When young farmers are just starting out, they often need to get creative to expand their business and earn a steady on-farm income.

Farm Bureau members Brandon and Margo Friedlein both work full-time jobs off the farm, in addition to helping with their family's row-crop farm.

They also started Friedlein Produce, selling pumpkins, summer squash, tomatoes and so much more, all grown on their Clayton County farm.

The past few years, the Friedleins sold their produce and baked goods at the Guttenberg Farmers Market every Saturday during growing season.

However, because of their crazy busy schedules, the young couple decided to narrow their focus this year to planting and growing fall produce for the market.

They’ve since added 3 acres of pumpkins, gourds and squash and also have a smaller greenhouse they use for learning purposes, giving the extra produce to family and friends.

Brandon was the first to get into produce. He grew up on the family farm, and for an FFA project in high school, he decided to diversify into vegetable production. That’s when he initially started selling at the Guttenberg Farmers Market.

He constructed a greenhouse on the farm, where he grew vegetables and experimented. Then Brandon took a pause when he headed off to college, where he met Margo.  

Eventually, the couple married and got back into growing produce. Margo didn’t grow up on a farm, but her mom did have a garden. She’s been learning as she goes.

Margo also is a baker and started her own business, Delights by Margo, selling cinnamon rolls, bars and muffins. She now does custom orders only for small events like weddings and birthday parties.

The couple has a small apple orchard on the farm, so Margo uses fresh apples for some of the treats she whips up.

The Friedleins will once again set up at the Guttenberg Farmers Market this fall when their pumpkins are ready, as well as sell wholesale to a nearby greenhouse operation.

The community loves having locally grown pumpkins and fall produce to choose from.

Back when Brandon was in high school, he put on a successful Pumpkin Days event. So when locals caught wind he and Margo would be growing pumpkins, they got excited.

Even with his prior knowledge, growing pumpkins remains a challenge in northeast Iowa. One issue is finding enough land to grow them. Pumpkins require a two to five year rotation. As young farmers, it was difficult finding available land to grow pumpkins.

They eventually decided to try growing pumpkins in an unused patch of timber on their family's Century farm. And the pumpkins are thriving there this summer.

The couple has found ways to overcome the growing hurdles, however, and thoroughly enjoys providing locally grown pumpkins and fall produce to their community.

For Brandon, the best part of what he does is talking about the produce with others.
“My favorite part is customer interaction,” he says.

Margo adds that her enjoyment comes from the delayed gratification of seeing the end product as well as the creativity of it all.

“It’s always really fun to see what you get at the end,” she says.

Because the couple leads busy lives — outside of their farm work, Brandon works at a bank in Elkader and Margo is an elementary teacher, they know how and where they sell their produce will evolve over time, but they will continue looking forward to being a source of locally grown fall produce, pumpkins and vegetables.

Giardino is a freelance writer from Polk City.