In the heart of Iowa, community members get fresh vegetables every week from Rick Hartmann, co-owner and operator of Small Potatoes farm, “We produce organic vegetables and we market mostly through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).”
Hartmann’s farm is certified organic and supports around 100 families. He says the way he runs the farm is a long held method of farming, “You know, everything we do here, isn’t really new. A more conventional farm I grew up on had a crop rotation that included both small grains and alfalfa and an appropriate number of livestock on the farm to recycle nutrients.”
Hartmann says good land management like cover crops and a sod borders, along with a diverse system provides other community benefits, “Of the ten inches of rain we’ve gotten in the last two weeks I don’t think hardly any of it’s left our farm.”
And the reaction to Small Potatoes farm is clear, Emily Weaver is a member, she says, “They’re just a good family, you can come down and talk to them and explore their farm any time. I really trust what they’re doing here and I trust their point of view.”
Weaver likes the choices she can get at Hartmann’s farm, “Usually when I pick up my boxes, they were picked this morning, or the day before. It keeps a lot longer and looks a lot better and it’s local. I think that’s the right choice.”
And the produce is funded by the community. Banks don’t own the farm, Hartmann says, the notes are distributed among members, “We create a budget and then we split it up equally among the hundred families or so we serve here in central Iowa. We’ve had really terrific support from the community of people that participate here at the farm.”
To stay an organic farm, Hartmann’s operation has to be inspected every year. About 12 years ago Congress ratified the National Organic Program, which created regulatory standards.
Hartmann says, “An inspector will come out and he will check my plan for the farm, my organic plan, make sure that I’m following all the standards and he’ll look around, visit the crops, he’ll look at all the record keeping that I have.”
Iowa State University has 75 Iowa CSA locations on record. They say membership costs can range from $150 dollars to $800 for 10 to 25 weeks of harvesting. The majority of the farms give about five to 20 pounds of vegetables to its members every week.
To find a local CSA in your area, ISU extensions has a free list.