Published Nov 7, 2011

Soper Field Day

By Sarah Carlson

140 farmers, neighbors, family members and other interested folks attended the 2nd Annual Soper Family Farms field day near Emmetsburg, IA on October 21, 2011.

Harn Soper, the current president of Soper Family Farms started off the day with Jarett Herke, the farm’s new cattle producer. Jarrett discussed the new livestock enterprises the farm is adding to the current row-crop production. The farm has seeded down 160A of row-crop last year to a winter rye cover crop and then this summer followed that with establishing a pasture. This year the farm raised chickens in a chicken tractor, similar to the Joel Salatin style, which were served for the evening meal. Soon the farm will be receiving about 160 head of cattle to finish on grass that will be rotationally grazed on the farm and fed in a lot during the winter. “No more animals than what the farm can handle will be grown on the farm,” said Jarett. A new livestock barn and shed were under construction. ┬áPlus 9000 chickens yearly will follow the cattle on the same land.

Rich Schuler and Tony Pille presented at the 2nd farm stop where the Sopers are taking 100 A of row-crop and transitioning it to organic vegetable production. Tony had fall planted garlic that will be harvested in the spring and fall of 2012. Tony is working with chefs in Des Moines and also a large food vendor to sell his products. Under construction was a large headhouse where transplants will be started, washing produce, storage and a greenhouse. To make the system run without much expense Rich Schuler is working with the Soper’s to design a composting system that creates heat and gas to keep the greenhouse heated without using off-farm energy. The greenhouse location is pretty far from an electrical line so that allows the farm to be creative in how they will “fuel” the system because running a line to the building will be expensive.

The end of the night was lighted up by Rich Schuler burning off the methane bio-gas that he had created from composting materials that are the proto-type for ┬áthe system that the Soper’s will implement on their vegetable farm. Also check out this article in the Des Moines Register about the Soper Family Farm.>