Four ag mini-grants awarded in Winneshiek County

Posted: March 23, 2013
Four ag mini-grants awarded in Winneshiek County

Local-food production is getting a boost through four mini-grants awarded by Winneshiek County Development, Inc.

The four businesses--three in rural Decorah and one near Ridgeway--will each receive $375.  The projects are:

Otter Creek Orchard
Owner Chad Elliott, a former chef who now is the assistant to the director of food service for the Decorah Community School District, has grafted 70 apple trees in the last two years and planted more than a half-acre of asparagus that is sold to local consumers and restaurants.  His new project that received funding is to buy fire brick and mortar to build an oven for bread making.  Some of the breads he plans to sell include sourdough battard, Italian ciabatta, rye boule, whole wheat rounds and par-baked wood fired pizza crust.

Sweet Earth Farm
Owner Anne Bohl grows chemical free vegetables for sale at farmers markets and through Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs.) She also raised 200 pastured heritage chickens last year and received funding this year to double that capacity by building a movable chicken pen. The 20 foot by 12 foot by 7 foot pen will be built on skids so a tractor can pull it a couple times per week.

Patchwork Green Farm
Owner Erik Sessions has been growing vegetables for Winneshiek County customers for the past 15 years. The five-acre farm employs two seasonal workers, utilizes three hoop houses and includes mechanized tillage and mowing. The grant will help fund a mechanical cultivator to improve both the quality and the quantity of produce grown.

Laughing Sol Farm
Owner Trevor Madsen founded the farm in 2012 with the intention of providing Northeast Iowa with a wide range of fresh gourmet and medicinal mushrooms and mushroom spawn for interested cultivators. He will use the grant money to build a sterilization unit with much higher capacity than the current one. The increased capacity means he could produce up to 300 pounds of fresh mushrooms per month for sale in and around Winneshiek County. Ultimately, the capacity could reach 2,400 pounds of fresh gourmet and medicinal mushrooms for sale in and around Winneshiek County.

This is the first year that WCDI has directly funded the Ag Mini Grants, but it has administered the grants for the Northeast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition (NIFF) since 2008. WCDI Director Randy Uhl said the 12 applications received this year is double the number received in any other year.

"The high number of applications is an indication of the strong interest in increasing the production and consumption of local foods," Uhl said. "And the caliber of the projects just keeps rising each year."

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