Chatting about corn, soybeans, chickens, sheep, and niche agriculture with Wendy Johnson

Tune in for Episode 12 of the Conservation Chat podcast, in which host Jacqueline Comito visits with beginning farmer Wendy Johnson. Wendy is involved in what many may consider a really unique hybrid farming operation: she raises corn, soybeans, sheep, and hay in a traditional farming operation with her father (Center View Farms) while simultaneously operating her own small, diversified, transitioning-to-organic livestock and small grains farm (Joia Food Farm). Both are located near Charles City, in Floyd County.

Wendy’s story of getting into farming is a fascinating one. She grew up on the family farm, but was quick to leave after graduating high school. Her first stop was the University of Minnesota, where she studied clothing design and merchandising, before jetting off to the likes of Atlanta and Los Angeles where she built her career. While Wendy did regularly come back during the fall to help her dad with harvest (“keeping a toe in the farming operation and learning,” as she puts it), it was actually being away from the farm that eventually drew her back. In Los Angeles, Wendy’s passion and connection with food grew through visits to local farmers markets and as she began planting her own backyard garden. In 2010, timing was right, and everything came full circle as she made the cross-country move back to a quieter life in rural Floyd County, Iowa. Follow Wendy’s successes, challenges, and learning experiences on her blog: .

As in every episode of the Conservation Chat, Jackie asks each guest about their #1newthingforwater for 2015. Wendy actually followed up via email with a whole list of things, so here it is!

“I compost almost everything to prevent it from landing in a landfill.  I’ve planted cover crops on a 1/4 of our acres. We split nitrogen application instead of doing it all in the fall.  We no-till drill our soybeans into standing corn stalks. We filled in a huge sink hole!  That’s why we have that ugly area of the creek that we reseeded but looked like major soil erosion was happening.  We leave no fallowed land.  Everything is covered.  And most of all, I planted a perennial in my organic transition acres and am leaving it in for 2 1/2 years to gain more organic matter and have more biological action happening in my soils.  It holds water more efficiently and cleans it.” – Wendy Johnson

Visit the Conservation Chat website to hear the full podcast interview with beginning farmer Wendy Johnson, and catch up on any other previous podcasts that you’ve missed.

Ann Staudt

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