Published Jun 8, 2017

Member Spotlight — Maggie McQuown, of Red Oak

By Tamsyn Jones

Practical Farmers’ 2017 main field day season is upon us!

Over the coming weeks, to help highlight some of the many farmer-led learning opportunities this growing season — and the farmers and farmland owners hosting them — we’ll be spotlighting many of the PFI farmers who are graciously giving their time to share their knowledge at these event, as well as members who make the journey to attend these unique events.

Watch and “Practical News,” our weekly email newsletter, for details and updates!

Maggie McQuown
Resilient Farms
Member since 2014
Red Oak, IA

Maggie McQuown and her husband, Steve Turman, are farmland owners who live on land near Red Oak, in southwestern Iowa, that has been in Maggie’s family for generations. Maggie inherited her family’s Century Farm in 2011.

Her great-grandparents, J.E. and Retta Taylor, purchased the farm in 1899 and named it Pleasant Prospect. When Maggie and Steve moved to the farm in 2012, they renamed it Resilient Farms to reflect their goals of long-term sustainability and conservation.

The 170-acre farm features 130 acres of corn-soybean row crops, a farmers market produce garden, a 118-year-old Victorian farmhouse, a new Passivhaus energy-efficient home, several historic farm buildings, plus multiple conservation practices dating back to the 1920s.

Maggie grew up on the farm, and shares many fond memories of farm life — from swinging on a rope in the barn, to riding the tractor and combine with her dad, to detasseling corn and swimming in the creek — in a farm legacy letter she wrote as part of Practical Farmers’ Farm Legacy Letters Project (and which is published in the book “The Future of Family Farms”).

After graduating from Iowa State University in 1974, Maggie says her graduation present “was a one-way ticket to New York City,” where she started a career in the fashion, marketing, advertising and fundraising industries.

When she and Steve were ready to retire, they considered other locations, but ultimately decided on returning to the farm.

“In 2004, we were already aware of how finite the Earth’s resources are and how they are being overexploited, even depleted,” Maggie writes in her legacy letter. “As we contemplated our retirement, most popular locations — like Florida, Texas, Arizona and Colorado — are hot and / or dry, characterized by high natural resources use and low sustainability.

“Our checklist for locations included land providing a local food source, abundant clean water, high sustainability, moderate seasonal climate, one to two hours from a major city and a five- to eight-hour drive from Steve’s three sons in Minneapolis.”

Maggie’s farm met all the criteria. Since returning, the couple has been improving conservation on the farmland, including restoring native prairie, planting 1,500 trees and shrubs in a riparian buffer along the creek that flows through the land and integrating prairie strips into the row-cropped land. They also use cover crops on the cropped land and “have a personal vendetta against invasive non-native species,” Maggie says.

Their primary goal for Resilient Farms is to preserve and increase the farm’s resilience for the long-term by conserving and improving the soil, increasing biodiversity, improving water quality and providing wildlife habitat.

Maggie and Steve are hosting a field day on Thursday, June 15, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., where they will share how they are working to achieve their goal — along with other topics, such as landowner-farm operator relations. Learn more about the field day here.

To learn more about Maggie and Steve: