Walk-in coolers and pollinators are focus of a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day – June 22, near Columbia – RSVPs requested

For Release: June 9, 2014

COLUMBIA, Iowa — Walk-in coolers and pollinators may seem completely unrelated, but on a market farm selling fruits and vegetables, both are vital assets.

Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan of Blue Gate Farm recently completed a 120-square-foot CoolBot walk-in cooler, which uses a modified air conditioner to keep vegetables fresh. They also raise honeybees in dozens of hives and actively manage their land for beneficial insects that are crucial for pollinating their crops.

“A diverse insect population is needed to pollinate the hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables we produce,” Sean says. “We have encouraged and planned habitat for beneficial insects and keep honeybees throughout the farm to maximize their pollination benefits.”

Jill and Sean invite farmers and the public to learn about these two integral farm assets at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Sunday, June 22, from 2-5:30 p.m., near Columbia. Blue Gate Farm is located at 749 Wyoming St., about 4 miles southwest of Columbia. The event – “CoolBots and Bees: Walk-In Coolers and Pollinators” – is free to attend and will include a potluck. Jill and Sean will provide a main dish, salad and beverages. Please bring a side dish or dessert to share.  RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please reply to Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or lauren@practicalfarmers.org by Thursday, June 19. The field day is sponsored by Certified Naturally Grown.

Attendees will learn about building a walking-in CoolBot cooler; preparing for market on a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm; on-farm pollinator research that Jill and Sean are doing through Practical Farmers’ on-farm research Cooperators’ Program; and prairie plants for pollinators. The day will also feature a farm tour, and participants will get to build their own solitary bee nest to take home. Additional speakers will include Joe Wheelock, an entomology graduate student at Iowa State University, and Thelma Heidel-Baker, a postdoctoral research associate and extension coordinator at ISU.

“We chose to build our walk-in cooler from the ground up to ensure the maximum thermal envelope at a cost far less then purchasing an equivalent commercial unit,” Jill says. “Using the CoolBot technology with a large air-conditioner is more energy-efficient for our size operation, and a much cheaper initial investment.”

Jill and Sean steward family land in the rolling hills of south-central Iowa with 4 acres of chemical-free vegetables and herbs, multi-variety orchards, 160 pastured layers, dozens of honey bee hives, hay ground, timber (firewood and wild harvest), restored prairie, alpacas and two high tunnels. Blue Gate Farm markets farm-made jams and hand-spun yarn to its CSA members and the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market. 2014 marks the farm’s tenth season.

Directions: Blue Gate Farm is in Marion County, just over the northern Lucas County line, halfway between Chariton and Knoxville. At the intersection of state Route 14 and Wyoming Street (County Line Road), turn west for 1 mile. *Note: Do not approach the farm from the west on Wyoming Street; it is a minimum-maintenance road that is often in poor shape.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 field day season features 35 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is currently available on Practical Farmers’ website, and will be available in print at the end of May. Contact the office at (515) 232-5661 to request a copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2014 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Calcium Products; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Gateway Market and Café; Grain Millers, Inc.; Grassland Oregon; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (ICASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Cross Seed – Soil First; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Insurance Corporation; MOSA Organic Certification; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); National Wildlife Federation; Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.


Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers, advancing profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture through farmer-to-farmer networking, farmer-led investigation and information sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.


Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan | Blue Gate Farm | (641) 203-0758 | mail@bluegatefarmfresh.com

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | tamsyn@practicalfarmers.org