Face of a Food Champion: Kim Keller
Kim Keller of Blooming Acres Farm is leaving her part-time job to dedicate herself to farming. Until now, she has been splitting her time between vegetable farming and a part-time job as a horticulture specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. “Our business at home has grown so much that I need to care for that,” she explains.
Kim and Steve Keller of Blooming Acres Farm work their booth at the Fairfield Farmers Market. Photo by Jan Swinton.
Keller and her husband Steve grow vegetables, raise chickens for eggs and make baked goods on their farm near Fairfield. They added a high tunnel to their operation a few years ago, which allows them to produce greens all winter long, weather permitting. “My baking business has increased a lot in the last few years too,” she says. “I made over 30 pies last week!”
Keller first began selling produce from her home garden eight or nine years ago, after her two oldest daughters graduated from high school.
“We had time on our hands because we weren’t going to as many school functions. We had land available, and I had a garden and enjoyed gardening.”
Farming also fits into the couple’s long-term goals. “Another reason we’re gardening on a big scale is that it will be a retirement business,” Keller says. “We’re in our late fifties. If you have two or three acres and a good place to market your produce, you can get a decent income from the produce.”
While Blooming Acres Farm does supply a couple of restaurants, most sales are at the Fairfield Farmers Market. It runs all year round, providing a market for greens from the high tunnel throughout the winter. “We can do really well with retail sales because Fairfield has a good farmers market,” she says. “We’d rather sell retail than wholesale.” In the 2014 season they are testing an additional market in the region because high yields left them excess to sell.
Blooming Acres Farm is certified organic, a unique quality among small farms because many small producers find organic certification cost-prohibitive. Keller explains that her farm can recuperate certification costs because customers are willing to pay extra for the product. “People in our town appreciate local food and are willing to come to the farmers market and support local farmers. They don’t complain about the prices […]. Our prices are comparable to a grocery store. We are certified organic; it costs us to be certified and to buy the organic seed. People appreciate that we are certified organic.”
Keller has worked extensively with Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa. “We belong to Hometown Harvest […] and our name is in the [Buy Fresh Buy Local Directory]. People see us in the book and see we are organic; they wouldn’t otherwise know we are an organic farm.” She also notes that she is on Hometown Harvest’s school greenhouse advisory board and has partnered with Hometown Harvest to implement various educational events for farmers in the region.
About this story
This story was produced to accompany a report documenting the impact of the local food industry on Iowa’s economy associated with the efforts of the Regional Food Systems Working Group. Consult the statewide report: 2013 Economic Impacts of Iowa’s Regional Food Systems Working Group.
For more information on the local foods work occurring in the southeastern region, contact Jan Swinton, Pathfinders RC&D, (641) 751-9061, Jan.firstname.lastname@example.org, or go to the Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa website.