Wildflowers are shown at the Indian Creek Nature Center along Otis Road SE. The Nature Center announced its plans for a permaculture farm on Feb. 27, 2018. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS – The Indian Creek Nature Center today announced its strategic vision for the 190-acre Etzel Sugar Grove Farm, as well as the lead gift of $150,000 from local organic products manufacturer, Frontier Co-op, to the project’s seed funding campaign.

The farm, located about four miles northwest of the Tuma Soccer Complex in rural Marion, was donated to the Nature Center by George Etzel in 2016 and is one of the largest gifts in the Nature Center’s history.

Related: Land sale results in $1 million gift to Nature Center

Here is more from Indian Creek Nature Center about the Feb. 27, 2018, announcement:

The Nature Center unveiled a two-phase plan to establish environmentally sustainable permaculture farming practices at Etzel Sugar Grove Farm, and to achieve the organization’s vision to create champions of nature through education and replication of these practices. The Nature Center envisions people and organizations working together to restore the health and integrity of Iowa’s farms, watersheds, and environment.

Frontier Co-op is providing the lead gift for the project. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Phase I of the Nature Center’s plan for the farm includes certifying an 8-acre field as USDA organic, hiring a farm manager, managing livestock including chickens and goats, and planting perennial crops using permaculture practices. The Nature Center will: educate the public on the benefits of permaculture farming, with a focus on the economic viability of these practices; provide gardening, farming, and other how-to programs for the public; and educate farmers and farm organizations on the organic certification process.

Permaculture is an agriculture system that creates efficient, self-sustaining ecosystems, effectively reusing energy and resources as much as possible before they leave the system – rather than solely pulling resources from the earth, as current agriculture does. The benefits of permaculture farming include improving water quality, producing valuable goods for market, providing habitat for wildlife and creating corridors for their travel, sequestering carbon and other greenhouse gases, and more.

At the media conference, Frontier Co-op CEO Tony Bedard announced the company’s partnership with the Nature Center, saying “It’s not often that you’re presented with an opportunity to transform the way our community views such important issues as organic agriculture and environmental sustainability. We’ve chosen to partner with ICNC in their efforts because we know they share our core principals.”

Etzel Sugar Grove Farm consists of 80 acres of agricultural land, 80 acres of timber, 20 acres of pasture, and 10 acres of farmstead. Phase I of the plan for the farm, as detailed above, will extend through 2020.

About Indian Creek Nature Center:

Located in Cedar Rapids, Indian Creek Nature Center is Iowa’s first and only privately owned and operated non-profit nature center. With 500 acres of land under its management, the Nature Center hosts thousands of visitors each year for nature-based programs and activities. The mission of the Indian Creek Nature Center is to promote a sustainable future by nurturing individuals through environmental education, providing leadership in land protection and restoration, and encouraging responsible interaction with nature.

About Frontier Co-op:

Founded in 1976 and based in Norway, Iowa, Frontier Co-op offers a full line of products for natural living under the Frontier Co-op, Simply Organic, and Aura Cacia brands. Products include culinary herbs, spices and baking flavors; bulk herbs and spices; and aromatherapy products with a wide selection of organics. Frontier Co-op’s goal is to provide consumers with the highest-quality products while supporting and promoting social and environmental responsibility. For more information, visit the co-op’s website at www.frontiercoop.com.

The Indian Creek Nature Center’s new building is shown shortly after opening in 2016. (photo/Cindy Hadish)