March/April 2013

Page 1

Fertile Ground Possibilities Grow in Iowa

ins ide From Bedford Irises to Capital Cultivation Tasting Success with Cold-Climate Grapes A Tipton Garden Nourishes Community Missouri Valley Lavender Farm

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contents MARCH / APRIL 2013 volume 61 | number 4

All kinds of things are springing from Iowa soil: lavender blooms in the Loess Hills (page 19), fresh produce in Tipton (page 28), bearded irises in Bedford (page 40), cold-hardy grapes across the state (page 34). ON THE COVER: Plantsman and itinerant gardener Kelly Norris takes hold of new beginnings. Story begins on page 40. Photography by John Holtorf.

f eatures 28 Soul Food A Tipton Garden Nourishes Its Community


Mettle to Medal Iowa Wines Compete for Palates


Beyond the Rainbow Multihued Blooms Teach an Iowa Plantsman About Possibility

departments 4 from the editor 5 contributors 6 letters Our Readers Weigh In


potluck Dishing Up News, Events, People, and Ideas


Iowans Common Ground Iowans Have Changed the Landscape


at work Aromatherapy Beauty Is Bested Only by Fragrance on This Loess Hills Farm


stewards Call of the Wild An Amphibian Chorus Teaches Us About Harmony


scrapbook Chance Encounter A Very Remarkable Hummingbird Feeder


seasons Up Next A Star Ready for Her Close-Up

from the editor Here We Grow A river-to-river patchwork viewed from 30,000 feet has merited Iowa its flyover moniker, the Corn State. While it’s not entirely all tassels, some 90 percent of the landscape is farmed, and since at least the Nixon Administration those acres have been overwhelmingly devoted to two crops. Few Iowans are directly involved in producing the commodities; nevertheless, the state’s economy and ethos are in large part defined by related industries. Current debate about the risks of monocultures aside, the view from overhead is to many monotonous and lackluster, and assumptions are made about the people and activity on the ground. We here with our feet firmly planted have a different perspective, of course. Getting up close and personal

Proudly PublIShed aNd PrINted IN Iowa Publisher Editor Art Director Graphic Designer Image/Photo Specialist Editorial Associate Copy Editor Advertising Account Executives

Gaela Wilson Beth Wilson Bobbie Russie Ann Donohoe Jason Fort Nate Brown Gretchen Kauffman Tim Burke Meghan Keller Tom Smull Becca Wodrich

Subscription Services Katrina Brocka

with Iowa’s terrain reveals a diverse and dynamic crop of ideas and trends: small-town ingenuity and downtown revitalizations, wind and solar energy and sustainable architecture, Spanish-language media and heritage festivals, athletes and apiarists, recreational trails and water quality strategies, trick riders and flat-track rollers, artisan pork and renowned artists. I could go on, and I plan to with each new issue of The Iowan, where readers can continue to follow developments across the state. In the metaphorical sense, yes, Iowa is growing in new directions. But the state is also literally growing in ground-breaking ways, and in this issue we get the dirt on Iowa. The real under-your-fingernails stuff. The stories full of plants and produce also showcase how this landscape is — sometimes against odds — cultivating possibilities in the state. Let’s face it: Iowa isn’t always the most accommodating place to toil in the soil. A limited growing season combines with cold winters, yo-yo springs, late frosts, and hot, humid, dry (or flooded) summers. (Autumn seems to be the state’s most even-tempered season, but we rarely get more than a month of it.) Yet Iowans have long embraced challenge. Our DNA seems to include equal parts resiliency, ingenuity, and moxie. What we do with what we’re given is a testimony to our spirit and a good forecast of our future. Brush against rows of purple blooms at Loess Hills Lavender Farm and see how a couple of herbal mavericks have created a growing venture that includes products, visitors, and area artisans (page 19). Visit a community garden in Tipton, where the harvest underscores not just people power but also the power of fresh produce (page 28). Learn a new language that’s developing along the trellises of the state’s 300-plus vineyards and discover how the Iowa wine industry is not imitating but inventing new tastes for your palate (page 34). Dig deeper into the world of gardening with a young horticulturalist, a native-grown son who remains rooted in Iowa, where he’s making live art and issuing an invitation to the transformative power of plants. Richest soil on Earth, indeed.

CEO Jim Slife Production Manager Twilla Glessner Accounting Manager Allison Volker

The Iowan, ISSN (0021-0772), is published bi-monthly by Pioneer Communications, Inc., 300 Walnut Street, Suite 6, Des Moines, Iowa 50309. This issue is dated March 1, 2013, Volume 61, No. 4. All content © 2013 The Iowan/Pioneer Communications, Inc., and may not be used, reproduced, or altered in any way without prior written permission. Periodicals Postage Paid in Des Moines, Iowa, and at additional mailing offices. We cannot be held responsible for the loss or damage of unsolicited material. POSTMASTER: Send change of address to: The Iowan, 300 Walnut St., STE 6, Des Moines, IA 50309. Prices: Subscriptions — Special rate when ordered direct or by mail: six issues per year for $21. International orders require additional postage. Call for rates. Single copies — on newsstands: $4.95; current issue by mail: $4.95 plus $3.50 S+H. Call for quantity discount pricing. Single past issues 2000 or newer: $5.95, two for $9.95; older than 2000: $12.95. New Subscriptions, Renewals, Gifts: > SUBSCRIBE 877-899-9977 x211 Change of Address:> CONTACT > Address Change 877-899-9977 x211 Past Issues: 877-899-9977 x211 Mail Orders: The Iowan Subscription Services P.O. Box 2516, Waterloo, IA 50704 Advertising Information: 515-246-0402 x202 or 877-899-9977 x202 2012_IRMA_member_emblem.jpg (JPEG Image, 1500 × 1466 pixels) - S...

— Beth Wilson, Editor



10% PCW Paper Made in the USA


Jim Duncan (aka The

The John Holtorf career

Freelancer Ann Hutchins

Food Dude, Art Pimp, The

path winds through busboy,

shares her enthusiasm for

Good Steward) is a fourth-

salesman, lifeguard,

plants and people as a Des

generation Iowan who

musician, groundskeeper,

Moines-area landscape

writes about food, art,

gandy dancer, bartender, and

designer. When she’s not

sports, business, and ideas

carpenter. He left a high-

creating site drawings,

for numerous publications,

paying job as a construction

planting a tree, or writing

including The Iowan.

superintendent in 1985 to

a story, she’s painting

take a barely paying position

landscapes, hiking a trail, or

as a darkroom assistant in

paddling a lake somewhere

a photo studio. He never

in Iowa.

looked back. (

Struggles with wanderlust

Deb Wiley is proud to be

J. Wilson is the editor at the

have led Josh Meier to such

a fifth-generation Iowan.

Adams County Free Press,

experiences as working a

Her passion for plants

author of Diary of a Part-

Montana ski lift and walking

sprouted while growing

Time Monk, and blogger at

the Pacific Crest Trail from

up on a northeast Iowa He lives in

Mexico to Canada, but Iowa

farm. A former garden

rural Adams County with his

always calls him home. He’s

editor for Midwest Living,

wife and two sons.

a recent University of Iowa

she now writes, edits, and

journalism grad and lives with

photographs for magazines,

his wife on his family’s farm

books, online clients, and

near Tipton. (joshmeier

horticulture companies.


March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


letters Little Shelf, Big Heart Great new issue. We have our own Little Free Library here in Beaverdale. Last summer my daughter, Mollie, and I ran across one in Ljubljana, Slovenia! I love this idea — so neighborly and big-hearted.

Linda Appelgate Des Moines (From the Editor: If you missed it, read about Little Free Libraries in January/ February 2013’s POTLUCK, page 12.)

Feedback from the Track

Ear Candy

Derby girls (and boys ;-) all over Iowa

While I haven’t yet made it to one of

thank you! “Roll Models” (January/

the shows, the new sounds heard

February 2013)

in Iowa’s old places are music to my

is an amazing story!

ears. Thanks for a great story on the Iowa Opera House Project (“Divine

Jamie Daugharthy-Draegert,

Intervention,” January/February 2013).

aka Dangerous Daugharthy,

William Anderson

Mid Iowa Rollers (via Facebook)



Write to Us! The Iowan 300 Walnut Street, Suite 6


Sioux City

Des Moines IA 50309 > Contact > The Iowan Magazine

Missouri Valley


Test Drive computer, tablet, or smart phone. Let us know how she rides.



Des Moines

Amana Colonies

Indianola Leighton

Visit and read a digital edition of the magazine on your

Cedar Rapids


East Peru Bedford


Points of Interest in This Issue

Swisher Tipton Iowa City







nt Prese

ed by

Mar. 15-16-17 Fri. 1pm–8pm / Sat. 10am–7pm / Sun. 11am–4pm

Varied Industries Building

Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines, IA

Over 300 booths of products & services for your Home, Lawn & Garden!


Beautiful Landscape Displays!

Featuring Celebrity Landscaper The Great Des Moines

Flower Sale

The largest flower sale in Des Moines! Located at the 50’x50’ Hy-Vee booth!


DIY Network’s Yardcore

on Saturday

Seminars with Gardening Expert

Jerry Kluver

Sponsored by

garden helpers

Jake Moss


Free Antique Appraising

Bring your antiques to the show for free appraisals all weekend! Sponsored by Viking Productions

Adults $6.95 • Seniors (62+) $5.95 • Kids under 12 FREE • 1-800-756-4788 Official Hotel Sponsor

potluck compiled by CArOl BOdENsTEINEr and MAry GOTTsCHAlk

Recalling Days of Local Service The chimney was crumbling, the roof caving in, the gas pumps gone. But the standard Oil gas station built by ross Hastie in the 1930s remained a landmark along Hwy 69, and the people of Warren County refused to let it go. In 2008 a newly formed Warren County Historic Preservation Board, took on the Hastie station as its first project. Thanks to private funds and some volunteer labor, the landmark is coming back. “There’s still a lot of work to do,” says ron Fine, chairman of the Historic Preservation


Commission. The commission is seeking funds to replace windows, put in a basement floor, and address electrical issues. — C.B.

The Historic Preservation Commission works under Warren County’s Zoning Department:, 515-961-1060.

TMI! situations in which we’re given more information than we need or want can be annoying or funny or excruciatingly embarrassing. These awkward moments are the theme of this year’s Walking the Wire monologue series at Iowa City’s riverside Theatre. Now in its 14th year, the series will present 11 original oneperson acts of 10 minutes or less selected from more than 200 submissions COurTEsy BOB GOOdFEllOW

from across the country. some authors present their own monologue; however, most are performed by actors selected by riverside Artistic director Jody Hovland. “doing monologues is like walking on a tightrope,” says Hovland. “It’s exhilarating and a little bit scary to be one actor alone on stage with a story to tell.” Based on reviews of past years’ shows, it can be hilarious for the audience. — M.G.

Walking the Wire will run from March 1–10. For tickets and information, visit or call 319-338-7672.

Giving the Shirt off Your Back The Nearly Naked Mile in Iowa City is hardly Iowa’s only costumed competition, but this race offers some unique twists. Once racers hand over the entry fee of clothing donated to united Action for youth, they’re left nearly naked in the brisk March air. Prizes include best costume, largest donation, and most enthusiasm. Winning the race seems a bit beside the point. — M.G.

This year’s race will be held in Gibson Square on March 9. For information and directions, visit > S.T.A.T. > Events > NEARLY Naked Mile.




Iowa City’s Fannie Hungerford walks the tightrope.

potluck Stamps and Fine Art Valarie Langbehn walked into Audubon’s post office lobby in 2006 and stood before a large mural commanding one wall. That, the new postmaster remembers thinking, is a treasure.

town’s namesake, John James Audubon, and his party during their journey down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. “This mural is such a part of history. We’re thrilled to have it,” says Langbehn. The Audubon post office is one of 40 post offices in Iowa and 1,200 nationwide that benefited from a program


Painted in 1942 by Brooklyn, New York, artist Virginia Snedeker, the approximately 15×6-foot mural depicts the

The topic of each mural, intended to reflect the area in

established by the U.S. Treasury Department in 1934. Often

which it would hang, was a collaboration between the artist

mistaken for Works Progress Administration (WPA) art, the

and the local community. Historical events and heroic acts

post office murals, as well as some 300 sculptures, were

were popular themes. As a result, Iowa is home to murals

actually executed by artists working for the Treasury’s

such as Dubuque’s Early Mississippi Steamboat, Mount

Section of Fine Arts.

Ayr’s The Corn Parade, Bloomfield’s Autumn in Iowa,

“In the 1930s there were a lot of artists looking for work,” explains Dallan Wordekemper of the U.S. Postal Service. “The idea was to bring art to the people, and the best venue for doing that was the local post office since people went there daily or weekly.”

Missouri Valley’s Iowa Fair, and Emmetsburg’s Conservation of Wildlife. — C.B.

While three WPA works are noted online at > IA, the rest of the web page lists details on post office murals, including their Iowa locations (shown on this Google map).

A Celebration of Books The exchanges take place in both large communities and small. People gather in a variety of settings — libraries and bookstores, schools and nursing homes, truck stops and Walmarts. On April 23, hundreds of Iowans will join booklovers across the United States to hand out free books to people who may not be regular readers or don’t have ready access to books. On World Book Night, each volunteer will give away 20 cOURTESY MARY GOTTScHALk

copies of one of the books in this year’s list, which includes both classics and contemporary titles — Treasure Island, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, and Girl with a Pearl Earring. For the event, publishers print special World Book Night editions and authors waive their royalties. In 2012 roughly 50 cedar Rapids volunteers gave away close to 1,000 books to claim the top spot in Iowa for per capita volunteers and to make the city one of the top 25 World Book Night communities in America. “We’re a bit

admission to The Hunger Games and a free book for anyone

proud of that,” says Amanda Zhorne, community Relations

who donated five items to the food pantry. “We made it

Manager for Barnes and Noble in cedar Rapids.

count here in Hampton,” she says. — M.G.

But keri Rojas, proprietor of cornerstone cottage, would argue that Hampton residents had the most fun. cornerstone joined forces with local radio station kLMJ, the Windsor Theatre, and the Franklin county Food Pantry to provide free

For details on World Book Night or to sign up as a volunteer for 2014, visit or contact a bookstore or library in your community.

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN



Getting Back in the Saddle Emma Hewitt hadn’t ridden a horse in years but wanted to ease back into a sport she had enjoyed as a young person. “This class was a good chance to reestablish the skill and bond with a horse,” she says of her experience at S.T.A.R.S. Riding Center in Sioux City. Interpreting a horse’s body language correctly is the first step in Learning to Communicate with Horses, a class for adults offered by Western Iowa Tech Community College at the S.T.A.R.S. facility. Is a horse with its ears back angry? Hewitt says she may take up horseback riding when she

When it steps aside and swishes its tail or when its muscles

retires. “It would be good for me physically because riding

tense, what’s the message? “People have preconceived notions of what a horse’s

improves posture and balance.” — C.B.

body language means,” says Jessie Christopherson, a S.T.A.R.S. instructor. “Many are surprised to learn that horses have directional control of their ears. When its ears are back, the horse is usually listening to what’s going on behind it.”

S.T.A.R.S. (Special Troopers Adaptive Riding School) offers therapeutic riding for people of all ages. Learn more online at


Classroom Earth Kids who are knowledgeable about

elementary schools were the first to try

nature and the environment are more

out the new program, modifying Clean

likely to care about and take care of the

and Green to put more emphasis on

land and water. Most people can agree

recycling. “Activities included playground

that education about the environment

pickup, composting, a tour of the recycling

is important, but how many lessons can

center, and writing persuasive letters,”

we ask teachers to fit into the school

reports Paula Webinger of the Waste

day? Clean and Green, a new program

Commission of Scott County. The program

from Keep Iowa Beautiful, blends best

is flexible, and the teachers found ways

practices and educational research into

to integrate environmental education into

environmental education, making it easier

other subject areas, doing more activities

for teachers to do two things at once.

each year. — C.B.

Second-grade teachers and some 1,200 students in 19 Davenport

Learn more online: > Clean & Green

Music of Tomorrow For piano fans, the biennial piano competition hosted by the Sioux City Symphony will offer a sneak preview of tomorrow’s top pianists from around the world. The three-day battle of the ivories begins March 7 and features 12 aspiring the music faculty of the Eastman School of Music (Rochester, New york), the Peabody Conservatory (Baltimore), and the university of Michigan (Ann Arbor). — M.G.

The first two rounds of the Iowa Piano Competition are free and open to the public. Tickets for the final round are available through the Sioux City Symphony box office. For information on performance times and venues, visit




young pianists from eight countries competing for $7,500. The judges are drawn from

potluck Fruit Philosophy

A dozen students from Iowa

Planting a tree is a time-honored

City’s City High Community-Based

way to remember a loved one while

Work Experience Program helped

giving a gift to the future. David

plant and care for the trees that were

Braverman, owner of Friendly Farm

funded by a grant from Trees Forever. “We partner with businesses

near Iowa City, did both when he enlisted the help of disabled

to give moderately intellectually

students and others to plant 35

disabled students work experiences that will make them

pawpaw trees at the organic farm

more employable after high


his father founded.

school,” explains Tom Braverman,

“Pawpaws fit our philosophy of producing and eating locally,” says Braverman, who now runs the farm that

David’s uncle, who runs the City High program. As the trees

provides produce to local restaurants and grocery stores.

mature and bear fruit, students will get involved in harvesting,

They’re “the quintessential local fruit” because the pawpaw,

processing, and marketing value-added products. — C.B.

with a taste described as a tropical blend of banana, papaya,

Follow all the happenings at Friendly Farm:

and mango, can’t be shipped.

Fashions of the Future “Men’s fashions need a bit of irreverence,” says Ian laughead, whose declaration took form in a glittery, hand-painted jumpsuit exhibited in a Paris fashion show last October. It was a small show tied to animal and environmental concerns. But it was on a runway. And it was in Paris. Now a senior in the Apparel, Merchandising, and Design program at Iowa state university (Isu), laughead plans to submit one or more of his original designs for inclusion in the menswear category of the 31st annual Isu Fashion show on April 13. The show is juried by fashion industry professionals on design principles, construction quality, materials selection, and originality. With the exception of the jurists, the show is entirely run by students, who handle all administrative and program details and stroll the runway as models. — M.G.

For information on the Fashion Show at C.Y. Stephens Auditorium, visit aeshm.hs.iastate .edu/fashion-show. For tickets, contact Ticketmaster ( or the Iowa State Center Box Office, 800-745-3000. Advance tickets are recommended. COurTEsy Isu FAsHION sHOW

Redefining Tradition German food and fruit wines are often considered synonymous with the Amana Colonies. so David rettig faced a marketing challenge when he began to produce traditional grapebased wines in his Amana vineyard. His strategy for getting the word out is a series of Vintner Dinners in which White Cross Cellars wines are paired with a five-course dinner. The evening starts with appetizers at the vineyard followed by a meal hosted by his boyhood friend, Bill leichsenring, at the Ox yoke Inn. For the Vintner Dinners, the Ox yoke staff spreads its culinary wings far beyond the standard German fare. recent dinners were based on French country cuisine and creations by celebrity chefs. The first of six 2013 Vintner Dinners on March 23 will feature Irish cooking. — M.G.

For information on the 2013 dinners, visit For reservations, call the Ox Yoke Inn, 319-622-3441. COurTEsy DAVID rETTIG

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


ifu t u a e B a w Io p e e K o t Calling All Iowans


As Iowans, we are proud of our great state. Consider getting involved to ensure that the beauty and quality of life in lowa continuously improves for our children and grandchildren. April 2013 is Keep Iowa Beautiful month, why not plan to take action? Here are ways you can: ► Enroll in the Iowa Department of Transportation’s Adopt a Highway program. It’s easy and rewarding. Visit for more information on how to get started. ► Do something about littering! Report littering at 1-888-N0LITTR (1-888-665-4887). Visit the Keep Iowa Beautiful web site at for additional information.

Hours of Operation Apr 1 - Sep 30 Mon - Sat: 9am - 10pm Sun: Noon - 10pm Oct 1 - Mar 31 Mon - Sat: 10am - 9pm Sun: Noon - 9pm

115 Central Ave. NW, Downtown Le Mars, Iowa • 712.546.4522 •

©2012 Wells Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.



Figge Art MuseuM eXHiBitiON

Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge TheaterClassroomsExhibit Area

TeacherWorkshopsWildlifeObservationBirding BikingHikingHuntingPrairie Point Bookstore

Marking Territory: Cartographic Treasures of the Mississippi River and the World Beyond


March 2–June 16

eaturing a selection of historic maps that range from early representations of the world to more detailed examinations of America’s vast interior along the Mississippi River, this exhibition explores how maps communicate highly complex ideas about identity, politics and culture.

The Visitor Center facilities include exhibit space, theater, classrooms, and a bookstore! In addition, the public is welcome to drive through an approximately 700 acre enclosure in hopes of seeing bison or elk. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sundays from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge 9981 Pacific Street | Prairie City, Iowa 50228-0399 (515) 994-3400 |

Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection May 11-October 27

Sponsored by Humanities Iowa

Thursday Talks

Exhibition Tours 3:30 pm March 2, 9, 16, 23 • 6 pm March 7, 21 1:30 pm April 7, 14, 21, 28 Willem Blaeu, Americae Nova Tabula, 1617/1635, hand-colored copperplate engraving, H. Dee and Myrene Hoover Collection

Davenport, IA • 563.326.7804



Portrait by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Family-friendly Activities 11 am-2 pm Saturday, April 13 • FREE Family Day Opening in March • X Marks the Spot • Chart a route to learning and adventure in Studio1, an interactive gallery

Dragon and Sword; Designer Unknown (Turkey); Circa 2004 Photo by John Bigelow Taylor

7 pm, March 7 • Figge Curator Rima Girnius, PhD 7 pm, March 21 • Artist Maureen Bardusk 7 pm, March 28 • Pecha Kucha with a map theme

Located in Czech Village Cedar Rapids, IA 319.362.8500

Greater Des Moines

Botanical Garden Exploring, explaining and celebrating the world of plants



Open Daily 9am–5pm Free for members and children under 3 909 Robert D. Ray Drive Des Moines, Iowa 50316 515.323.6290

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


Iowans have changed the landscape by DEB WILEy

The acres of row crops that cover fields each year certainly have taken root in Iowa, but quite a few plants in our yards and gardens also originated here.

How ’Bout Them? ▲▼

consumers. The original tree, along with many of Iowa’s apple

Iowa’s apple legacy includes two special cultivars: ‘Red

trees, was felled in an ice storm in 1940. However, a sprout

Delicious’ (top) and ‘Chieftain’ (below).

from the tree emerged the following year. Cuttings of the

‘Red Delicious’, possibly the most famous apple in

‘Hawkeye’ tree have been preserved by the Leopold Center

America, was quite a different-looking and -tasting fruit when

for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University (ISU) and

Jesse Hiatt first discovered the tree growing as a seedling in

the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah.

an orchard near East Peru in Madison County in about 1880.

‘Chieftain’, a red apple beloved for both eating and

He sent samples of the apples, red with yellow streaks, that

cooking, was bred in 1917 by ISU horticulturist Spencer

he named ‘Hawkeye’ to what is today the Stark Bro’s Nursery

Beach (who developed at least 14 varieties of apples)

‘Chieftain’ apple

& Orchards Company in

by crossing ‘Red Delicious’ with ‘Jonathan’. Iowa State

Louisiana, Missouri. When

introduced the apple in 1968.

owner Clarence Stark bit into the apple, he proclaimed it

Regal Alums

was “delicious!” Stark Bro’s

Iowa State Univeristy is the alma mater for three spring-

propagated the tree and sold

blooming weigela (pronounced “why-gEE-luh”) shrubs:

more than 10 million. Over

‘Red Prince’, ‘Pink Princess’, and ‘White Knight’. They were

time, the apple was bred for

introduced in the 1980s and 1990s by ISU horticulturist Jack

thicker flesh so the fruit could

Weigle; however, the genus name comes from the german

be shipped and was made

scientist Christian Ehrenfried Weigel. All grow 5 to 6 feet tall.

redder, which appealed to

The small, trumpet-shape flowers bloom in clusters in spring.





Common Ground

Iowans Heavenly Bloomer ‘Inca sun’ brugmansia started life in Norwalk, where it was created by plant breeder Kyle courtney. It was hailed as “a breakthrough in the world of brugmansias” (sometimes called angel’s trumpets and pronounced “brug-MAN-see-ah”) for its ability to begin blooming when it is still short — less than 2 feet tall — and because it flowers continuously from its spurs and shoots. (Most brugmansias bloom, stop, then with peachy-yellow 9-inch-long trumpet-shape blooms and a sweet fragrance.


‘Inca Sun’ brugmansia

cOurTEsy LOgEEs.cOM

bloom again.) ‘Inca sun’ grows 4 to 6 feet tall in a container,

‘Hawkeye Belle’ rose

By Lots of Other Names The late griffith Buck, an Iowa state horticulture professor, introduced more than 85 roses over the course of his career. The Buck roses, as they became known, were among the first truly hardy roses that were also earth-friendly because they needed fewer chemicals to thrive. you can see most of the collection at reiman gardens in Ames and the greater des Moines Botanical garden. Many of the roses have Iowaor Midwest-themed monikers, such as ‘Hawkeye Belle’ and ‘Wanderin’ Wind’. The names of twelve of his cultivars start with Prairie.

Made in the Shade The late russ O’Harra of des Moines, a longtime garden

‘Olive Bailey Langdon’ hosta

editor for Better Homes and Gardens, bred 34 cultivars of hostas, including ‘Olive Bailey Langdon’ with blue-green leaves

‘Red Prince’ weigela

cOurTEsy WAysIdEgArdENs.cOM

with gold and cream edges. It was considered an improvement over the widely known ‘Frances Williams’ because the edges don’t burn with sun. The Iowa chapter of the Midwest regional Hosta society is named for him and his contributions. MILLETTE pHOTO MEdIA

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


Resurrection The unusual Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle — with silver bracts that frame tubular yellow flowers (inset) — was either discovered or bred in the late 1880s by William Kintzley, who worked in the greenhouses at Iowa State. One of Kintzley’s grandsons later took cuttings from the plant growing on the family cemetery plot in Cherokee and propagated heirloom gifts for relatives. Growing outside a family member’s home in Fort Collins, Colorado, the vine caught the eye of Scott Skogerboe, a propagator at Fort Collins Wholesale Nursery and an Ames native, as he drove by in 2001. After it was introduced in 2006, it won the Denver Botanic Gardens/ Kintzley’s Ghost honesuckle

‘Grandpa Ott’s’ morning glory


Colorado State University Plant Select Award.

Growing Legacy When Diane Ott Whealy of Decorah inherited seeds from her grandpa John Ott, she wanted to safeguard the valuable heirloom — and others like them. In 1975 she helped found the now thriving nonprofit Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah. Two preserved plants now grown by gardeners across the country include ‘Grandpa Ott’s’ morning glory, an annual flowering vine flaunting a deep purple trumpet with a central red star, and ‘German Pink’, a tomato that helped ignite the renewed passion for the

‘German Pink’ tomato


great taste of heirloom tomatoes.

special delivery Interested Iowa gardeners can order many of these plants by mail. ‘Red Delicious’ and ‘Chieftain’ apple / 616-258-2244 ‘Inca Sun’ brugmansia / 888-330-8038 ‘Red Prince’ weigela / 800-845-1124 ‘Hawkeye Belle’ Buck rose / 800-820-0465 ‘Olive Bailey Langdon’ hosta / 603-879-0085 ‘Grandpa Ott’s’ morning glory and ‘German Pink’ tomato seeds / 563-382-5990 Kintzley’s Ghost honeysuckle / 800-845-3369





at work

aromatherapy Beauty is bested only by fragrance on this Loess Hills farm story by ANN HuTcHINs photos courtesy LOEss HILLs LAvENdEr FArM

ucked away on a hillside just north of Missouri Valley is a nearly picture-perfect scene: quaint white ranch house on one side, charming gift shop and display garden on the other, and gentle rows of soft purple spilling down the hill in between. Every breath taken is laden with a sweet, aromatic fragrance. For visitors, it’s an indulgent treat for the senses and spirit. For owners Mary and Tim Hamer, establishing Loess Hills Lavender Farm has been a journey of faith and love. Mary Hamer became infatuated with lavender — and the notion of growing it — after attending the longrunning Sequim Lavender Festival held annually in Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Interested in learning more after her 2005 experience, she explored the history, benefits, uses, and growing practices of the herb, then attempted to grow a couple dozen plants at her home in Chariton, where she “grew a lot and killed a lot” of the plants. After further consultation with lavender growers in Washington and Texas, Mary was certain that given the right conditions she could cultivate commercial lavender in Iowa.

The Hamers dreamed of returning to the area where they grew up (Sioux City and Pisgah), and after nearly four decades in Nebraska and southern Iowa — where Mary copastored a church and worked as a medical transcriber, Tim pursued a career in banking, and together they raised three sons — both were eager to try a new endeavor. However, the thought of leaving Mary’s congregation and the couple’s familiar lifestyle in Chariton was intimidating. So the couple turned to the dilemma-solving method they understand best: prayer. In a short time both a replacement pastor and a new home were found. Mary’s sister told them of a farm up for auction in western Iowa’s Harrison County. The land included a hillside with well-draining rocky soil, closely mimicking the mountainous Mediterranean regions in which lavender is indigenous. This, Mary remembers thinking, just might be God’s plan. “People and circumstances came together with hope and help — as if lavender and religion go hand in hand.” March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


at work In May 2009, six months after the Hamers procured the property, 960 lavender plants were plugged into the soil on the 15-acre farm with help from friends and family. Today over 2,000 plants grow on two acres, making Loess Hills Lavender Farm the only commercial producer of lavender in Iowa and the second in the Midwest. With patience, perseverance, and plenty of hard work — Tim does the cultivating by hand while Mary manages the business and makes many of the lavender products — the farm has become a source of enjoyment to its owners and a boost to the local economy. The Hamers opened Loess Hills Lavender Farm to the public in 2010. “The farm was so beautiful, it had to be shared,” says Mary. Last year over 800 visitors dropped in; many more have scheduled tours for this year. Groups are offered lavender cookies and tea, an educational presentation, and a tour during which they can cut a fragrant bouquet to take home. Mary cuts lavender until November and spends the winter months at home shows and giving talks on the benefits of lavender throughout the state. In addition to growing and selling lavender and lavender products, the Hamers support the region’s small businesses by offering the gift shop as an outlet for 28 local artists and crafters who sell their works either on consignment or work flexible hours in the shop in exchange for display space. Beyond lavender products, the shop offers unique handcrafted jewelry, hats, purses, garden sculpture, paintings, and photographs that showcase the beauty of the area and the skills of the crafters. On the third Saturday of each month from May through October, Loess Hills Lavender Farm becomes part of the Living Loess Ultimate Passport Tour (, a collaboration of nine artisan attractions located within a 20-mile radius. On tour days visitors can enjoy special programs, discounts, and experience the rich culture and landscape of Iowa’s unique Loess Hills region. The Hamers hope to develop the 10 tillable acres on the site into lavender fields and one day harvest enough lavender to support a distillery to produce their own essential oil. They are pacing themselves toward a 20


follow the fragrance Loess Hill Lavender Farm ( is open spring to fall; call ahead for current hours: 712-642-9016. The farm is located at 2278 Loess Hills Trail, eight miles north of Missouri Valley. Loess Hills Trail offers a pleasant drive, winding between Hwy 30 to the south and Hwy 127 to the north and paralleling I-29 to the west. The Trail showcases the Loess Hills area, which features a superb combination of wildlife habitat, agriculture land, and the unique geological masterpiece of wind-blown silt hills.

goal of 5,000 plants. As their dream continues to grow, they envision the farm as a world-class tourist destination, showcasing the locality and product they love. “We want to share the splendor of the area and the benefits of lavender with as many people as we can while in turn supporting the families and businesses that are here,” says Mary. Their passion for what they do is evident in the warm welcome each visitor receives and in every soothing, sweet-scented breath of air inhaled.

Herb of Desire Beautiful, fragrant, soothing, and romantic, lavender (Lavandula) is a plant that every gardener eventually surrenders to. Its sweet perfume fills the garden air — and becomes especially aromatic when dried. Used over centuries for decorative, culinary, and medicinal purposes in sachets, oils, and teas, lavender is a very small shrub that is often treated like an herbaceous perennial. Its violet, lilac, or cream flowers grow in whorled spikes above the leaves. The foliage shapes vary with the variety and often have tiny hairs


covering the leaves that hold the essential oils and produce a

Only the newly planted or transplanted plants will require

grayish cast to the plants.

some attentive watering until their roots take hold. Once

Mary and Tim Hamer grow 12 different lavender varie-

lavender is established, it is very drought-tolerant and rarely

ties at Loess Hills Lavender Farm. Rows of Hidcote, Folgate,

requires watering during the summer months.

Coconut Ice, Buena Vista, Miss Katherine, Jean Davis, Munstead, Mellisa, Royal Velvet, and Imperial Purple hail from


the species Lavandula angustifolia, (which reblooms through-

Don’t. Excess feeding will spur lots of leaves and few flowers

out the year up until the first freeze). When two main species

— and little fragrance. A lean soil will produce a plant that

of lavender were crossed (L. angustifolia and L. latifolia), a

has a higher concentration of essential oils. If the soil is

new cultivar with long stems, Lavandin, was created. Visitors

exceedingly poor, add a handful of organic compost around

to the farm can find Grosso and Imperial Gem beckoning.

the plant’s base.

Lavender is indigenous to hot, dry, and sunny Mediterranean climates but will, with a little help, adapt to


the tougher growing conditions of Iowa.

Use a thin layer of nonorganic mulch such as limestone


gravel, sand, or ground oyster shells. The limestone will

Plant purchased starters (seeds are too slow and not always

soil slightly alkaline. Never use wood mulch, which holds too

true) in spring (when chance of frost has passed), giving

much moisture on the plant.

lavender a full growing season to establish before winter.


“High and dry” is a good motto; look for a location

reflect light and warmth onto the plant and help turn the

that is sunny (at least six hours daily), dry, and drains well.

Pruning lavender is important and should not be confused

Lavender does not like Iowa’s clay soils, which hold moisture,

with harvesting. Pruning should be done in early spring

but instead needs soil that is loose and drains quickly. Work

before new growth appears. Remove one-third of the plant,

the planting area to a depth of 10 to 12 inches with one-third

shaping it into a nice mound. Failure to prune will result in a

parts of coarse sand or small gravel, organic material, and

leggy plant that will bloom only on its outer edges.

loam garden soil. The biggest destroyer of lavender plants is


not cold temperature but dampness. Likewise, humidity is not lavender’s friend. The plant

Lavender may bloom its first season, but it will take two or

must be able to dry quickly after rain and heavy dew by not

three years to mature to a plant with plentiful blooms for

being crowded. Consider mounding the planting area; an

harvesting. For a fresh bouquet, cut stems when the blooms

elevated site can help with both drainage and air circulation.

are in full color and scent. For dried flowers, harvest stems

Keep in mind that one of the purposes of growing this plant

just before the florets are fully open. Hang bunches

should be for enjoyment; select a place where you can relish

of stems upside down for about two weeks in a dry

lavender’s rich fragrance.

place with good circulation and no direct sunlight.

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


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Soul Food A Tipton Garden Nourishes Its Community story and photography by JOsH MEIEr



he voices of children wane and streetlights flicker to life as the 3,200 residents in the quiet town of Tipton, nestled between Davenport and Iowa City, settle in for the night. It’s unseasonably warm on this early spring evening, and the aroma of burgers searing over a charcoal grill drifts from a nearby backyard. In an open field just beyond the city limits sign, a man silhouetted in the rising moonlight scrapes at the darkened earth with a garden rake. “I’ve always heard they should be planted eyes up,” says Mike Boyle, pulling a mound of dirt over a row of seed potatoes. “Don’t know how important it really is.” This is the tenth row he’s covered already, with three more to go. “But that’s what I’ve been told.” At 35 yards each, these rows should turn out a lot of spuds. That’s the idea. The goal here at Hardacre Community Garden is to grow an abundant supply of fresh produce, the majority of which will be shared locally.

Cultivating Legacy

The work at Hardacre is volunteer-based, with members of the community pitching in to help when able. Some show up for an hour or two each week. Boyle is here every night. This garden is his passion, and he’s been closely involved with the project since its inception in 2009. “Oh, it’s fun,” says Boyle, trading a sheepish grin for compliments on his devotion. With a humble demeanor, this former farm boy turned middle-aged rural development appraiser will blame his commitment on the undeniable allure of exercise and fresh air. Get him talking about the value of local youth involvement or the emotion of delivering fresh vegetables to senior citizens no longer able to grow their own, however, and the truth comes out. This simple garden has come to embody the heart of this eastern Iowa community. The practice of community gardening has gained widespread popularity in recent years. In response, the

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) launched the People’s Garden initiative in 2009. What began with a single garden planted on the grounds of USDA headquarters in Washington, D.C., grew into a nationwide campaign promoting gardening as a way to spread horticultural education, raise environmental awareness, and unite communities. Today 1,750 gardens have been recognized with the People’s Garden designation, including 80 in Iowa — more than in any other state. Hardacre Community Garden is entering its fifth season as a USDA People’s Garden. Volunteers embrace the title with work shared through a collaborative effort. Pesticide use is prohibited, and vegetables are grown organically from heirloom variety seeds. According to Boyle, last season the garden produced over 14,000 pounds of food, all distributed in Tipton and surrounding areas. Community gardening is not a new phenomenon in this community. The practice reflects the town’s cultural identity, and garden organizers strive to honor a common legacy of agriculture and sharing. Jacob Hardacre was a longtime resident who ventured off

Reclaimed food cans are used to shelter young plants growing alongside more mature leaf lettuce (opposite). Mike Boyle shows off a heaping handful of fresh-picked radishes (above).

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


during the 1850s to join the California gold rush. He left a man of modest means but returned to Tipton a few years later to purchase large tracts of land and donate liberally to local civic organizations. Among Hardacre’s purchases was an acreage on the northwest corner of town. Kris Clark owns the property now and, like Boyle, has had her hands in the dirt, helping to plant, weed, and harvest since 2009. She donates her land and her time for the satisfaction of witnessing place-based benefits. When Boyle suggested adopting an historical name for the garden, Clark agreed it was fitting. “Jacob Hardacre had a profound effect on Tipton in the late 19th century,” says Clark. “The effects of his kindness are still seen here today.” In the same philanthropic spirit that led Hardacre to share his fortunes with the community, his namesake project is creating a meaningful impact today. “A lot of people show their generosity by helping in the garden because they know it’s good for Tipton,” says Clark.

With guidance from garden volunteer Ken Reichert (above, in hat), Tipton High School students helped weed Hardacre’s eggplant rows last September. (Students, left to right: Jason Rohlf, Colton Clark, Jamie Rohlf, Kenneth Reichert, Stacey Weets, and Jana Havill.) More than 200 heads of cabbage (opposite) became part of Hardacre’s shared harvest in 2012.



“Hardacre really seemed to love this town. I think he’d be happy with how we’re using his name.” The concept of a shared harvest lies deep within these communal roots. In the late 1800s locals gathered each fall for a citywide potluck in celebration of the growing season. During World War I Tipton residents maintained municipal food plots, a practice resurrected under the banner of Victory Gardens in World War II. And, as is common in small rural towns where neighbors are often like family, produce has long been passed over backyard fences or left in anonymous baskets at someone’s front door.

Shared Harvest

Like those fresh vegetables, gardening skills have also been shared. “People ask how I learned to do this stuff,” says Boyle as he works into the twilight. “It was from watching my grandparents and helping them when I was a kid.” In this same manner, Boyle’s grandparents learned by watching others, and they from watching those who came before. Hardacre Community Garden continues this horticultural legacy. Neighbors come together to socialize and share advice.Experienced gardeners lead rookies into the field and demonstrate how to dig long narrow furrows and place onion bulbs three inches apart, how to differentiate between young carrot

get growing With 80 People’s Gardens growing in the state, Iowa leads the nation in collaborative, sustainable, place-based gardening. Locate the state’s bountiful plots (plus gardening resources, recipes, and more) on the USDA website: > search People’s Garden

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN




shoots and the deceptive leaves of crabgrass (and remind that when in doubt vegetables will emerge in uniform rows). Those new to gardening gain knowledge from seasoned pros, who point out the daily color change on tomatoes approaching peak ripeness and pull back the husk on underdeveloped sweet corn kernels that could use a little more time on the stalk. Both plants and friendships are cultivated. Wisdom is carried on. Noting that many kids today are oblivious to foods origins, Boyle says it’s unconscionable to let such ignorance persist in Iowa. Thus for the past four seasons, Hardacre Community Garden has also served as classroom. Tipton High School students volunteer time and help with garden chores. Harvested food is also used to teach canning techniques at the school. Tipton Vocational Agriculture teacher Amy Lutz values the collaboration with the garden. The hands-on experience is a great way for kids to learn, she says, and the opportunity to get outdoors is a catalyst for enthusiasm. “They come to school early on days that we work outside and are the greatest kids ever,” says Lutz, “staying on task and working hard.” The driving force behind the garden remains community benefit, and neighbors join in to help those in need. Of the seven tons of tomatoes, lettuce, sweet corn, and other garden bounty, almost all is donated to local food banks, churches, and care facilities.

David Dierks is pastor of Calvary Foursquare Church, which operates the Bread of Life food pantry in town. “Having Hardacre Garden here is a tremendous blessing,” he says. “It allows people who don’t have the means to get fresh produce the ability to do so. We usually distribute canned goods from the pantry, so it’s nice to offer fresh vegetables and more variety. It’s all very well appreciated.” That appreciation is reciprocal. Once you get Boyle on a roll, he’s happy to talk at length about seed varieties, planting techniques, and pending weather. Asked how he feels about donating the fruits of his labor to someone in need, however, and he pauses, gazing off for a moment as the moonlight shimmers in his eyes. “You know,” he finally says, “I was in a restaurant downtown last year and overheard an elderly woman talking to some friends. She was going on about the garden, how wonderful it is, how the food is shared with everyone, and how nice it is for the town to have. That’s the best kind of compliment. That’s when you know you’re doing something right. “And that,” continues Boyle, “is the best feeling in the world.” Malayna Burmeister helps her mom (Tiffany Burmeister) in the cabbage patch (opposite). Hardacre Community Garden helped feed Tipton in 2012 with over 14,000 pounds of food, including squash, peppers, and tomatoes (above).

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


M ettotle

Medal Iowa Wines Compete for Palates story by J. WIlsON



bObbIE russIE | OppOsITE: THINksTOck.cOM

hardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon. The main thoroughfares of America’s wine aisles use guideposts — the names of wines themselves as well as the grapes from which they are produced — that even a wine novice is likely to recognize. Here in Iowa, the local pressed-grape back roads are trickier to navigate: Seyval Blanc, Vignoles, Marechal Foch, to name a few. These are cold-climate grape cultivars embraced by vintners in the upper Midwest and other cold-climate regions of North America. With low winter temperatures, late frosts, and a short growing season — as well as fungi caused by hot and humid summer conditions — Iowa vineyards are at a meteorological disadvantage compared to other grape-growing regions. But decades of research, hybridization, and trial and error have brought hope to wine lovers in the state.

Educating Palates

Winemaking in Iowa is nothing new — many homesteaders established vineyards on their farms, and the

state’s first commercial vineyard was planted by A.S. Bonham near Council Bluffs in 1857 — nor are its challenges. The hard winter of 1898–1899 severely damaged Iowa’s nurseries and fruit crops. Few vines survived. Prohibition came in 1920, bringing the production and sale of wine to a halt until 1933. In 1940 the Armistice Day Blizzard of November 11–12 further dented the industry. What remained of the state’s vines was weakened by herbicide drift as corn production in the state took precedence. Many quiet grape-growing years would pass before a wine industry in Iowa began to reconstitute. Fast-forward more than 50 years. There were only 13 wineries in Iowa in 1999, but a series of informational meetings headed up by Ron Mark of Summerset Winery, Bill Brown of Timber Hill Winery, and Mike White of the Iowa State Extension marked an uptick in interest and entrepreneurial action. “I needed more grapes,” says Mark, who had 4 to 5 acres of vineyard on his land but was looking to boost production. “We put on a seminar hoping for five or six guys to consider growing grapes. Over 200 people showed up.” March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN



That seminar led to a series of conversations around the state and provided an overnight shot in the arm to the Iowa wine industry. Today there are nearly 100 wineries in the state and about 320 commercial vineyards. Total production for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2012, was 347,954 gallons — up 35,000 gallons over the previous year. “There’s a great interest in the wine industry overall,” says Colleen Murphy of the Iowa Beer and Wine Promotion Board, which works to educate consumers and promote Iowa wineries. With lesser-known Native American and FrenchAmerican hybrid grape varietals driving the industry, however, language remains a problem. “People come into a winery and say, ‘I like a Chardonnay,’ but what’s interesting is that those people may not like a Chardonnay,” says Murphy. “They like white wine, and that’s the only term for white wine that they know.” Misconceptions create obstacles, too. “I would say that there is first and foremost the stigma that all wines grown in the Midwest, and Iowa in particular, are sweet — like Kool-Aid,” says Abbe Hendricks, wine buyer 36


and sommelier at Gateway Market in Des Moines, who says many consumers haven’t yet met Iowa’s drier alternatives. Given a chance, she says, cold-climate grapes are able to distinguish themselves. “Put a wine from each category in front of someone by itself, and they will 90 percent of the time choose the non-Iowa wine,” says Hendricks. “Do the same experiment with a plate of food, and I’m putting my money on the Iowa wine.” Hendricks thinks cold-climate grapes stand out with food because they have a better balance of acid and sugar as well as an earthiness that complements food well. “There is enough fruit to make the wine drinkable on its own. But there are more layers than just fruit, which helps to pair the wine with the multiple layers you often find in a meal.” In addition to tree fruit and citrus notes, she says, cold-climate wines offer hints of honey, white flowers, and earthy characteristics, which offer diverse matching points to food. Despite their advantage when properly paired with cuisine, Iowa wines have not convinced most chefs

Despite climate and palate challenges, Iowa’s wine industry continues to grow. Cold-climate grapes, like Marechal Foch (top right), can produce balanced wines that complement food well, says Gateway Market’s Abbe Hendricks (right).


Grape Expectations

Monica Berry of Cedar Ridge Winery says knowledgeable staff is key to influencing perception, and she finds that talking visitors through what to expect in Cedar Ridge’s wines helps win over customers. Outof-staters respond to the whites, which Berry explains have bright, tropical fruit flavors and a pleasing aroma. “Cold-climate reds can be a little thinner-bodied and fruitier,” Berry tells tasters. Knowing what to expect seems to break the ice — many tasters find themselves pleased with the profile. Variety also does its part to win potential customers. Berry says Cedar Ridge produces 26 wines: “Everything from a super-dry Chardonnay to a super-sweet Moscato or port.” And then there’s quality: Cedar Ridge’s 2010 Marechal Foch was the first Iowa wine bObbIE russIE

and sommeliers. “They aren’t a guaranteed sale,” says Hendricks. “Unless you have a staff that is 100 percent bought into the wine — and can sell it — then the wine will sit collecting dust.” Iowa wine producers trudge forward, focusing on food and education. “There’s nothing romantic or dramatic about it,” says Bob Wersen of Tassel Ridge Winery. “We’re just going out and getting one new customer at a time.” Wersen says the wine drinkers at opposite ends of the experience spectrum present the greatest challenges: “those who have never tasted wine and those who are knowledgeable vinophiles.” Tassel Ridge is designed as an educational center, explains Wersen, who staffs his winery with a chef for food-pairing events and publishes a quarterly magazine with recipes and pairing suggestions to aid Tassel Ridge’s educational efforts. “Most Iowans, when it comes to wine, don’t know what they like,” he says. To meet the challenge, Wersen and his team have developed a tasting map to help steer wine drinkers through both the winery’s products and their own palates. Where to start? “Taste,” says Wersen. “We start generally in the middle for inexperienced wine drinkers. We watch people’s reactions and often meander in a sweeter direction, though some individuals naturally prefer a drier product.” Some savvy wine drinkers have been taken aback by the distinct flavors of Wersen’s cold-climate wines. He tells a story of a woman who did a double take after trying his Edelweiss, which carries distinct pineapple notes. “What’s wrong with this wine?” she asked. When Wersen explained the grape, she took another taste and decided she quite liked it. “It’s easy to say that the problem is Iowa wine,” says Wersen of the encounter. “In fact, it’s perception.”

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


As consumers become more familiar with grapes grown in the state, such as Vignoles (right), Iowa wines have the opportunity to distinguish themselves. Those submitting to stringent evaluation (Research Associate Jennie Savits, opposite top, measures alcohol content) may earn a quality seal.





to garner a 90-point rating (translation: exceptional) from the Beverage Tasting Institute in Chicago. With public interest piqued by the score’s validation of Iowaproduced wine, Cedar Ridge sold out of the vintage in a week and made quick work of moving the wine the next year as well. Other Iowa wineries have tasted success. Thirty-five Iowa wines earned gold medals in the 2012 MidAmerican Wine Competition held in Ankeny last July. Iowa wineries garnered six gold medals for food pairings. Garden Winery won

the Dick Peterson Best Iowa Appellation Award with its Frontenac Rosé, and Winneshiek Wildberry Winery earned Best Fruit Wine with its Cranberry Crush. To signal quality in the wine aisle, the Iowa Wine Growers Association, in partnership with Iowa State University Extension’s Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute, created the Iowa Quality Wine Consortium (IQWC) in December 2011. The program encourages the production of higher-quality wine and assists Iowa wineries in their effort to become competitive in the Iowa market against national and international wines. The Consortium conducts laboratory chemical analysis and sensory evaluation to determine which wines are worthy of the IQWC seal. Lab analyses test for alcohol content, volatile acids, sulfur dioxide, and cold stability. Sensory evaluation by qualified professionals rates wines on appearance and color, aroma/varietal character, flavor, balance, and absence of faults using a 20-point scale. To date, the Consortium has recognized 77 wines from a dozen Iowa wineries with the seal. “Based on our observations, we notice that the wines are improving,” says Dr. Murli Dharmadhikari, Extension enologist and director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University. “Our vineyards are young and our grapes are new. It’s a young and growing industry figuring out how the grapes behave in this climate. We can’t compete on price and are trying to build a regional identity of Iowa wine.” Dharmadhikari’s observations lead him to believe that aromatic whites, sparkling wines, and reds utilizing the Marquette grape show the most potential to distinguish themselves within Iowa’s wine industry. He hopes to improve the IQWC’s educational component to better inform consumers — and to help them value quality in the wine aisle. For Hendricks, the proof may be not in the lab but in the pudding — or whichever food is skillfully paired with the grape. Quality wine in hand, she offers a few suggestions to find a wineand-food match made in Iowa.


She recommends accompanying oven-roasted chicken with John Ernest Mainline Red and grilled Iowa pork chops with White Oak Vineyards White Oak Red. Penoach Picket Fence White, says Hendricks, is a solid

high scorers The IQWC offers two seals, which appear on qualified wine bottles just above the right corner of the wine’s label. The Iowa Quality Wine

accompaniment to a goat cheese omelet, and Snus Hill Frontenac Port sidles up to blue cheese with aplomb. And for dessert, Hendricks suggests chocolate cake with Snus Hill Sven Red or New York cheesecake with Cedar Ridge St. Pepin. A little tasting and exploration is sure to open both minds and palates of Iowa wine drinkers. And the language used to describe them is becoming more familiar: quality, food-friendly, award-winning. With first-rate native wines, foods that showcase them, and a program designed to promote them, Iowa wine drinkers have plenty to talk about.

seal denotes qualifying wines made from a minimum of 75 percent Iowa-grown grapes. A second designation, the Quality Wine seal, is reserved for qualifying wines made from less than 75 percent Iowa-grown grapes, other fruits, and/or other winemaking materials. Visit wine/projects/page/iowa-quality-wine-consortium.

Grape TranslaTions More online at, where Gateway’s Abbe Hendricks offers cold-climate alternatives to familiar wine varieties. Cheers!

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


Beyond the Rainbow multihued blooms teach an Iowa plantsman about possibility story by Beth Wilson, photography by John Holtorf

The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s horticulture team (left to right: Josh Schultes, Amanda Schutte, Tyler Johnson, and Kelly Norris) will create new displays in the conservatory every 6 to 8 weeks. Cultivating collections is a top priority, but gardens — inside and out — will be used to integrate plant collections, demonstrating how they become parts of a greater whole.



n the thick of an Iowa January, the winterswept landscape, lying dormant and muted, lulls the average Iowan into a seasonal stupor that holds at least until the clocks spring forward. Then a sudden shift of climate and a botanical snap of the fingers in front of our faces stir the sleeping sense of marvel. “It’s a bit arresting when so much color hits you,” says Kelly Norris. Inside the quilted Plexiglass dome completed in 1979 and rechristened in January as part of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, he and his horticultural team are inspecting their latest creation. Cocooned by towering tropicals, wandering paths, and scurrying school kids on botanical treasure hunts, an eruption of pink commands attention at the conservatory’s entrance — hot magenta cyclamen, deep rouge primula, rich cerise cineraria, lush fuchsia azalea, and the dappled pastel of polka-dot plant. “People should be overwhelmed by color and by plants sometimes,” says Norris, the Garden’s newly tapped horticulture manager, explaining the power of flora. Purposely crafted displays, he insists, demonstrate the potential for artistry. The botanical palette is vast, and with it an ambitious 14-acre master plan — unfolding at the north end of downtown Des Moines — aims to change the way people think about public gardens. Norris, 25, likens the challenge to that of culinary professionals inside a fine restaurant who not only procure and promote fresh ingredients but also package and deliver them as part of a memorable experience, “an experience that’s more than just what goes on the plate,” he stresses. In the horticultural version, the feast is visual, says Norris, and part of a larger experience that awakens people to the plant world’s possibilities. March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


Boundless Magic

On a mild September afternoon in 2002, a 15-year-old Kelly Norris stood before an 8-foot-high wall of possibilities. Boxes and burlap bags stretched most of the length of the 80-foot semi-trailer sitting in his Bedford driveway. Aided by family, he worked well into the night, unloading, sorting, alphabetizing, recording. A small planting crew — a group of close friends — would be arriving the following morning, and 40,000 rhizomes had to get in the ground. Less than two months earlier, Norris had been scrolling through the postings of an online plant discussion board. One particular missive from Texas piqued his interest. “I printed it off, folded it up, and took it to the supper table. And bombed my parents with the idea that we should go buy an iris nursery.” The teenage Norris was by now a veteran gardener — planting squash seeds at age 4, tending his first garden bed at age 10, and publishing his first horticulture-themed article at age 13. (His work exploring the history of and growing tips for heirloom sweet peas ran in a gardening newsletter out of New Jersey.) He picked up his first 42


irises during a summer vacation in 1999. A leaflet in a hotel lobby lured him, his younger brother, and his grandmother to a nursery in Wisner, Nebraska. It was August and the iris beds by then weren’t much to look at. Instead, the visitors sat with the owner at his kitchen table and leafed through pages of plant names. “He was quizzing me. ‘What are you looking for? What colors do you like?’” recalls Norris, who walked away with 10 selections that day. “He said, ‘Now, you keep track of the names. Every one of these has a name, and you’ve got to keep track of it because that’s how you’ll know what they are.’ And I did. And the ball just rolled downhill from there.” By 2002, when he spotted the online for-sale notice, Norris was already growing nearly 350 varieties of bearded iris. The shipment from Texas expanded the collection to some 750. Today, over a decade

Pale apricot standards crown velvety grape falls on the tall bearded ‘Diva Do’ (top) blooming at Rainbow Iris Farm last June. Norris says “iris fever” hit after a serendipitous nursery visit in 1999. Over the next three years, every addition to his home garden was driven by irises.

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN




later, Bedford’s Rainbow Iris Farm showcases more than 1,000 varieties. “Irises are the single most colorful group of perennials we can grow in our temperate climate,” he says. “That celebration of diversity is what makes the pursuit worthwhile.” The plantsman describes the Bedford operation as an “it-takes-a-village kind of thing,” with parents, brother, grandparents, neighbors, even Norris’ 5thgrade teacher helping cultivate the business. The farm’s seven acres of bearded iris production beds plus assorted perennial display gardens are nestled among gently rolling hills bordered by a native oak-hickory savanna, and visitors during peak bloom can stroll through an alphabetized rainbow of color, pattern, texture, and size. Presentation is only part of the purpose. An on-site store and mail-order business, plus an online reservoir of terms, tips, and instructions, enourages enticed gardeners to grow bearded irises in their own gardens. “They were not only mine to keep,” says Norris, recalling his revelation as thousands of newly purchased rhizomes were hand-planted a decade ago. “They were mine to grow and share.”

spring roadtrip From the beginning, Norris hoped to create a landmark in southwest Iowa. Bloomfest!, a signature event launched in 2003, is now an annual monthlong tradition that draws 1,500 to 2,000 visitors to Rainbow Iris Farm and Bedford. Watch the farm’s website for dates and details on Bloomfest! 2013. Rainbow Iris Farm 3149 Kentucky Avenue Bedford, Iowa 50833

online extra A Rainbow of Bearded Iris

712-523-2807 Monday through Saturday: 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. Sunday: 1:30 p.m.–5:30 p.m.

Collecting pollen from one iris bloom to place on the stigmatic lip of another enables the cross-pollination of two varieties. Norris (opposite) tags, flags, and records each hybridization endeavor. Grandmother Cheryl Johnson and parents, Krystal and Kenny Norris, stroll with Kelly alongside the farm’s bed of ‘Jesse’s Song’ (top).

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


Although his master’s thesis examined leatherwood (Dirca spp.) in varied landscapes, Norris has mastered the intricate hybridization of bearded irises. His first introduction in 2009 gave the iris world the rich gold and deep crimson of ‘Gene’s Lora Lavelle’, and scattered throughout the farm’s beds today are numerous orange flags marking new beginnings. Unlike diploid species (animals, including humans, among them), the modern cultivars of bearded irises are tetraploid: The plants have twice as much DNA, twice as much genetic information to express. In terms of flower shape, petal size, and bloom color, the possibilities for the future are limitless. “The magic for me is that when you work with a group of plants that’s so diverse — and there are nearly 50,000 cultivars of irises that have been registered since 1929,” says Norris of the extensive range of forms and colors and growing habits, “when you work with so much diversity, it predisposes you to appreciating the subtleties that nature has to offer.”

Norris’ knowledge of bearded irises could fill a book — and has. (A Guide to Bearded Irises: Cultivating the Rainbow for Beginners and Enthusiasts was released last summer.) His passion for horticulture demands a larger forum.

Bearing Witness

After nearly of decade managing the former Des Moines Botanical Center, Des Moines Water Works is stepping aside in 2013 as a new nonprofit organization initiates a multiyear multimillion-dollar transformation. A bold master plan — leveraging not only a unique urban landscape bordered by the Des Moines River but also the visionary commitment of community leaders and new President and CEO Stephanie Jutila — has been matched by a bold capital campaign, which has nearly reached its first milestone goal of $11.6 million. With design, planning, and zoning reviews passed and operational support secured, the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is preparing to launch Phase 1. By the summer of 2014, Garden leaders aim to present to the public indoor renovations to the conservatory, administrative offices, education and meeting space, and restaurant, plus outdoor developments, including a water garden, shade tree allée, event lawn, belvedere, meadow, and specialty gardens. The emerging Botanical Garden, says Norris, represents a new stage along the evolutionary path of public gardens. An older model, defined by a researchdriven facility operating similarly to academia, is being replaced here in Iowa’s capital city with a new one emphasizing public. Norris has an overarching ambition: bringing horticulture to the forefront of people’s lives. His mission in a word: access. Too many people, he explains, have no idea of the immense array of plants

In his new position as the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s horticulture manager (self-declared subtitle: chief plant geek), Norris (opposite and left) begins his workday with a regimented walk through the conservatory and greenhouses, checking equipment and temperatures, spotting details that require attention, and looking to see what’s new. “Gardens are alive,” he says, “They’re changing every day.” The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden holds one of the nation’s largest public collections of coleus (left).



now growing Explore the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden’s conservatory of over 1,500 tropical and subtropical species and cultivars, cactus garden, orchid collection, and more. Learn more about the Garden’s master plan online. Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden 909 Robert D. Ray Drive Des Moines, IA 50316 515-323-2187 Open daily, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.

we can grow here in Iowa. The complex world of breeders, producers, marketers, and distributors heavily influences which six-packs and pots and packets of seed line the shelves and racks of your nearest garden center each spring. The future Botanical Garden, promises Norris, will reveal the greater realm of possibility. Its collections of plants, its educational programs, and even its metro location, he says, will combine to cultivate a new breed of public garden. “The word ‘horticulture’ contains the word ‘culture,’” explains Norris, drawing the connection to society. “What we’ve not done as an industry is embrace — and not just embrace but lobby for — the fact that horticulture is a relevant, essential part of daily life.” His philosophy of horticulture is summed up with three elements: people, plants, and passion. “And in that order. Horticulture is an act of humanity. It starts with people.” And it’s people — their curiosity, their discovery, their endeavors, their patronage — that are critical to fulfilling the Botanical Garden’s mission. Though confined on blueprints to 14 acres, the Garden must not be restricted by its own property lines, says Norris. “We want to see it alive in the community.”

Success, he says, will be recognizable. “People will leave this space taking a part of [the experience] with them.” Norris describes something more than elevated interest — a societal shift. Gardening not as hobby but as lifestyle. The harsh concrete edges of urban spaces softened by plants. Gardens lining each suburban block and spilling from their property into the streets. Motoring farther into the state’s rural regions, “you see landscapes that are harmonious with their environment, that are a relief from the monoculture aesthetic of agriculture, that are rhyming with the seasons and with the land that surrounds them.” Iowa, Norris admits, isn’t always the most accommodating place to garden. But the opportunities outweigh the challenges, he says, and this climate can surprise people when they see a garden that pushes the limits. When we think we’ve seen it at its very best, he says, the Midwest garden can still be even more. Finishing a project in one of the Botanical Garden’s greenhouses, Norris brushes potting soil from his hands. While he and his affinity to gardening have grown up, he still savors early memories — especially that visceral moment of poking fingers in freshly tilled soil as he helped plant those squash seeds and later witnessed their bounty. He’s headed home tonight with dirt under his fingernails, and that, he says, feels good. “I felt a lot of purpose today.” March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN



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An Amphibian Chorus Teaches Us About Harmony story by JIm DuNcAN Cricket frog



The survey was initiated because of concerns that pollution of aquatic environments is contributing to the decline in various amphibian populations. Frogs prefer wetland environments and absorb water through their skins — they don’t even need to drink. So they are particularly sensitive to pollutants in water.

Tree frog


ince the time of classical Greece, humans have been engaged in the dialogue of frogs. Dionysus argued with them after their chant — “Brekekekèxkoàx-koáx” — annoyed him in Aristophanes’ The Frogs. When James Joyce referenced a frog chorus in Finnegans Wake, he added new voices: “Brékkek Kékkek Kékkek Kékkek! Kóax Kóax Kóax! Ualu Ualu Ualu! Quáouauh!” Contemporary Iowans have expanded our knowledge of frog language even further. Volunteer listeners have trekked into wetlands across the state since 1991 to collect data about frog choruses that sing from April through midsummer. The volunteers are part of the Frog and Toad Call Survey, coordinated by Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Diversity program. It’s one of the longest-running studies in America, including more than 13,000 call surveys on more than 1,200 wetland sites in 82 of Iowa’s 99 counties. “It helps us determine distribution range extensions of the various species and to monitor trends,” says Iowa Department of Natural Resources wildlife diversity biologist Stephanie Shepherd. “More important, perhaps, it gives us an index of water quality.”


Call of theWild



Northern leopard frog

Shepherd says other factors also contribute to population declines. Bullfrogs, an invasive species whose population is growing in Iowa, are aggressive predators of smaller frog and toads. With some 95 percent of Iowa’s original wetlands now drained, frog habitats have been diminished. The environmental challenge is compounded after a dry year such as 2012. Kris Rash, who with her husband, Craig, has been surveying a traditional frog and toad route for several years, is apprehensive about what she will hear this year in northeast Iowa. “We hope there are still frogs out there

after this year as we have watched our ponds and wetlands dry up. It’s sad,” she says. Those who, like Rash, go out to listen late at night when there is minimal noise from vehicles will be rewarded with the frog chorus. “I love the Northern leopard frog; it has such a quiet, low song — hard to hear over the chorus frogs,” describes Rash. “Green frogs sound like banjo players. That’s neat. I like listening to lots of tree frogs all summer.” May brings a crescendo of species activity, says Shepherd. “In the western part of Iowa, you might hear six- to eight-part harmony. Leopard frogs and bullfrogs have the deepest voices; peepers have the highest. Cricket frogs sing in staccato. American toads, Iowa’s most common species, have a beautiful musical trill. When more than one calls in different pitches, it’s like they are harmonizing.” Hoyt Axton translated the words of Jeremiah the bullfrog from “Brekekekèx-koàx” to “Joy to the World” in the chorus of his song of that name (which became a hit for Three Dog Night). The line “You know I love the ladies” is apt; all singing frogs in Iowa are males looking for females. Rash says that Axton’s translation works. “Bullfrogs sound pretty darn happy.”

hoppy habitat


Historical surveys estimate that approximately 11 percent of Iowa once consisted of wetlands — areas of soil uniquely capable of holding and processing water and supporting cOurTEsy IOWA dNr/sTEpHANIE sHEpHErd

plants and animals adapted to the sodden conditions. draining and developing land for agriculture, manufacturing, and urban centers has reduced water quality, flood defense, and wildlife habitat. The crawfish frog (Rana areolata) remains listed as an endangered animal species in Iowa. Learn more, including how to volunteer, online at

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN



chance encounter When Travis Mueller and his daughter, Emma, spotted the morning visitor among the blooming phlox, Mueller ran for his camera. Seeming perfectly at home in the Muellers’ Fairfax backyard, the female ruby-throated hummingbird consented to close examination, a gentle pet, even human hand-feeding. Mueller, a territory manager with Avery Outdoors, has been part of many extraordinary moments with Iowa wildlife but says this was a first — “Truly one in a million.”




While hand-feeding sightings are rare, the ruby is commonly spotted in all 99 Iowa counties. Recordings of rufous, Anna’s, broad-billed, and green violet-ear hummingbirds are much more rare. The Iowa Hummingbird Project provides information, resources, photos, and Iowa Ornithologists’ Union records online at

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN


Cel ebr aT e r ail roa D HeriTage National Train Day is May 11

The romantic notions associated with riding the rails are alive and well in the vast and varied collections of railroad related objects, buildings, vehicles, and archives in the nation’s museums. Celebrate National Train Day this spring by beginning your own romance with rail. Visit railroad museums, attractions, and events to learn its history and discuss its future.

From the collection of the Cedar Falls Historical Society

Kalona Historical Village

The Kalona Depot was built in 1879 and moved to the Historical Village in 1969, displays include a large collection of unique lanterns. 715 D Ave • Kalona, IA 52247 319.656.3232 • •



615 First Ave SE Cedar Rapids (319) 362-1501

Tuesday–Saturday 10am–4pm Sunday Noon–4pm | Closed Mondays Admission (includes 1 motor car ride) Adults: $5 Students (ages 6-18): $3 Seniors: $4 Kids (under 5): FREE w/pd. adult Family: $20 (2 adults + 4 or more children) Additional motor car rides $2 each

Hours: 10am - 4pm Tuesday through Saturday Suggested Donation: $5 Adults / $3 Children



Celebrate National Train Day May 11, 2013

Excursion Train Rides at 1:30 p.m.

Visit the James H. Andrew Railroad Museum Dinner & History Train Center at 5:30 p.m. Open Reservations 10 a.m to Required for Dinner Train 5 p.m. Register to WIN!!!! Dinner Train Tickets 1-800-626-0319

Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad & Museum 225 10th St. • Boone, IA


Model train depicting 1940s - 50s Cedar Rapids and Linn County transportation exhibit opening late June 2013 !

UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD MUSEUM Visit the Union Pacific Railroad Museum to experience “Building America,” an immersive exhibit featuring video-game technology; relive the height of passenger rail travel; and learn how Union Pacific and America’s progress have been inextricably linked for 150 years.

200 Pearl Street • Council Bluffs, IA 51503 Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Free Admission (712) 329-8307 •

Cel ebr aT e r ail roa D HeriTage



What was Africa like before the slave trade began? Find out in...

KENEFICK PARK AT LAURITZEN GARDENS See two of the greatest locomotives to power Union Pacific Railroad and one breathtaking view of the Missouri River valley OPEN YEAR-ROUND • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. • Kenefick Park is free Off Interstate 80 at 100 Bancroft Street, Omaha • (402) 346-4002 •


Open Monday - Saturday 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. 55 12th Ave. SE Cedar Rapids, IA 52401 319-862-2101

March/April 2013 | THE IOWAN



up next Photographer Cindy Skeie ( captured this spring native in her Windsor Heights backyard. The shooting star was once common throughout the state, however — part of the vast and varied prairie that defined the Iowan landscape. Its unique, meteorlike blooms put on an impressive display at the 240-acre Hayden Prairie State Preserve in Howard County, but Iowa DNR flora specialist Mark Leoschke says the most scenic view may be the mid-May flower show at Cedar County’s Rochester Cemetery — one of Iowa’s last surviving remnants of native tallgrass prairie. — Nate Brown




13 20 27 28 4 11 18 25


1 8 15 21 22 29



6 12 13 16 18 20 27 1 2 3 4 7 8 9


10 24 7 26-28

Practice Night Knoxville Championship Cup Series Season Opener plus 305’s KCCS #1 - Race For Your School Night Pella Motors/Lion’s Club Night Knoxville Championship Cup Series #2 plus 305’s KCCS #2 2nd Annual Hobby Stock, Sport Mod, Modified and Stock Car Shootout Knoxville Championship Cup Series #3 plus 305’s – Slideways Karting Center/Pella Printing Night World of Outlaws Sprint Cars plus 360’s Mediacom Shootout Knoxville Championship Cup Series #5 plus 305’s – Knoxville McKay Insurance/Allied Insurance Night Knoxville Championship Cup Series #6 plus 305’s

MAY 11

Knoxville Championship Cup Series #7 plus 305’s – Pella Corp & JDRF are Racing to a Cure for Diabetes Night National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Induction Banquet Knoxville Championship Cup Series #8 plus 305’s – Pizza Hut Night Mediacom Shootout World of Outlaws Sprint Cars plus 360’s KCCS #9 Nostalgia at Knoxville Knoxville Championship Cup Series Mid Season Championships plus 305’s – Farm Bureau Night KCCS #10 Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame Induction Banquet Knoxville Championship Cup Series #11 – Marion County Cattlemen, Corn and Soybean Growers 360 Twin Features Night Knoxville Championship Cup Series #12 & 13,410 Twin Features Fill the Stands for Hospice - Town Crier 410 Twin Features Hairball Concert Knoxville Championship Cup Series #14 plus 305’s HyVee Night, Marion Co. Fair Marion County Fair Rodeo Harris Clash - Modifieds Knoxville Championship Cup Series #15 plus 305’s - 3M Night Knoxville Championship Cup Series #16 – Candi’s Flowers Night 23rd Annual Arnold Motor Supply 360 Knoxville Nationals 22rd Annual Arnold Motor Supply 360 Knoxville Nationals 23rd Annual Arnold Motor Supply 360 Knoxville Nationals plus 305’s Knoxville Championship Cup Series Capitani Classic 410’s KCCS #17 53rd Annual Knoxville Nationals World of Outlaws – Qualifying 53rd Annual Knoxville Nationals World of Outlaws 53rd Annual Knoxville Nationals World of Outlaws SPEED SPORT Knoxville World Challenge 53rd Annual Knoxville Nationals World of Outlaws Knoxville Championship Cup Series #18 – Walmart Night

AUG 1-3

AUG 7-10

Knoxville Enduro 10th Annual Lucas Oil Late Model Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s General Store


SEPT 26-28 Schedule subject to change. Check website for schedule updates.


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