Know Your Farmer: Hans Bishop of PrairiErth Farms

Local Producer Profile: PrairiErth Farm in Atlanta Illinois Q & A with Hans Bishop, Owner

What does your business name mean to you? How did you choose this name?

We feel it's important to keep in mind what our land was before it was settled and believe that those prairies contribute to our ability to grow healthy crops in making our land fertile today and for future generations. Dave named the farm several years ago and when we (Katie and Hans) came back to the farm that was the name we inherited, however our farm name was also inspired by William Least Heat-Moon's book PrairErth.

Where is your business/farm located? How many miles do you travel to reach Common Ground?

We are located about 70 miles west of Urbana on state route 10.

What do you produce/grow/raise? What is your signature product?

We like to think that diversity is our signature. We have eggs, meats, and produce that we raise on the farm. It is our goal to be able to offer as many things as we can seasonally grow in Illinois. It would be hard to pick just one product but I think our carrots are probably one of the most popular things we grow. For how long have you been making your products/farming?Dave has been farming for over 40 years, Hans grew up on the farm and 2014 is his 5th season back farming since leaving his office job. Katie has been at the farm for 5 seasons as well and will be leaving her corporate job next season to manage all of the washing and packing of produce for the farm.

Where do you get the ingredients for your products?

Seeds are our ingredients and we support companies who carry certified organic seeds. Our favorites are FedCo (a seed co op), Johnny's, and High Mowing Seeds.

Do you use organic or fair trade (natural) ingredients/farming practices?

Our farm is certified organic. This is very important to us because while we do offer tours and open our farm to the public we believe it is important that those who may not be able to see our farm know that someone else is verifying our growing practices.

What do you enjoy most about making your products/farming?

We really enjoy getting to know our customers and interacting with them. Finding out what they would like us grow, what tastes great and how those flavors change through the season. It's fun to see kids get excited about real food. Organic farming is a challenge and an adventure and it never gets boring!

What do you find most challenging about making your products/farming?

I think the lack of predictability is the biggest challenge. All of our hard work could be wiped out in one bad storm. Weeds can be a challenge as well, sometimes we have crops we can't get to if the weather is wet for too long of a time. In the end its an adventure and we just have to look back on decisions we made and learn from them so we can try not to make a mistake twice.

What is your philosophy/perspective on locally made goods/ farming and agriculture?

We believe that we should mimic nature whenever possible. Chickens graze last year's fallow vegetable fields. This season's vegetable fields were hay last season which fed our cattle through the winter, and our hogs, chickens, and cows share in eating excess crops. This allows us to close our farm's circle and bring in less outside nutrients to amend our soils.

Is there anything else you'd like Common Ground's customers to know about your business/farm?

Everyone at PrairiErth Farm is very appreciative and grateful for what Common Ground's staff and customers have done to promote and grow our business. Without Common Ground we would not be able to even consider having our whole family employed on the farm and bring Katie away from her office job.