How to Put Down Roots - Guest Interview with Organic Farmer Corbin Scholz
Taking the road less traveled in 2019 looks like driving down a windy gravel road to a secluded three-acre hay farm. Ascending the hill, two rose colored pigs bound into view. Maybe they understand their new lease on life after being sold for hanging weight and eluding slaughter, or maybe they just feel so good running around in a clover patch they must kick up their back legs. This patch of prairie is the perfect spot to pause and think. It will not take long before this little organic vegetable farm becomes a visual contrast to the sterile aisles of the local supermarket. Seeing the land and the animals makes the next first bite a little more potent.
A few years back Corbin Scholz was wrestling personal discomfort with her own journey. Headed to medical school, she noticed homework sessions kept turning into learning sabbaticals for organic farming, gmos, and pollinators. With a passion for human health, it was a natural decision for her to follow her conscience to a cleaner, better lifestyle. No longer could this Iowa native think about sweet corn harvests in the fall without considering the water sources, seed lineage, and farming traditions. She is a firm believer that when you are made aware you cannot go on living the way you used to.
An Iowan at heart, she returned to her home state to dig roots into the land that needs so much restoration from decades of conventional farming. After a fun, piggy visit to Rainbow Roots Farm in Solon, IA we get to hear from Corbin ourselves about her journey from undergrad medical student to a passionate organic vegetable farmer out to educate the future generations. Her love for the world around us will grow right into your heart, spurring you on to use your dream to make this Earth a better place.
MK: Tell us how Rainbow Roots Farm came to be.
CS: I was in a coffee shop, freshly graduated from the University of Iowa as a pre-med student, and I came across an article on my laptop about pollinators. I was shocked to learn bumble bees may become extinct due to human interference with their natural world. One link led to another and I was learning about GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, factory farming, tillage, and greenhouse gases caused by conventional farming. Despite growing up in farm country USA, I had no clue where our food came from and what I was putting in my body.
My passion was realized, and I got hooked on sustainable farming. I wanted to serve quality food to people that is also healthy for our air, water, and economy. In 2018 instead of returning to medical school, I spent a year on Whidbey Island, Washington attending The Organic Farm School. It’s a vocational program that teaches all sides of owning or managing a small-scale organic vegetable farm. After the program, I moved back to Iowa City, where the niche for sustainable and organic farmers is untapped compared to the West Coast. There it seems like an organic farm is on every street.
MK: What was the one factor that pushed you from growing healthy vegetables for yourself to owning and running a farm?
CS: I decided to take the plunge into my own business because I wanted to make an impact on my local community. The same community that gave so much to me growing up. And what better place to have an organic vegetable farm than right in the middle of conventional farm country?
I operate this farm with education as my primary goal. I want people to know exactly how much work it takes to get vegetables on your plate. Kids need to understand a farmer should be held at as high a status as a doctor. I am starting young to give myself more time to grow my farm into the one in my dreams.
MK: Why is it so important to get to know farmers to change the way we consume and purchase food?
CS: Your farmer wants to make sure you are getting good, clean food into your body. Getting to know your farmer is the best way to know where your food comes from. To go out and see the farm, meet the animals, and help harvest the vegetables is the only way we can be more conscious about what we are eating.
When we support local food, our currency stays in our economy. Not only is your money for the farmer to get healthcare and support their family, but local produce eliminate transportation reducing the amount of carbon emissions into our atmosphere.
MK: On your website and social media you write about your farm being on an old 3-acre hay plot. What did you need to learn about the land’s history to start the process of returning the soil to a healthier state for organic farming?
CS: The idea of sustainable farming is to keep the land exactly as it is. Coming into this land that I lease, I knew it had been a hay field for the past 15 years. Before committing, I sent in a soil test which informed me of the amount of nutrients in the soil. It was in better shape than starting with an old conventional farm field, or recreational area, or parking lot; but since we have been farming and degrading the soil for so long, if we kept the “sustainable” mindset, it would not be enough.
I practice regenerative farming, where I am making the soil healthier, keeping the water safe, and the air cleaner. Each season I hope to add what was taken away, to maintain an equal state. The information from the soil test prepared me for the fertility I needed for all my crops in the first season. As the farm grows, I hope to increase the health of the soil, which then creates better conditions for everyone.
MK: When you meet people who are as excited about your dream as you are, what encouragement do you give them for living a better way?
CS: When I meet people, who are as excited as me about my dream, it means they have a passion inside them waiting to unfold. When we cultivate our minds and take chances to find something we are truly passionate about, we will also be living a dream. People have been so scared to follow their own path away from society’s standards. If we have more people following their heart, the world will be a better place. Living with money and status is old school. Change the world, and you’re the real winner.
MK: Corbin, thank you so much for cultivating a better future for everyone in Iowa and beyond. Keep us posted when your harvest comes in so we can be cheering you on to a successful first year finish! More information about Corbin, a few of her inspirations, and Rainbow Roots Farm can be found below.