Jupiter Ridge Farm: Ethically sustainable, naturally

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Jupiter Ridge Farm, located at 35217 Jupiter Road, Garber, cultivates over 50 varieties of sustainably grown vegetables and herbs, including gourmet mushrooms such as shiitakes, lion's mane, and oyster mushrooms. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Sustainable farming meets society's present food and textile needs, without compromising the ability for current or future generations to continue utilizing the land responsibly. Agriculture has an enormous environmental footprint, and plays a significant role in causing climate change, water scarcity, land degradation, and deforestation. Sustainable farming practices provide a potential solution to enable agricultural systems to feed a growing population. 

Jupiter Ridge Farm

Jupiter Ridge Farm, located at 35217 Jupiter Road, Garber, cultivates over 50 varieties of sustainably-grown vegetables and herbs, including gourmet mushrooms such as shiitakes, lion's mane, and oyster mushrooms. Jupiter Ridge Farm proprietors William "Will" Lorentzen and Adrian White have been farming responsibly in northeast Iowa for the past  four years. Adrian was born and raised near Salt Lake City, Utah, and spent part of her childhood in Minnesota. Will was born in New Hampshire and raised in Westford, Mass. 

Adrian commented, "We met while doing traveling work on Renaissance Festivals in our 20's, and hopping around to different organic farms across the country. Our love of farming really brought us together." 

Will exclaimed, "Adrian ran game booths and I walked camels and took care of elephants! It was an interesting period of our lives." 

The couple's educational pursuits brought an interesting mix to the table. Adrian shared, "I completed some college and a near half-year internship in organic agriculture and Latin American studies in Ecuador. I majored in Spanish language." 

Will told The Press, "I went to culinary school for a time in Chicago, but became more interested in the production side of food over the cooking part ­— although I'm still very passionate about cooking."

Planting the seeds

The couple became interested in organic farming over time. "Growing up in suburban Utah in the 80's and 90's, full of folks with Mormon pioneer ancestors, the homesteading culture was a part of everyone's life and I was influenced by that," said Adrian. "My mom always had an enormous garden where I picked beans, peas, carrots, etc. It was both fun and not fun at times."

Adrian's interest in gardening grew more serious in college. "When I learned more about how our food system works, myself and another group of students started the very first Organic Gardening Club at the University of Minnesota - Morris," she added. 

"My interest grew, again, while I was in culinary school in Chicago," Will noted, "I also used to run kitchens for Green Peace trainings and through people I met there, I found out about opportunities to work at farms and large market gardens, and that's actually where I was exposed to mushroom production – at a farm in Appalachia."

Business opportunity

The young farmers' passion for growing vegetables and land stewardship eventually turned into a business opportunity. "In 2016 we first learned about the land we are on – Steve Beaumont, and the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT)," Adrian commented. "We have always wanted to farm and were enchanted by the area. The Driftless region's beautiful bluffs, trout streams, rare and interesting wildlife, and fertile soil were an added bonus. We spent about seven or so years at that point working on other farms and managing them when this opportunity arose to finally do it ourselves in a beautiful area and community."

Will added, "Our own personal businesses were budding at that point (we had a few hundred shiitake logs), and we just needed a place to do it when this opportunity arose." 

The Practical Farmers of Iowa (PFI) and SILT program connected the dots for the eager agriculturalists. 

"Our farm is on SILT land, donated by Steve Beaumont, and it must be farmed sustainably, organically, or regeneratively, whatever you prefer to call it," Adrian explained. "It is protected legally with an easement for that purpose. On top of farming sustainably we take an active role being stewards of the land, caring for the woods and prairie." 

Will continued, "SILT is a great option for landowners who don't have anyone to pass their land onto, but want to see it protected and put to good use in a way that protects wildlife and ecology – instead of mining, development, etc."

Typical workday

Everyday presents itself with a different challenge. Adrian commented, " Our work depends on the day and the season. We have pack days where we either prepare for farmers market in Dubuque, for restaurant and CSA or farm share box deliveries here in nearby areas including Colesburg, Dyersville, Cedar Rapids and Elkader occasionally as well. Those days we start out by harvesting quite a bit of food: kale bunches, tomatoes, snap peas, cucumbers, shiitake mushrooms, you name it, and getting them ready to go."

Will shared, "Other days may be weeding, tilling, or soaking shiitake logs. In the spring we do a lot of shiitake inoculation, seeding, transplanting, etc. In the fall, we'll be cleaning garlic and tilling to plant it, then mulch it over the winter. In spring and fall, we'll be cover cropping fields when they aren't in use."

Certification requirements

Jupiter Ridge Farms is required to be certified in a way that ensures the couple is farming sustainably. "We were planning to be USDA certified organic this winter, but the current administration has taken away monetary support from organic farmers who need financial assistance to certify,” said Adrian. 

“It would have cost us $750 to certify, but now it will cost us $1000. We’re looking into another certification, Certified Naturally Grown, which is pretty much the same thing and we should be certified in some way this winter.” said Will. 

Cultivating mushrooms

The couple enthusiastically shared, “Yes! Cultivating mushrooms are our specialty. We have shiitakes, oysters, and lion’s mane as our main varieties. Not only are these mushrooms incredibly nutritious (high in plant proteins, fiber, and even vitamins D and B12), they have medicinal properties too: antioxidant, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and lots more!” 

An interesting journey

The eclectic farmers remembered, “My first experiences really learning how to farm on a small scale took place in South America when I was in college,” Adrian continued. “There were many new vegetables I’d never heard of and I was learning their names in Spanish before I knew them in English: like “col” for kale, or “acelga” or “remolacha” for chard and beets. I’d never heard of kale or chard back then. Funnily my parents were both fluent in Spanish, but I didn’t learn much gardening vocabulary from them! While in South America, I spent so much time at one farm that I would translate the lead farmer’s tasks, directions, and chores for non-Spanish speaking volunteers.”

Will recalled, “When Adrian and I first met in our early 20’s, and were learning to farm, we were much more nomadic – rough-and-tumble. We traveled from one organic farm to the next with just a backpack full of clothes, through North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, the Pacific Northwest, etc. We traveled by bus and sometimes hitchhiking until we finally got a car. We lived in tents, shacks, even a wooden yurt! No one would have thought we’d settle in Iowa. But we ended up here in 2011 and loved the state, managed and worked at an Iowan organic for many years, and wanted to put down roots. And here we are,” he concluded. 

For additional information contact jupiterridgefarm@gmail.com.

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