The Frantzen Family Farm
Ten miles north of New Hampton, Iowa, Tom and Irene Frantzen manage their 300 acre certified organic farm that looks much as it did when folks settled it in the 1890s.
For decades the land was managed as a classic diversified farm, a small, family operation raising several kinds of livestock as well as all the feed for those animals. It was a sustainable way to farm and it was the norm until industrial agriculture usurped the model. In the 60s, 70s and 80s, the Frantzens followed the conventional path, but realized it was a dead end and returned to their roots. By 1998, they were certified organic and managing the farm sustainably once again.
They aimed to improve the quality of life for the hogs they raise for Organic Prairie and moved their animals out of the confinement facility to deep bedded hoop houses in which the hogs have free run of a naturally lit, airy structure cushioned by two to three feet of straw. While the sows stay on pasture all summer with their piglets, they live in the hoop buildings over winter, with access to the outdoors if they want it.
The first time they switched hogs over to the new hoop buildings, Tom was up at 5 a.m. to check the animals. Instead of the usual melee that greeted him at the door of the confinement buildings—squealing, fighting, uncomfortable animals—there was silence, broken only by the sound of animals snoring as they snuggled against each other for warmth and comfort.
The Frantzens also raise beef cattle for Organic Prairie. The herd is on pasture year round, though they’re fed dried forage in winter months when the pasture is dormant and snow lies deep on the ground. When pasture is in full growth, the herd is moved daily to fresh grass to allow the recently grazed pasture to recover.
With all of the farm’s livestock, mental health, living conditions supporting expression of natural behaviors, and food intended for them by nature translated to robust physical health, and anti-biotics became completely unnecessary. Enormous veterinary bills became a thing of the past.
Today the Frantzen’s and their children—Jess, 30 and Jolene, 27, who are both teachers, and James, 22, who will take over the farm when his parents retire—make decisions about the farm by consensus. They work together, as a family for the current generation and generations to come.