Spring Hits Kroul Farms

See how we take on the season.


Though warmer weather is still new to Eastern Iowa at this point in the year, preparations for spring began at Kroul Farms almost as soon as the fall harvest was over. In late fall, we check our soils and see what natural fertilizers need to added to make sure we set ourselves up for a great crop the next year. We also plant approximately 160 acres of rye grass and clover. The grass acts as a cover crop that prevents soil erosion and gives our cattle more to graze on in the spring. Additionally, all our seeds — including our row crops, produce, pumpkins and flowers — are ordered before winter ends.

The spring workload isn’t unmanageable, especially considering I grew up with farm chores and am also used to devoting countless hours to practice and workouts for the Hawkeyes and New York Jets.

There’s more overlapping in spring than in other seasons. It’s a steady state of work, but it’s not unwelcome. Coming back to Eastern Iowa and knowing what my parents helped establish, I thought this was an opportunity to have a small family farm survive. It was my dream to make it vibrant and leave the farm better than when they took it over.

It also helps that all hands are on deck during the season. As our name suggests, the entire family helps out. By early March, I’m busy around the clock as 15–20 of our heifers who are calving for the first time need to be checked three or four times a day. The main spring calving herd — about 100 head — are checked two to three times a day. Each newborn is tagged and gets some extra care. My brother Adam helps till our row crop fields before I plant the corn and soybeans. Cousins help to keep a pile of firewood cut and dried for camping and summer bundling orders. We still couldn't do all the work without the help of our wonderful team members.

Our produce and flowers really shine in the spring. We start heating our greenhouses the last week of February to get a head start on our vegetable seeding. A little help comes from our heated 6-by-10-foot germination table that runs off a small water heater. John, my dad, fills countless seeding containers with soil, drops a few seeds in each section and keeps the soil moist. Throughout March, we watch the seeds sprout and turn out a few green leaves. We’ll get the vegetables in the ground as soon as ground is dry enough and compost can be worked in. Garden planting extends throughout spring and summer as we want to stagger the variety of produce we harvest for our CSA shares. And though fall still seems a long way off, we start planting pumpkins in late May.

   

Five of our seven greenhouses are devoted to annual and perennial flowers. Kaylene, my mom, started growing flowers as a passion project in the late 1990s. Now, we have customers who wait all year for our spring open house in late April, during whiche sell hanging baskets, flower pots, mulch and garden ornaments to accompany the annuals and perennials. Kaylene orders the spring plants we’ll have in the five greenhouses and does much of the design work for the arrangements and our custom pot orders. 

We always love having visitors stop out to the farm this time of year. For some, they remember their own family’s work farming or gardening. For others, visiting is a great opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from and how we work the lan

For many in Eastern Iowa, they might be one or two generations removed from farming, but they still have stories of going to grandpa’s farm. Farming is still in their blood. Everyone wants to be more involved in where their food comes from or connecting with nature. What I love about our farm is that we make that accessible, whether through getting flowers, seeing where their produce is grown or knowing their farmer and knowing your food.

We hope to see you this spring.

-Matt Kroul  


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