Local farmers Jake and Lara McGreal work each day to better themselves and their work in the farming industry.
The two met at Loras College in 2013 while working on their undergrad degrees. Jake graduated in 2013 with a degree in engineering, and Lara in 2014, with a degree in Spanish and international studies.
In September 2018, the McGreals moved to the farm they are at now in Clayton County, and began fulfilling their vision of all-natural, organic, clean farming. They wanted to get involved in farming because of their love for the land, the outdoors, and most importantly, the community. They describe themselves as farming experimenters with big hearts, who are dedicated to connecting back to their Midwestern roots by providing the Northeast Iowa community a healthy lifestyle through the products they produce. On their 40-acre farm, they specialize in maple syrup extraction, gardening, and 100% grass-fed beef.
Jake was born and raised in Clayton County on the same land he lives on now. His parents, Pete and Kristi McGreal, live just a couple miles down the road from his house, and he was very happy to be closer to his family when he and Lara made their move in 2018. Jake is hard-working, and a deep-thinker. He has learned to take matters into his own hands and problem-solve away from a desk. He enjoys learning more each day about how to farm sustainably, and responsibly. Jake also tends toward more of the logistics side of the business, while also being a handyman.
Lara comes from a background of groundbreaking and risk-taking immigrants from Cuba, Italy and Germany. She has traveled and lived abroad in Spain and 24 other countries in Europe, Northern Africa, Central and South America and Asia. Despite all of her experience abroad, she is a Chicago native from the west suburbs who grew up thinking that food only came from a grocery store. She has spent her life learning to challenge herself and soak up what life has to offer. Her home is the Midwest and she has chosen to establish herself within nature. Lara is a self-proclaimed extrovert, and thus, does most of the communication regarding their family farm business.
Their mission is to provide quality food to the people around them. They try their best to use sustainable practices to give Mother Nature the love she deserves.
The two own a total of about 40 beef cattle. All are completely grass-fed and given no sort of hormone to increase their sizes. Antibiotics may be given to them if absolutely needed in the case of sickness. That is something the McGreals pride themselves on, and it is their claim to fame.
Jake and Lara commented on some of their favorite things about living on a farm. Independence was the first thing. This independence allows them both creative control over everything that they do on their farm, including what they do and don’t create and sell to the public. They also very much enjoy working for themselves, creating their own hours, and working as long as they want to ensure the best quality products.
The McGreals plan on expanding their vision of organic farming in the near future, beginning with automating their syrup extraction process. The season lasts for only three to four weeks and they spend two to three hours a day emptying and transporting tree sap. They want to be able to do this job faster and more efficiently.
Their next and biggest vision of growth is to be able to gain access to a food truck that is sponsored by the Iowa Farm Bureau. That would allow the McGreals to make bulk sales as well as sell prepared foods to the public, specifically at farmer’s markets. With this business on wheels, it would give much more flexibility and mobility to everything they do. They also would source from local places and stands for food which would benefit the community as well as themselves. On Feb. 1, the McGreals participated in a “pitch-off” to the Iowa Farm Bureau to receive the funds for the food truck. Jake and Lara also plan to update their website to be able to offer certain delivery to many different areas, including Chicago. Their current online orders are steadily growing, and they hope that the website will increase their sales even more.
They can be contacted via their website at mcgrealfamilyfarm.com, and on their Facebook page.