Mission: Growing community capacity through service learning and food security for sustainable, equitable outcomes.

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Cultivating Community Capacity

Tobin and Mollie Krell moved from Portland, Oregon to Burlington, Iowa just two years ago to start what is now Homestead 1839. The 20-acre farm has been in Mollie’s family since 1839, before Iowa even became a state. Mollie taught special education and garden education for after-school programs in Portland. Tobin worked as a restorative justice specialist when he lived in Oregon. He created programs for kids to prevent them from dropping out or getting kicked out of school. The Krell's decided to combine their backgrounds in starting up Homestead 1839 as a way to better serve their community and preserve the heritage of their family farm.

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Organic Produce

Due to centuries of growing corn and beans via conventional farming practices . . .

. . . the Krells are determined to transition to a more sustainable way of farming. They are currently in the process of transitioning five acres of land to be organic. This means that there will be no synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or the use of seeds that have been genetically altered (GMO). Once the land is transformed, the Krells hope to send some of the produce to market as a way to help sustain the organization.

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Service learning: 

Juvenile Justice

Tobin understands the school to prison pathway that routinely pushes youth out of school and into the judicial system. Although hard evidence does not exist, it has been speculated that prison population projections are often based on third-grade reading scores. Essentially, by looking at third-grade reading scores, the judicial system is able to predict how many beds prison's would need to accommodate for the future based on the number of students who do not meet the expected reading level. Instead of focusing on improving the educational system, it is common for prisons to expand or build anew. This is an example of the school-to-prison pipeline.


At Homestead 1839, the main focus is on youth and giving them the opportunity to work with their hands in the garden. Time spent working outdoors often serves as an outlet for pent up energy and emotions. Many youths volunteer their time at Homestead 1839 whether it's through community service, juvenile court services, vocational rehab, or resume building. Some of Mollie's students from school also participate in these programs during the summer. For Mollie, it is a great way to stay connected with the students year round and maintain positive relationships.  

Students are on the farm typically once to twice a week where they complete a variety of tasks such as planting, mulching, creating garden paths, and removing weeds. They are encouraged to take home vegetables from the garden during harvest, and enjoy the result of the summer's work. 

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Giving Back

Most of the vegetables grown in the garden are collards, kale, radishes, and tomatillos. A quarter of the garden is used strictly for donations. 

Food is delivered to food banks, schools, summer lunch programs, and food pantries. The Krells also incorporated a "you-pick" flower garden in collaboration with the Master Gardener Program, where customers will ultimately be able to pick their own unique flower variety.

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And Saving the Bees

The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) is a land conservation program through the FDA that is committed to supporting bees and other pollinators by providing large acres of natural wildflowers and cover crop. These native habitats work by attracting insects that are predators of crop pests to ultimately reduce the need for pesticides. Pollinators, especially bees, are crucial to the environment because they serve as natural pollinators and are responsible for the germination of a large percentage of agricultural commodities. The Krells joined CRP as a way to preserve the land and help it's natural pollinators. Fourteen acres of the Krell's land, where native cover crop is grown, is being used as part of this program.


To learn more about Homestead 1839 and to get in touch with Tobin and Mollie, check out their Facebook Page.