Renewable Farming

How Heartland Farms won the hearts of its fruit and vegetable customers

 

By Erik Carlson     The early eighties found the Midwest in a farm crisis. As divorce rates and home troubles in farm families rose, some individuals broke under the strain of an economic disaster in America’s rural heartland. Many more who depended on American agriculture for their livelihood faced financial ruin.

Dave Myers started growing strawberries in 1983 in Iowa — in the thick of this farm crisis. One local farmer at the coffee shop chuckled at him, asking, “Who’s gonna buy ‘em, sonny?”

Dave, a skilled welder with a penchant for fixing things right the first time, already had a full time job as a welder and maintenance man. He found a 30-acre patch in a sparsely populated area east of Waterloo, Iowa, took what knowledge he had from his upbringing on the farm, and read up on Strawberry farming.

Heartland Farms strawberries in June  (Photos by Jeanene Carlson) 

He tended to his strawberry crops when he had extra time. He picked up clients here and there, impressing them with his good quality strawberries. By 1990 he had a small walk-in, pick your own strawberry business, and was able to juggle his job and the fieldwork at the same time. Eventually, Dave would leave his 9 to 5 job and run Heartland Farms full time, expanding into various types of pumpkins, vegetables, flowers, sweet corn, open pollinated field corn, and even importing fruit trucked up from his favorite southern suppliers.

I know Dave from “way back” in my I.T. days. I received Dave as a computer customer, and my wife helped him with his website for Heartland Farms. My wife Jeanene took our boys out to Heartland strawberry and pumpkin farm regularly over the years, buying high quality produce. I left my computer career in 2008 and dove headfirst into our family business manufacturing, testing and marketing “WakeUP.”

In 2010, when I found myself face to face with Dave at Heartland Strawberry farm, I had something new to offer besides computer repair. WakeUP.

Do I have the perfect product for you, I thought! Dave took the time to listen to my pitch on our new Snake Oil. I did well: He feigned polite interest. After only two short years, he finally agreed to try some. Dave doesn’t try anything, much less approve of it, unless it passes through his series of finely tuned BS filters first. Dave gets calls and offers from dozens of “fertilizer salesmen” every year.

Dave Myers in greenhouse

By the Fall of 2013, I was thrilled to hear directly from Dave that he had used WakeUP for a season and was indeed impressed with it. This, to me, was a bit like having Dale Earnhardt JR endorse a set of tires, and actually use them on his cars. “If Dave likes it,” I told Jeanene — who was already nodding because she knew his demeanor — “That’s our proof right there that it works.”

We’d already done several years of field trials with WakeUP used to mobilize hundreds of different foliar products, with excellent results – but the proof is in the pudding.

This summer, Dave texted me, saying: “Tested the sweet corn today — 22 to 25 Brix”.

I feebly responded back “Ha ha, I’ll have to test ours now!” Deep down I knew the truth… he’d outclassed our own sweet corn by about 5 brix. He has the Secret Weapon, WakeUP, to “turn on” all of his foliar fertilizers which he has carefully selected over 30 years.

Dave uses a high volume system to spray his crops, and adjusts his dilution accordingly. He built his own spray rig based on a PTO-driven fire engine pump, applying 150 to 200 gallons of water per acre. He drives the tractor and high-capacity spray tank system down lanes between his crops and shoots the adjustable stream into the field as far as he likes. He has also reduced his crop protection chemical usage to below half rates by adding WakeUP. The heavy spray drenches the plants and leaves behind a glossy, clear coated leaf surface, typical of WakeUP’s colloidal micelle ability to drop surface tension. Dave learned that highly diluted nutrients are more quickly absorbed by leaves. That fact was confirmed later by a University of Nebraska foliar feeding scientist, Dr. Roch Gaussoin.

Greenhouse at Heartland Farms

Dave now grows herbs, asparagus, unique varieties of tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, dozens of other vegetables, and thousands of pumpkins. He has set up a free rural adventure-land for visitors with corn mazes, a huge air filled people-bouncer, and a custom made pneumatic pumpkin cannon called “The Punkinator” that shoots pumpkins into junk cars, smashing in the doors amid cheers of spectators.

Dave and his crew also host spooky barns, small animal displays, funhouses, and has hosted a giant crane that performed a “pumpkin drop” from on high.

He has set up greenhouses, air seeders, plant nurseries and a really impressive tomato greenhouse. They sell home-made jams and jellies along with carefully selected and refrigerated produce. As for strawberries, you can pick your own or simply drop by and take what you like out of the cooler, carefully picked by Dave’s crew. And of course, Dave welded up his own custom-made, stainless jelly making pot complete with a slick jar-filling valve.

Jam and jelly filling from stainless vat

Dave’s latest tally on our product was summarized this August: “WakeUp has become S.O.P. around here.” He uses WakeUP Summer to mobilize an array of custom nutrients — high-powered foliar fertilizers formulated for his specific crops.

You can’t argue with his results. I no longer try to correct his ratios of nutrients and water. WakeUP is a flexible product, but being himself, Dave takes this to the edges and beyond to stress-test the product. He’s using WakeUP to power his fertilizers, and has given himself the ability to reduce his overall rates of agricultural chemicals, including nutrients, while increasing their coverage and effectiveness.

He has found that WakeUP is not only increasing the efficacy of his foliars and soluble fertilizers, but is improving the soil quality and tilth. Dave has told me that straw, properly degraded into the soil at a rate of 3 to 4 tons per acre, has been a good additional fertilizer and carbon source.

Our research with enhanced root mass and crop residue backs that up. We’ve converted compacted pastures into coffee-ground tillable fields inside of a couple of years with regular applications of WakeUP, foliar nutrients, ag lime and a calcium sulfate form of gypsum. Some of our customers who have visited our test plots will walk through the field and, as their boots sink deep into the soil, they say, “Wow! How did you do this?” They like to pick up handfuls of the soft, crumbly earth. Ah yes, WakeUP my good man. WakeUP and doing things the way God intended, by restoring the balance of nutrients and good soil bacteria and good fungus.

Dave is always on the lookout for invasive pathogens such as fungus and bacteria specific to the crops he grows, such as “Red Steel” in strawberries.

Purple tomatoes ripening on the vine

Dave told me this year: “We held off a whole greenhouse full of fungus that tried to take hold on my year’s crop of tomato seedlings, using WakeUP and a very sparse rate of fungicide.” (We don’t make fungicide claims, but apparently WakeUP is a useful adjuvant for the fungicide Dave used.)

His tomatoes and strawberries look incredible. Dave doesn’t like to use chemicals if he doesn’t have to. It’s been our experience that as crop health improves yearly with good nutrition and WakeUP, you eventually get to a “tipping point” where you no longer need toxic chemicals to stave off fungus and insects. The crops do it themselves. This is classic Carey Reams theory: High-brix plants — naturally high in sugars — cause insects to avoid them.

Heartland Farms tomatoes

Dave states on his website, “Times change; the tools and methods we use to grow our crop is ever changing.  Our values have stayed the same.  Grow and offer the very best possible, do this with a smile.  Be neat, clean and organized.  Always, always refer to the Golden Rule.“

 

Erik Carlson and his wife Jeanene own Generation Ag LLC, which manufactures WakeUP formulations for Renewable Farming LLC at Cedar Falls, Iowa. He is also Production Manager for Renewable Farming LLC. Jeanene is Office Manager and raises an extensive garden, using WakeUP.

Dave Myers, left, with Erik Carlson
Heartland Farms retail showroom

 

 

 

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