Organic Farming, Iowa-Style

early morning harvest

About 6 months ago my husband Kevin and I went to visit his family in the midwest. Lucky enough for me he grew up in farm country. He was born in Nebraska and spent most of his growing years in southwestern Iowa. My father-in-law bought two farms in his 70’s….something he had always dreamed to do, but wasn’t able to achieve until later in life. I really admire his spirit. One is never too old (or young, for that matter) to make their dreams come true.

A few days into the trip, we were headed to visit my mother-in-law, Ann, in Minnesota, and as we were driving past all the corn and soybean fields, I thought to myself: “there has got to be an organic grain farmer out here somewhere!” So I googled just that; and low and behold I came upon Early Morning Harvest: Iowa’s Premier Aquaponic Produce Farm and Grain Mill. I gasped, Kevin swerved a bit at the wheel, and then I immediately called them. Jeff answered the phone. “Hi there,” I said, obviously excited, “my husband and I happen to be driving through Iowa right now, on our way towards Minnesota. Where exactly are you located?”  A few explanations and directions later, we realized that we would be driving straight through Panora, IA. No such thing as coincidence!

We spent a few hours with Jeff. I asked him a lot of questions about farming. I am totally green, verrrrrrryyyyy green when it comes to this. It is only something in the last 6 months that I have grown more interested in, to be honest. Now, after spending time with Jeff and Kevin’s Dad, and other farmer’s recently, I dream of having my own organic grain farm one day…Jeff was very patient with my seemingly dozens of questions. Farmer’s tend to live in a different time zone of their own. I envy this. And then he showed us his Aquaponic green house. This is a whole post in and of itself, but let’s just say that I was amazed at the sheer possibility of marrying aquaculture (raising of fish) and hydroponics (soil-less growing of plants). Totally blew my mind!

As did their flour. I get it now. The freshly milled flour I get here in CA, still yielding utterly delicious and complex breads, well, let’s just say it doesn’t quite have the spunk that Iowa grains have.  And I am pretty sure it has to do with the water — or lack thereof. Iowa gets a lot more rain than we do and therefore, its soil is more rich in nitrogen; yielding healthier plants and grains. When I first opened a bag of the flour I purchased from Jeff that day, I had to take a step back. I couldn’t believe the smell. This was the Earth’s Flour. It smelled like rain, soil, insects, wheat, sunshine — all of the things you want your grains to smell like. All of the healthy things you want your family to eat, your kids, yourself.

I must admit, I was a little afraid at what the end result may be. I thought “Is my bread going to taste like dirt now?” I laughed at the possibility. I made a few test loaves and was amazed at the complexity of flavor. It is definitely distinct, so I mix a little rye and sprouted sonora berries in there to vary its taste and texture.

I call it Farmer’s Bread. Kevin came up with that one, of course. There is a definite history to the feel of this particular grain. It’s hard-working. You can feel the effort that was given by both the earth itself, and the farmer’s who spent many an hour growing it, sweat, exhaustion, and all. I admire that.

For more info on Jeff and Early Morning Harvest, take a look at their website. He does ship nationally, and in fact, I just order 50 pounds of his whole wheat flour for the upcoming Bread Festival at Grand Central Market this coming weekend.

Hope to see you there!

Love,

Mary

aquaponics

bread festival pic

 

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