Ryan Marquardt (he/him) | Van Meter, Iowa
Wild Rose Pastures | You Are What Your Food Eats
What do you farm?
We raise grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and turkeys, and free-range eggs. Our Belted Galloway “Oreo Cattle” rotationally graze, while our chickens, young layers, and young turkeys are raised in chicken tractors. Older layers have the run of the place, and older turkeys range in an electrified net pasture which is rotated weekly and spend the nights in our outbuilding. Our poultry are fed GMO-free feed. For 17 years, all of our products have been directly marketed to central Iowa customers.
Tell us a little about the land you farm. What does the landscape look like? How did you end up there?
I farm on gently rolling grass pastures and slough ground on two tracts. Our home farm totals 20 acres and our second farm is two miles by road and totals 55 acres. All of our farm ground has been in my family for over 100 years. Both tracts are on the Bulger Creek Watershed with one farm being its headwater. Our pastures are surrounded by a mix of crop ground and pasture ground.
Share about a time when you felt blessed to be farming.
The best moments are the quiet moments you get to breathe in nature: Taking in a vibrant sunset, watching a thunderhead roll across the sky, finding a new native plant in the pasture that you missed, or coming back because of your management. Those are the moments that stick with you.
How does your faith call you to farming? Where do you see a higher power in your work as a farmer?
I feel a strong family obligation to farm. I did not grow up on the farm, I grew up in Ames. My bachelor uncle is the only close family I still have left out here farming. None of my siblings chose to farm, but I chose to take up the mantle. I feel a strong desire to try to be a good steward of the 700 acres my family farms, even if I only farm on 75 acres of it. I want to be able to pass this land off to my children, nieces, or nephews with the goal of preserving it in the family. It is my goal not to force this farm on the next generation, but to equip them to make good management decisions, even if they are not the ones actively farming the ground.
How does farming call you to climate action? What future would you like to see for Iowa and agriculture?
My drive to be a steward of this land pushes me to try to improve it by building soil carbon through cattle rotation, protecting water courses from livestock overgrazing, removing low-quality woody encroachment in the pastures, and protecting the farm from low-density housing development. I see great potential in the use of cover crops for both grazing and as a mulch layer in outcropping systems. When I get the opportunity to make management decisions for the family crop ground, I intend to implement overcrops first thing. Iowa is remarkably well-suited to growing a large variety of crops. At one point in our state’s history, we were the leading apple producer in the country. The Red Delicious Apple was developed right here in Madison County. I would like to see much more diversity in our crop production. Our current duopoly of field crops lends itself to large land holdings farmed by fewer and fewer farmers. I would love to see much more variety in our cropping systems from fiber, to grain, to forage, and livestock. I am confident that a diversity of crops on the landscape will mean more farmers on the landscape and more farmers means more vibrant rural main streets.
Anything else you would like to share?
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