Larry Cleverly's farming philosophy is simple: fresh food, is the best food.
On his Milo farm, Larry caters to a specific clientele.
“They don't just eat to live they live to eat that's the big difference,” he says.
Larry will plant about 200 different varieties of vegetables during the growing season. Everything from spinach to garlic. And rare varieties of lettuce like Black Seeded Simpson.
Larry is out in the fields every morning, down on his hands and knees, hand picking which product he thinks is tasty enough to sell to his customers.
He says, “If you're selling food directly to customers one of the things we need to do before we harvest anything I’ll taste it make sure it's ok.”
Larry's not bashful about his product, he eats straight from the field.
Larry's farm isn't big. In 1997, he started farming on just a half acre. Now, he grows on eight, and employs five part time workers.
He doesn't want to get any bigger.
Today, he's bagging up some fresh spinach for gateway market. Larry, sells his product directly to local restaurants
He says, “Every delivery to me is not only delivering something that the restaurant has ordered in sense it's a bit of a mini sales call update that chef on what we will have maybe later on that week next week 2 weeks.”
The unseasonably warm weather means Larry is five weeks ahead of schedule. Which means he'll get an extra harvest of spinach.
For Larry, each year is a Challenge, as he pushes boundaries, growing crops never before grown in Iowa.
The man named "Dirt Farmer Larry" who gave up a high paying corporate job in New York City, for a few acres in rural Iowa, finds his motivation knowing when you take his product home, you're getting something delicious.
He says, “We want people to taste it and smell it and feel it and realize that maybe this is something better than what they're used to eating.”
Dave Struthers says, “Our corn is not eaten directly by anybody don't pick up and start eating a kernel of corn.”
Dave is also a farmer, but he doesn't grow food you'd like to eat. Dave's family has been farming for generations. He calls himself a factory farmer.
He says, “Basically the availability of the land kept us at 1,000 like to have another 500 or so can handle with equipment.”
Dave plants one crop: Corn.
“Only get one chance to put the crop in right too many dollars at stake,” he says.
Dave plants about eight different kinds of corn. Some seeds that will mature in 105 days, some 114.
Some seeds have herbicides to kill insects, others don't. Each bag costs about $500.
Dave says, “We have several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of seed in this building.
While Larry worries how his food tastes, Dave worries how much corn he'll be able to plant and harvest.
And while Larry harvests to feed diners with fine pallets, Dave harvests, to feed the pigs.
Dave says, “We raise the grain feed to the animals utilize plant materials bedding for animals plant material animal bedding for animals plant material animal waste used as fertilizer grow corn feed animals.”
Struther's farming philosophy is a circular philosophy. To stay sustainable, he uses his corn harvest to raise hogs. That's because of the unreliable price of corn.
Dave says his hogs bring in enough revenue to make up for any loss in corn prices.
But even with a thousand acres and hundreds of hogs.
Dave faces the same pressure Larry does: to make a profit. But in a much different way.
From large farm equipment that yields about 170-thousand bushels of corn per year, to small gardening shears that produce about 50-thousand salads for metro diners each year.
You can't throw the modern Iowa farmer into a box.
Both farmers, provide you a meal, grown, and farmed from the rich, fertile soil of Iowa.