOUNT VERNON, Iowa — Beginning farmers looking to start a vegetable operation are often advised to install a high tunnel. As a result, many believe the cost of installing a high tunnel is necessary for success. But experienced farmer Laura Krouse says this isn’t true – and she hopes to show them otherwise.

Laura operates Abbe Hills Farm near Mount Vernon, where she grows vegetables for a 200-person Community Supported Agriculture business, plus a handful of other local markets. A big part of her business focuses on fall crops, which are the usual spring crops that she plants again in mid-August to grow during the autumn season.

“A high tunnel is not critical to growing fall crops,” Laura says. “I didn’t have a high tunnel for 20 years, and I grew fall crops. I worry that we old people are giving beginning farmers – who don’t have much money or resources – the impression they have to have a high tunnel. But you can do a pretty nice business without one.”

Laura will show how she grows fall crops without a high tunnel at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day she is hosting on Sunday, Oct. 18, from 3-5 p.m., near Mount Vernon. The event – “Fall Crops Without a High Tunnel” – is free to attend, and will feature a light supper after the program, featuring fall produce from Laura’s fields. The food will be prepared by chef Michael Short, of Bon Appétit Management Company. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow, [email protected] or (515) 232-5661, by Thursday, Oct. 15. Abbe Hills Farm is located at 825 Abbe Hills Road, a few miles northwest of Mount Vernon. The field day is sponsored by Bon Appétit Management Company and Women, Food and Agriculture Network.

Attendees will get to tour the farm and learn about some of the benefits of raising spring crops in the fall – such as fewer problems with bugs, disease, weeds or heat. Laura will also discuss variety selection, planting dates, irrigation, harvest planning, season extension in the field and fall marketing.

Laura explains that, while many vegetable farmers are tired and “pretty sick of planting” by August, she has chosen to do more of her production at this time. “There’s often a very good market in the fall, and everything you could do in the spring you can pretty much do in the fall. When to start it is the trick, though, because you have to get it done before frost comes.”

The field day will also feature a hands-on exploration of tools used in vegetable production. Guests are invited to bring their favorite tools for discussion and practice in the field. Attendees will also get to enter a raffle for a 48-inch Greens Harvester donated by Johnny’s Selected Seeds. “This is a big, handy device for cutting greens,” Laura says. “I use mine in the fall; it’s one of my most important tools.”

Abbe Hills Farm is situated on 72 acres north of Mt. Vernon. Laura and her crew grow vegetables for a large CSA, plus a handful of other local markets, especially fall crops. The farm is managed with crop rotation, cover crops, integrated pest management, pollinator habitat and without the use of synthetic pesticides. Soil conservation and water quality practices are used over the entire farm.

Directions from Mount Vernon: Take County Road X20 (8th Avenue) north out of town for 1 mile and turn left (west) onto Abbe Hills Road. The farm is about 1 mile west of the intersection. You will see two red sheds and a high tunnel on the north side of the road.

From Cedar Rapids: Take Mt. Vernon Road southeast to Abbe Hills Road, which intersects near the Community Bible Church. Turn left (east) on Abbe Hills Road; the farm is about 1 mile east. You will see two red sheds and a high tunnel on the north side of the road.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2015 field day season features 40 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available online at practicalfarmers.org, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2015 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Natural & Organic Meats; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union in partnership with Town and Country Insurance and Hastings Mutual Insurance; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Crosse Seed; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Pro-Soil Ag Solutions; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.

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Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit http://practicalfarmers.org.

Contact:

Laura Krouse | Abbe Hills Farm | (319) 895-6924 | [email protected]

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]