A few times a year I travel nationally, and people are always surprised when I acknowledge that although I’m a lifelong Iowan, I’ve never lived on a farm. Likewise, my two young sons, who were born in Des Moines have always lived in the city, have had embarrassingly little exposure to Iowa’s rich agriculture history. Sure, we’ve traveled extensively in our state and gestured to cows out that window or a combine out this one. But we’d never taken them to a real, working farm. On a recent Sunday, we set out to change all that.
On a gorgeous, crisp fall morning, we pulled away from our corner of interstate-wrapped suburbia and headed for the rolling hills of south central Iowa for Farm Crawl, an annual “open house” at seven diverse operations. These aren’t your stereotypical Iowa farms. These are unique, who-the-heck-would-have-thought-this-is-here, farmsteads. These are independent, family-run farms, each within a short drive of the other, in southern Marion and northern Lucas counties.
Think Iowa’s all corn and beans? Think again. Here are the farms you need to check out:
• Crooked Gap Farm, Knoxville, Iowa - Ethan and Rebecca Books raise heritage and rare breed animals, including woodlot pigs; grass-fed cattle; pastured lambs, rabbit and broilers; laying hens; and guinea fowl.
• Reichert’s Dairy Air, Knoxville, Iowa – Enjoy the home of a small goat herd and micro-dairy with custom-built milking bran and cheese-making studio.
• Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch, Chariton, Iowa - Thousands of pumpkins, squashes, gourds and decorative corn delight adults and kids alike. Bring your most muscular friend and take home one of their many ginormous pumpkins!
• Blue Gate Farm, Chariton, Iowa – Certified, naturally grown, chemical-free produce; pasteurized eggs; honey bees and an alpaca pair make this farm an interesting stop.
• Coyote Run Farm, Lacona, Iowa - Just more than 100 acres of sustainable agriculture grows chemical-free produce and cut flowers, pastured poultry and eggs, hormone-free/grass-fed and grain-fed beef, hay and mules.
• Scheider Orchard, Lacona, Iowa – Three hundred apples trees offer five varieties.
• White Breast Pottery and Weaving, Lacona, Iowa – Local clays from the beneath the waters of White Breast Creek make beautiful pieces that reflect the area. Hand-woven rugs are made on-site.
We’d been “crawling” for more than three hours and had visited four farms when we could no longer deny our sons an afternoon nap. Fortunately for us – and for you – each of these places makes its goods available directly from the farm or from local vendors. Visit farmcrawl.com to learn more about each of these places and to get the details about the 2015 installment of this fantastic fall event.