A Guthrie County farmer, who’s resisted using synthetic chemicals for nearly two decades, is this year’s recipient of the Practical Farmers of Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award.
Earl Hafner of Panora was honored by the group Friday night at its annual meeting in Ames. Hafner recalled his decision to abandon chemicals in the late 1990s, saying the label “certified organic” quickly paid off.
“People start calling you because the demand is so high…marketing is not hard because people, once they find out you have organic crops, we get all kinds of brokers calling,” Hafner said. The demand for organic food continues to rise, which is good for Hafner’s bottom line.
And while the 71-year-old Hafner likes making dollars, he says going chemical-free just made sense. “I just remember when I was a kid in the 1940s and 50s very few, if any, chemicals were used. We would walk the beans and we didn’t have near the weeds in the beans that we do know,” Hafner said. Hafner farms with his son, Jeff.
Their operation, called Early Morning Harvest, covers 2,000 acres and includes certified organic row crops, grass-fed cattle, hogs, and pastured poultry for egg production. The father and son also run a grain mill and an aquaponics greenhouse that includes tilapia — fish raised for food.
“The grain mill was my hobby and the greenhouse with tilapia was Jeff’s hobby and, you know, those hobbies just kind of went wild,” Hafner said with a laugh. “We just kept growing and expanding. You wouldn’t think that tilapia would be in such demand, people know exactly where they’ve come from and what they’ve been fed, so there’s no river contamination or anything like that.”
The Hafner’s diversified farm also produces honey and vegetables.