Meet Maggie & Rich
The farmers, creators and artists behind Four Acres Farm. Located in Alburnett, Iowa.
Rich and Maggie bought their property in Alburnett in 2017 and began working their land the same year. Rich spent many years working on a vegetable farm in North Carolina, where he learned the ins and outs of farming produce. Because of that past knowledge, they do a bit of everything. From raised garden beds, container gardening, traditional in ground rows, fruit trees, fruit bushes, hydroponic gardening, & composting. Rich and Maggie work exceptionally hard, day in and day out, to make sure everything on their farm is done as environmentally friendly as possible. They are using so many regenerative practices that are going to create long term health and wealth in their soils.
Big Project for 2023
Their biggest building project of the year is moving and rebuilding their greenhouse which was hit hard in the 2020 Derecho. The greenhouse will now be attached to their hydroponic building. This will help keep the main building warm in the winters & spring. Greenhouses=moisture and heat retention.
In this space they will be able to produce food year round, and with minimal margin of error. Their hydroponic system is grown using a recirculating nutrient film technique (NFT). Where the plants are grown in an inert growing media that are fed by a film of nutrient solution along the bottom of the growing channel. Right now they are growing lettuce. The benefits of this system is soil conservation by using soil-less growing. This is extremely water efficient. Vertical growing maximizes the space usage. They hope to someday add solar to this space and reduce the energy usage even more.
In their beds where they practice row planting, they focus heavily on rotating vegetables each year for pest and disease control. "It's easier to add fertilizer than to take out a virus" Rich says. "Tomato hornworms are devastating, they will strip a tomato plant down. They go down in the soil with the thought of 'when I hatch next year there is going to be a tomato plant here', but when you plant other things like chard (or whatever) there, they will be like 'what the heck is this doing here?' And then they die."
Rich & Maggie utilize cover cropping to help fix the soil and nutrients by using daikon radish, cereal rye, hairy vetch, and winter peas. Using the right mixture is key. This helps improve soil health, with soil erosion, crowd out weeds, control pests and diseases, increase biodiversity, insure against extreme weather changes, etc.
The bugs are so beneficial out here. Instead of using pesticides one thing they release is beneficial insects on their farm -
praying mantis, parasitic wasps, lace wings. This is a natural, organic, and environmentally sustainable way to control pests. They have been doing this for the past few years, so they have a community of these bugs putting in work on the farm!
Pollinators & Native Planting
They plant wildflowers by their raised gardens to attract beneficial pollinators, birds, bees butterflies. You want larger, more prolific plants and produce??? POLLINATORS.
Native plants usually require little maintenance and water, which is why they love to utilize them where they can. Native plants have massive root systems and pump so much nutrients back into the soil. If you're hoping to regenerate your land or backyard, planting native plants in your flower beds are fantastic ways to start. The perk of natives outside of the amazing benefits they have is that they are perennials. Meaning they come back year after year. Creating a rather low maintenance start to your season and a wealth of plant coverage year after year.
When They Aren't in the Garden
In-between tending to their gardens, trees, bushes, etc. they are busy woodworking, building, sewing, crafting. Rich loves to woodwork in the winter (when he has a little more down time) and makes things such as serving boards, rolling pins, salt bowls, ornaments, etc. And Maggie loves to make low waste products like; paperless towels, bags, zipper pouches, baby items, quilts, jackets, etc.
Hopes for the Future
They hope to continue producing local food for their family and the community as efficiently as possible. To grow their fruit plots (peaches, raspberries, apples) and continue to reduce tillage as much as possible for soil health. They want to show that this is a doable income source even when you don’t have a large crew of workers and lots of land. We are so inspired by what Maggie & Rich are doing. They are creating so much access to local food and helping pave the way towards a more sustainable future.
Where to Shop
You can find them at:
- Downtown Cedar Rapids Market
- Uptown Market (in Marion, 3 dates this summer),
- The farmers market at Taube Park in Marion (they will be there on select dates- but it runs every Saturday from May to September).
In the off season, they try to go to at least one craft fair as well, follow them on instagram and Facebook for more information: Four Acre Farm
STAY TUNED FOR AN UPDATE MID JULY TO SEE HOW THEIR GROWING SEASON IS GOING!