January can be a bleak month in southwest Iowa. Low lying clouds can conjure feelings of claustrophobia, and with minimal snow on the ground muted earth tones are pervasive. However, talking with Jessa Bears who, along with her fiancé, Melissa, owns and operates Sycamore Ridge Small Farm LLC, I am reminded that spring will soon return.
When I pulled into Sycamore Ridge Small Farm, located just west of highway 59, south of Shenandoah, I was greeted by her friendly farm dogs. Jessa was outside too, already busy with her morning chores. Jessa walked me around her farmstead, introducing me to her animals. We discussed all the exciting things she has planned for the upcoming season. When many of us are simply surviving the doldrums of winter, waiting for the first glimmer of spring, Jessa is busy planning for her upcoming season. And she has some interesting and new ideas. With the ever-rising cost of food, and concerns about supply chain issues, Jessa has decided that this season she will offer what she is calling Garden Starter Kits. A Garden Starter Kit is a terrific idea for someone who has an area, even a small area, to plant some veggies, but maybe they are intimidated by the process. Her Garden Starter Kits are offered in three sizes, small, medium and large. With the kit you get vegetable and herb starts, the number depending on the kit size you purchase. The kits also come with optional add-ons: rabbit manure fertilizer, flower starts, and additional herb starts. What I like most about her Garden Starter Kits is that with the kit purchase, Jessa is offering her expertise. She is willing to answer questions about the plants and gardening process, hoping to eliminate doubts that may stop someone from planting a garden. However, these kits are not limited to those that are garden newbies, maybe you don’t have the space or time to grow your own starts. If that’s the case, talk to Jessa. She has you covered.
Another exciting and colorful idea that Sycamore Ridge is offering for the upcoming season is what Jessa is referring to as a Flower Experience. The Flower Experience gives you a chance to visit Jessa and Melissa’s farm and cut fresh flowers for bouquets. This season they will be growing nine fifty-foot rows of zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos and more. You can pre-purchase the Flower Experience now for yourself, or maybe as a gift to a friend, or loved one. This Valentine’s Day consider giving someone a gift, or an experience, that keeps giving through the growing season.
In addition to vegetables and flowers, the ladies at Sycamore Ridge have a diverse group of animals that call the farm home. They raise Flemish Giant rabbits, a large breed historically valued for their fur and meat. They raise Nigerian Dwarf goats and sell the offspring. A flock of laying hens provide eggs for their family, and when there is excess Sycamore Ridge sells them to the public. A pig, named Gir, and Macy, a brown cow, are part of the farm family too, and are considered more pet-like than livestock.
Visiting with Jessa was energizing and hopeful. She is enthusiastic about her farm and about helping people realize the benefits of plants and purchasing locally raised vegetables and proteins. When I asked Jessa why she enjoys farming, her answer was simple and understandable, “I like it because it makes me happy”. This happiness is apparent in her creativity and willingness to discuss her farm.
If you would like to meet Jessa and swap seeds, talk gardening or flowers, or if you are simply longing for the green to return and the feel of soil on your fingertips, come to the Annual Southwest Iowa Seed Swap this Saturday, January 28th from 11am-2pm at the River Market 190, 2025 190th Street, between Shenandoah and Clarinda. Bring some seeds to swap, or just come and meet the farmer. If you need more information prior to Saturday call or text Jessa at (712) 309-1113.
To learn more about what Jessa and Melissa have to offer visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SycamoreRidgeIA or their easy to navigate and shoppable webpage: https://www.sycamoreridgesmallfarm.com/
In addition, Sycamore Ridge Small Farm LLC products can be found at Shepherds Frock in Sidney, and the Red Oak Farmers Market.