Small Farm Sustainability | Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach program in Small Farm Sustainability exists to open the door to relationships and resources relevant to the pursuit of sustainability for Iowa’s smaller-scale, entrepreneurial farm enterprises. By sharing science-based information, providing program leadership, and facilitating collaboration, we will promote planning and profit potential in specialty ag ventures that tend to increase stewardship, diversity, and resilience on the Iowa farmscape. 
 A growing number of Iowa’s small family farmers are turning to alternative agriculture ventures and differentiated markets to diversify their enterprises, stabilize their returns, and boost their level of stewardship. These producers are taking advantage of expanding consumer demand for healthier food and more transparent supply chains, along with increased consumer desire to support local businesses and re-connect with agricultural roots. Such producers may be using non-conventional production systems to access niche markets, direct-marketing their farm products locally, earning organic or other third-party certifications, or adding value to farm products to market artisanal goods. Advocates of alternative agricultural production and marketing often lump such practices into the category of sustainable agriculture, but in order to meet all criteria and achieve true sustainability, small family farmers must have the social, agro-ecological, and business management competencies necessary to navigate a dynamic alternative agriculture market while maintaining a triple bottom line.