Of the more than 90 organizations that applied for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, Indian Creek Nature Center (ICNC) has been awarded $250,000 of Linn County’s $11 million available ARPA dollars. The funds will go toward a $655,000 dollar project to enhance accessibility and infrastructure at the Nature Center’s Etzel Sugar Grove Farm (ESGF).
Established as a satellite location for the Nature Center to continue its mission to educate and inspire environmental stewardship, the goal of ESGF is to demonstrate organic and permaculture farming practices with a focus on economic viability. The 190-acre farm is located in rural Linn County, and was donated to the Nature Center by George Etzel in 2016 with the vision of:
- Implementing regenerative agricultural practices that lead toward greater sustainability in farming
- Improving the health of Iowa’s farms, watershed and environment
- Educating the public on these practices
ESGF offers learning opportunities, partnerships and farming demonstrations that make farming more diverse and economically robust. Topics include beekeeping, organic chicken and orchard management, permaculture practices, and soil building through cover crops. By working toward making agriculture more economically and ecologically sustainable, ICNC can carry out its mission to create a more sustainable future. However, the lack of basic infrastructure — water, sewer, restrooms, equipment space and parking — limits the amount of people and agricultural activities that can take place at the farm.
To grow ESGF to be a hub of local agriculture education, the farm site requires investments in facilities and basic infrastructure totaling $655,000. That includes wastewater treatment systems, public-health approved water sources, produce processing and storage equipment, and stormwater management practices. Making these basic improvements would improve access to high quality but underutilized sustainable agriculture resources.
Currently, ICNC has raised $325,000 through private donors and other revenue sources. The additional $250,000 from Linn County brings the Nature Center closer to its goal and will allow for water and sewer infrastructure to begin to be put into place. Other projects, including produce processing equipment, parking, net-zero energy infrastructure and workshop construction will be pursued once funding has been secured.