The Horticulture Research Station celebrated their 50th anniversary this Saturday.
A farmer’s market, kids games, farm tours and an apple grading and produce washer demonstration kept the public busy on Sept. 16. For the past 50 years the Horticulture Research Station has provided valuable opportunities in research, extension and teaching for students and professionals.
The tour of the farm took groups around the vast 239 acres and was guided by Ben Pease, Horticulture Research Associate. Along the way Pease stopped to talk about the apple trees, pumpkins, watermelon, hops, grape orchard, sports turf field and much more.
While the variety of the food on the farm is often used for research projects, the food gets sold too.
“We are able to sell most of what we grow. If it’s part of a research project once it’s done we can sell it or we’re growing stuff to use the land we’re able to sell it," Pease said. "We use the land for that and made over about a million dollars since 2006 just selling what’s produced here.
The Horticulture Research Station is home to around 80-90 research projects per year. This year they have around 80 projects.
Research done at the farm is primarily applied research, hands on out in the fields themselves.
“When we do have stuff to sell we don’t compete with local growers. We allow them into the market first. Our primary buyers are ISU Dining,” Pease said.
The apples you eat in the dining halls? Those are grown a few minutes off campus at the Horticulture Research Station.
According to Pease, ISU Dining buys 5 tons of green peppers a year.
With the expansive land that is used for the Horticulture Research Station, not all projects revolve around food.
Turtle research is also being conducted at the farm.
“Turtles determine the gender of their offspring by where the egg is laid,” Pease said. “If the egg is laid in a warmer location it becomes a male, if its placed in a cooler location it’s a female. So their finding the mother turtles can sense the environment and they know where to place the egg not just based on the temperature but based on the population in general. Usually they want to have more females than males.”
In 2015 a sports turf field was constructed for research at the Horticulture Research Station.
“What we’re doing here is trying to figure out ways to best manage the turf, making it a good stable playing surface but also a soft stable playing surface,” Pease said.
Research is being done on the turf field to understand how turf can be managed for impact sports to reduce the possibility of concussions, and how they can make the turf last for a whole season.
Thabisa Mazur, senior in Horticulture and volunteer at the Horticulture Research Station, spent her last day of working with the station by selling produce during the 50th anniversary celebration.
Mazur who’s worked at the farm for the last three years has spent her time completing an internship project growing produce, helps work field days, complete maintenance tasks and takes care of research plots and harvest data.
“It’s a very empowering and learning centered environment because it is a research farm. I think its unique in that students can really learn a lot and get hands on experience,” Mazur said.
According to Mazur this is the best job she’s ever had.
Nick Howell, superintendent of the Horticulture Research Station, oversees all aspects of projects going on at the farm.
“I can’t go a single day without learning something new, and that’s kind of significant and amazing because there aren’t any other places like this at Iowa State. We’re very proud to be here,” Howell said.