DES MOINES, Iowa – Growing fresh produce versus growing row crops. One family farm in Boone County is asking: “Why not both?”
Near Ogden in Boone County, Rinehart’s Family Farm grows fresh vegetables for farmers markets in Boone and Des Moines, and also grows row crops throughout the growing season. Farmer Greg Rinehart, above, says there’s a good reason for growing both.
“The ’80s!” says Rinehart with a laugh. “The 80s led us to it, because at that time we had cattle, hogs, corn and soybeans, and all four of them were losing money. We couldn’t survive on the farm so we said, ‘I don’t want to take a job, I want to stay on the farm whatever way we can.'”
Rinehart says farmers’ markets at that time were just becoming popular, which provided a market for fresh vegetables. Some of his produce is organic: he says early season crops like asparagus, broccoli, kohlrabi and peas usually don’t need to be sprayed due to a lack of pest pressure. Later season crops aren’t always so lucky.
“When you get into early sweet corn,” Rinehart says, “sometimes you need to watch out for the critters that can affect it. So I guess you could say we’re not totally organic, but we try to be as free from spraying as possible.”
As farmers’ markets have grown in popularity since the ’80s, Rinehart has maintained his row crop operation, but he’s also observed that growing fresh produce has become a good first step for beginning farmers.
“You know, when you just rely on corn and soybeans, you know that’s a great thing for Iowa,” he says, “especially with ethanol industry, biodiesel industry and the feed industry but also, there’s a lot of outlets for new, young people to start into smaller scale, vegetable farming as a good way to get started.”