The New Century Farm includes expansion of the current non-profit, local food production with upgrades to the historic building area to provide better public access, installation of three major trails throughout the site that connect to Iowa City’s Hunter’s Run Park, changes to the land use that allow for smaller plots to be leased to beginning farmers, a new farm facility that will provide training to farmers, and a housing development.
Following a competitive RFP process in 2016, the Johnson County Board of Supervisors selected HBK Engineering and Iowa Valley RC&D to assist with the Master Planning process for the Johnson County Historic Poor Farm (JCHPF). Over the course of 18 months, the Master Planning process included discussions with the Board of Supervisors and a number of stakeholder groups. These discussions provided valuable input for the completion of the first phase with the County Supervisors choosing the New Century Farm concept to usher in Phase Two of the Master Plan. This second phase further investigated the details for fiscally managing the site per the outlined plan. As of January 2018, the JCHPF is now in Phase Three: Implementation with several changes occurring on the site, such as the establishment of the 15.5-acre pollinator plot, installation of the entrance signage, and restoration of the West Barn.
The first year of implementation of the Master Plan centered on cleaning up the site and improving the soil health for the Land Access Program. 10-acres on the northwest side of the West Barn was seeded into an oats and clover mix to prepare the land for transitioning away from commercial farming practices and toward small farm practices that utilize Certified Naturally Grown Standards. A landmark entrance sign was built to mark the northwest entrance for visitors and volunteers. A 15.5 acre pollinator habitat was established just south of the community food production area. This pollinator habitat includes seed from Johnson County Conservation areas as well as a mix of plants such as Late Figwort and Hairy Mount Mint.
One of the main site improvements was an extensive restoration of the 1916 monitor barn - the West Barn. The restoration included replacing the broken and displaced concrete foundation, pouring a new concrete floor to provide accessibility into the renovated building, and the original wood frame of the building was repaired and squared, restoring the building back to its original configuration, complete with the original horse stalls along the southern portion of the barn. This restoration was completed to ensure the West Barn’s stability and extend its life as a gathering space for future open-air events. The Land Access Program was launched and two small farms were established - Trowel and Error and Moving 4ward.
We are currently in our third year of implementation. This year we were fortunate to expand the Land Access Program to include a few more small farms and include upgrades, such as a second washing station, improved water irrigation, and a driveway. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 global health pandemic, we were unable to offer the farm as a gathering place for events or historic tours but we still encourage people to visit the site!