October 31, 2009 – Happy Halloween

Martin decided he wanted to be a spider for Halloween – so he made his own costume out of black clothes, black chore boots, and some pipe insulators for legs (Martin wants to let you know there’s eight legs  if you count his legs!).

He learned the benefits of a home-made costume as one of his fellow trick-or-treaters wore a store-bought werewolf and almost every other candy provider asked the werewolf  “haven’t you already been here?” as there were a number of identical werewolves roaming the neighborhood.

one year ago…”Snakes on the Table”

October 30, 2009 – Fall Mushrooms

Because the weather has been so cool lately, I didn’t think of looking for a fresh flush of shiitakes on the logs we spawned.

But surprise, they’re there!

So tonight we had another high hopes exclusive meal. Shiitakes and onions from the farm sauteed in sesame oil. Walleye caught in the BWCA this summer, along with fresh brussells sprouts and applesauce from the farm – not bad for end of October.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #139″

October 28, 2009 – October Mud

Here’s the view from the farm this month – mud. Mud like slippery late March, early April end-of-winter mud. The rain has prevented many outdoor activities. The corn and bean harvest is way behind schedule. The barn isn’t completed staining, nor is all the garlic in the ground

If it seems like a lot of rain and wetness in this month, there was. The weatherman says it’s the wettest October on record – at least we’ll have good soil moisture going into next spring.

one year ago…”Soap Cutting”

October 24, 2009 – Saturday Farm Work

Today brought a break in the rain, so it was time to go out and do things that aren’t too exciting, but that need to get done.

First was cleaning out the chicken coop before winter.  Here the ladies are happy with their new bedding.

The old bedding is hauled out to near the garden to compost.  This bedding was very dry and fluffy, so it took a lot of water to add between cartloads to prepare it to compost properly.  It was much too wet and muddy to use the tractor, so it was many loads with the carts.

Part of the organic apple regime is to make sure no windfall apples remain on the ground to host apple pests – we give them to the chickens to eat.  This is about 14 five-gallon buckets of apples.

Another important job is to get rid of old tomato vines – I tore the vines out of the cages and stacked the cages and stakes close to where next year’s tomatoes will be planted.  I’m a bit slow as I used to always haul the cages and stakes to the same place for winter storage.  Now I just haul them near next year’s planting area.  Our cages are old woven wire fencing that was destined for the dump – I made round cages and they are very sturdy with a half a metal fence post for support.

one year ago…”Fall Color”

October 21, 2009 – Garlic Planting

When the girls got home from school, I decided it was time to make a rush to get some garlic in the ground.  Garlic is a great crop as it doesn’t need to be put in the ground in the spring.

The garlic cloves, recently separated from their bulbs.

The girls planting a furrow of garlic.  We ended up getting four rows in before the rain started (and is supposed remain for a couple days).  So, if they didn’t get in today, it would probably be at least another week before they got planted.

one year ago…”Mortgage Meltdown and More”

October 20, 2009 – October Stir-Fry

It’s nice that on October 20, the garden still supplies an all-farm stir-fry.

This dish contains carrots, cabbage, broccoli, fresh from the garden and onions and garlic from recent harvests.  The days of eating straight from the garden are quickly coming to an end – about all remaining are lettuce, spinach, kale, beets, and brussels sprouts.

one year ago…”Garlic Planting”

October 19, 2009 – Final Sunday Paper Article

The third of three front-page Sunday newspaper articles related to the program Linda started completed Sunday – this time about local foods in restaurants.

Bringing Local Foods to the Table
A Few Hurdles Remain to Satisfy Consumer Demands


Presenting a roast butternut squash soup, Chef Christopher Curtis is ready to serve the culinary delight at Marshalltown’s Tremont On Main.

When J.P. Howard sits down to a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup he thinks about his Aunt Liz.

“She always made the best soups,” he said. “This is nature’s elixir for what ails you.”

Growing up in Cresco, in northeast Iowa, J.P. was accustomed to locally grown foods, in part thanks to his aunt who created meals with ingredients from her own gardens and livestock.

Now he and his wife, Jennifer, are serving up locally produced food at their trio of restaurants on Main Street.

The Howards have been featuring seasonal local dishes on their white-cloth menu at the Tremont on Main, while incorporating other local ingredients and dishes at the Tremont Grille and Tremont Sports Cafe.

The regularly featured chicken noodle soup is made with the freshest and the highest quality local chicken purchased from a Mexican market in Marshalltown, J.P. said.

While the couple has found great success in some local dishes, and are ready to step up a local foods menu, they need better supply and constant comparable and dependable products.

Part of this effort to meet the needs of area business owners has spun into the creation of COMIDA – an acronym for County of Marshall Investing in Diversified Agriculture – that formed with the goal of building a local foods system in the county.

Just one-tenth of a percent of Marshall County residents get their food directly from farmers – about one fourth of the national average.

A study of the potential impact of a local food system showed that if consumers bought only 15 percent of their food directly from local farms it would mean $8 million of new farm income each year, according to Ken Meter of the Crossroads Resource Center of Minneapolis.

Another survey, this one conducted by the North Central Regional Center of Rural Development and the Marshalltown Area Chamber of Commerce, showed that 73 percent of Marshalltown businesses would like to have more opportunities to establish stronger links with local producers.

The lack of supply has consistently been targeted as the reason local markets and restaurants don’t currently sell more locally grown food.

“We, as a county, are just getting started,” J.P. said.

Even with poor weather conditions taking a hit on local farmers markets, J.P. has poured his efforts into a local menu by attending area markets on a weekly basis.

“I bought everything I could, that I could use,” J.P. said. “Anywhere I can find it that is close and quality, I buy it.”

Meanwhile, a rooftop garden outside of the couple’s condo at the Tremont Inn boasts fresh herbs that are incorporated into local dishes – including thyme, sage, rosemary and oregano.

A butternut squash soup with local appeal was prepared last week by utilizing another garden on 12th Street.

However, planning a consistent menu with local products necessitates high value and quality, J.P. said.

“Value and quality are No. 1 and they go hand in hand,” he said. “So the products have to be the same, because the consumer demands it.”

Another struggle is price comparability, he said.

“We want to have it, but not pay five times more for it,” he said.

At the same time, they are seeing consumer demand for fresh local foods, he said.

“Food safety and food knowledge is driving this whole issue,” Howard explained. “It’s starting to mean something to people, and we listen to what they want.”

Parts of the local food system are already underway with the Entrepreneurial and Diversified Agriculture Program at Marshalltown Community College, which trains students how to develop a local food system.

The first graduates of a course for beginning farmers called “Start Your Own Diversified Farm” received their certificates in March. Ten graduates of this training course are currently renting plots and growing vegetables at the MCC farm. They have been selling their produce at farmers markets in Des Moines, but are anxious to sell directly to Marshalltown grocery stores and restaurants.

Another addition to the program is a food processing facility currently under construction on the MCC campus. The building will provide a place for farmers to prepare their produce for market.

J.P. has high expectations for the MCC training course that develops new farmers and is particularly attractive to the Latino population.

“You can take that spirit and that willingness to take risk and we can find a way to help minimize their risk to get them started … That’s a huge business with the ultimate goal being to provide healthy food to our community.”

By demanding local foods, J.P. sees a stronger movement toward getting nutritious foods into nursing homes, hospitals and restaurants.

“What we’re trying to get to eventually is getting better nutrition to the lower income people – that’s our task as people in the food business,” he said. “We’re supposed to feed people wonderfully and we should be passionate about it.”


Contact Abigail McWilliam at 641-753-6611 or amcwilliam@timesrepublican.com

one year ago…”Post Tomato Harvest Work”

October 18, 2009 – PFI Field Day

Yesterday was the PFI field day at the farm – I returned home literally an hour before the event. Linda had arranged the food and prepared a meal mainly from the farm – squash and apple soup, minestrone soup, and apple crisp.

The field day went well, there were probably about 25 attendees, from as far as Emmetsburg and as close as State Center. I’ve updated the wind presentation with updated info. Since I was presenting and talking, photos are lean. For more commentary, see the PFI blog for Friday October 23.

one year ago…”Oops, Market Peppers”