About ZJ Farm

Susan Working on the Farm

Susan Jutz at ZJ Farm

ZJ Farm is an 80 acre, diversified family owned farm located on rolling hills between Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. We purchased the farm on contract from a neighboring farmer, signing the paperwork on April 1, 1994. In March, before the papers were signed, we bought a used Kubota tractor with a bucket and Susan and 22-month-old David removed sod from a 50’ x 150’ piece of ground for a family garden. The promise of a tractor ride to the compost pile each time the bucket was filled with sod was the only incentive David needed to keep busy carrying sod clumps.

When we bought the farm, all of our cropland was in CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) making it easy to transition and maintain our family goal of organic production. We came to Iowa with milking goats and sheep, 4-H projects managed by Frances, Reuben and George. Early on, in an effort to “cash flow” the farm, we finished up to 1000 hogs a year for several years. In 1996, with an invitation to join a milk route and Frances’ strong commitment to the dairy we expanded our goat herd to 40 does and began shipping milk to a cheese plant in WI. Reuben’s commitment to the sheep led us to expand our ewe flock and begin marketing our meat lambs locally. As if that was not enough work, in 1997 Simone Delaty, Jane Woodhouse and Susan started Local Harvest CSA with 18 families.

Old buildings on our farm are abundant and over the years, we have adapted them to fit our needs. The lean-to of the “cattle barn” serves as a spacious packing and storage shed while the main section of the same barn is a “CSA Harvest Party barn” in September, a winter lambing shed and storage shed the rest of the year. In 2009 with the addition of a fall/winter share, we converted sections of our 100-year-old barn to a winter storage facility. “New” building additions include a used walk-in cooler and a 20’ x 96’ stationary high tunnel and more recently in 2010, a 30' x 72' moveable tunnel and a 18' x 65' germination house.

Over the years, Susan’s four children Frances, Reuben, George and David have been critical to the success of the farming operation, contributing their individual skills, ideas and expertise to the planning and implementation of practices and enterprises. Frances and Reuben have since graduated from college and continue to act as virtual consultants. Frances is a vet in Torrington, Wyoming and Reuben works at General Mills in Cedar Rapids. George is at ISU working on a masters in mechanical engineering. David graduated from high school in May 2010 and is currently attending Kirkwood Community College.  Tysen, David's son, born in September 2010, is the latest addition to our family.  Ty loves spending time on the farm and especially enjoys "visits" with the sheep and our two dogs, Lexi and Jaz.

As the children moved on to other endeavors our farming enterprises have changed. Today we have no goats and only an occasional pig for our own locker. We continue to rotationally graze a 40-ewe flock on 26 acres of pasture and market the lambs to local customers. We have 43 acres in CRP, which we manage for wildlife habitat, and every remaining piece of ground is devoted to vegetable production for Local Harvest CSA.