AMES, Iowa—Many Iowans are choosing to live on small farms or acreages and they have a variety of reasons. According to the Census of Agriculture, one-third of Iowa farms are small farms with 50 acres or less. Iowans say small farms offer a quiet place to retire and open spaces to raise young families. Some are drawn to the rural lifestyle by memories of growing up on a farm or visiting a grandparent’s farm. Others want to raise their own food, make a positive contribution to the environment or contribute to the local food system.
Christa Hartsook knows about the opportunities and the challenges of small farm living. She and her husband Greg are raising three children on a small farm in Story County. She also has been involved with small farm sustainability the past 12 years as a value added agriculture program specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She is a natural fit as the small farm sustainability program coordinator with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, the position she began in June.
She has her sights set on making sure other Iowans know of the opportunities and available resources for managing challenges of small farm living. “Living on an acreage or small farm definitely has its opportunities,” she said. “There are many things Iowans can do to earn additional income, sustainably take care of the land and the resources, and provide a rural lifestyle for their family.”
Acreage Living subscribers have a chance for Iowa State football tickets
Hartsook and the small farm sustainability program are re-introducing the ISU Extension and Outreach Acreage Living newsletter in an online format. Iowans living on small farms recently received introductory postcards encouraging them to subscribe. Hartsook even added an incentive for those that subscribe before Oct. 5 – their names will be entered into a drawing for tickets to the Iowa State vs. Texas Tech game Nov. 22.
“We want people to be excited about the newsletter and the information that will come to them every three months, so we are building on the excitement around the Cyclone football team,” she said. “Readers will find valuable information in the Acreage Living e-newsletter, regardless of why they are choosing a rural lifestyle.”
The first issue includes information about backyard poultry, fall turf grass management, well maintenance and inspection, promoting pollinators and vermin management. The newsletter will be emailed directly to subscribers and county extension offices across the state, and be available on the ISU Extension and Outreach small farm website.
“For those that didn’t receive a postcard or have misplaced it, they can read the newsletter and easily subscribe by going to the small farm sustainability website,” Hartsook said. The website address is http://www.extension.iastate.edu/smallfarms.
The small farm sustainability website organizes resources under the headings of planning and management, marketing and food systems, alternative and specialty crops, and niche livestock. It also encourages visitors to send a note if they have a question about small farming. A team of trained ISU Extension and Outreach specialists are ready to respond to small farmers and those living on acreages, and connect Iowans with the Iowa State resources.
Hartsook said the small farm sustainability program brings resources from across the university and the extension system to Iowans. Publications, people and agencies that serve as resources will be highlighted on the website, in the e-newsletter and through online learning opportunities that will be available early in 2015.
“We want to make learning and knowledge exchange readily available so Iowans can learn when they have time in their schedules and a need to know,” she said.
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