Archive for the ‘local food’ Category

Practical Farmer Webinars

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Want a great way to learn about new approaches to agriculture?  Market gardens, CSA marketing, pest control in organic agriculture, small grains, Fertility Management, poultry and more…

Check out Practical Farmers of Iowa Farminars:

Join Practical Farmers of Iowa while you are at it!

It’s not black and white

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Just because a food is local doesn’t mean it necessarily took less energy on its way to your kitchen.  Check out this article over at The Oil Drum:

Growing Power

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Have you seen what they are doing in Milwaukee at Growing Power? Very cool, check out the video below and their website at

MacArthur-award “genius” Will Allen of Growing Power shows his greenhouse system for growing food in winter (and fish, too!).

Fourth Annual Farm Crawl this weekend

Friday, October 1st, 2010

The Fourth Annual Farm Crawl will be winding its way through beautiful South Central Iowa this weekend (I might be a bit biased as it is where I grew up).  It’s free to visit an orchard, pumpkin farm, goat dairy, vegetable growers, and a potter.  For just $6 you can navigate the 18 acre corn maze at Dan-D Farms, south of Knoxville.

Check out their website at:

More Good Reading

Friday, April 9th, 2010

I have a habit of reading about five different books at a time.  This winter I managed to finish a few.  Two on local foods that I highly recommend:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
This book by Barbara Kingsolver "is the story of how her family made every attempt to feed themselves animals and vegetables…from the same place where they worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water and breathed the air." It’s a very enjoyable and enlightening book, it discusses the impact industrial agriculture is having on our world, the joys and challenges of growing your own food, and includes tasty recipes. Quite a combination.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Michael Pollan, explores the origins and ramifications of four meals: Fast Food, Grass Fed, Big Organic, and Perfect. I love this book, it’s an enjoyable read and a very thorough look at the economics, ecology, culture and taste of food. This is a book that I both started and finished this winter. 😉

I’m just getting started on Wendell Berry’s The Unsettling of America: Culture & Agriculture You can’t read about local food systems without hearing about Wendell Berry and I thought I’d better go back to one of the sources.  Four chapters into it and this book is densely crammed with insights that are still relevant today. Like a rich meal this one is best enjoyed by taking one’s time to savor.

Iowa Food Cooperative Launches

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

The Iowa Food Cooperative website is up, the storefront is ready and we’ve had a ribbon cutting and our first delivery day.  Here are some photos from the morning.  You can become a member of the cooperative to buy and sell Iowa products at

Good Reading

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Check out for some of the wisest, in-depth, thought provoking blog articles on what our society is facing in a post-peak oil world.

Time to Order Seeds and Plants

Sunday, February 10th, 2008

 Well, it’s one degree Fahrenheit outside and I am keeping my self warm with thoughts of spring planting. Our average last frost in central Iowa is about 12 weeks away. It’s time to get your seeds and plants ordered. You can even start some flower and allium family seeds now. I’ve had good luck growing leeks from seed and they don’t take much space.  I sow them thickly in a 3” pot, grow them under fluorescent shop lights (more on that in another article), trim the tops back so they stay about 3” tall, and when it comes time to plant them, dump the pot out and grab each individual seedling and put it in a little trench.

Here are some of the seed companies that I’ve used in the past and have been happy with:
  • FEDCO –; FEDCO is a cooperatively owned garden supply company.  They have separate supplies, trees, potatoes (Moose Tubers), and bulb catalogs.  Their catalog is full of whimsical illustrations, and amusing descriptions of their open pollinated and hybrid varieties.
  • Jung Seed –; Family owned and operated for 101 years, more of a mainstream company with a catalog packed with full color photographs. Unlike a lot of mainstream companies, they have a decent selection of open pollinated and heirloom varieties. They also have one or two of cultivars of many unusual varieties you can find at One Green World: sea berry, honeyberry, paw paws, hardy kiwi, etc.
  • One Green World – www.onegreenworld; has numerous varieties of unusual fruiting trees and shrubs, berries, and nut trees from around the world.
  • Peaceful Valley Farm Supply –; PVFS has a large selection of organic hybrid and open pollinated seeds, trees, berries and probably the biggest selection of organic supplies out there.  Seed descriptions are bare bones (but you can look information up elsewhere), prices are economical and you can receive free seeds with orders over $50. 
  • Seed Saver’s Exchange –; Established in 1975, membership is $35. You’ll then receive their mailings detailing 11,000 varieties, and trade with the members who maintain them. You can also order from their full color catalog or web site (with an abundant selection of heirloom/open pollinated seeds) and support their mission. Visit their farm if you are ever in Northeast Iowa – it’s a great time!
I am looking forward to trying these companies:
  • Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds –; Started by Jere Gettle when he was only 17 (1998), his catalog has grown to 100 pages of full color photographs and extensive descriptions of 100% open pollinated varieties. He has many unusual varieties from around the world.
  • Sandhill Preservation –; Family-run, low tech (read their instructions), extensive collection of open pollinated seeds, sweet potatoes and heirloom chickens. Past customers report packets with generous amounts of seed, free packets, and good prices.  
Seed and Plant Exchanges
There are a variety of groups where you can trade seeds with other people:
If you haven’t grown your own food, I hope you’ll give it a try this year. Start small, do some research, take time to observe and learn, and enjoy your harvest. If you are an avid gardener, I’d love to hear about your favorites, growing tips, etc. in the comments section.   

Practical Farmers of Iowa Conference

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Another exciting thing about joining PFI was the fact that their annual conference was going to be held this year just a couple miles from my home and it was packed with all sorts of interesting presentations.  I attended the conference this Friday and Saturday and it was a very informative and enjoyable time.  It also seemed that about anyone involved in sustainable agriculture and local foods was in attendance.

I attended a session for new farmers or people considering the plunge, and a sustainable energy production session on Friday.  I also had the pleasure of seeing my fellow Cornellian, Laura Krouse, receive the Spencer Award honoring farmers, educators and researchers who have made a significant contribution toward stability of mainstream family farms in Iowa.  Laura operates Abbe Hills Gardens, a 120 family CSA near Mount Vernon.

We brought the whole family to King Corn Friday night.  Anne and I, and our ten year old son found it very entertaining and informative.  Our six year old daughter only lasted through half the movie.  She hadn’t gone to the movie with high expectations but the next morning said that it was better than she expected.  Anyhow, the rest of us highly recommend it.

Kamyar Enshayan from UNI was presented with the Sustainable Agriculture Achievement Award Saturday morning. Kamyar has been promoting local food for over a decade including establishing the Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign in Northeast Iowa. 

Also on Saturday I sat in on an update on the Iowa Food Cooperative, listened to Richard de Wilde of Harmony Valley Farm describe how he went from a $500 loss in the mid 70s to a profitable 1000 family CSA today.  We learned about all the planning, management, equipment and people that go into an operation of that size.

The only disappoint for me was to hear that next year’s conference won’t be quite so close to home, but will be held instead at Marshalltown Community College.

Iowa Food Cooperative

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

I’ve been thinking about joining Practical Farmers of Iowa for quite a few years now and finally did this winter.  PFI has been a leader in exploring environmentally friendly and economically successful farming approaches, and promoting local foods for years.  About a year ago I read their press release announcing the creation of the Iowa Food Cooperative and knew that I wanted to get involved.  I had been seriously looking at ways to evolve this Think Global Eat Local web site into an online ordering system but it was clear that I should see how I could get involved with the IFC instead.

The Iowa Food Cooperative is going to be a web based system that allows consumers to order locally produced products from local farmers on a monthly basis (to start).  Those orders will be collected and distributed from a central location (in Des Moines at the start).  It is modelled after similar systems in place in Oklahoma and Nebraska.  The IFC should supplement existing farmer’s markets and CSAs, by providing more staple products then those markets.

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