ICNC’s Etzel Sugar Grove Farm Earns Organic Certification

Egg & produce operation receives Midwest Organic Services Association (MOSA) certification

Indian Creek Nature Center’s Etzel Sugar Grove Farm has achieved a significant milestone toward a more sustainable future. The Midwest Organic Services Association has certified that the eggs and produce from the farm, available at Indian Creek Nature Center’s Creekside Shop, are organic.

“Three years of transition compliance and documentation with the National Organic Standards Board is a long row to hoe, but the benefits, both ecologically and agriculturally, make the journey rewarding. Soil health is the foundation of sustainability. Advancing biodiversity in every farming decision is what drives my passion for passing the baton to the next generation of grower.”

– Etzel Sugar Grove Farm Manager Scott Koepke

The 190-acre farm, located in rural Marion, was donated to the Nature Center by George Etzel in 2016 and is one of the largest gifts in the Nature Center’s history. For years, the farm was a conventional corn and soybean operation. Since 2016, we have worked to transition the Frontier Co-op Permaculture Field and chicken operation to organic with the goal of modeling sustainable agriculture practices, as well as improving biodiversity, water quality and overall environmental sustainability in Iowa. Organic certification — a rigorous and often challenging process — was a critical piece of implementing our overall mission to promote a more sustainable future.

“Our community should be able to eat locally grown, nourishing foods, and our farmers should be able to make a living providing that. Sugar Grove Farm is helping bring the people and land together to make that possible.”

– ICNC Director of Land Stewardship Jean Wiedenheft

At Etzel Sugar Grove Farm, we are doing the following to maintain our MOSA certification:  

  • Our farm operation is transparent and audited by an independent third party.
  • The Frontier Co-op Permaculture Field and chicken pasture have been free from chemical inputs for three years. Synthetic chemicals and genetically modified organisms will be avoided, following research from the Organic Materials Review Institute and standards set by the USDA.
  • Soil is annually tested and steps are taken to improve its health through crop rotation, cover crops including oat and buckwheat, and organic amendments such as compost and chicken bedding.
  • Certified organic seed and feed are exclusively used.
  • Native habitat is created and maintained, which provides a protective buffer of native prairie around the fields, decreases soil loss and pests, and increases wildlife and pollination.
  • Our chickens have access to the outdoors, as well as adequate indoor space and ventilation to be comfortable. They are fed certified organic feed and nest in chemical-free wood chips.

This organic certification is a commitment to the future of agriculture and will provide a lasting resource for the community. This would not have been achieved without the support of countless volunteers, staff, and corporate sponsors including Frontier Co-op, United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), and Trees Forever.

About Indian Creek Nature Center & Etzel Sugar Grove Farm:

Indian Creek Nature Center, located in Cedar Rapids, is Iowa’s first and only privately owned and operated non-profit nature center. Our mission is to promote a sustainable future through environmental education, leadership in land protection and restoration and responsible interaction with nature. One of the ways the Nature Center practices its mission is through Etzel Sugar Grove Farm — a 190-acre farm located in Marion, Iowa that represents the future of agriculture in Iowa. The farm will lead us toward greater sustainability in farming by implementing and educating the public about regenerative agriculture practices that restore the health of Iowa’s farms, watersheds and environment. Learn more at indiancreeknaturecenter.org.

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