Heidi Kaisand: Good morning and welcome to create with Heidi. I'm Heidi Kaisand, owner of hidden chicks studio in Conrad, Iowa, and lover of all things creative. Each week here on create with Heidi, we like to cover topics that educate and inspire you about how people are being creative, whether it's quilting, scrapbooking food will, or just hanging out with others who seem to have their creative Mojo groovin in all the right directions. We are excited to share these things with you. Each week, I love to start the show with a quote because there's always some good quotes. This one is actually more of a couple sentences. It's more maybe more a bit longer quote. And but I thought it was appropriate for our topic today. And here it is. The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all it is the healer and restore and resurrector by which disease passes into health, age into youth death into life. Without proper care for it, we can have no community because without proper care for it, we cannot have we can have no life. And that is Wendell Berry, the unsettling of America culture and agriculture. And if you haven't already started to figure out we're going to be talking about farming today. And I welcome our guests Brian Feldpausch. Have a Good morning, Brian, how are you today?
Brian Feldpausch: Good, good Heidi.
Heidi Kaisand: And Brian, I'm sure got a real chuckle when I stopped him on the street and said, Brian, we get lots of questions at Hen and chicks studio. Yes, we do at the quilt shop about why Conrad has black dirt days. And of course, the sign that hangs across the street from hidden chicks studio references, you know, black dirt. And so I thought it would be fun. If we can call this you know, fun, creative fun to have a farmer in Grundy County, come on and talk a little bit about about farming in our part of the country. And so that's why I asked Brian he doll Brian, how many generations of your family have farmed in Grundy County?
Brian Feldpausch: Well, you know, I moved here with my wife, well move back home with my wife and in 2005. And it's her family farm and we're the sixth generation and sixth and seventh generation and our family farm here and in Grundy County. So they've been here a long time. We just last two years ago, we were 150 years. They call it a heritage farm award at the State Fair. And so so we've been here farming a long time in Grundy County.
Heidi Kaisand: Yes. And, you know, to give people a perspective, because people can be listening from not only our area, but from all over the country. What kinds of things do you grow or raise on your farm?
Brian Feldpausch: So we raised corn and soybeans, we raised some hay, we've got some cattle, and we also custom feed hogs for another farmer. So we're pretty diversified farm for Grundy County, most of Grundy counties pretty much corn and soybean rotation with some seed corn for for future seed production. But that's that's what we do in our farm.
Heidi Kaisand: Yes. And and we're going to talk about I mean, all sorts of things. One of the questions I know that has come up recently, I heard it brought up again during the Field of Dreams game a few weeks ago, that is all corn edible by the human like is it all sweet corn? Like, you know, I know the answer to this. But I know that a lot of people don't like when you know I love summer sweet corn. And but it's not, is it?
Brian Feldpausch: No, actually most most of the corn anybody sees especially driving through through the Midwest is going to be field corn. And field corn has, you know, basically two main uses. One is livestock feed, about a third of all the corn crop goes to livestock feed. And then another third goes to ethanol production to create a renewable fuel source. And then the rest of it gets split up several different ways. But but most of it, most of the corn you see is field corn and that's that's what we what Midwest farmers raise predominantly. If you get you know, closer to to metro areas, or sometimes, you know, in specially areas I'll be some sweet corn but it's usually can notice the sweet corn in the field because there'll be a real small patch and it's usually shorter than the rest.
Heidi Kaisand: Yes. The only area that might have Have a little bit more sweet corn than some might be up in the like the blue or Blue Earth Minnesota area where the Jolly Green Giant lives. And I know there's plants up there where they are harvesting, you know, the corn and different things for that you might see bigger fields. But yes, I would say in central Iowa and Iowa, it's mostly field corn. Okay, so what one of the things that's so important to growing that corn, and any of our crops here is the dirt? And why? Why does cotton me? No, no. I mean, why does Conrad celebrate black dirt? what is so important about the black dirt in Grundy County?
Brian Feldpausch: So, one of the you know, one of the reasons you know, I guess they talk about the black dirt days is in black dirt and Grundy county in central Iowa is is where it where it all started. And you know, it all started back. It's black because of the of the level of organic matter in it. And that organic matter is from all the years of prairie grass that were in central Iowa. And every year, of course, the grass grew and then it froze off and died. And then that that dead grass broke down and created more organic matter, more natural nutrients in the soil. And that created this black layer of soil in central Iowa, and especially here in the Grundy, Marshall County area, and other pockets around the state. That black layer of soil is very fertile. And it creates a really good atmosphere for growing, growing crops corn and soybeans in particular. At one time, it was up to two feet deep. They say in spots, it still is today in some areas, it's it's a little shallower than that, you know now because of years of farming and stuff, but but but it's been very, very good. And, and and here's like this, you know, where it's been very dry. That soil and that combination of soils from, from a historic standpoint, has holds water very well. And so year in and year out. Central Iowa is able to grow good corn crops.
Heidi Kaisand: That is awesome. My gosh, we're off to a great start learning so much. We'll be back right after this. Welcome back to create with Heidi, this is Heidi Kaisand. And we're getting down in the dirt this morning with Brian Feldpausch who is a Grundy county farmer. And he was explaining BEFORE THE BREAK about like how that black dirt was was created. It's what I use the word composting like when you're talking about the those prairie grasses and dyeing and stuff. I mean, it's like that over years of time that those kinds of or that organic matter just kept getting richer and richer is what I'm hearing from Yeah,
Brian Feldpausch: yeah, it's just like, the lifecycle of soil or plants in it is a lot like, now we do a lot of the law gardeners, you know, do a lot of composting to do it, it was done the exact same way. And it was done naturally. And that's, that's kind of a little bit why we see so many farmers adopting cover crops today, you know, when we're going out and planting grasses in the fall after we take the corn and soybeans off, because doing that is going to enrich the soil again and hold the soil in place into the future.
Heidi Kaisand: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, in farming? Oh, you know, I think that some people, you know, outside of farming communities, you know, I don't say don't understand all of the technology, and the the information that that you as a farmer employ to to make not only the best crop, but to also be a conserver of the land. And, and I think I think it's just amazing, like what you're talking about right now, is that cover crops is that instead of you don't just go out and plant something in the spring, harvest it and leave the grant the ground until next year, it's a it's a year long process to make sure that you're taking good care of that land.
Brian Feldpausch: Right, right. It sure is. And you know, for years, farmers have been adopting like conservation plans and conservation tillage, where we leave a lot more of the crop residue on the soil surface. So it breaks down easier naturally and stays on top of the soil and, and protects the soil. And then the last Oh, probably 10 years, then there's been a step to using what we call cover crops and that could just be as simple as a rye crop that just gets planted in the fall right after we take the corn or soybeans off and it grows up and gets about a foot two foot tall and then in the spring we plant into it and it dies off or we kill it off. So so it'll become that organic matter. And that and that blanket to kind of choke out the weeds to to use less pesticides and that and then we just just grow the corn crop and who are soybean crop and start all over again. The following year.
Heidi Kaisand: Yes. And and you rotate crops to to make sure that nitrogen levels and different things I'm, like I know enough to be dangerous but I don't know enough to you know, but right you rotate crops so that Yeah, because different plants need different nutrients.
Brian Feldpausch: Yeah, you know like the corn crops need a lot of extra nitrogen fertilizer and then so we rotate those soybeans because soybeans actually use more nitrogen, but soybeans have the ability to create or fix their own nitrogen in their root system. And I won't go into too much detail on that, but they're able to do it. And then and then the following year, there's some of that nitrogen available for the corn crop. So farmers rotate between corn and soybeans generally. So then they're able to the corn crops able to use some of that nitrogen that's leftover from the soybean crop. So they have to, or they're able to use less less purchased nitrogen or or extra nitrogen fertilizer that we put on.
Heidi Kaisand: Yeah, it's more natural. And, and again, we farm again, I'm I'm not as involved with that on a day to day basis as I am on the quilting. So I guess I know it again, I know enough to be dangerous, but a given things like you have to test the soil for lime, making sure that there's a balance of lime in it.
Brian Feldpausch: Yeah. Yeah. So like, it depends on on the farm and what you're raising. But typically, you know, every two to three years, a farmer will take a soil test on their farm. And that's done now, with GPS, we're able to go around and take in different areas of a field. So we're able to identify, you know, even down to one acre or less, you know, how much fertilizer or lime for pH to balance the acidity we need to use in so instead of just blanket cropping the whole field with the same amount, we do it space by space, so we get the right amount in the right spot.
Heidi Kaisand: Yeah, I mean, that part, again, the technology is crazy. And, and even within the corners from corner to corner in Iowa, this the soil is not the same here, as it is, like I grew up in Northern Iowa, and I believe their soil might be a little sandier. Or and then there's some that might have a little more clay in it. It it's it can differ it's not like you get the exact same dirt in every part of the state.
Brian Feldpausch: No, no, it's sure not. In Iowa, there's several 100 different actual different soil types. And the soil types are broken down on all kinds of facts, but it basically comes down to the amount of sand, silt and clay, that that's in the soil profile, which is from, from the top that we see down about five feet in the ground, which is kind of the root zone where where corn and soybeans can use use the nutrients in the water in there. And so yeah, it's very diverse. You know, there's some areas that are extremely Sandy, and some that are extremely clay, you know, and both of those have different challenges and have different fertilizer and, and nutrient needs to grow crops. So we're best suited not to grow crops in our pasture land. You know, we're where we graze cattle and sheep.
Heidi Kaisand: Absolutely. And you said that you've got cattle. And so you obviously raised some of your crops to help either feed or bed or your animals, I'm assuming as well.Right?
Brian Feldpausch: Yep. Yep, we've grown a little bit of alfalfa hay to feed the cattle. And then then, you know, in the in the fall, we harvest some of the corn stalks to go into bedding. So, you know, there's a use for all kinds of the plant material that we we grow in, in Iowa, and allow that plant material. Sometimes people say, Well, if animals are eating it, then it's not food for people and so much of so much of what is grown is best suited for animals to then be utilized for food for people because they're great. They're great recyclers, the recyclers, you know, that that are able that are able to use nutrients that we can't to create food.
Heidi Kaisand: Yes. Did you grow up farming? I mean, like, so like, did some of this information like you just grew up at the kitchen table? These are the conversations you had at supper. Like, how did you learn all of this?
Brian Feldpausch: Yeah, you know, it's the variety of things I was just growing up on a family farm. We grew up, I grew up in DeWitt, Eastern Iowa. And then I went on to Iowa State I was really involved in FFA and four h when I went when I was younger, and then I went on to Iowa State and actually, I taught vocational agriculture for 12 years before we came back to the family farm. So you know, just certain things you pick up over time and learn and you never stop learning, that's for sure.
Heidi Kaisand: Oh, absolutely. Ithink the same the same is true. I mean, I will say with quilting and all that is that there's always something new to learn. I've been been quilting you know the majority of my life and I never stopped When I learned something, because I know that there's more out there to learn, and I'm sure that we are educating.Definitely some of our listeners today, because again, even even in our own local communities, a lot of people don't know all about farming if they're not directly connected to it. That is for sure. Yes, yep. There's, there's so many things. So I'm, we're having a great conversation. We've got more to talk about. We're going to take our next commercial break, and we'll be back right after this. Welcome back to create with Heidi, this is Heidi Kaisand, owner of hidden chicks studio. And no, we have not become a farming store. But boy, are we learning about what is happening out on the farm this morning with Brian Feld pouch? Our community, Brian, in the Conrad area, and in central Iowa is definitely a farming community. Although I don't think there are as many families that are involved in farming, but it's still very vital to our economy in the area.
Brian Feldpausch: Yeah, you know, I think as as agriculture evolves, and equipment evolves, and the cost of farming has changed over time, you know, fewer people, you know, might be directly involved in the family farm, but, but Iowa agriculture employs hundreds of 1000s of people, you know, and even in the Conrad area, you know, agriculture is the biggest employer, it's just in a diverse way, you know, with different different industries in different businesses.
Heidi Kaisand: Absolutely. We've got green products, and they're using the corncob stuff. I don't even know how to say it, what their what their product is. It's a byproduct of corn cobs. And and of course, we've got Richie's, which is they're making waters for animals on the farm. And, and so yes, I mean, the just those two businesses, right there alone employ a fair number of people. And they're all agricultural based. And so I think that's interesting. And, and that's my entire family. I mean, I really have a lot of farmers in my family. And I remember my cousin Chris Edgington, and you might know him as well through the corn Association, or corn producers. But I remember one time he did a video and i if i remembering correctly, he said there were like, 21 different computer parts in his tractor, that he had monitors and different things is, is that a part of that kind of technology that you use to where there's just so much information that you can get in your tractor?
Brian Feldpausch: Yeah, yeah, there is an I think it's probably beyond that by now, you know, how many how many different pieces are in but, you know, that's, that's one of the neat things with with what we do is we, you know, with technology now, going across the field, of course, you know, the one that everybody talks about, or probably is maybe a little bit familiar with is, is auto steering, you know, and so you just get in and it'll tractor I'll find the line and keep planting straighter, or, or cultivating straight rows, I'll get straight.Yeah, we don't have to concentrate quite as hard going across during planting season as we did but, but like this year, for instance, our my own planter we added, we added what they call a precision hydraulic downforce which to plant into the soil that we're talking about. The soil varies going across even even the fields of Grundy County. And, and so you want the seed to be placed at an even level across the field. So this system that we added is able to to keep the planting levels straight across field and it'll it'll move as you go across the field because it's measuring the conditions and then the computer status signaling that back to back to the units to either go up or down, raise or lower, increase the pressure.
Heidi Kaisand: So amazing.
Brian Feldpausch: Yeah, it is. And then and then we also add a system where the drives each each row unit or so each, each different row of corn can plant on its own, hopefully going across the field of consistent, but it can change the change the speed of each drive each row so we get the right number of plants in the row all the time.
Heidi Kaisand: And I have to say I'm always a little cautious when I call my husband during planting season or combining because if there's something beeping in the background, he usually is very quick to get off the phone because some monitor is telling him something that he needs to be listening to or you know watching it and again, I mean, how fascinating that again, Coulter's have technology that we use and and I always laugh that if I understood how to use my sewing machine, the way it was intended, it would probably cook me supper because there's so much technology in it. And that's the same idea. Even in farming, something that seems so simple, uses technology in ways that that the average person doesn't even understand.
Brian Feldpausch: Right? Right. You know, and that's and that's the neat thing, because all those steps just help make us more efficient. You know, and not just more efficient with with planting and harvesting bigger crops, but it also makes us more efficient with the land that we have, you know, we can get the right amount of nutrients down and get the right seed in the right location. And that's going to create the best crop possible for that soil.
Heidi Kaisand: Oh, absolutely. And, and on your farm, just quickly, you've got you've got three kids, is that going to be the next generation of farmers in your family?
Brian Feldpausch: Well, my son hope so. I mean, I know I'm my oldest son wants come back and farm and we'll do what we can to make that happen, you know, and so yeah, I think we're the sixth seventh generation and hopefully it keeps going.
Heidi Kaisand: Absolutely. Yep. And your son Nick, your oldest son is actually in my son's class or they're in the same class. And so I know Henry has those aspirations of well as well. There's something about farming in the blood. That definitely keeps everybody going. Well, girl Brian, today we have learned so much I'm you know, just so intrigued by everything and see how interesting, a program about dirt can be on hidden chicks studio, here with Create with Heidi. So thank you very much for taking the time to join us. And I encourage everyone to visit head and chick studio in Conrad, or online at Henan chicks studio.com to find everything you need to know about quilting and all things creative. And until next week, be creative.