TableTop Farm will host compost heat energy field day during Fall Farm Cruise – Sept. 13, near Nevada

For Release: August 29, 2014

NEVADA, Iowa — Good-quality compost and a heat source can be two indispensable resources on a vegetable farm, especially for farmers seeking to grow for early- and late-season markets. Those resources can be costly, however, straining the farm budget at times of the year when cash flow is already tight.

But what if farmers could use one system to get both compost and heat? An innovative on-farm project by Practical Farmers of Iowa is doing just that: using waste heat from composting to protect delicate crops inside high tunnels during spring and fall cold spikes.

The novel system started heating a portion of the high tunnel soil at TableTop Farm, located near Nevada, in early April. Come see this system for yourself and learn how it works at a Practical Farmers field day the farm is hosting on Saturday, Sept. 13, from 1-3:30 p.m., near Nevada. The event – “Compost Heat Capture for High Tunnel Season Extension” – is free and sponsored by the National Center for Appropriate Technology and Wheatsfield Cooperative. TableTop Farm is located at 65584 260th St., about 6.5 miles southeast of Nevada.

The field day will take place during the Fall Farm Cruise in Polk and Story counties. Rich Schuler, Practical Farmers energy consultant, will discuss the compost heat capture system, as well as its design and heating capacity during the spring growing season. Sally Gran, who operates TableTop Farm, will share her experience with it so far and talk about why the farm decided to try the new system. Attendees will also learn about compost production and quality, and season extension practices on a vegetable farm.

“Last year we installed a $1,400 propane heater in the high tunnel and spent an additional $1,200 on liquid propane,” Sally says. “The cost was unsustainable for the farm budget and didn’t really fit with our energy use philosophy.”

She says the compost heat system doesn’t just save money; it also means self-reliance and a more sustainable way of farming. “It’s important for us to be as self-reliant as possible. Anytime we can use resources available on our own farm, it lowers our ecological footprint. Saving money on compost and high tunnel heat purchases is an added bonus.”

Sally has been growing vegetables at TableTop Farm since 2011. The farm sells produce through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) business, as well as other local markets. The farm’s mission is to provide high-quality produce to local customers while earning fair wages and embodying the principles of community involvement, innovation and ecological resilience.

Directions: From U.S. 30, turn south onto County Road S27 / 650th Avenue. After 2 miles, turn left (east) onto 260th Street. Continue for three-quarters of a mile until you see the TableTop Farm sign on the right.

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 available on Practical Farmers’ website, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed 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 that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through 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


Sally Gran | TableTop Farm | (515) 291-8727 |

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 |