MOSES Organic Farmer of the Year

This award recognizes organic farmers who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach. The MOSES Board of Directors selects the farmer/farm family to honor from submitted nominations. They present the award at the annual MOSES Organic Farming Conference.

 

Nominate a farmer or farm family for the 2019 award:

Nominate a Farmer

 

Congratulations to the 2018 Organic Farmers of the Year:
The Rosmanns of Rosmann Family Farms, Harlan, Iowa. See their story below.

 

Past Winners

 

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2018 MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year

Rosmann Family Farms
Ron Rosmann and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann
David Rosmann and Rebecka Tompkins Rosmann
Daniel Rosmann and Ellen Walsh Rosmann
Mark Rosmann

Daniel, Ellen, Maria, and Ron Rosmann

Rosmann Family Farms run under the principles of “Conservation and renewal. Land and people. Innovation and interdependence.” Family and faith are the bedrock of their stewardship, commitment to social justice, pursuit of economic viability, and efforts to encourage future generations of organic farmers.

Ron, the family patriarch, grew up on the family farm, returning to farm full time in 1973 armed with a degree from Iowa State University in biology with minors in sociology and psychology.

He was one of the founding members of Practical Farmers of Iowa and has served on its board along with the boards of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, Iowa Organic Association, and National Catholic Rural Life.  He was also involved in the early days of the Center for Rural Affairs and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Ron began using organic practices in the 1980s even though he sold into the commodity marketplace, since there was no defined demand for organic products at that time. He grew organically because he believed it was better for his land and his health.

“I never felt comfortable with chemicals,” Ron said. “There was no way they didn’t get into your skin as you worked to unclog and repair machinery.”

The farm’s move to organics went hand-in-hand with Ron’s increased participation in sustainable farming organizations. For Ron, as for so many of the movement’s pioneers, environmental stewardship is about stepping forward with innovations tested and evaluated on the farm.

He and Maria began doing on-farm trials in 1985. They have conducted more than 40 trials over three decades. Projects examined ridge tilling, cover cropping, swine feeding, organic flax production, manure rates, and more. By doing on-farm research “you have the numbers, real evidence for farmers to look at,” Ron explained. “How else can you understand what really works on your own farm?” Through his research, he found that ridge tillage works better than conventional tillage for weed control. Now that’s the farm’s  foundational practice.

The Rosmanns grow their crops in 5-, 6-, and 7-year rotations using ridge tillage within row crops whenever possible. They have planted trees on terraced fields to promote soil health and enhance wildlife habitat. They also employ cover crops, grass waterways, and buffer strips to improve soil and water quality.

Livestock is integral to the farm’s economic and soil health. They feed the cows and hogs the cover crops and crops that can’t be sold, using the livestock manure to fertilize fields.

“This completes the circle of sustainability by providing ecological efficiencies,” Ron explained.

They also graze cattle within the crop rotations. They move the cattle according to plant growth stages and recovery periods. They manage hogs in a deep-bedding system that provides access to the outdoors.

Ron and Maria have three sons, Daniel, David, and Mark. David and Daniel and his wife, Ellen, work on the farms. Mark works for the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service in Washington D.C.

The Rosmanns have lobbied at federal and state levels for organic research support. They have also campaigned against antibiotic overuse in U.S. livestock production.

Over the years, Ron, Maria, and their sons have made hundreds of presentations to share what they’ve learned, describe the challenges, and to build support for organic agriculture.

The Rosmanns have hosted more than 35 fields days on their farm, events highlighting on-farm research results, livestock management and genetics, marketing strategies, and farm policy issues. The family hosts a major farm tour and dozens of small group tours on their farm every year. Visitors have come from across the country, as well as Japan, China, Lithuania, Argentina, Brazil and North Korea.

To “feed their own community,” the Rosmann family has established an on-farm store with their own farm products as well as local wine and honey plus fair-trade spices, chocolates, and crafts. Daniel and Ellen own Milk and Honey restaurant in Harlan, and Farm Table Procurement and Delivery, which buys local produce, milk, meats and other products and sells them to urban restaurants and wholesalers.

“Re-establishing local distribution is a huge challenge, but may be the biggest opportunity,” Ron said.

The Rosmanns encourage new farmers to try new things, but not all at once. Ron added, “Learn from your mistakes and never give up. View the farm as a whole farm system, and you’re on the right track.”

 

 

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