Is Coyote Run Farm in central Iowa the nation’s most important farm?
Iowa View contributor
You may not have heard of Matt Russell or Coyote Run Farm yet, but you will. Matt and his husband, Patrick, operate their 110-acre farm near Lacona, based on selling good food they grow to people they know, what Matt calls relationship marketing. Whether the pasture-raised hens supplying their egg business for many years, the produce they sell to local restaurants or the grass-fed “freezer beef,” their goal is always the same: raise great food and find the customers happy to pay what it is worth. Coyote Run Farm is not just well known to its customers, it may be the most important farm in Iowa.
During the 2019 presidential campaign in Iowa, Coyote Run Farm was a “must do” stop for many Democratic candidates and staff who wanted to see and experience a more progressive take on the future of agriculture — especially how farmers can address the challenge of climate change. Those who visited got to hear Matt explain how conservation practices are helping rebuild the soil and restore the health of their farmland. They got to learn about his vision for how Iowa farmers can and should be the leaders, the people in the driver’s seat, demonstrating the role agriculture must play in our nation’s approach to climate change. The subject is of great interest to the big food companies and national environmental groups who hope they can control that agenda. Matt and Patrick showed the visiting would-be presidents how planting cover crops and using grass-based farming to sequester carbon can provide the answers we need.
I was honored to have Matt work with me at Drake University for a dozen years, but he has spent the past few years encouraging neighbors and Iowa farmers to join the climate fight. His new job is leading Iowa Interfaith Power and Light, a faith-based organization committed to addressing climate change. The presidential campaign provided the opportunity to spread his message to a national audience, and did he ever!
What makes Matt’s work so important? Why might Coyote Run Farm possibly be the most famous farm in America? Here are two reasons. During the 2019 campaign President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, made a stop there. They spent a morning with Matt and Patrick, and neighboring grain farmers, walking the fields and hearing Matt’s message. You guessed it — another candidate who visited Coyote Run Farm was Kamala Harris, our vice president-elect. She and her staff got to hear the message too and see resilient farming practices in action.
This isn’t your typical sad Iowa farm story about failed trade policies, the latest natural disaster, or how farmers need another financial bailout.
Most of the billions in subsidies the administration showered on farmers these past two years went to folks who most likely didn’t vote for Joe Biden and probably wouldn’t have even if their checks came from his bank account. But that’s OK, because he will be a president for all farmers no matter their politics. President-elect Biden has proposed a $2 trillion plan to address climate change, and farmers like those he and Harris met visiting Matt will be front and center in the effort. Their plan has a role for farmers of all sizes and types, who want to be conservation farmers, committed to improving the land by working with nature — not against it. Doing so can restore the joy to farming, growing food and helping address an important national need.
The Biden-Harris team will take Matt’s insights to the White House and into the new administration, meaning there is hope for a brighter future for farmers, consumers, and the land. When this happens, we will all owe our thanks to Matt and Patrick for opening up Coyote Run Farm and helping Iowa lead our nation to a better climate future.
Neil Hamilton is emeritus professor of law at Drake University and former director of the Agricultural Law Center.