Published Jul 30, 2014

Field Day Recap: small frye farm

By Liz Kolbe

Blue, cloud-speckled skies and waving sunflowers greeted field day attendees as they pulled up to Susan Frye’s Century Farm outside Maysville, IA, near Davenport. The group of 40 was the largest Susan has hosted, but she had plenty of capable help from her cousin Scott Rochau, husband Mike Kienzle, son Sam Frye Kienzle, and CSA employee Jessica Kleitsch.

With a lot of infomation (and ground!) to cover, the group split in thirds and rotated between the hosts. Susan’s group went into the organic alfalfa field to see and discuss the Drift Catcher she is operating as part of a citizen science program with Pesticide Action Network. Susan has known her neighboring farmers for many years, and has good relationships with them. They call to alert her when spraying is scheduled in the coming days, and are careful to protect her property. Because of this care, Susan doesn’t expect to see pesticide residues in her Drift Catcher samples. But if she does, it will be an opportunity for both her and her neighbors to reevaluate their assumptions and practices.

Scott Rochau led a discussion about the recently converted organic corn, soybeans and alfalfa on Frye Farm. Readily acknowledging he had more questions than answers, Scott outlined his process of transitioning the 20 acres surrounding the vegetable fields to organic row crops. “There are a lot of challenges when you completely change the paradigm you’re working in,” he said.

Due to heavy spring rains and early frosts, Scott has struggled establishing cover crops and battling weeds in the organic fields. “I’ve got 13 tillage strips invested in that [organic] field, compared to 3, at most, in my conventional production. To me, that’s not a sustainable production; I’ve got to find a better way.” He would also like more information on which organic products target particular pests, noting it’s easy to find an approved list of products, but it’s less clear which pests they’ll work on.

In his rotation plan, he has included two years of organic forage, but is worried about finding a local market. Some farms, said Scott, market their livestock as “organically raised, but not certified organic,” which may indicate they’re buying conventional feed (instead of organic) to cut down on production costs. He encouraged attendees: “If people are marketing as organic, ask to see their certification, they’d be happy and proud to show it.”

Sam and Jessica (with some input from Mike), hosted the third station, leading attendees on a tour of the organic vegetable, herb, and flower gardens used for their CSA shares. small frye farm CSA members pickup in Iowa City or at the farm, and operate… a little differently. In Iowa City, share members pickup at the Kienzle-Frye house, and are greeted with a glass of wine (or two) in the driveway. Each arrives with their Frye-issued vintage vase and basket (from Susan’s years of hoarding… ahem, collecting). They first pick out their weekly flower arrangement, then select their vegetables for the week. At the farm, members are instructed which crops are up for harvest, and then are free to harvest their own (while sipping on wine and selecting a flower arrangement). The CSA is in its sixth year, and Susan, Sam, and Jessica continue to experiment with new crops and varieties, including chickpeas, this year.

After touring the farm, attendees relaxed at picnic tables in the shade and enjoyed sandwich platters and salads from Greatest Grains.