Home 5 Ag Stories West central Iowa farmer discusses transition to organic

West central Iowa farmer discusses transition to organic

Photo courtesy of the United States Department of Agriculture (https://www.flickr.com/photos/usdagov/16448001470)

This past week, we have talked about organic crop production.

Today, we wrap up our discussion with an organic crop farmer from west central Iowa. He discusses the struggles and strides made in an effort to transition some of his family’s land over to organic. 

AUDIO: Bryce Irlbeck, fifth-generation farmer

Bryce Irlbeck, a fifth-generation farmer from Manning, Iowa, talks about his journey in transitioning a portion of cropland over to organic production. Irlbeck saw organic production as an opportunity to “do something different.”

“We are in a rotation that’s not normal around us. We’re in a corn, soybean, small grain rotation. That’s what gave us the confidence to go organic,” Irlbeck said. “We still have diseases in organic that we have to deal with, fungicides and pesticides we still have to use. I think of the approach, in learning, is it’s not a practice where, ‘Let’s go spray everything.’ Let’s see what we can do on our own and eliminate costs.”

The Irlbeck family farms more than 1,200 acres with roughly 700 acres in or in transition to organic production. Converting acres into organic production takes time, as the land must be free from prohibited substances for 36 months, or two crop years. Irlbeck says the transition phase gives farmers an opportunity to learn and better understand the “new” practice.

“You get to figure out what your real costs are in doing things, whether that’s wheat, oats, rye, soybeans (or) corn,” Irlbeck said. “You find out how much work everything is. By the end of the transition period, you figure out how to do it. It feels like we have a good handle on it, but we’re on the back slope of this transition into organics.”

Irlbeck has one piece of advice for farmers looking to make the organic transition: “Be honest with yourself.”

“If you try to do too much at once, it will come out and you will be able to see it. Do it in a manageable level that you can keep your hands around. If you manage three to four crops, all (of) the management changes. It’s not as easy as corn and soybeans. Keep your hands around what you’re doing,” Irlbeck said.