Published Jul 26, 2023

PFI Takes a Magical Prairie Ride at Spencer Field Day

By Vanya North

Dwight and Bev Rutter’s farm, The Prairie Flower Farm, in Spencer, Iowa, is a 640-acre farm that specializes in native seed production and agrotourism. On June 21st, the first day of summer, Dwight and Bev treated PFI staff and members to a delightful field day that felt a bit like stepping into Iowa’s past.

Dwight Rutter points out various native plants

Dwight Rutter points out various native plants to attendees during the field day.

The field day started with a delicious pulled pork recipe made by Bev herself before heading out to the prairie, where Dwight Rutter regaled the audience with a spectacular showing of prairie plants and wetlands. The Rutters acquired their farm in 1969 by buying a small section located on what is now the south end of the acreage. Over the years, they managed to cobble together the square mile that they have today, first by purchasing the northeast section in 1982 and completing the square in 2002.

“We were lucky enough to have a landlord who wanted us to buy the farm. She had a lot of heirs, but not a single one of them was interested in farming, so she encouraged her heirs to sell it to us upon her passing. 2002 was a rough year for us and we were a bit driftless and needed something to do. The prairie became something like a hobby that has just kept growing,” Bev comments when asked about the origins of The Prairie Flower.

Prairie Flower Farm in Spencer Iowa

PFI members were treated to a magical afternoon at The Prairie Flower Farm in Spencer, Iowa.

During the field day, that hard work and dedication to establishing the prairie really showed. Guests were treated to a spectacular vista view of rolling prairie as they rode along on a custom tour trailer. Dwight stopped often to point out the native plants and grasses that the Rutters have spent decades painstakingly cultivating. Among them were Indiangrass, Big Bluestem, Switchgrass, Compass Plant, black-eyed Susan, Yellow Coneflower and Bergamot.

Coneflowers on The Prairie Flower Farm

Coneflowers on The Prairie Flower Farm.

According to Dwight, the prairie has been a labor of both love and back break!

“What you see here all around you is a lot of work, and yes, it’s beautiful. I always encourage people to put what land they can into prairie, but keep in mind that it won’t look like what you see here today for several years. It takes a minimum of five years to really see diversity happening and a decade for the abundance you see here today. But it is worth every effort if you get to see this every day!”

The Rutters used the CRP program to establish most of the prairie over the years, and Dwight does most of the maintenance on it, occasionally bringing in small seasonal crews for assistance, particularly with invasives removal.

“We have wild parsnip on the property and that’s of pretty big concern right now, but we’re slowly getting it under control. Reed canary grass, particularly around the wetter areas is also something I am working on constantly.”

Despite some invasives popping up during the field day, the event was a resounding success. Attendees were treated to mild weather and a beautiful one and a half hours in a stunning location. Along with native prairie, there were wetlands and an oxbow on the property. Joining in on the tour were Stephanie Nelson and Josh Divan of Pheasants Forever, who discussed PFI’s new conservation cost-share program between Pheasants Forever and Practical Farmers of Iowa. They also outlined their role in establishing some of the wetland habitats attendees saw during the field day.

Stephanie Nelson and Josh Divan of Pheasants Forever along with Dwight Rutter at Prairie Flower

Stephanie Nelson and Josh Divan of Pheasants Forever, along with Dwight Rutter, discuss new cost-share options for establishing a prairie.

The day concluded back at the Rutters farm with snacks and socializing. It was another great PFI field day, and PFI would like to thank Dwight and Bev Rutter for being gracious hosts and helping both PFI and our members create fond memories for years to come.

For more information, and to see a schedule of upcoming field days, visit the field day event page on our website.