Learn about milling small grains, aquaponics and grazing cover crops at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day – Nov. 15, in Panora

For Release: November 4, 2014

PANORA, Iowa — The terms “Iowa” and “farm-raised fish” don’t appear together often, but for Earl and Jeff Hafner of Early Morning Harvest, tending to the tilapia in their aquaponics greenhouse is as routine as checking on their cattle, hogs and chickens. The fish might not be typical livestock, but for the father-son team, they play a vital role: adding another layer of diversity – and resiliency – to the farm’s arsenal of enterprises.

“Aquaculture is fish farming and hydroponics – making vegetables without soil – put together,” Jeff says. “Waste from the fish feeds the vegetables. It started as a hobby, but I didn’t want another hobby – so it expanded into another enterprise. You could keep it growing if you wanted to: There’s definitely a market for farm-raised fish.”

In addition to fish and livestock, the Hafners raise vegetables, certified organic row crops and a slew of small grains that they mill into flours on the farm. Learn how the mill and aquaponics greenhouse work and fit into the farm’s operation at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day Jeff and Earl are hosting on Saturday, Nov. 15, from 1-4 p.m., near Panora. The farm is located at 2425 Willow Ave., about 4.5 miles southeast of town.

The event – “Milling Small Grains and Aquaponics Production” – is free to attend and open to all. The field day is sponsored by Blue River Hybrids and Wheatsfield Cooperative.

Attendees will get to see the certified organic stone mill where Jeff and Earl process rye, buckwheat, wheat and corn into a range of flour products. The Hafners will then lead a tour of their aquaponics production area and explain how the system allows them to grow both fish and vegetables in a closed-loop greenhouse setting. The field day will also feature a visit to two of Jeff and Earl’s pastures where weaned calves and cows are grazing two different kinds of cover crops.

Jeff and Earl add that they’re also eager to learn from field day attendees, and ask that those with high tunnel experience bring their tips and expertise to share. “We’re looking forward to the opportunity for the community to come and learn from us – and we hope to learn something too,” Jeff says.

Established in 2011, Early Morning Harvest is an addition to Earl and Jeff’s diversified cow-calf, hog and certified organic corn and soybean operation. Early Morning Harvest produces vegetables in an aquaponics greenhouse, pastured poultry for egg production and flours made from certified organic grains raised on the farm.

Directions from the northwest: Pass through Panora on Iowa Route 44. About 1.5 miles past Panora, turn right (south) onto Willow Avenue and go 2.2 miles; the farm will be on your right.

From the northeast: If heading south on U.S. 169 toward Adel, turn right at the four-way stop sign onto Hwy 44. Drive about 15 miles and turn left on Willow Avenue. The farm will be on the right in 2.2 miles.

From Des Moines:  Follow Hwy 44 through Grimes toward Panora. One mile before Panora, head south on Willow Avenue for 2.2 miles; the farm will be on your 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 www.practicalfarmers.org.


Jeff and Earl Hafner | Early Morning Harvest | (641) 757-0106 | hafnerin@netins.net

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