Growing Healthy Food and Demonstrating Innovative, Sustainable Farming

Blue Dasher is an operating farm intended to showcase cutting edge sustainable agriculture practices, produce high-quality food for local markets, support the proliferation of farmland diversification with seed production, and produce a line of insects and insect-related products for ecological services and art. The 53-acre farm is located in Deuel County near exit 157 of I‑29, and represents production conditions and practices present in the eastern Great Plains and Upper Midwest (e.g., grain and biofuel row-crop agricultural production, small-scale fruit, nut and vegetables, honey bees, and small livestock). The entire farm is divided into replicated blocks of equal size that allow the empirical evaluation of new practices and their effect on the farm and surrounding environment. The farm is 100% no-till, and is focused on regenerating soil and fostering biodiversity within a sustainable and profitable farming operation. Maximizing perenniality in crops and area habitat is a major priority to achieve these goals. Integral in Blue Dasher’s plan is demonstrating how multiple revenue streams can increase the resiliency of the farm to perturbations in farming markets and weather conditions.

Products and revenue streams for the farm include

  1. Farm products. Blue Dasher is an operating farm, and we produce a variety of perennial fruit and nut crops, and annual vegetable crops for marketing direct to consumer (regional markets and restaurants). Small livestock (pigs, goats, chickens, etc.) is an important component to sustainable farming, and we will produce animals for both meat and products (eggs, milk, value-added products). Finally, a major growth area for sustainable agriculture is the production of high quality, locally adapted seeds for use as cover crops and in restoration of native lands; seeds of these plants will be an integral component of Blue Dasher Farm’s product line.
  2. Research and Education fees. The replicated design of the farm makes it an ideal location for conducting field research on innovative farm and pest management practices that is suitable for publication in peer-reviewed, scientific journals. The facilities and location of the farm will be strategized to host workshops and training opportunities on insect conservation and soil health.
  3. Bee products. As the name suggests, insects are an important aspect of Blue Dasher Farm, and the farm implements a small scale honey bee operation for local pollination, honey, wax, and value-added products for local markets.
  4. Insects and insect art. Research will help to develop insect species that can be sold for various services to regenerative agriculture. Early product development will focus on hive-adapted predators as a non-chemical control for Varroa mites, and on dung beetles to help reduce pasture fouling and dung-associated parasites. Rearing butterflies, ants, and caddisflies for artwork is another product line that Blue Dasher will pursue. This insectary side of the operation makes Blue Dasher unique and adds winter-generated product lines.