20130910_095647Tony Thompson, Iowa Farmer and IFU Board Member, at Wild Woods Farm near Solon, IA in August 2013. Photo from Tony Thompson.

For Tony Thompson, being a good farmer means taking the best of the past and combining it with the innovations of the present. The spring of 2014 was Thompson’s first growing season on his family’s century farm in central Iowa.

“I want to earn a living from the same land that my great-grandparents earned a living from,” said Thompson.

Thompson is practicing sustainable agriculture, which he defines as a practice that does not degrade the broader environment or social systems agriculture relies on. Thompson’s first growing season on his own as a vegetable farmer on his family’s century farm in central Iowa was in 2014.

“I see both a great need and great opportunity to contribute to shifting agriculture to be better – for farmers, for the land, and for everyone in Iowa,” he said.

Five of the family farm’s 350 acres will be used to produce over 35 different vegetables. The farm also has 250 acres of row crops and some pasture ground. Thompson’s goal for the year is to provide vegetables for 40 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members. A CSA gives him the opportunity to get to know his customers and share his farming knowledge. This makes farming a learning process for everyone involved from farm to table which fits with his New Family Farm’s mission: “Connecting People with Food.”

Thompson’s earliest memories are of riding in a tractor with his father on their family’s farm. In his life, Thompson chose to leave the farm, to build houses around the world with Habitat for Humanity and obtaining a PhD while living in Sweden, but he ended up coming back to farming. Last year, he partnered with two experienced vegetable farmers to learn and gain experience growing and selling vegetables in Iowa.

This year also serves as a milestone for Thompson who was recently elected to the board of the Iowa Farmers Union. He was drawn to the group because if its clear-cut policy positions on land stewardship.

“There’s a need for a true voice for sustainable agriculture and family farming in Iowa,” said Thompson. “IFU seems the most likely candidate for having that voice.”

Thompson said, to him, the IFU is Iowa farmers. In the organization, members serve each other by communicating what Iowa farmers believe in doing, which is supporting independent family farmers and empowering rural communities. Providing this support increases our wealth and health in Iowa. Thompson’s long-term vision for Iowa is a bright one that focuses on local practices to create global changes.

“I want to see Iowa feed the world by first feeding itself,” said Thompson.