Small Farms Team Still Committed to Farmer Clients

Newly minted Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program offers multiple services to help small farmers succeed

June 24, 2019, 10:50 am | Christa Hartsook

Lynn and Dan Bolin family in dairy barn.AMES, Iowa – Although the title has changed, the farmer still comes first for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach’s Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program.

The new title is the result of a merger of the Value Added Agriculture and Local Foods teams, but their mission and goals haven’t changed. This is also true for the programs they offer, such as the Small Farms Team, which works to improve profitability and efficiency of growers across the state.

“The farmer is still our client,” said Christa Hartsook, program coordinator with Farm, Food and Enterprise Development with ISU Extension and Outreach.

Small and beginning farmers still have access to the direct, one-to-one interaction they’re used to, Hartsook said.

Conversations often cover rules and regulations, profitability, marketability, agritourism or something different.

“If we don’t have the specific resource, we can find you the people you need,” she said.

The Small Farms Team offers producers a wide variety of resources, including a bi-monthly newsletter called Acreage Living, a monthly podcast, social media, conferences and workshops.

The team also produces farm profitability research, food safety training, market readiness training through the MarketReady educational program and a variety of initiatives related to value-added agriculture and agritourism.

The Small Farms Program is the “farm” part of ISU Extension and Outreach’s newly created Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program, announced in early April. The food and enterprise development portions of the program cover topics related to community food systems and business development.

According to Hartsook, not much will change for the farmer clients, but because of the merger, clients will have easier access to community and business development services, as their farm enterprise evolves.

Although she specializes in small farms, Hartsook said overlap in the other areas is common. Having all the team members together in one building and under one name will make the process a little more navigable for clients.

“The more we can do to make the process easier and navigable, the better,” she said. “I see future handoffs as being internal, from one program to another, one expert to another.”

Key services provided

  • Farmer profitability: Staff members conduct economic research on local food systems, including development of enterprise budgets and market analysis.
  • Food safety: Staff help growers and industry professionals prepare for and comply with federal food safety regulations. Assistance is available for training, on-farm readiness reviews, food safety plans and more.
  • MarketReady: This program educates producers on how to effectively enter wholesale, retail and institutional markets, while also addressing the market development risks and relationships farmers and ranchers need to manage as they grow.
  • Value-added opportunities: The team develops research and partnerships to determine areas of opportunity for Iowa’s small farmers to diversify or add additional enterprises.
  • Visit Iowa Farms: Visit Iowa Farms serves as the ISU Extension and Outreach resource for agritourism producers. VIF helps producers understand the risks of on-farm visitors, and the VIF website allows farmers to register their operation and keep up with current events.
  • Iowa SARE: The USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program provides travel scholarships, mini-grants and professional development opportunities for Iowa State personnel, and opportunities for landowners and university specialists to work together on research.
  • AgMRC: The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center provides value-added agricultural information to producers and service providers nationally. The site includes profiles of value-added opportunities and directories of consultants.

For more information, visit the Small Farms Team page, or the Farm, Food and Enterprise Development page. Christa Hartsook can be reached at 515-294-4430, or


Photo: Lynn and Dan Bolin of New Day Dairy, Clarksville, Iowa, have received agritourism advice from ISU Extension and Outreach’s Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program. Photo supplied by Bolin family.


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