You’ve heard of pub crawls? A half dozen southern Iowa farms are holding a Farm Crawl this weekend. While a few of them raise traditional hogs and cattle, they also raise a diverse selection of other commodities — from apples, pumpkins and cut flowers to goats, mules and bees.
Sean Skeehan is co-owner of Blue Gate Farms in Chariton, one of the six farms taking part in Sunday’s event in Marion and Lucas counties. Skeehan says: "We got together as a way to jointly promote ourselves. In a simple fashion, it’s an open house at each of these farms held on the same day and it’s a way for people to learn more about what we do and some of the products we have to offer that we grow directly or value-add into other things."
The bees, of course, produce honey, while the goat milk is used to create what he calls an artisan cheese. Two of the farms are chemical-free and one raises hormone-free beef, hay, and mules, which Skeehan says are all growing markets with consumers.
"They want to know who grew their food," Skeehan says. "They want to have a connection with the local farmer, and many people, beyond that, they want to know that it was raised in a very responsible but chemical free way, so they’re not bringing more things into their diet that they may not want or might not fully understand the implications of."
The 2007 version of Farm Crawl involved five of these same six farms. Skeehan hopes this year’s second annual event brings in an even wider array of people to sample Iowa farm life. Last year’s event drew about 500 people.
Skeehan says: "It was a wide range, from literally city folks who might have grown up on a farm, folks who’ve never been on a farm, folks who currently farm but maybe farm differently or just neighbors who wanted to see how the other operations work."
In addition to Blue Gate, the other five farms are: Coyote Run Farm in Lacona, Dan-D Farms in Knoxville, Pierce’s Pumpkin Patch in Columbia, Reichert’s Diary Air in Knoxville and Schneider Orchards in Lacona. There’s also a 24-acre corn maze. The Farm Crawl is underway Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM. For details, visit the Farm Crawl website .