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Pop-Up Farmers Market at Winegard

Submitted by mhoenig on Mon, 02/11/2019 - 13:32

In collaboration with Great River Corporate Wellness, the Eat Fresh Southeast Iowa team (ISU Rising Star interns) organized a Pop-Up Farmers Market at Winegard in Burlington on July 17, 2018.  Winegard employees were encouraged to visit the market during their breaks or after their shifts were over - the event allowed them easy access to farm fresh foods, the opportunity to try recipes made with seasonal produce, and the chance to learn more about where/how they can access local foods.

The Farms

Gerst Family Gardens- sweet corn, melons, tomatoes, green beans, and lots more!  

Jones' Family Farm - multicolored cherry tomatoes, squash, mini cantaloupe, and market baskets

Homestead 1839 - flowers, squash, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers

Activites & Recipes:

The smoothie blender bike made an appearance at the market - and we served Blueberry and Canteloupe Smoothies made with locally sourced products.  We used blueberries harvested from a nearby U-pick farm, cantaloupe from Montrose, and honey from Danville.  

The gals from Great River Corporate Health handed out samples of Watermelon Salsa, another great way to savor the flavors of the season!

Blueberry Cantaloupe & Hemp heart Smoothie

  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

    2 cups cantaloupe

    1 cup plain yogurt

    ½ cup hemp hearts

    6 ice cubes (not necessary if berries are frozen)

    1 – 2 tablespoons honey (optional)

    Add all of the ingredients to a blender.  Puree until smooth and serve cold.  If you are taking it to go, smoothies travel well in an insulated thermos.  If the mixture is too thick, add a little water to help it blend up smoothly.

    Any berries will be a good substitute if you do not have blueberries.  Blackberries, raspberries and strawberries are all good choices.

Watermelon Salsa

  • 3 cups finely diced seedless watermelon

    2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

    1/3 c. chopped cilantro

    ¼ c. lime juice

    ¼ c. minced red onion

    ¼ tsp. salt (optional)

    Place watermelon, jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice and onion in a medium bowl. Stir well to combine.  Season with salt (optional). Serve at room temperature or chilled.

market tents set up at WIinegard facotry in West Burlington

Growing & Cooking with Fresh Herbs

Submitted by mhoenig on Mon, 02/11/2019 - 09:08

In April of 2018, Local Foods Coordinator Morgan Hoenig presented a workshop on growing herbs indoors and outdoors, and how to use fresh herbs.  At the end of the workshop, participants sampled recipes that utilized fresh rosemary, oregano, garlic chive, sage, thyme & mint.

Growing/Harvesting/Preserving Herbs Tip Sheet

Growing Herbs Indoors

Container Vegetable Gardening

Recipes from the event!! - Rosemary Roasted Cauliflower, Corn and Black Bean Salsa with Oregano & Garlic Chives, Pasta with Sage Brown Butter, Thyme Roasted Potatoes, Berries with Fresh Mint & Mint Simple Syrup

If you have any questions about growing, harvesting or using herbs, feel free to contact Morgan -

a variety of herb plants

Fruit Tree Planting Workshop

Submitted by mhoenig on Tue, 04/30/2019 - 15:27

On April 22, Earth Day, Des Moines County Master Gardeners and community members gathered at Homestead 1839 in West Burlington to learn about planting fruit trees.

Workshop participants learned about how to select a good tree, which varieties are best to grow in Iowa, and how to properly plant and care for a young fruit tree.  Information from the workshop is below, as well links to some of the Iowa State University Extension publications that can help you select a fruit tree for your yard.

PM453 - Fruit Cultivars for Iowa - root fruit tree planting demonstration

PM1788 - Growing Fruit in Iowa


How to pick a good tree

  • Species & Varieties
    • Most tree fruits grown in the Midwest are not self-fruitful, meaning they require at least two different cultivars of the same crop, planted in close proximity, for cross-pollination.  Some fruit tree varieties are self-fruitful, like ‘North Star” tart cherry, or ‘Damson’ European plum.  When selecting a tree, be sure to check and see if it needs a pollinator or not.
    • Some diseases are a problem on fruit trees nearly every year, so select disease-resistant cultivars.  Look for apple cultivars that show resistance to apple scab, cedar apple rust, fire blight, and powdery mildew.  A few disease-resistant apples recommended for Iowa include ‘Redfree,’ ‘Freedom,’ ‘Liberty’ and ‘Juliet.’ ‘Ambrosia,’ ‘Delicious,’ ‘Maxine,’ and ‘Moonglow’ are pear cultivars that grow well in Iowa and show good resistance to fire blight.
  • Tree size
    • Many fruit cultivars are grafted onto different rootstocks.  The rootstock typically determines the mature size of the tree.  Home fruit growers should consider planting the desired cultivar grown on either dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock instead of standard or full-size trees.   Dwarf apple trees will grow to be about 10 feet tall, semi-dwarf apple trees will reach about 15 feet in height, while standard-size trees will reach at least 20 feet tall.
    • Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees are easier to manage (prune & harvest), fit better in an urban landscape, and produce fruit sooner after planting than standard-sized trees.  Some dwarf fruit trees, however, have poor root anchorage, so they may need to be supported with a stake or trellis.
  • Refer to Iowa State Extension publications PM453 – Fruit cultivars for Iowa and PM1788 – Growing fruit in Iowa for more information on specific fruit species and varieties that are recommended for planting in Iowa.

Planting your tree

  • The ideal time to plant small trees in Iowa is between late march and mid-May, depending on weather. 
  • Be sure that there is nothing buried in the soil where you are planning to plant your tree and contact Iowa One Call.  You can do this by calling 811 or 1-800-292-8989.  You can also file your locate requests online at
  • Site & Soil
    • For good growth and quality fruit production, most fruit trees need to be planted in a location that receives full sun.  Don’t plant them at the bottom of a slope or in a depression that will be a cold air drain on frosty spring nights.  Locate the trees where there is good air circulation and where they will not warm up and bloom too early in the spring.  Incorporate fruit trees in your landscape design so that they are not only functional and productive, but also ornamental.
    • Apples, pears, cherries and plums grow in a wide range of soil types, but prefer a sandy loam or sandy clay loam soil with a pH around 6.5.  Most importantly, tree fruits require well-drained soil.
  • Preparing the planting site
    • When planting a container-grown tree, dig a hole that is two to three times wider than the diameter of the container.  The depth of the hole should be two to three inches less than the height of the soil ball.  Slope the sides of the hole so the top is several inches wider than the bottom.  In poorly drained soils, the depth of the hole should be approximately two-thirds of the height of the soil ball.
  • Soil additives?
    • Do not add compost, sphagnum peat moss or other organic materials to the soil when planting trees.  Studies have shown that the root systems of trees in amended soils tend to remain confined to the amended soil in the planting hole, while trees planted without soil amendments developed roots beyond the planting hole.  Additionally, in poorly drained sites, the amended planting hole can fill up with water like a bathtub during periods of heavy rainfall, causing root suffocation and tree death.
    • Tree selection is the key when planting in poorly drained sites or other difficult soils.  Select tree species for the soil conditions at the site.


  • Container-grown trees
    • Once the hole has been prepared, carefully lay the tree on its side. Tap the sides of the container to loosen the soil ball from the container, then slide the tree out of its container. All containers should be removed, even purportedly plantable containers. If the sides of the soil ball are a mass of roots, carefully shave off the outer one-half to one inch of the soil ball with a sharp spade or saw. Place the tree in the hole. The top of the soil ball should be two to three inches above the surrounding soil. In poorly drained sites, the top one-third of the soil ball should stick above the surrounding soil.
    • Gradually fill the hole with soil. With each new addition of soil, firm it in place with your hands. Place soil to the top of the soil ball and gradually slope it down to the surrounding soil. Once planted, water thoroughly.
  • Balled & burlapped trees
    • Dig a hole that is two to three times wider than the diameter of the tree’s rootball. The depth of the hole should be two to three inches less than the height of the rootball. Slope the sides of the hole so the top of the hole is several inches wider than the bottom. In poorly drained soils, the depth of the planting hole should be approximately two-thirds of the height of the rootball.  
    • Grasping the tree’s rootball, carefully lower the tree into the hole. The top of the rootball should be two to three inches above the surrounding soil line. In poorly drained sites, the top one-third of the rootball should be above the surrounding soil. Make sure the trunk is straight. Then, begin backfilling with the original soil. Firm the backfill soil in the hole with your hands.  
    • When the planting hole is half-full, cut and remove the twine. Also, cut away and remove the burlap on the top one-third to one-half of the rootball. If the rootball is in a wire basket, remove the top one-third to one-half of the basket. Completely fill the remainder of the hole with soil. Place soil up to the top of the rootball and gradually slope it down to the surrounding soil line.  Once planted, thoroughly water the tree.
  • Bare-root trees
    • Prior to planting, soak the tree’s roots in a bucket of water for one to two hours. Also, prune off damaged or broken roots.
    • When ready to plant, dig a hole that is 2 to 2.5 times wider than the spread of the tree’s root system. The depth of the hole should be equal to the distance from the tree’s trunk flare to the bottom of its roots. The trunk flare is the point where the trunk begins to spread out as it meets the roots. Build a cone-shaped mound of soil in the center of the hole. Place the tree on top of the mound. The trunk flare should be even with the surrounding soil surface. Spread the roots evenly over the mound. Then begin backfilling with the original soil. As you backfill, firm the soil in the hole with your hands. Place soil to the trunk flare. Finally, water the tree thoroughly.
    • Many shade and fruit trees are propagated by grafting. The graft union is located near the base of the tree’s trunk and is denoted by a bulge or crook in the trunk. The graft union is typically 1 to 3 inches above the trunk flare. When planting bare-root trees, be careful not to confuse the graft union with the trunk flare.


**Information in this blog comes from the following Iowa State Extension & Outreach news articles – Yard & Garden: Planting Bare-root Trees, Jauron & Klein, 2013; Yard and Garden: Successfully Planting Trees during Spring, Jauron & Wallace, 2017; Backyard Orchards Require Planning Ahead, Naeve; Yard and Garden: Planting and Caring for Trees, Jauron & Klein, 2015


bare root fruit tree planting demonstration

Celebrating Egg Month!

Submitted by gracew2 on Fri, 05/17/2019 - 10:09

Eggs From Sunny Side Up RanchThe Sunny Side Up Ranch is a local egg farm located outside of West Burlington, IA.  The farm started about three years ago when Lloyd and Karen Thola decided they wanted to do something different than their typical day jobs as a contractor and interior designer. Their past careers have helped them immensely with the start-up of their operation.  Starting a farm isn’t cheap or easy; especially with a self-sustaining farm like their own, without their previous skills it may have not been possible. Lloyd has been able to build equipment and renovate most of the buildings they currently use to thrive as egg producers. Lloyd has made his own incubator, egg drier, and waterer; as well as renovated and designed the housing for their flock. While visiting Sunny Side Up Ranch, we found that it was a common theme for these two caretakers to go out of their way for the chickens. To quote Lloyd, “If we take care of our chickens, they will continue to take care of us by producing high-quality eggs.” This past winter they even went out of their way during an ice storm to bring a bunch of baby chickens inside to keep them warm so they wouldn’t freeze during the negative degree weather.  


Another great factor of their farm operation is their determination and willingness for continuous education on flock management. They are constantly striving to learn new information to improve their own farm and flock, for both the animals and the consumers. It was clear Karen and Lloyd have done their research to maximize the bird’s wellbeing, production, and safety. The couple encourages people to come to visit and learn something new, as well as pick out your own homegrown eggs.  When you come to Sunny Side Up Ranch you can expect to see over 100 chickens mainly of the Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, and Easter Egger breeds. The average chicken on their farm lays about 5 eggs per week and their eggs sell for $2.50 per dozen. They also have five turkeys with 70 more coming soon, and about 280 laying ducks to add to the diverse production. The duck eggs are slightly more expensive, but only because each and every egg must be hand washed and therefore require more labor and care in the production process.

Click here for a video tour of Sunny Side Up Ranch

Sunny Side Up Ranch is looking to increase the number of eggs they are producing and have recently planted fruit trees with the hopes of selling apples, peaches, and cherries in the near future. Currently, you can expect Sunny Side Up Ranch to have about 180 eggs per day so be sure to check out their farm and claim your eggs before they’re gone! We have provided Sunny Side Up Ranch’s contact information below, as well as a few other local egg producers to check out.


Sunny Side Up Ranch:

Location: West Burlington, Iowa

Phone Number: 319-316-2554

Facebook: Sunny Side Up Ranch

Egg Price: $2.50 per dozen


MT Farms:

Location: Sperry, Iowa

Phone Number: 319-601-6425

Facebook: MTFarmsiowa

Egg Price: $3.00 per dozen


S&W Farms:

Find them at the Jefferson Street Market

Phone Number: 319-985-2111


Egg Price: $3.00 per dozen



Triple Creek Farms:

Find them at the Jefferson Street Market

Phone: 206-459-8674

Facebook: Triple Creek Farms

Price: $3.00 per dozen


Fun Recipes For Eggs:


Fun Facts About Eggs:

Chicken eggs have 7 grams of protein

Did you know you can tell the color of the eggs by the color of the chicken's ears?

White Eggs and Brown Eggs have the same nutritional value.

It takes a hen about 25 hours to lay an egg.

Did you know duck eggs have ⅓ more protein than regular eggs?

Eggs From Sunny Side Up Ranch

Mooo'ving into June

Submitted by gracew2 on Thu, 06/06/2019 - 13:56

HillTop Dairy CalfWhat is more refreshing than a cold glass of milk or a large ice cream cone on a hot summer day in June? Nothing! It’s June which means its finally dairy month! 

Down in Southeast Iowa the Rising Star Interns celebrated dairy month by heading to not only one, but two dairy farms! Hilltop Dairy, located close to the Henry/Washington county line, is a family owned and operated dairy farm by Doug and Donna Roth. Their kids are involved in the operation as well, especially their daughter Madi who was kind enough to show us around. It was evident the cow’s health and wellbeing were of top priority for the Roth’s which was shown when Madi explained how “the cows eat breakfast before we do!” They get up bright and early to milk the cows for the first time of the day around 3:30 a.m. Although a VERY early morning, they still have plenty of work to do for the rest of the day including cleaning the milk parlor, barn, and bedding as well as feeding the cows until it comes time for the second milking at 3:30 p.m. The Roth’s want to share their appreciation for their cows and farm with others, and are happy to give farm tours to the public. If you are interested in seeing what an authentic family owned and operated dairy farm is like, check out their “Dairy Days” Facebook event on June 15th - you may even get some ice cream!      


We also went on a visit to Hinterland Dairy in Donnellson, Iowa, another family owned and operated dairy farm. Ralph and Colleen Krogmeier, the producers, are on the final stretch to becoming your next local cheese producers! The Krogmeier’s love to promote local foods and look forward to having another product that they can sell locally, as well as hold events for the public to come out and see the cheesemaking process right on the farm. A unique feature is that it is farmstead cheese, meaning the cheese will be produced on the same farm that the milk is produced. In this case, the Hinterland Dairy cows are not only going to be producing milk to sell to Prairie Farms, but will also be producing milk to help make Hinterland Dairy Farmstead Cheese! In order to accomplish this, Hinterland Dairy has done a lot of renovation and research to assure their production will be excellent. The Krogmeier’s have made a new facility that includes another brand-new milking parlor, brine room, aging room, walk-in cooler, packaging room, lab, processing room, and a room to showcase and sell their cheese.  On average, Hinterland Dairy will need ten pounds of milk from the cows to produce one pound of cheese, and are hoping to make around 120 pounds of cheese per week! Once open, there will be three cheese varieties available including fresh cheese curds, aged alpine cheddar, and a quark cheese. Hinterland Dairy plans on selling the cheese directly from the facility, and are hoping to provide to a few local restaurants, hospitals, and grocery stores. Be on the lookout for more information about the date of Hinterland Dairy’s official opening!                        


HillTop Dairy Contact:  

Phone: 319-256- 5426 

Facebook: HillTop Dairy Inc.  




Hinterland Dairy Contact:  

Phone: 319-470-3919  

Facebook: Hinterland Dairy  




Dairy Nutrition Facts: 

Milk is filled with calcium, phosphorus, vitamin B-12, and tons of essential amino acids.  All of these will help to live a healthy life.   


Dairy Recipes:  

Meat&Veggies Mac 


Cheesy Broccoli Soup 

HillTop Dairy Calf

Interested in a CSA? Check out Jones Family Farm!

Submitted by gracew2 on Thu, 06/20/2019 - 13:34

If you are a parent you can relate to wanting the very best for you and your family. When it comes to Caroline and Ryan Jones, it was no different. When the Jones had children, they wanted to be able to feed them as much organic and locally grown foods as they could. They decided they wanted to grow their own food to provide for their family, including raising their own meat when possible. Their small organic vegetable garden quickly grew into a large vegetable farm over the past seven years called the Jones’ Family Farm. As it expanded, the Jones began selling their produce at several local farmer’s markets in order to give back to her community. At these markets, the Jones family would bring several different varieties of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, squash, herbs, beans, peas, and more, depending on what was ready to be harvested that day. Customers can expect a wide variety of produce as the Jones grow different types of produce depending on the weather for that year. The Jones’ Family Farm cans, pickles, and freezes leftover produce available at the end of the farmer's markets or harvest season, and will can over 1,000 jars a year of produce with the help of Caroline’s mother.   

Trial and error are mainly what taught Caroline how to be a successful vegetable gardener, and she continues trying new things to become better at growing produce. She shared with us that the first time she ever tried to plant tomato plants she didn’t get a single tomato to grow. This resulted in her doing research about how to grow tomatoes and to try a different method the following year. She implements this style of learning to improve all of the produce on the farm. Caroline has also made several improvements to their farm along the way with the help of her husband. Ryan has converted an old barn into a greenhouse and a workshop for Caroline, they have put tarps over parts of their gardens for weed control, and fencing was put up to keep critters out. By making improvements to the farm, it allows both Caroline and Ryan be able to spend more time together as a family. 

Jones Family Farm Sign

 As their family expanded along with the size of their farm, they decided they wanted to be able to spend more time in the summer with their kids. They began to look into other ways that they could share their organic produce with others that did not involve traveling to farmers markets so frequently. This is what led them to turn their farm into a community supported agriculture (CSA). During the winter this year they had ten families purchase a CSA. Those ten families receive a basket of produce for around 15 weeks when the produce is ready for harvest. The Jones make sure that each produce basket is worth the cost to the members. If you are interested in purchasing locally grown organic food, then the Jones’ Family Farm is the place for you! What’s better than purchasing your produce from a family who began farming because they wanted the best produce available for their own family?  

Jones Family Farm Sign

"Berry" Excited about Blueberry Month

Submitted by gracew2 on Tue, 07/02/2019 - 14:10

July is blueberry month! To celebrate, you can head out to Blueberry Bottom Farm for some “u-pick” blueberries. Blueberry Bottom Farm has a little over five acres of organically-grown blueberry bushes, including eight extra-large varieties. Kim & Steve Anderson are the owners and operators of Blueberry Bottom Farm and it has been a dream come true for Kim. Literally, Kim would have dreams about starting a blueberry farm and she even thought of the name through her dreams. In order for this dream to come true, she knew the farm was going to have to be viable, sustainable, and financially feasible. Starting a blueberry farm in Iowa was also going to require a lot of research, time, and patience. As a college professor herself, Kim knew how important it was to acquire accurate and scientifically based research when she began the process of Blueberry Bottom Farm. She had to do a lot of research on growing blueberries, irrigation systems, weeds, blueberry care, the best fencing system to keep critters out, and much more. Kim not only had to research things about blueberries but also things you wouldn’t think of such as the best place to put a driveway entrance to the blueberry patch. It is amazing to see how much hard work she has put into this “u-pick” blueberry farm. It will definitely be worth your time to stop in at Blueberry Bottom in Brighton, Iowa to pick some of your very own, locally-grown blueberries. As soon as you pull into Blueberry Bottom Farm you will be given your very own bucket to fill with organic blueberries. The price of the blueberries will be by volume, and not weight, and cost about $4 for a quart of organic, fresh blueberries. If you don’t have time to pick your own organic blueberries, don’t fret, you can swing by and grab some pre-picked blueberries at a slightly higher price of $6 for a quart. Blueberry Bottom Farm’s hours will tend to vary throughout the summer due to different varieties ripening at different times. If Blueberry Bottom Farm’s hours don’t work for your schedule there is nothing to worry about as there are a few other local u-pick berry farms you could check out, including the following: Hoskins U Pick Blueberry Farm, Red Fern Farm for black raspberries, and Oakland Mills Berry Farm for strawberries. An even better idea would be to take a road trip sometime this summer and check them all out!  Down below you can find some details about other local berry farms, how to pick out the best blueberry, some nutritional information, and a recipe that can include all different varieties of berries! 


Blueberry Bottom Contact:  

Facebook- Blueberry Bottom 

Instagram- blueberrybottomfarm  


Blueberry Bottom Address- 3304 Highway 78, Brighton, Iowa 


Hoskins Blueberry Farm Contact: 

Facebook- Hoskins U Pick Blueberry Farm 

Phone Number- 309.867.3135 

Hoskins Blueberry Farm Address- 2366 County Highway 3, Oquawka, Illinois  


Red Fern Farm Contact: 

Facebook- Red Fern Farm 

Phone Number- 319.729.5905 

Red Fern Farm Address- 13882 I AVE, Wapello, Iowa  


Oakland Mills Berry Farm Contact: 

Facebook- Oakland Mills Berry Farm 

Phone Number- 319.986.6071 

Oakland Mills Berry Farm Address- 1738 265th Street, Mount Pleasant, Iowa  


Selection For a Good Blueberry: 

Look for blueberries that are firm, plump, dry, and a deep purple blue color.  Avoid ones that look shriveled.   



Berry Nutrition:  

Fiber: helps reduce cholesterol levels and may reduce the risk of heart disease 

Vitamin C: helps heal cuts and help the immune system  


Recipe For Fruit Salsa: 



Farmers Market Tips

Submitted by gracew2 on Fri, 07/26/2019 - 10:42

We love a good farmers market here at EatFreshSEI! We decided to visit the Keokuk Farmer’s Market to gather our best market tips for you all. The Keokuk Farmer’s Market would be a great market to go to if you’re a beginner at the whole farmers market thing. The market is at the River City Mall on Saturdays from 8 to 11:30 a.m. You can find around fifteen vendors with a variety of produce such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, onions, sweet corn, peppers, baked goods, and more! The friendly vendors love to interact with the customers and enjoy sharing their goods! If you have any questions about their produce, they are more than willing to answer. Continue reading below to learn about some great market tips! 


1. Know what is in season before you go 

Knowing what foods are in season will help you understand what kind of produce will be available. If you go to a farmers market looking for watermelon in June the chances of you finding it are going to be slim to none. This is why it is beneficial to know what foods are in season. Not to mention if you purchase foods that are in season, they are going to taste much better and be full of healthy nutrients! 


2. Be prepared with your own reusable bag and cash 

There is a chance that not every vendor is going to have a plastic bag if you decide to purchase from them. This is why it is a good idea to bring a reusable bag. You can put all of the produce you purchase in them and you are helping save the environment! It is also very unlikely that vendors will have a card machine for you to use a debit or credit card, so make sure you have plenty of cash on hand.  


3. Early bird gets the worm! 

If you go right away you will get first dibs on the best produce, and that is when most vendors will have the largest variety. If you go at the end there is a chance the vendors might not have the produce you were looking for or the best produce has already been taken. There might be some truth to the phrase the “early bird gets the worm.”   


4. Make a loop first  

I know I get excited about buying food and tend to want to buy the first thing I see, but that isn’t always the smartest option. It might be worth your time to make a loop around the entire market to see what produce is available and where the good prices are at.  After you make the loop around the market you are more knowledgeable about what is all available, and therefore you can make better choices when purchasing your fresh produce. 

Fruit & Vegetable Field Day at ISU

Submitted by mhoenig on Tue, 08/13/2019 - 14:30

On August 5th, we attended the Fruit & Vegetable Field Day at the ISU Horticulture Research Station north of Ames.  This is an annual event that is free for the public to attend - but the majority of attendees were commercial growers, Master Gardeners and extension personnel.  It was a great event where we got to brush elbows with some of the knowledgeable ISU Extension specialists and researchers as well as chat with other Iowa producers from all across the state.  They also provided a lovely picnic dinner for attendees. We highly recommend putting this on your calendar for next year!

Research projects that were demonstrated included cover crops, growing peaches and tomatoes in high tunnels, trellising small melons, pest management on cucurbits (covering them with nets), hops, bees, and biodegradable mulch trials.  Below are some pictures from the event and some highlights of what we learned.

biodegradable mulch trial in pepper field with FSMA visitor information sign Most vegetables growers who use plastic mulches in their fields can appreciate the benefits of keeping weed pressure around summer crops to a minimum.  But when it comes to removing the plastic mulch from the fields in the fall, farmers often complain about the effort and time that it takes to remove (not to mention the plastic waste that needs to be disposed of!)  There are a handful of biodegradable mulches on the market these days, and they are trialing these mulches at the ISU Horticulture Research Station.  Mulches were made from a plant-based cellulose plastic or creped paper.  Thinner paper mulches were found to disintegrate shortly after installation, so thicker paper is suggested for use.  This trial is still ongoing, but we look forward to learning more about the different biodegradable mulches and how the peppers performed in each.

Also, as you can see in the picture of this biodegradable mulch trial, there were signs in the vegetable fields informing visitors about best food safety practices.  Food producers often struggle with how to inform farm visitors about food safety policies. A simple sign like the one pictured is a great way to inform your visitors about your safe food policies without having to give them a long speech!

The high tunnel peach trial compares the peach trees growing in a 20 ft tall high tunnel structure with the same trees growing outdoors.  They are measuring growth of trees in both locations and comparing data, but they have yet to get a fruiting crop off of any of the trees in 4 years of the project so there is no data on how the high tunnel effects harvest potential.   Peaches are generally a rare commodity in Iowa because of our fluctuating weather, so they are hoping to see some benefits from growing the trees inside a high tunnel.  We've had some extremely crazy weather in the last few years, especially the sub-zero temps last winter, so it's apparent that the high tunnel does not protect the trees from all harsh weather!

 The researcher shared information about the pruning of fruit trees when growing in a high tunnel (trees are pruned to have two lead branches to promote good airflow. Pruning also helps with keeping the trees from growing through the roof of the tunnel and keeping them a manageable height for when they do have peaches to harvest.  While I don't anticipate encouraging anyone to grow fruit trees in a high tunnel anytime soon, I appreciate seeing how intensively fruit trees can be pruned and how good tree formation can benefit the harvest.

demonstrating small melon varieties that were trellised in a high tunnel

The melon trial focused on smaller melons (1-3 lbs) that could be trellised.  ISU researchers grew about about 10 varieties of melons that included honeydews and cantaloupes.  The flesh of the melons were a range of colors... including a white-fleshed honeydew!  After they shared about controlling cucumber beetles, trellising techniques and planting flowers along the edges of the tunnel to attract pollinators, field day visitors were invited to taste the melons!  Our favorite was a cantaloupe called sugar cube, but there were lots of other tasty varieties.

They had another melon trial where full-sized melons were growing under netting outdoors.  This netting was intended to keep pests off of the plants... but that means the pollinators did not have access to the plants either.  In order to pollinate the melons, a bumble bee box was installed under each netted tunnel, and the researchers were measuring the effectiveness of these bees as well as the pest prevention benefits of the netting.


close up of hops budshops growing up a line One of the last fields we visited that day was their hops production field.  It was amazing to see how tall these vines climb and to see the giant trellising systems that must be built to grow hops.  This is a crop that is in high demand and fairly easy to grow in our state (the cost and labor to build the trellis is probably the hardest part!). 

It was fun to learn about all the research that is going on at the ISU Horticulture Research farm this year, and I can't wait to hear how some of these trials turn out. It was an inspiring event for any gardener... observing innovative growing techniques, chatting with extension specialists, and witnessing how we can learn from both trial and error made for a very informative day!

demonstrating small melon varieties that were trellised in a high tunnel
Peach trees growing in a high tunnel
close up of hops buds
hops growing up a line

Celebrating Apple Month

Submitted by mhoenig on Tue, 10/08/2019 - 09:15

Farmers markets in our corner of the state are closing down for the season - but don’t despair, there’s still plenty of locally-grown goodness to be had this fall. Apples will be available from local orchards through October!

Below are orchards in Des Moines, Louisa, Lee and Henry counties. If you are looking for an apple orchard in another part of the state, go to

Meller Orchard signs and owner Carl MellerMELLER ORCHARD, 17767 195TH ST., YARMOUTH

Look for the faded wooden sign on Beaverdale Road (just a 1/2 mile south of Pleasant Grove Road, or 12 miles north of West Burlington). Follow the gravel lane, past the dead end sign, and you’ll find yourself at Meller Orchard.

Carl Meller has a wide variety of apples available from August through November. Jonathan, Golden Delicious and McIntosh varieties are available now, and Arkansas Black and Granny Smith varieties will start to be available in the coming weeks. He also offers apple cider.

Hours of operation: 9AM to 6PM - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, Noon to 6PM - Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Phone: (319)394-3897




This local apple orchard has been in operation for 52 years and they offer ten varieties of apples. Bryant’s have been providing apples to a number of schools in the region for many years.

They are currently offering Jonathan, Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, Empire, Jonagold and Chieftain and Fuji apples. They have gallon jugs of unfiltered, unpasteurized, no processed apple cider. They also have a good stock excellent #2 apples for eating or cooking (good for sauce).

Open seasonally from mid September to early November. 8AM to 5PM Monday through Saturday, 1PM to 4PM on Sundays.

Phone: (319) 868-7633 Find them on Facebook:


APPLETREE ORCHARD, 1040 260TH ST., LOCKRIDGEApple Tree Orchard caramel apples, map to farm & owner Marcia Rich

You can find Marcia and her apples at a handful of southeast Iowa farmers markets in the summer and fall, including the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market. If you get to the market early enough, you can also pick up one of her amazing caramel apples (with homemade caramel!). Apples are also available for purchase directly from the farm.





Appleberry Orchard has more than just apples. They offer a wide variety of family activities - petting zoo, wagon rides, play area, U-pick apples and pumpkins, and a little shop with fall treats. While the U-pick part of their operation is closed for the season, you can still find apples, cider and other apple-based goodies inside their shop -freshly made apple cider donuts, fall decor, pumpkins, hot apple cider & hot chocolate.

Hours of operation: 9AM to 7PM Monday through Saturday, 11AM to 7PM Sundays

Phone: (310)372-1307 Website: Find them on Facebook


Looking for more information on selection, storage, preservation & preparation of apples?  Below are some publications that may be helpful:

Produce Basics: APPLES - produce_basics_-_apples.pdf  from the Spend Smart. Eat Smart. website 

Preserving Apples - Canning Fruits  pm1043.pdf

                                - Freezing Fruits & Vegetables  pm1045.pdf

                                - Canning Fruit Spreads  pm1366.pdf

Harvesting & Storing Apples - pm1078.pdf




Meller Orchard signs and owner Carl Meller
Apple Tree Orchard caramel apples, map to farm & owner Marcia Rich