SOLON– As interest in local foods continues to grow, more people are looking to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as a way to add local fruits and vegetables to their diet. For CSA farmers, however, the challenge is ensuring a way to meet customer demand despite weather, pests and other challenges, including the limits of the growing season.
To meet that challenge, many CSA farmers employ careful pre-planning and use of high tunnels to help minimize risks and extend the growing season. Susan Jutz has operated Local Harvest CSA, a 175-member CSA near Solon that has operated from April until December, since 1996. She uses a moveable four-season high tunnel to add weeks to her growing season and will discuss how she integrated high tunnel production into her business at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day, Sunday, June 24, from 4 until 7 p.m., near Solon.
The event, “Planning Production for a 9-Month CSA,” is sponsored by Wallaces Farmer and the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District. It is free to the public and includes a light dinner.
“My new moveable high tunnel minimizes my risk in the face of challenging spring weather events, allowing me to extend my spring growing season by at least four weeks, resulting in increased revenue and profitability,” Jutz said.
Featured topics will include how to plan for CSA production from April through December; using moveable high tunnels in CSA vegetable production; and results of PFI research trials on peppers and tomato grafting.
Erika Saalau-Rojas, Iowa State University Extension program specialist and PhD student, will also discuss cucurbit bacterial wilt trials, and Craig Chase, with ISU Extension’s Local Food and Farm Program, will present high tunnel cost and production data collected by six farms– including ZJ Farms– in 2011. This data is being used to create an enterprise budgeting tool that estimates the costs and revenues associated with high tunnel crop production.
“The analysis of the data we collected from my moveable high tunnel for the ISU trial is impressive,” Jutz said. “I’m looking forward to discussing it at the field day.”
ZJ Farms is an 80-acre diversified farm through which Jutz direct-markets lamb from a 30-ewe flock, and is a principal partner and vegetable grower for Local Harvest CSA, a three-season CSA program serving residents in the Iowa City and Cedar Rapids areas.
Directions: ZJ Farms is located at 5025 120th St. NE, about 6 miles northeast of Solon. To reach the farm from Solon, drive 3 miles north on Highway 1, then 3 miles east on 120th St. NE. 5025 is a large, white house with a barn beside the road.
Practical Farmers of Iowa will host more than 40 field days around Iowa in 2012. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. For the entire field day schedule, visit www.practicalfarmers.org  or call the PFI office at 515-232-5661 to request a 2012 Field Day Guide.