Doug Darrow has a calling: “I got into agriculture for community,” Doug says. His passion for agriculture has been revamped recently and he wants people to know his story. Part of Doug’s farming philosophy: taking the opportunity to teach anyone who wants to know. Well Doug, we are honored to have Rapid Creek Ranch in Oxford, Iowa as a Featured Farm on the 5th Iowa City Culinary Ride acting as a pedal-powered vehicle to share your story.
Rapid Creek Ranch produces grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, and free range eggs. Riders will have the opportunity to talk with Farmer Doug about the paradigm shift that has lead him to practice farming in a more sustainable and ecologically sensible way. “I’m excited about doing agriculture again,” Doug exclaimed. “There was a time when I was discouraged and wanted to get out of it.”
But let’s back up a bit to Doug’s “Ah-ha!” moment. A few years went by when Doug found himself disenchanted with what agriculture in Iowa had become. “When my banker told me that I would make more money sitting inside sipping Pepsi and watching Oprah, I realized I had to be honest with myself about how I would need to change my farming practices.” At the rate things were going for Doug, he was working the farm all year long only to brake even. “It was not fair on so many levels,” said Doug. In 2011, Doug sold 120 acres of row crop and rethought his pastures. He decided enough was enough, and proclaimed: “I’ve worked for all the bad guys, now I work for myself.” Now Doug’s divine calling, as he puts it, is to serve people real food and be a steward to the land.
Rapid Creek Ranch is seeing benefits in the soil after just three years in the grassfed cattle industry, with wildflowers and native plants popping back up. Doug has dove head first into educating himself in sustainable farming practices, and shares what he has learn as the story unfolds. “We’re writing the book as we go,” Doug confesses. “But, information on sustainable farming is free-flowing, and that’s the way it should be” he says, in contrast to the cutthroat, share-no-secrets monoculture business he had work in before. Since transitioning to sustainable practices Doug states: “The tension and stress is gone as we move more and more into an holistic approach.”
Speaking with Doug over the phone, I learned that quality of life and healthy livestock boils down to one thing: quality of soil. From the ground-up he’s honing in on his model for spending less, while producing more higher-quality products. Here is a sample of where Doug gets his inspiration.
- Micheal Pollen’s, The Omnivore’s Dilemma – “My thought process began to change while reading this book.”
- Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm – Doug went to his farm in Virginia to meet Joel.
- Stockman Grass Farmer – “I’ve been subscribing to this magazine since the mid ’90’s.
- Bud Williams, Gordon Hazard, Kit Pharo – “These guys are longtime grazers and the pioneers of manage intensive grazing.”
- Acres U.S.A. started by Charles Walters
- MOSES: Midwest Organic & Sustainable Education Service Conference