Northeast Iowa Farm Crawl Diversity of area farms showcased

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Natasha Hegmann
Natasha Hegmann, pictured with just a few of the beets she harvested this season, is co-owner with her husband. Peter Kerns, of Turkey River Farm.

By Audrey Posten
North Iowa Times Editor

See how a variety of local foods are grown and produced during the Northeast Iowa Farm Crawl, held Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 29 and 30. Twenty-nine northeast Iowa “farms”—including 11 based in Clayton County—are slated to participate in the event.

The farm crawl was launched by the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative four years ago, said Clayton County Development Group Executive Director Darla Kelchen, but members of the seven-county northeast Iowa tourism group she is part of took over for the first time this year.

“We all came together and tried to pick out different things throughout the counties,” Kelchen said. “We’re excited. There are neat people doing some great things.”
Participants range from produce farms, orchards and wineries to shrimp farms, dairies and agricultural education centers and museums.
In Clayton County, the stops are just as unique.

At Natures Haven Farm, Garnavillo, take a guided tour of the produce garden areas, visit the kitchen where products are turned into delicious treats and meet the animal partners who help with food production.
Strawberry Hill Farm and Garden, Strawberry Point, will give attendees the opportunity to milk a goat, gather eggs and feed animals in the farm zoo.
“It’s like an Old McDonald farm,” Kelchen remarked. “There’s a little bit of everything.”

Turkey River Farms, Elkport, grows vegetables, produces maple syrup and raises heritage breed hogs on pasture. Sample the produce and meet the pigs, take a stroll on miles of hiking trails or participate in a scavenger hunt.
Learn more about the hydroponic growing system that produces vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers and peppers at Pauly’s Red Greenhouse, outside Farmersburg.
Experience the latest technology in the dairy industry at the Kregel Family Farm, Guttenberg, which has a robotic milking parlor.
Great River Maple, Garnavillo, produces its own maple syrup. You can discover more about the production process, taste the syrup and pick up new recipes.
Sample a variety of award-winning wines at both Eagles Landing Winery, in Marquette, and PromiseLand Winery, Guttenberg. If beer is more to your liking, stop by Deb’s Brewtopia, in Elkader.
“Deb grows her own hops and makes her own beer,” Kelchen shared.

At Edgewood Locker, custom processing has been the backbone of the business for 35 years. Enjoy award-winning smoked ham, tasty beef jerky and other meat products.
Lastly, at the Froelich Museum, located between McGregor and Monona, learn more about John Froelich’s tractor, which, in 1892, was the first gasoline-powered tractor to propel itself forward and backward. Tour the site’s general store, one-room school house, blacksmith shop and railroad depot. That weekend is also Froelich’s annual Fall-der-All celebration, which includes old-time demonstrations and a tractor ride.
“We’re a step back in time,” noted Froelich Director Denise Schutte. “People can learn about the history of the Froelich Foundation and the tractor, get to see the site and learn about how things used to be done. Then they can compare that,” to how the other participating farm sites are operating today.

Kelchen said the Northeast Iowa Farm Crawl will be a good way to highlight the area’s agritourism.
“We have a lot of special, unique niches in this county,” she said. “We hope people enjoy visiting locations they may not have known about or that aren’t always open to the public. We’re inviting people from anywhere to come and experience where their food comes from.”
“We love having visitors come to our farm,” said Natasha Hegmann, who owns Turkey Valley Farm with husband Pete Kerns. “We believe our farm has a role to play in the community, and we want to make it a place where people feel welcome and can learn and engage in food.”
She said the goal is pretty simple: have fun.
“I think people will see there are a lot of different ways people are growing food in our part of the state,” Hegmann added.
The Northeast Iowa Farm Crawl will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 29, then from 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 30. Edgewood Locker will be open Saturday only, and PromiseLand Winery is only welcoming guests on Sunday.

Kelchen said attendees can tour at their own pace and visit any sites they would like. Road signs will be up, letting people know where to stop.
In addition to the Clayton County stops, other farm crawl participants include Luna Valley Farms, Pinter’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze, Winneshiek Wildberry Winery and Seed Savers Exchange, near Decorah; the Northeast Iowa Dairy Center, near Calmar; WW Homestead Dairy, Peake Orchard and Empty Nest Winery, near Waukon; Countryside Orchard and Madigan Winery, near Lansing’; K&K Gardens and Country View Dairy, near Hawkeye; Shrimptastic, near Fayette; Unionland Market, in West Union; Norman Borlaug Boyhood Farm and Ag Education Center, near Cresco; Frisky Fox Vineyard, near Riceville; and Windy Rock Shrimp, near Lime Springs.
For more information and a printable brochure, head to visitiowa.org.

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