Genuine Faux Farm






Life on the farm includes research of all kinds. Not all of our research is formally designed and implemented, but it need not be set up in great detail to have use on the farm. We do, periodically, pursue grant funding for some of our projects. We also cooperate with organizations such as Practical Farmers of Iowa in efforts to learn more about our farming techniques. This page may not receive the same attention as other pages on our website, but we will periodically add material to share what we have learned and what we are doing.

Posters and Reports

Current Projects

  • Year 2 of Flowering Annuals for Pollinators
  • Year 2 of Summer Broccoli Trials
  • Year 1 of Summer Lettuce Trials
  • Year 1 of Enterprise Budget for Salad Sized Tomatoes
  • Year 3 of Living Mulch in Cucumber Trials
  • plus many more...

2016 Report

Flowering Annuals to Support Pollinators: We trialed zinnia, borage, phacelia, marigolds and lemon basil in our melon field this year and took the time to do a census of pollinators. We found substantial bumblebee populations and were interested to see that the size of the flower dictated the size of the bumble bee that visited it. The smallest native bees (orchard bees, etc) seemed to prefer the phacelia and the borage - both of which had the smallest flowers. On the plus side, we continue to see improved production in our melon patch getting 1/3 more production on 1/3 fewer plants.

Summer Broccoli Trials: We tested Belstar, Gypsy and Imperial against each other. Sadly, it was not a very good broccoli year on our farm. On the other hand, we did not find much difference in overall performance between the three. Oddly enough, Belstar has been a great variety for us and other cooperators found that it did poorly for them. This could well be a zone issue since we are a zone 4 farm and the others were in zone 5.

2015 Report

Pollinators on the Farm: UNI students collected insects from our fields and identified them. The net result was that our diversity was lower than places that had larger natural plantings nearby, which is not a surprise. The take-away from this is that we have to work even harder on our small farm to protect and encourage diversity since we are surrounded by monoculture cropping fields on all sides.

Horticulture Yield Project: We continued to provide yield data for this PFI project, increasing the number of crops we reported on.

Compost Extract Project:The idea of compost extract is to promote the natural soil biology that is harmed by cultivation. Compost extract is created by taking quality compost and making a liquid that is full of the biology that is in that compost. This is applied to the growing area. While we believe promoting soil biology is a good thing, we did not find any appreciable difference for the lettuce we grew between the control and treatment groups.

2014 Report

SARE GRANT - PAPER MULCH and CUCURBITS: Second year of this SARE grant project. Very wet early Summer reduced the effectiveness of the paper mulch significantly with the paper breaking down extremely early. We still determined that paper mulch does seem to aid the transplants during the first two weeks after being placed in the ground.

Duck Breed Comparison: We wanted to see if the Silver Appleyard breed could hold its own against the Muscoveys we have favored in the past. Appleyards are supposed to be good foragers and happy to stay closer to home. In the end, the Muscoveys provided more meat and the amount of feed consumed was similar. The Appleyards had a slightly 'gamey' taste in comparison to Muscoveys that appealed to some who tasted it. From a pure financial standpoint, the Muscoveys fit our farm best.

Horticulture Yield Project: We continued to provide yield data for this PFI project, increasing the number of crops we reported on.

Quick Turn Around Cover Crops: We trialed millet, buckwheat and annual ryegrass prior to a spinach planting that was then covered by our mobile high tunnel. We were particularly pleased with the millet in this trial.

2013 Report

SARE GRANT - PAPER MULCH and CUCURBITS: First year of a two year study. Weather prevented us from doing everything, but early results are encouraging for heirloom melons. No real difference for most summer squash and zucchini.

Quick Turn Around Cover Crops: We tested millet, buckwheat, clover and field peas as cover crops that could be used between an early season cash crop and a fall season cash crop. We were most pleased with the buckwheat and also liked the millet. The field peas would be better if we could drill them in versus broadcast seed them. The clover is better for a longer period, but certainly not a loss to have planted. Research with Practical Farmers of Iowa cooperators.

Horticulture Yield Project: Another Practical Farmers of Iowa Cooperators project. All participants reported harvests for certain crops in order to begin a database of Iowa yield numbers. These numbers could eventually be used for insurance, pricing, variety trials and other appropriate needs.

2012 Report

SARE GRANT - INTERCROPPING and MECHANIZATION: We are convinced that intercropping has numerous benefits, but multiple crops in one planting or field can take much more labor and time to accomplish. This research attempted to identify spacings that maintained intercrop benefits while still allowing for mechanization.

Results Summary: We were able to identify a very good set up that we have since refined for beans and potatoes. Other crop pairings had less success, but we continue to modify these spacings and feel things are moving forward.

Undersewn Cover Crops in Horticulture: The intent of this research was to attempt to identify under sewn cover crops that would work for peppers. The drought followed by the spraying event in July terminated this research as a PFI Cooperator.

Companion Plants with Cabbage: This PFI Cooperators project was undertaken, but weather conditions resulted in an abnormal year for the appearance of cabbage worms and cabbage loopers. No useful results were collected.

2010 Report

High Tunnel Construction: Not as much a study as it was exploration of a process. A great, big learning process.

Results Summary: You may look at a post linked above that outlines the process of putting up the high tunnel.

A Working Field Day was held through PFI over two days, during which time participants help to put this tunnel up.

Yield Fluctuations in Summer Squash and Zucchini: This independent project will be ongoing. It is largely based on production numbers, planting dates and field/weather observations. Included are soil tests, etc. Every farm tracks yields and attempts to find explanations for variations - we are no different in this.

Results Summary: A poster presented at the PFI conference in 2011 is linked above. Basic idea - the first and last successions (of 3) can be risky. The middle is almost always the same production levels. As a result, we will go to four successions to take advantage of the mid season consistency while still trying to extend the season.

2009 Report

Broiler Breed Trials: Once again, we were cooperatores in a PFI sponsored study. This was an attempt to identify breeds for broilers, using Cornish X as a baseline, that would work well for production on a small farm.

Results Summary: Once again, you can look at a poster linked up above. While Cornish X is the standard for confinement raising, we found that the Rangers were a decent free-range breed. This confirmed that we should maintain loyalty to this bird type until we learn something different.

Field Day was held at Scattergood Farm in West Branch - another of the cooperators for this study.

Beginning Farmer Finances: Participation in an Iowa State study to learn how different beginning farms can expect their finances to work out in Iowa.

Results Summary: We can only speak for ourselves on this one. The process of looking carefully at financial trends on the farm helped us make some reasonable targets that we were able to reach as far as profitability and capital improvements were concerned.

2008 Report

Tomato Trellising as Cooperators through Practical Farmers of Iowa: Trials on three different methods of tomato 'staking' to determine if there is any impact on the production of heirloom varieties. Two other farms in Iowa participated in this study. The target variety was Cherokee Purple. Poster is linked above.

Result Summary: Experience counts. The methods the farmer was most comfortable with tended to do better. On our farm, we have used caging, but were impressed enough with cattle panels to use it for cherry and salad sized tomatoes.

Field Day was held on the farm to demonstrate these trellising techniques and taste some of the heirloom tomatoes.

Field Data Collection Tool: The resources for this project, most specifically our time, were not sufficient to get this project off the ground. Maybe later.

Radish/Winter Squash Companion Trials: We were able to receive the aid of a Wartburg student who made sure the treatment and control areas were free of weeds and given all the care necessary to isolate the effects of the treatment. Unfortunately, 2008 growing conditions were such that there were not enough growing degree days for the squash to do anything. We hope to replicate this trial at a later time.

2007 Report

Bean/Potato Companion Trials: This was not a formally set up study, so take the results for what they are worth. We were checking out the green bean (bush) and potato pairing we have used for some time to mask the potatoes from the Colorado Potato Beetle.

Result Summary: The results seem to indicate that the potatoes at the edge of the plot that did not have immediate companion were the only place we saw this pest. We also noted that hay mulch in a section of the outer rows also had less incidence. Both are consistent with other observations by different growers over time.

2006 Report

CSA Pricing Study: We participated with three other Iowa CSA farms in an Iowa State University Study. The intent was to compare what was placed in our CSA shares with prices at local groceries for the same product.

Result Summary: In short, the value of CSA product was typically much higher than was being charged by the CSA itself. In our case, there were numerous products we could not find in the grocery. But, even without these, our large share received the same value at grocery store prices as was paid for the season's CSA share. This does not take into consideration that the produce was organic and fresher than that at the grocery. The study revealed that organic produce prices for similar produce would be 50-65% higher. In short, what people get in a CSA tends to be a good deal. It also indicates that CSA farms need to carefully consider what it takes to pay themselves a fair wage for their efforts.

Radish/Summer Squash Trials: An informal test. Some hills had some radish planted at the point of seeding the summer squash. About 3-5 radish were allowed to grow and produce flower stalks.

Result Summary: We only used this companion for three test hills in the first succession of planting. Interestingly, these three hills produced all summer. All other first succession hills were dead by late August (or stopped production). These hills continued into September.


last updated 2/25/17

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background photo copyright L.E.Bartel

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