Kroul Farms 'plugging along' despite floodwaters

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MOUNT VERNON — Drive by Kroul Farms on Highway 1 and you think you’re looking at what would make a pretty picture postcard.

It’s located on the edge of a large body of water. It’s quite eye-pleasing.

“Yeah, this is the coolest lake, right?” Matt Kroul said Tuesday, joking. “We should call this Lake View Farm all of a sudden.”

Except it’s not a lake, and it’s the opposite of cool. It’s water that has reached the lowest level of the Krouls’ 1,100-acre farm from the Cedar River, four miles south of Mount Vernon. The same river that normally doesn’t come within three-fourths of a mile from the farm and can’t be seen from it.

But barring something completely unexpected, the damage here from the flooding of the last week won’t compare to the tolls the floods of 1993 and 2008 took here.

In ’08, family and friends pitched tents on the highway that runs directly in front of the house of John and Kaylene Kroul, Matt’s parents. (Matt and his family live in North Liberty.) They camped there in shifts on that closed road while making sure pumps inside the house kept running. Just six inches of water got into the basement as opposed to three feet 15 years earlier.

The current flooding certainly hasn’t been friendly, covering what Kroul estimated at about 180 acres and costing the farm its soybean crop and some of its corn. But the 30-year-old former University of Iowa and New York Jets defensive tackle had no woe-is-us commentary about the situation.

“There’s no sulk in what happened,” Kroul said. “Just move on to something else that gives us a cash-flow and income, and do what we do, I guess.

“That’s the mentality. Control what you can control. We can’t control millions of gallons of water.”

Kroul’s grandparents started farming here in 1946. Today, the farm is as diversified as a mutual fund. It’s a regular presence at area farmers markets with its tomatoes and melons and strawberries and spinach and potatoes and more. The farm also sells flowers and firewood.

Last Wednesday night, John Kroul called his son, Matt, to tell him the forecast for flooding that was headed their way. The next morning, Matt said, “we began combining the corn as fast as we could. We couldn’t quite finish all of it. The beans were just too wet to go through. Unfortunately, we lost about 70 acres of beans.”

Kroul mixed a shrug with a laugh when it was suggested it would be easy to be discouraged in his situation.

“That’s farming,” he said. “That’s agriculture. You deal with so many variables throughout the year. That’s why we do everything we do here. If we were just a row crop operation and only had 300 acres and the flood took half of it, I maybe wouldn’t be in as good a mood.

“I call it organized chaos to a certain degree. Everything we do here is just kind of focusing on completing a task and moving on. All of a sudden, Mother Nature changes that in the blink of an eye."

Kroul didn’t discount what had occurred at the farm by any stretch, calling the losses from the beans and corn “substantial.”

“I think it’s the reality of living this close to the river, which doesn’t look that close,” he said. “But I guess we just focus on other things. We’re going to pick more pumpkins. We’re going to cut more firewood. And I’ll just keep plugging along.”

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