Great article on the CSA experience by local sustainability writer James Schleppenbach. Check out his blog for more from soil ecology to deep ecology and environmental philosophy, food and agriculture.

Creative Intelligence

In CSA farming there is a special interaction between farmer and consumer that doesn’t happen on large scale and industrial farms. Members of the CSA farm have a direct relationship with the food that is grown, and becoming a shareholder often means becoming more intimate with the local food system. CSA members often care more about the details of the food they get from the farm, and rightfully so, they have a stake in it! The CSA farmers, managers, and workers are like public servants catering to the needs and wants of their community. It’s beautiful when you meet people like Jenny, who, when she comes to pick up her weekly share is carrying an 8 month-old in her womb. Who wouldn’t feel good knowing that her baby is being nourished by the highest quality, freshest, and most organic food possible! As I hand her the bag, I congratulate her…

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Withrow Garden–Fresh Veggies Spring, Summer, Fall

By Jan Swinton

Barb Withrow and her husband have been creative in the placement of gardens in their little corner of Packwood, IA.  This traditional market garden features early spring peas, broccoli and asparagus, summertime beans (of several colors), peppers, cucumbers, zucchini and plenty of tomatoes and an abundant fall garden of vine and root crops including cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, beets and onions.  The quaint setting of a tiny Iowa town is refreshing and unique.

In Barb’s shady yard, Chef Liz Paltrow will be smoking fresh root vegetables.  This delicious mix of sweet potato, onion, garlic and acorn squash will be smoking fresh all afternoon.  Savor the Flavor!

Withrows’ traditional market garden is one of 6 stops on the Hometown Harvest “Savor the Flavor” Farm Crawl set for Sunday, September 9, from noon to 6pm.  You are welcome to tour any of these farms in any order on that day.  Maps of the whole route are available at each farm, and at the Fairfield HyVee & Everybody’s Grocery.  For more information, please call the Hometown Harvest office at 641-472-6177.

Maharishi Vedic City Greenhouses

By Jan Swinton

Barbara Stone is the manager of the Maharishi Vedic City Greenhouses at 2037 – 140th St., Fairfield, IA. The largest is 2 acres, and the first of its size to be constructed in Iowa. The climate controlled, automated, vaulted plastic top opens on each of the east-facing slopes to allow for the prevailing Iowa winds to carry out some of the summer heat.  Winter cold is buffered with a low tunnel system that covers greens, root crops and flowers that are grown all year. 

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The greenhouse is a major supplier of fresh, certified organic produce in Iowa. The facility has a large walk-in cooler that is used to store produce before delivery or pick-up, for the regional retail and restaurant markets. Produce is picked very early the day of delivery; larger orders the day before. This farm crawl is a rare opportunity to visit a wholesale greenhouse operation in Iowa.  It is an interesting place to watch vegetables grow, and talk with gardeners about organic practices.  

This wholesale vegetable growing operation is one of 6 stops on the Hometown Harvest “Savor the Flavor” Farm Crawl set for Sunday, September 9, from noon to 6pm.  You are welcome to tour any of these farms in any order on that day.  Maps of the whole route are available at each farm, and at the Fairfield Hy-Vee & Everybody’s Whole Foods.  For more information, please call the Hometown Harvest office at 641-472-6177.

Rolling Prairie Acres

By Jan Swinton

Doug and Tanya Webster’s farm “Rolling Prairie Acres” has about 6 acres under food production at 708 Ringgold St. on the north edge of Sigourney, IA ( please park at the Library and walk up the hill if you are able, Ringgold is a congested area and a dead end street).  This family-run farm is known for their 80 varieties of garlic and 350 varieties of heirloom tomatoes (5 plants of each variety).  A tour of this farm will reveal several generations of greenhouses, traditional barns and (of course) rolling hills.  They are experimenting with companion plantings, constant rotation and cover crops on the annual veggie beds.  Their 150 fruit trees are still young, but growing into full production in the next few years.  Bees provide pollination for the fruit trees and honey to eat. Katahdin sheep wander the pasture and relax in the shade of the barn near the naturally-raised hogs.  Chickens spend all day out in their run with the a few turkeys and ducks for company.  

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Websters’ will be celebrating their 10th year working the land and Rolling Prairie Acres and they are inviting the whole Hometown Harvest system to their farm.  Their entertainment will include Bob & Kristie Black and friends playing bluegrass perfection from 1:30- 4:30 pm. They will be sharing blackberry pie with ice cream while you enjoy the farm and music.  At the Sigourney Public Library parking lot (where you will park unless disabled), Julie Stutzman will bring in her Stone Wall Brick Pizza oven and sell hot stone hearth personal pizzas all afternoon, as well.  Other lunch/dinner local food items include:  Kombucha and mint sun tea.  Pickle Creek Herbals witll be setting up so show off their wares, and herb cookies made by with locally grown whole wheat flour.  It’s a feast of SE Iowa’s best!  

The Webster’s farm operation is one of 6 stops on the Hometown Harvest “Savor the Flavor!” Farm Crawl set for Sunday, September 9, from noon to 6pm.  You are welcome to tour any of these farms in any order on that day.  Maps of the whole route are available at each farm, and at the Fairfield HyVee & Everybody’s Grocery.  For more information, please call the Hometown Harvest office at 641-472-6177. 

Learn more and keep up to date via the Rolling Prairie Acres Farm blog

Wooden Wheel Winery

By Jan Swinton

The Wooden Wheel Winery at1179 Hwy 92 is a new work in a Century Farm setting.  Owned by Mike and Connie Vincent, the renovations to the old barn have made the farm a rural destination for weddings and other special occasions.  You are welcome at the tasting room most any day, but this special farm crawl event gives you an opportunity to see the workings of the grape crushing, wine processing and bottling as well as walk through the vineyards.  

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Where the tall corn once stood, there are now long rows of grape arbors.  Several varieties of grapes grown on the farm are carefully blended, fermented and sweetened to create a locally delicious new wine.  You can taste and purchase this delicious wine on the farm crawl.  

The new building on the property is a grapes-to-wine processing and bottling center for this family-owned winery.  The whole operation is one of 6 stops on the Hometown Harvest Farm Crawl set for Sunday, September 9, from noon to 6pm.  You are welcome to tour any of these farms in any order on that day.  Maps of the whole route are available at each farm, and at the Fairfield HyVee & Everybody’s Grocery.  For more information, please call the Hometown Harvest office at 641-472-6177. 

The Cultured Goat

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By Jan Swinton

Dean Goodale’s Sustainable Farms Development Group has just started a new enterprise: The Cultured Goat Dairy. This is the second dairy processing facility currently operating in Jefferson County, and has been selling fresh chevre goat cheese in three flavors: honey, herb and plain since July. They also plan on selling a goat Camembert in the near future .The milking, processing and cheese culturing is all done on the farm in a state inspected facility located on 140th St. north of Fairfield.

Although the cheese is not yet certified organic, sustainable practices are in place on the farm. The goat herd plays and grazes on Certified Organic pastures, they eat Certified Organic hay and some organic grain as well. Starting this fall their corn will be from the farm’s certified organic corn crop that appears to be holding up relatively well during this year’s drought.

“The Cultured Goat” Cheese is available at Hy-Vee and Everybody’s in Fairfield and is served at the Top of the Rock and The Crepe Escape restaurants. In Iowa City The Cultured Goat can be found at the 1st Ave, Waterfront and Coralville Hy-Vee stores as well as both New Pioneer Coops.

This farm operation is one of 6 stops on the Hometown Harvest Farm Crawl set for Sunday, September 9, from noon to 6pm. The public is welcome to tour any of these farms in any order on that day. Maps of the whole route are available at each farm, and at the Fairfield HyVee & Everybody’s Grocery. For more information, please call the Hometown Harvest office at 641-472-6177.

Back to the Basics Farm

Image  By Jan Swinton

Barb Grijalva is the gardener at “Back to the Basics Farm” just north of Fairfield: 2254
136th Blvd. Barb’s traditional Iowa garden has all of the normal seasonal vegetables
grown naturally along a mile of gravel road. “This has been an unusual year,” says
Grijalva, “we started so early, and then the sweetcorn was ready for harvest in June!”
Farm Market regulars will recognize Barb from her tables at the Fairfield Market. Her
baseball cap and pony tail let you know that she’s been out working in the sun. Her
helpful attitude and friendly service show why she is a favorite at the market.

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A visit to her farm proves to be an adventure! The old barn that was built in the 1800’s
burned to the ground from a lightning bolt a few years ago, leaving behind the limestone
foundation. Barb is dismantling the piles of stone and re-constructing it to form a
more contemporary landscape. This creative attitude is apparent throughout the farm
operation.

Back to the Basics Farm is one of 6 stops on the Hometown Harvest “Savor the Flavor”
Farm Crawl set for Sunday, September 9, from noon to 6pm. You are welcome to tour
any of these farms in any order on that day. Maps of the whole route are available at
each farm, and at the Fairfield HyVee & Everybody’s Grocery. For more information,
please call the Hometown Harvest office at 641-472-6177.