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AG Mag Field to Plate Central Iowa

Strengthening the tie between farmers and consumers in the restaurant and classroom, and at the grocery and markets.

HARVEST TIME: A look at a day in the life of a local farmer TRAVEL FORECAST: A look at the region’s ag infrastructure

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Fall 2017 AG Mag

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AG Mag

COVER STORY

Central Iowa

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Publisher Dan Goetz Advertising Director Jeff Holschuh Managing Editor Abigail Pelzer Magazine Editor Jeff Rogers

A local restaurateur and farmers are at the forefront of a growing trend – farm to table

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A GROWING Iowa restaurants, farms in farm to MOVEMENT table renaissance W

BY MIKE MENDENHALL For Central Iowa Ag Mag

hen chef Joe Trip returned to Central Iowa from Denver in 2012 to become the head chef at Alba in Des Moines’ East Village, he brought with him an appreciation of freshly sourced foods which he uses to create an experience for his customers. Trip is part of Iowa’s expanding farm to table movement, inspiring local restaurateurs to source their ingredients from local growers. The trend, Trip said, is all part of the evolution of American’s slowly evolving tastes. nnn

“Denver is really where the farm to table movement really took grip of me,” Trip said. “I think the terminology itself is a bit of a niche. People used to market themselves. To me, it’s just better product. It’s fresher product. The flavors are crisper. Great chefs have always said what makes the best chef is the best ingredients.” CONTINUED ON 64

Brussel sprouts are ready to be picked in early November on Larry Cleverley’s organic farm near Mingo. The produce is a specific request by a Des Moines restaurateur. (Mike Mendenhall/Central Iowa Ag Mag)

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Byron C. Jones/Special to Central Iowa Ag Mag

All dishes at the Des Moines Ingersoll neighborhood restaurant Harbinger are made from locally sourced ingredients. Co-owner and Executive Chef Joe Trip uses a farm to table cooperative delivery service in Harlan, contracts directly with Cleverley Farms in Mingo, and uses Iowa meat processed at the Story City Locker. 4CONTINUED FROM 5 Trip began cooking in Iowa City’s restaurant scene to pay the bills while he studied psychology at the University of Iowa. The Waukee native moved to Denver to attend the culinary school at Johnson and Wales University. He also took an internship with Alex Seidel, owner of the farm to table restaurant Fruition and one of Food and Wine Magazine’s top 10 chefs of 2012. What Trip thought would be some real-world experience at Fruition became a full-time job. Seidel was Trip’s mentor, steering him away from culinary school to learn directly on the job. It eventually became a well-rounded education in the farm to table business model. Seidel purchased a farm to produce and locally source the dishes served at 6 Fall 2017

Mike Mendenhall/Central Iowa Ag Mag

Of all the spots in his Des Moines Ingersoll neighborhood Harbinger, executive chef Joe Trip finds the dining room’s living wall to be the most peaceful. Trip brought his love for the farm to table movement with him when he returned from Denver in 2012. He sources nearly all his menu from central Iowa produce growers and meat producers, and much of the restaurants wood decor comes from old Iowa barns and Windfall lumber. Fruition. This is where Trip gained an appreciation for where his food came from. “Alex bought a couple sheep, then, before I knew it, we had a whole herd. We were making our own cheese and aging prosciutto,” Trip said. “I saw a couple of animals go down, which is an interesting experience of a young cook. It’s something that I think everybody should see.” In April, Trip opened Harbinger in Des Moines’ Ingersoll neighborhood. As executive chef and co-owner with Des Moines restaurateur Jason Simon, Trip’s restaurant become a major player in

Iowa’s own growing farm to table movement. Harbinger’s food is, of course, locally sourced. Trip uses hand-picked local farmers for produce, and contracts through a cooperative of 15 local produce farmers based in Harlan – FarmTable Procurement & Deliveries. For meats, Harbinger sources from the Story City Locker. It’s a progressive meat locker marketing recipes and connecting customers with local farmers. But Trip wanted to take the farm to table concept step further. CONTINUED ON 74


Movement extends to classrooms and beyond BY RACHEL RODGERS For Central Iowa Ag Mag

Food for thought: People are putting more thought into their food. Did this ear of corn sitting on the dinner plate come from a local farmer? What process took it from a being a small seedling in the dirt to the produce bin at the store? Field to plate, farm to table, seed to store – there are several terms for the growing movement of knowing where your food comes from before it gets past your lips. It stretches beyond the average consumer who specifically looks for offerings at the local farmers market and encompasses groceries, restaurants, schools and other organizations. The concept is two-fold in that people are looking for fresher, healthier food options, while also supporting area farms with the goal of bolstering the local economy. There are many links between farmers and consumers in the agricultural food chain, ranging from packaging, transportation and distribution to education, dietetics and marketing.

In the classroom Many programs are geared toward teaching students the importance of the role that agriculture plays in their dailylives. They include Agriculture in the Classroom, administered by the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation. In addition to Ag in the Classroom, the IALF supports FFA and 4-H. IALF maintains a regular blog at iowaagliteracy.wordpress. com. It also distributed 42,000 copies of its student magazine, Iowa Ag Today, in 2016. The magazine reached 42,000 fourth- and fifth-graders. It also provides a Teacher Supplmement Grant, which had 217 teacher applicants last year.

At the markets And while Iowa students are

getting increasing access to ag education, Americans have seen a boom in farmers markets and their fresh and local offerings. Markets throughout the U.S. increased by 92 percent between 1998 and 2009, growing to more than 5,000. Though increases in the past few years are far less significant – the United States Department of Agriculture puts the increase at 0.21 percent since last year – the total number has reached nearly 8,700 markets. The allure of farmers markets isn’t just freshness; it’s estimated that 65 percent of money put toward local food stays within the community, compared to about 40 percent from big box stores, according to 2012 research from Roslynn Brain, a Sustainable Communities Extension specialist in the Department of Environment and Society, College of Natural Resources at Utah State University. Grocers are part of the movement as well. Consumers are more drawn to “locally grown” labels or “grown in the Midwest” stickers – products can be labeled as grown locally or regionally if they were grown within state boundaries or within a 400-mile radius, but they usually come within county lines. About 36 percent of shoppers choose their primary grocery based on the “quality and variety of fresh foods,” according to recent data from the Food Marketing Institute. The number of consumers buying fresh perishable items has increased 21 percent compared to a year ago and grown 6 percent with those buying more fresh prepared food. In addition to stores having more locally grown produce, there’s also more organic options filling the shelves. Research shows that organic products are perceived more favorably when it comes to nutrition, safety, brand attitude, and brand trust, according to a 2015 study at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

4CONTINUED FROM 6 One look around the dining room in Harbinger, and visitors can see Iowa products everywhere. The plateware is made by local artisans. Decorative bowls hanging on the walls are crafted from Iowa Windfall lumber. The barn wood used to construct the bar top came from the farm of one of his suppliers – Mingo organic produce farmer Larry Cleverley. Cleverley farms about five acres of certified USDA organic fields on farmland that’s been in his family for nearly 80 years. Cleverley became fascinated with farm to table while living in New York. In 1996, the Mingo farmer began cold-calling Des Moines metro area restaurants and produce suppliers anticipating a move back to Iowa to start his farm. His first year in business was 1997, growing lettuce, beets, carrots, winter squash and a wide variety of produce. Cleverley became a staple at the downtown Des Moines Farmers Market, ending a 20-year tenure after the 2016 season. But in that first year of business, it was difficult to sell some central Iowa restaurant owners on the farm to table concept. “Some people, when you approach them to sell them locally grown produce, they look at you like you just dropped out of the sky from a spaceship or something. It was beyond their comprehension,” Cleverley said. “But then on the other end of the scale, there were people who were very encouraging.” But the adoption of locally sourced produce in Iowa has surpassed his expectation. Cleverley said the key to a successful small-scale organic grower is offering chefs produce that is hard to get such as Cardones and different varieties of cantaloupe. Cleverley said he doesn’t over-promise customers in the amount of a crop he can grow. He always delivers washed, dirt-free produce, but efficiency and understating the market has been vital to the prosperity of Cleverly Farms. Over the years, Cleverley has capped the number of restaurants he services and tried to get deeper into their menus, selling a bigger variety of produce. “Instead of selling $50 worth of produce to 10 different places, we can deliver $200 worth to three different places,” he said. “It makes us more efficient. Every time we stop the truck, there’s a cost.” For the farm to table movement to grow its popularity even further, Trip said the mindset of consumers will need to continue to evolve. At Harbinger, the menu is focused on vegetables. Trip uses a lot of Asian influences in his cooking, which lends to a green bowl or plate. For example, Harbinger’s Chestnut and Sunchoke Congee takes two uncommon vegetables and adds hints of maple vinegar, roasted pork belly and 64-degree egg. Trip said it’s a breakfast bowl with Iowa flavors and Asian breakfast textures. “Americans have an infatuation with a 16-ounce ribeye and a big ol’ potato,” Trip said. “The thing we really need to do is look at the way we source our food, look at the way we take in our food and what we take into our daily diet.”

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Small changes, big impacts F

BY ANTHONY VICTOR REYES For Central Iowa Ag Mag

or people who are not associated with life on the farm, there is probably only one aspect they are concerned about when driving down a county road – Will I make it to my destination? But for many farmers, like Gordon Wassenaar, every aspect of their regularly traveled roads is a concern. How often is it maintained? What is the road made up of? This is because the state of the roads can have a huge effect on

their livelihood. “The roads are definitely important to us. While a lot of people may not get off a paved road, it is not as big of a deal. For us, we are using every type of road Gordon the county, state and city Wassenaar have,” said Will Cannon, who runs farm operations on Wassenaar’s land. “What used to be zero trips on the road is now three or four trips. What used to be 100 bushels of corn, is now 200. Now you have larger

‘The whole system relies on roads more than it ever has before’ trucks, making more trips, traveling longer distances. The whole system relies on roads more than it ever has before.” Wassenaar’s family has lived on their farm in Prairie City for 98 years. Born and raised in the town of about 1,700 people, Wassenaar followed his father’s footsteps and farmed the land for 62 years. Despite being retired for two years, the Prairie City native and Cannon farmed a combined 1,300 acres across Prairie City and Newton. CONTINUED ON 94

Rock roads are costly to maintain. Iowa has more than 90,000 miles of secondary roads to maintain. (Alex Felker/Central Iowa Ag Mag)

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According to farmer Will Cannon, farmers rely on larger vehicles to tend to their land, making them rely on the quality of rural roads now more than ever. “What used to be zero trips on the road is now three or four trips. What used to be 100 bushels of corn, is now 200. Now you have larger trucks, making more trips, traveling longer distances,” Cannon said. (Anthony Victor Reyes/Central Iowa Ag Mag) 4CONTINUED FROM 8 With the advancement of technology and machinery and the larger yields that come with it, Wassenaar said, today’s farmers rely on the quality of roads more now than ever. “Years ago, most of the grains were moved with wagons. What used to be 100 bushels is now 1,000. We have almost as many roads as we had then,” he said. “We have more rural people who have a job in town or have to go to school, there are very few rural areas where they don’t have to be somewhere else than the farm.” Wassenaar said he and Cannon find themselves regularly frequenting every type of road, from paved highways to gravel streets. He said even though they primarily transport most of their goods to the nearby Heartland Co-op, the agriculture business requires a lot of traveling.

“In Monroe, Hewitt’s Auto Parts is down there. That is where we buy auto parts, odds and ends. In Des Moines, we go shopping, and in Pella is the implement dealer and bank,” he said. “Everything has to leave the farm, either to Prairie City or to somewhere else.” Wassenaar said most of the roads they frequent are in good shape. He and Cannon said their main concerns regard a change in the type of material used on county gravel roads. “River rock is bigger and does not deteriorate. With limestone rock, it deteriorates and you get grounded up,” Wassenaar said. “[The gravel roads, which are now made of limestone] put additional wear and tear on our vehicles.” According to the Jasper County Engineer’s Office, after river rock gravel production stopped at the quarries near Colfax and Reasnor, the county saw

an opportunity to primarily use white limestone for their gravel roads. “Some individuals like [river rock] gravel. Some do not like the gravel and prefer the white rock,” said Pamela Olson of the Jasper County Engineer’s Office. “At this point in time, we do not have the opportunity to haul in [river rock] gravel because it is not available to us.” Olson said the county would like to choose between limestone and river rock for their gravel roads, but the cost of hauling the river rock from outside areas makes it unavailable. “It seems like a lot of gravel roads are not getting as much gravel as it used to or it is not lasting as long as it used to. We are always teetering on that brink where if we get a week of wet weather, we may go from a road that was in good shape to a road that is barely passable,” Cannon said. “The county is in a tough spot, and we respect that ... the county can’t control the weather.”

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I

BY DAVID DOLMAGE For Central Iowa Ag Mag

t’s nearly midnight in the field, and Wade Boehm still has acres to go tonight. Boehm’s combine, the world’s largest vacuum cleaner, is a pool of light in the darkness, churning eight rows of corn at a time. It’s harvest time, and for farmers like Boehm, who works during the day as an ag teacher at Baxter High School, it’s just one of many long nights. Boehm grew up on a farm near Greenfield, and as long as he can remember, farming is the only thing that he’s ever wanted to do. After meeting his wife, Shannon, in college, they lived in the suburbs of Des Moines for a couple of years, while Boehm taught agriculture classes at DMACC, But in the back of his mind, he was working on a chance to get back out into the field. Five years ago, the Boehms moved back to a farm north of Colfax, to be closer to Shannon’s parents, and to get serious about farming. “It’s just always been something that I’ve wanted to do, that I’m excited, passionate about,” Boehm said, as he deftly steers the combine through the field. “I knew it was a leap, but I knew it was what I wanted to do.” nnn Both Boehm and his wife grew up on a farm, and they wanted their three kids to grow up in the same environment. They both remember feeling a sense of togetherness as a kid, and bond that held their families together, and has kept them close to this day. “We spent a lot of time together on a hayrack and in a tractor, and we want our kids to have those experiences, to learn what it’s like to take care of livestock, loving the outdoors, and being close to your family,” Shannon said. This isn’t the first time that Boehm has taught at Baxter. It was the first job he had after graduating from Iowa State University. After stepping away from teaching to focus on his farm, he felt the itch to get back into the classroom. He wants to pass his passion for the industry along to his students, and he’s adamant that no matter how tough they might think it is, there’s Drought conditions persiststill opportunities for small ed across Iowa this summer, farmers. and farmers like Boehm saw “When kids tell me, ‘I want widely varying yields. to farm, but there’s no way,’ I ask them, ‘How do you know until you’ve given it some serious thought?’” Boehm said. In Boehm’s mind, all you need to get started is a willingness to work, and a business plan that will set you apart from your neighbors. Many farmers these days are singularly focused, producing either row crops or livestock, but Boehm doesn’t 10 Fall 2017

LEAPS OF FAITH

Harvest season a time for Wade Boehm to spend quality time in two of his favorite places: the field, and the classroom

Wade Boehm transfers grain from his combine into a waiting sem


ABOVE: Cattle graze in a cornfield behind Wade Boehm’s house. Allowing the cattle to graze after the corn has been harvested helps Boehm cut down on hay costs for the herd. LEFT: Boehm checks the condition of corn on his farm north of Colfax in mid-September. This is a relatively rare sighting of Boehm in his field during daylight. He also teaches ag classes at Baxter High School, returning to the farm, putting on his work clothes, and heading out into the field. During harvest season, he’ll be out there until 2 a.m., his wife, Shannon, said.

Photos by David Dolmage/Central Iowa Ag Mag

mi at dusk during the harvest season.

believe in that. His farm, with his head of 80 cattle grazing behind the ranch house looks more like an average farm in the 1950s. The approach might be old school, but the technology is anything but. Inside the combine’s cab, a GPS enabled display shows Wade where he’s at in the field, the moisture content of the corn, and a thousand other pieces of information that filter past Boehm’s eyes night after night. “It’s all about what opportunities you make,” Boehm said. Even though his wife might tease him about it, Boehm never turns on the radio inside the combine. He’d rather listen to the quiet roar of the motor, cautiously alert for any signs of distress, like a failing bearing. That old saw about farmers rising, getting to work before the sun comes up, might be true for some farmers, but Boehm will readily admit he’s a “night guy.” By four in the afternoon, he’s home from teaching, and changed into his work clothes, and other than a quick stop to help Shannon put the kids to bed, he’ll go all night. With his helper, J.D., an ag student at ISU, following him with a tractor and wagon, they’ll run down the fields without stopping, corn flying out of the chute into the back of the wagon as J.D.’s tractor trundles alongside the combine. With Wade going back to teaching, Shannon said, this year will be a “learning year” for their family. “He’ll stay out on that combine until 2 a.m. and then come back here and go to bed,” Shannon said. “He really loves teaching, and he’s really passionate about the FFA.” Boehm brought his students out to the farm for a field day. He said he wasn’t afraid to toss them the keys to his combine, although he admitted that out of every piece of equipment he owns, it’s his favorite. For Boehm, the big appeal to teaching is having a chance to give back, and to give his students the same confidence he’s had, to let them know that if they’re willing to work hard enough, and if they’ve got a good enough plan, they can be successful in this industry. There’s enough room for everyone who wants it. “There are some day where you feel like, ‘Was this the right thing to do? Should Wade have gone back to teaching? Was this too much?’ But it was always our goal to be on the farm, and for Wade to have an impact on the kids,” Shannon said. “Even though the days are long, it’s worth it in the end.”

AG Mag

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FARMERS FORUM A Q&A with local farmers about the 2017 harvest, and their 2018 plans

Dennis Edge

Troy Wesselink

Q: What surprised you about the 2017 harvest season? A: The yields were a lot higher that I thought it would be. Q: What do you plan to do differently in 2018? A: Not a whole lot. I would use something different to kill water hemp in the beans. I would maybe come up with different lunch ideas.

Q: What surprised you about the 2017 harvest season? A: The yields of the crop and that it didn’t dry down like we thought it was going to. I was done with harvest Nov. 4 last year, and it’s taking a little bit longer this year. Q: What do you plan to do differently in 2018? A: Probably use Dicamba beans because weeds have become an issue.

12 Fall 2017

Randy Schmidt Q: What surprised you about the 2017 harvest season? A: How well the crops are doing it’s pretty surprising for the year we’ve had. Q: What do you plan to do differently in 2018? A: It’s hard to know - contract crops out at better prices.

Jason Robinson Q: What surprised you about the 2017 harvest season? A: The lack of rain we had and the yields we’re having. Q: What do you plan to do differently in 2018? A: I would hope for more rain in 2018. I would also like to do extra tillage.


Anthony Victor Reyes/Central Iowa Ag Mag

Prairie City-Monroe High School agriculture teacher Amber Samson helps a student with her produce spreadsheet. This year, Samson decided to mentor a new ag teacher through a program run by the Iowa Association of Agricultural Educators.

‘THEY AREN’T JUST OUR FUTURE FARMERS’ PCM instructor takes step in battling statewide Ag teacher shortage

S

BY ANTHONY VICTOR REYES Central Iowa Ag Mag

tress, confusion, and sometimes a few tears. That’s how Amber Samson described the first semester of teaching agriculture when she landed a position out of college as an instructor at Dallas Center-Grimes Community High School. But after four years of trial and error, Samson’s students at PCM High School will say she is not only competently teaching the broad, multitiered subject, but passing along countless lessons they will hold onto for the rest of their lives.

nnn “Ms. Samson doesn’t just teach [agriculture], she teaches everything else. She teaches life lessons,” student Maddie Samson said. “I am super passionate about FFA, and I think she is why.” The four-year teacher has been a member of the Iowa Association of Agricultural Educators since 2014. As a member of the group, she typically would just attend the career-building conferences the organization offers. This year, she decided to mentor new teachers to pass down what she learned over her four years of teaching, and help create better agriculture teachers for the years to come. CONTINUED ON 144

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Photos by Anthony Victor Reyes/Central Iowa Ag Mag

Samson answers a question from one of her students at PCM High School. Prior to teaching three years at PCM, Samson taught at Dallas Center Grimes Community High School.

Amber Samson shares a laugh with her students at PCM High School. She has taught agriculture at PCM for three years, and four years overall. 4CONTINUED FROM 13 “There is a big discrepancy between college preparation classes and your first job,” Samson said. “They teach you this stuff in college, but they don’t really teach you that stuff in college. Then they just kind of hand it to you.” According to the Iowa Department of Education, agriculture was listed as a teacher shortage area for the 2017-18 school year. Although there are many students majoring in agriculture-related subjects in college, not many are looking to pass down their knowledge to others. Samson said this might be because being an agriculture teacher is very difficult. “The first two years, you are very overwhelmed,” she said. “There is really no one you can turn to in your building.” Samson said typically, teachers fresh out of college are assigned a mentor – usually someone who has been a teacher for a while and is a veteran in the classroom. She said it is rare to see multiple agriculture instructors in a district. This means agriculture teachers are commonly assigned a mentor who teaches another subject. 14 Fall 2017

But as many people who have taken an agriculture class know, it is very different from the others. “Ag is not just about farming. Agronomy is the closest we get to farming. ... When I hear agriculture, I hear food, natural resources, science, math, economics,” Samson said. “Your mentor is usually some random teacher who has no idea what you are going through or how to really help you. ... Some don’t even know what FFA is.” In the state, regular courses like science, math and literature follow the Iowa Core. The curriculum is usually mapped out to ensure all students in the district are college and career ready in that field. In agriculture, the subjects are vast. The curriculum is not standardized. Lessons are hands on. Plus, the class is usually associated with the school’s FFA program. For new instructors, teaching a class is difficult enough. With these extra responsibilities, Samson said, teaching agriculture can be overwhelming. “We have a set of competencies, standards and benchmarks, but we are free to pick and choose, sort of,” Samson said. “That is what is nice about being ag, but it is hard for new teachers. “There is a standardized test statewide that students have to take, but there is nothing for agriculture.” This year, Samson is mentoring Emily Van Manen of Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines. According to the PCM teacher, she

meets her mentee roughly once a month. This semester, Samson said, she will visit Van Manen in her classroom, observe her teaching, give her some suggestions and answer any questions she might have. The two are able to learn from each other and trade ideas to better the class and the overall lesson plan. “She knows she has someone to turn to,” Samson said. “She gets the opportunity to learn from an old dog, and she gets to teach me new tricks. I get to see a new program dynamic. I am in a public school, she’s not.” As students of a variety of backgrounds and career goals take the course, Samson said mentoring other ag teachers will help not only progress the subject, but also help their students become better, more educated citizens of the world. “I just wanted to help someone stay in the profession that should be in the profession,” Samson said. “If we keep good ag teachers and get kids down here, we will have future doctors, lawyers, teachers of all grades, moms, dads. ... They aren’t just our future farmers.” Samson’s students, like Maddie and junior Wyatt Van Gorp, agree. “Her mentoring is kind of inspirational. She hasn’t been here terribly long, but she is already branching out and helping people be better at their jobs,” Van Gorp said. “I kind of look up to that.” For more information about IAAE, visit iowaagteachers.org.


HER BUSINESS IS ON A ROLL ‘The Pie Lady’ has become a reluctant entrepreneurial star

V

erna Vander Molen never dreamed of owning her own business. She had been baking all of her life, mostly for family and friends, but the idea of selling her pies and baked goods never crossed her mind. It wasn’t until a friend suggested she attend the local farmers market in Pella about 10 years ago that the first seed of what would become The Rolling Pin was planted. “I really didn’t try to start a business, it is something that just happened,” Vader Molen said. “When my youngest was 2 or 3, a good friend of mine, who is a caterer, said I should come to the local farmers market, there isn’t anybody making pies. At first I decided not to, but she kind of kept after me.” At the end of the season, Vander Molen decided to give it a try and brought her card table and a half dozen pies to the market. Although she didn’t really like having to be a salesman, the pies sold.

In her home, baker Verna Vander Molen creates baked goods ranging from pies to cookies and even Dutch Letters for local businesses and loyal customers. (Jamee A. Pierson/ Central Iowa Ag Mag)

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CONTINUED ON 164

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AG Mag

15


4CONTINUED FROM 16 When the next season came around, after some encouragement from her husband, Tim, she decided to give it another try. “That year, I just kept having to bring a few more and a few more, and since then it has just kept growing,” Vander Molen said. Her roots in baking started by growing up in the kitchen with her mom and two grandmas. When she got married, she was a stay-at-home mom and baked a lot for her family. As the business grew, she became known as “The Pie Lady” and decided her venture needed a name. “I wanted it to be really meaningful,” Vander Molen said. “We tried to think of some names but they just weren’t right, until my husband came in from the field and said ‘it’s The Rolling Pin’ and I said that’s it; didn’t even have to think about it.” Through the years, she had collected rolling pins from family members, and naming her business after a beloved collection seemed fitting. In the years to follow, Vader Molen has expanded her business from pies to additional baked goods, including Dutch letters, scones and cookies. She also supplies several local eateries, including pies for the Windmill Cafe; frozen pies for In’t Veld’s Meat Market; fresh pies for Opa’s Deli; cookies, granola bars and pies for The Brew Coffee House; and seasonal pies for de Scoop. Thanksgiving week is a special time for Vander Molen. The day before the holiday, she hits the road and delivers pies all afternoon. “I bake all morning until about 1, and then I start delivering,” Vander Molen said. “That is always a special day, just because it is a big pie day.” Looking back on what her business has become in 10 years can be overwhelming when it started with just a card table and a few pies. Mostly, Vander Molen is thankful for the opportunities she has had, and looks forward to where the business will go in the future.

Jamee A. Pierson/Central Iowa Ag Mag

Scones have become a favorite of Verna Vander Molen’s farmers market crowd, available in a variety of flavors. Cookies and pies are also available at many area restaurants and eateries including the Windmill Cafe, In’t Veld’s Meat Market and The Brew Coffee House.

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16 Fall 2017


Their patch of heaven Family pumpkin patch provides memories for a lifetime

A

Cole and Lacey Jai Vander Linden opened up a pumpkin patch, corn maze, hay bale area and small shop on their farm south of Monroe last year. (Photos submitted to Central Iowa Ag Mag}

BY JAMEE A. PIERSON For Central Iowa Ag Mag

stop at a roadside pickyour-open pumpkin patch three years ago led farmers Cole and Lacey Jai Vander Linden to open their own patch on their farm south of Monroe. At the simple.farm, the Vander Lindens grow jack-o-lantern pumpkins, decorative pumpkins in white and green, warty pumpkins, peanut pumpkins and minis, and an assortment of gourds and pie pumpkins along with providing a fun, memory filled experience during the fall. “It was a few days before Halloween, and we had yet to carve pumpkins with our kids,” Lacey said. “So we grabbed a wagon and picked out our perfect pumpkins. When we left the small patch, Cole and I both thought, ‘We are farmers. Why don’t we grow our own pumpkins?’ So that is how the thought was born.” The idea of growing the family farming operation in a different way was exciting to Lacey, along with tending to it as a family. After their first year in 2016, the couple learned a lot, such as the variety of pumpkins available and the season to plant the pumpkins. “The kids have absolutely loved planting the pumpkins, water-

ing the pumpkins, checking on them, and being so excited when we find our first little pumpkin growing,” Lacey said. Toward the end of September, the patch opened for business, with families from across Central Iowa coming to pick out the perfect pumpkin. Along with goodies from the patch, families could also go through a corn maze, get their picture taken in a fall themed hay bale area, and visit a small shop. “It was so nice to have a local patch close to home to get our pumpkins this fall,” Morgan DeRaad said. “My kids had a lot of fun running in the corn maze and picking out their big pumpkins to carve, and I got some great specialty pumpkins to decorate with, too.” While balancing the pumpkin patch along with farm life and family can be tough, Lacey said, she and her husband often divide and conquer but are taking in every experience. “We don’t get to be on a set schedule,” Lacey said. “We just take it one day at a time and just try to enjoy every minute of this life we get to live.” For more information about the pumpkin patch or Lacey’s family life on the farm, visit her Facebook page the.simple.farm.

AG Mag

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LONG LASTING, STILL GROWING New Century FS serves Jasper County farmers for more than 80 years

N

BY KAYLA SINGLETARY For Central Iowa Ag Mag

ew Century FS has been serving Central Iowa farmers for more than 80 years and has implemented changes to better serve its customers as equipment technology has upgraded and space needs were addressed. With a vision of, “Your premier partner for success,” the company treats farmers as a part of their team. Jake Jacobs, general manager of New Century FS, began working with the company in 1992 and has witnessed positive growth within the company, such as several high-tech fertilizer facilities and increasing storage capacity. There are two FS facilities in Jasper

18 Fall 2017

County – one in Baxter and one in Newton. The company has grown from a two-county company to reaching nine counties, Jacobs said. “In 1992, we had both locations fully staffed with a salesman, a secretary, and one or two custom applicators,” Jacobs said. “We have consolidated those – when we built the new office in Newton a few years ago, we put both salesmen out of that location plus all of our applicators.” Jacobs said the Melbourne location also plays a key role for the company, having tripled the storage for anhydrous. FS has also increased the anhydrous storage and pumping capacity in Newton, and plans to add that to the

Baxter facility as well. “Equipment has doubled with more fertilizer spreaders, and we have more than tripled our spraying capacity over the years. We used to run one sprayer, and now we run four sprayers in the territory,” Jacobs said. “We service a lot more acres than we used to. Farmers have gotten larger, and with new accounts we have picked up, we cover a lot more acres than what we used to.” Jacobs said one of the more recent changes has been going from small locations that had everything on site to building a mega shed, which has consolidated the smaller sites. CONTINUED ON 194


Photos by Kayla Singletary/Daily News

Pictured is the New Century FS location in Newton. The company has been serving Jasper County farmers for more than 80 years. 4CONTINUED FROM 18 “We still maintain the smaller sites, and we feel customer relations there are very important to us, but we have also consolidated to these large sites where our products come out of, so we deliver products to farther distances than we used to.” According to Jacobs, New Century FS had small, outdated sheds and facilities that needed to be upgraded, and it made the most sense to build one large facility. “The dry shed we built in Melbourne replaced five smaller sheds,” he said. “Those five sheds had a storage capacity of around 5,500 tons. The one large shed has a capacity of around 12,000 tons. “It gave us more inventory that we needed because our business has grown. Before we were short storage, so we couldn’t buy enough product and we had trouble keeping product in season.” In addition to increasing capacity, the equipment was outdated. Now the new equipment is automated and speed is a lot faster. “We can unload a 25-ton semi in

roughly 10 minutes now. It used to take us 45 minutes,” Jacobs said. “We also can load a tender truck in under eight minutes, where it used to take us 25 to 30 minutes, and we have a lot better shrink control process with the automation.” As the 2017 harvest season came to a close, local farmers were running about two weeks behind normal pace, according to Jacobs. Despite the setback, Jacobs said FS has been able to service farmers as soon as they bring in orders. “We are able to get to it the same day or within a couple days,” Jacobs said. “We are able to move people and equipment around, which helps us and gives better service to our customers.” Aside from the logistics and upgrades, Jacobs said he enjoys watching the employees grow. “The knowledge they gain on the job and how they’re able to help our customers increase yields and improve returns – that’s what I enjoy,” Jacobs said. “I’ve enjoyed the challenges of agriculture that come with it, where some years are too wet or too dry or commodity prices are too low.” In addition, Jacobs said he has enjoyed watching New Century FS grow.

“We were a $15 million company when I started, and today we are over a $120 million company,” he said. Brandon Milligan, a crop specialist in Jasper County, said he also has enjoyed watching the company’s growth as well as an increase in staff. “In the last five to six years, we have grown to five applicators, so we are growing jobs in our county,” Milligan said. “This has allowed us to grow the business and then also create jobs locally for the county.” Milligan said one of the joys of his job is working with multiple generations. “As a crop specialist like myself, I know I’m working with a father but I know I might be working with his kids and their generation 20 years from now,” Milligan said. “It’s fun because you get to become a part of their operation and become somewhat a part of their family.” That’s where New Century’s vision ties in. “We are on their team and a part of their team, and we like to help make decisions,” Milligan said. “Picking up accounts is great but it’s a great feeling to be a trusted source.” AG Mag

19


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