Photos by Barbara Higgins-Dover
Rolling Prairie Farmer’s Alliance: A Venture in Sustainable Life
Throughout the Kansas growing season, lush rows of green cover the rolling hills of Bob Lominska’s property. Situated just six miles north of Lawrence in Jefferson County, this 69-acre tract of hilly land is known as Hoyland Farm; it stands as an agricultural venture into sustainable life.
Lominska uses his farm to grow prairie grasses, timber and safe, natural habitats for wildlife. But his focus is predominantly on the growing of fresh healthy vegetable produce. His growing practice extends far beyond what he can raise for himself; his contributions help to reach the kitchens of residents from surrounding counties, communities and towns in a very profound and collaborative way.
Sustainability is most certainly a catalyst that leads to healthier lifestyles, however Lominska suggests, “We don’t need to be 100% sustaining, I like bananas and oranges, but we should be able to grow a huge amount of food of our own.”
Healthy Farming Practices:
In 1994, Lominska along with several other local growers obtained a Kellogg Grant from the Kansas Rural Center. Their idea was to get farmers and ranchers together in clusters or groups where they could discuss common problems of the farming business and of growing produce in a healthy, non-invasive way. They considered everything, natural pest control, rotation of crops and grazing practices. They pooled all of their ideas together hoping for some solutions. Lominska acknowledges, “I have a big area of land not sprayed in 40 years. This brings in the beneficial bugs and birds that control other insects. I rotate my crops to help rid disease and I also use harmless products like soap to care for my plants.”
Shared ideas such as this intensified the discussions and led to the founding of The Rolling Prairie Farmer’s Alliance, a vegetable cooperative that feeds people all over northeastern Kansas. It is a program that encourages improved practice in farming with natural alternatives. While Lominska does not suggest that all RPFA produce is grown cerified organic, he does emphasize that they always use sustainable practices and Earth-conscious methods.
Made to Order:
The RPFA supplies foods to approximately 300 households using a subscription purchase system, bringing convenience to its customers. Shoppers can have bags of pre-selected, fresh produce delivered weekly through the growing season to the neighborhood location that is nearest to them. For example, those living in or near Lawrence can pick up their produce at the Community Mercantile store. Other growers living in Franklin, Wakarusa, Leavenworth and Johnson counties assist in reaching a larger customer base and by taking their foods to different drop-off sites.
Including Hoyland Farm, the RPFA members are the East Stone House Creek Farm, Maier’s Farm, Sandheron Farm, Wakarusa Valley Farm, Conway’s Produce, and Buller Family Farm. The RPFA's plan for gathering the crops each week monitors who is growing what products, and whose vegetables are ready to deliver. Lominska plays a role by assessing the supply on the weekend. “On Saturday I determine what we have and then another grower gathers everything by Sunday afternoon. We then send emails to confirm all we’ve gathered.”
They then put all the bags together and prepare for deliveries. The foods grown include lettuce, peas, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, mushrooms, beets and cucumbers.
New subscribing members pay an $80 fee and receive a copy of the Rolling Prairie Cookbook as well as a regular newsletter that provides updates on everything green. Other ideas can be found on their website at http:rollingprairie.net.