This first weekend in September marks the launch of farm tour season in Iowa, a celebration of home-grown food. Dozens of agricultural producers from border to border are opening their front gates to give visitors a close-up look at their operations. Jessica Burtt Fogarty is helping coordinate a series of farm tours — or farm crawls — in eastern Iowa.
“Farm tours can look different whether they’re urban or rural,” Burtt Fogarty says. “Folks can come out and walk around a farm, maybe bike from farm to farm, could be a hay ride involved. Farmers, generally, try to tell their story about what brought them to the farm and the joys of growing good food.”
Burtt Fogarty is spokeswoman for the Regional Food Systems Working Group of Iowa, which she describes as a statewide network of practitioners working to create sustainable food business jobs, healthy farms and people and vibrant community activity. Some people think Iowa’s farms are only corn, soybeans and hogs, but they’re mistaken.
“There’s great variety in Iowa on all the different farms,” she says. “Sometimes it’s a dairy that also produces ice cream, a lot of value-added activities are happening on the farm. Orchards are really popular for agri-tourism and farm tours. Pumpkin patches and corn mazes may be an option this fall as well.”
Farm tours may cover a wide range of produce — like apples, kale, squash and watermelons — and products like goat cheese, honey fresh from the hive and pottery made from clay in the nearby creekbed. Many of the farm tours feature samples and some will center around an all-local-foods meal.
“We believe that participating in farm tours, individuals can gain an appreciation of the hard work our farmers do,” Burtt Fogarty says. “We also look forward to people connecting with their neighbors, sometimes their farmer isn’t too far away in reality, and just connecting with the community that’s participating and supporting and purchasing and consuming and responsibly disposing of food.”
Here are just a few of the upcoming farm tours:
September 8 – Savor the Flavor Farm Crawl in southeast Iowa hosted by Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa (Appanoose, Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Monroe, Mahaska, Van Buren, Wapello and Washington counties)
September 8 – Northern Iowa Farm Crawl hosted by Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership (Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Grundy and Tama counties) www.uni.edu/ceee/local-foods/uni-local-food-program/farmcrawl>
September 11 and 28 – Field to Family Festival Culinary Walk and Harvest Dinner in eastern Iowa hosted by the Field to Family Regional Community Food Coalition (Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Poweshiek, Tama and Washington counties) www.fieldtofamily.org/programs/field-to-family-festival
• September 15 – Farm to Fork Culinary Tour in northwest Iowa hosted by Flavors of Northwest Iowa (Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Ida, Lyon, Monona, O’Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties) www.flavorsofnorthwestiowa.org/>
• September 21 – Driftless Tri-State Farm Crawl in eastern Iowa hosted by Dubuque Eats Well (Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties) www.driftlessfarmcrawl.blogspot.com/>
• September 7, 15 and 22, Fresh on the Farm events in north central Iowa hosted by Healthy Harvest of North Iowa (Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth and Wright counties) www.northiowafood.org/events/month/2013-09>
• September 22 – Taste of Northeast Iowa Farm Crawl hosted by the Northeast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition (Allamakee, Chicksaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties) www.iowafreshfood.com/site/farmcrawl.html>
• October 6 – Farm Crawl in north-central Iowa, sponsored by Practical Farmers of Iowa (Marion and Lucas counties) www.farmcrawl.com>
• October 18 – Harvest Moon Celebration hosted by the Quad Cities Food Hub (Scott County) www.qcfoodhub.com/>