Archive for the 'Iowa' Category

The inadvertent caucuser

Caucus Math“Are you going to write about the caucuses on your blog?” asked one of my friends a couple of weeks before January 3.

“I really can’t think of a way to tie it to gardening or cooking,” I said. “I really do try to keep things, you know, topical.”

“I just thought you might have started a blog called The Inadvertent Caucuser,” she said.

If I had thought of it sooner, I probably would have, but I didn’t. However, there are plenty of other blogs covering the caucuses, and if you head over to Blog for Iowa, you can read all about my first caucus experience. Looking to get super-granular? I live-blogged the whole thing by text message throughout the event, and subsequently pulled together a summary of the messages.

So, the Iowa Caucuses. It’s not gardening, but the event was an awful lot of fun.

No shortage of apples in Pennsylvania

Hollabaugh visit montageOne of the things that surprised me when I moved to Iowa — and oh, there were plenty of things that surprised me — was how many apple orchards there are around here.

My parents live in Adams County, Pennsylvania, home to apple orchards that dot the landscape as you drive down country roads, and that’s where I have become most accustomed to the apple trees, with their blossoms and heavy fruit. Iowa wasn’t where I expected to find apples.

This year wasn’t so great for Iowa apple farmers. We had weird, warm weather early, which made the buds blossom on the trees, followed by a hard freeze. Parts of the state escaped apple blossom trauma, but around Iowa City, things weren’t great for local farmers.

Pennyslvania escaped Iowa’s anti-apple weather. In Pennsylvania this year, there appeared to be no shortage of apples.

In October, I visited my parents for the weekend, and Mom and I made a trip to Hollabaugh Bros. Fruit Farm and Market, a sprawling barn that features apples, pears, and other locally-grown produce, along with more locally-produced jams, jellies and other goods than you can imagine. On Fall weekends, the place is packed, crawling with area residents (and the occasional, camera-lugging out-of-town guest) who fill bags of varying sizes to the brim with bulk apples, then stagger to their cars, visions of crisps and crumbles and pies dancing in their heads.

This time around, a Japanese man lamented the lack of Asian pears. Adams County might not have lost their apples, but it was, apparently, not a good year for Asian pear production, and they were running at a hefty price while we were there. But there were local persimmons, lined up like little pillows of sweetness, and at least a dozen varieties of apples and pears, including Bosc pears, banana apples, and the trend-eriffic Honeycrisp.

I had plenty of time for photography, since a 10-pound bag of apples does not make for a non-awkward carry-on item, but I have to admit I was a bit wistful not to be filling up my bag with varieties perfect for eating and cooking. Back when I lived in D.C., it didn’t seem like Fall if I didn’t make a pilgrimage up to see my parents and hit Hollabaugh’s, always buying more than I could comfortably eat. This time, I had to leave with just the images. After all, they’re much easier to take on the plane.

And, sometimes, much more amusing.

Mom and I get on the bus

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Kay Hollabaugh for stopping in the middle of her busy day to take this picture of me and my Mom. Kay said, “I don’t know about that bus driver…”

Edible times five

Edible Iowa River Valley, Fall 2007The fifth issue of Edible Iowa River Valley is out and about, just in time for some good Fall eating. This issue features a cover story on goats, which are becoming more and more popular as a food product in Iowa.

This issue includes an article I wrote about locally-grown chestnuts, a delicacy I had never tried before this week…and there will be more on that as the weekend approaches. Stay tuned…

The magazine is not escaping notice around the state, which is exciting. Yesterday’s Des Moines Register profiled Edible Iowa River Valley and its publisher, Wendy Wasserman, in a interesting piece that I hope you’ll check out. If you need a little more incentive to sneak over there, by learning more about Wendy, you’ll also be learning more about The Mint Killer. Yes, folks, she is one and the same, and now she’s even more famous than she was going into the weekend.

The magazine is available free at approximately 150 locations throughout the region, and is also available by subscription. My chestnut article isn’t available online quite yet, but once they run out of copies, you’ll be able to find it on the Edible site.

Seed Savers’ Fall Harvest Celebration

I keep meaning to get up to Decorah—a field trip to Seed Savers’ Heritage Farm has been on my list of things to do since I started gardening, and here has gone another season, and I never made it up there.

Hmm. I sense the start of a 2008 Resolutions list.

So it was with great regret that I got an email from the Seed Savers folks earlier this month announcing their Fall Harvest Celebration. Half-price seed packets. Squash and apple recipe tasting. Pumpking carving. A garlic planting lesson.

You’re killing, me, Seed Savers! Because I cannot make it to the party this year.

But if you’re a reader within reach of Decorah, you just might be able to go. The event will take place Saturday, October 20 from 1 to 4 p.m. More details are available on the Seed Savers site, and if any of you attend the festival, please stop by and leave a comment to let me know how it was!

How to save community food programs in two easy faxes

Before I moved to Iowa, I was already a devotee of farmers and locally-grown food and all that good stuff. I was the only of my friends to join a CSA, I was a customer of Washington’s Green Grocer, and in the summer, the farmers at the market whispered behind their hands about how the girl who liked to fling around cash was cutting a path across the market.

But until I moved here, until I actually got to talk to farmers and call them up to ask them about their dairy products or their produce or how much they loved reclaiming the land from industrial farming, I didn’t really get it.

I probably won’t always live in Iowa. I have friends who have good money placed on my showing up back in the D.C. area again someday. And my heart lies somewhere way closer than an ocean than where I’m sitting now. But regardless, when I leave this state, I will take with me a passion for spreading the gospel of good food raised in a healthy manner. Not processed food, not food that has been shipped for thousands of miles before arriving at my table, but good, local food (organic or not) that nourishes me and those I invite to join me.

For that reason, I need to ask those of you who share this passion to join with me this week and ask your Senators to support funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Food Projects (CFP) Program.

What is the CFP program?
More than 240 projects have received CFP grants since 1996. The amounts are often less than $250,000 per grant per year, and that money goes to creating access to local, fresh food and general food security for low-income communities.

In other words, this is not a partisan political issue. This is an issue of creating access to good food grown right here in the U.S. Local food. Tasty food. Regardless of whether you’re a card-carrying whatever, don’t you like to eat? So do I.

CFP dollars at work in Iowa
Here in Iowa, CFP dollars funded the “Digging Deeper” program, which created urban gardens, school gardens, edible landscapes and orchards in downtown Des Moines—bringing food and garden exposure to residents who had no access to such things whatsoever. This cost less than $250,000 over three years. And if you want to see what the program did in your state, simply check out this handy searchable awards database.

The House of Representatives took away the line item funding the CFP when they considered the Farm Bill this year. Its only chance is for the Senate to keep it alive, and Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, is the man to do it. The program needs to be saved. It needs to be funded.

Help support CFP funding
If you care about this issue, please contact your senator, and Senator Tom Harkin, as soon as possible. This is the week—by next week, this is probably all going to be over and it will be too late.

Below, I’ve pasted text of a letter that is oh-so-appropriate for those who live in Iowa. Fax it to Derek Miller (f: 202-228-4576), the staff member in Harkin’s office who will have the most influence on the good Senator, sooner rather than later.

If you don’t live in Iowa, feel free to edit the letter and fax copies to your own Senator and to Derek Miller (this is a case where it doesn’t matter if you’re a constituent), or just call in and express your opinion by phone.

To find your Senators’ contact information, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121, or look it up at More information and additional talking points are available on the Community Food Security Coalition’s Web site.


The Honorable Senator Harkin
731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Attn: Derek Miller
Fax: 202-228-4576

October 2, 2007

Dear Senator Harkin:

As an Iowan, I am writing to thank you for previous support of the USDA’s Community Food Project (CFP) program. I urge you to increase the mandatory funding for CFP to $10 million which will continue to increase access to fresh, local and healthy food for families across Iowa and across the country.

Grants provided for Community Food Projects (CFP) link rural and urban communities, create business opportunities for food producers and increase access to local and healthy foods for consumers. The programs are particularly effective in increasing access to healthy foods in low-income communities and areas with few retail grocery stores, creating profitable urban agricultural gardens and businesses, and engaging children in improving their diets. The program also creates critical grants to support healthy food access in primarily rural and economically depressed farming communities.

However, the demand for the CFP program far exceeds the funding available. Its future needs to be secured by increasing mandatory funding.

Here in Iowa, CFP funds have gone to successful programs in Des Moines which have developed urban gardens and edible landscapes in the city. Yet there are many other communities across Iowa and the rest of the country in need of fresh, healthy food. Thus, I urge you to restore mandatory funding to the CFP program and increase the funding level to $10 million. This action alone can help thousands in need.

[Your name and address here]

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All words and images (unless otherwise credited) on The Inadvertent Gardener are © 2006-2008 Eugenia E. Gratto. All rights reserved.

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