Monday, March 30, 2020
Cindy Heilmann, a vivacious, easy going, and quick-to-laugh farmer, runs Heilmann Hawkeye Acres with her husband Dave. Rolling hills and native timber comprise most of the 45 acres on their small Iowa farm. Approximately one acre of land, with two high tunnels and a small greenhouse, are used for grow-ing fruit, flowers, and vegetables. Delicious red raspberries, white peach trees, and hardy Reliant peach trees grace their farm with mouthwatering juicy fruit.Rhubarb, asparagus, lilies, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, green beans, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and peppers are grown either in the high tunnel or in long 400 foot rows.
Cindy grows all her fruits and vegetables organically following sound, healthy, soil building practices since every farmer knows that without good soil, you cannot get great vegetables. Each year in early September, turnip seed is planted on soil which was harvested all summer long. These turnips help reduce the growth of unwanted or invasive weeds in late summer / early fall and provide a nutritious treat in mid-November for her ten “spoiled” Angus cows. The cows clean the field before the snow flies and the soil is ready for planting in the spring. Little to no tilling is required which then leaves the nutrient-rich soil filled with beneficial worms and critters.
And speaking of those cows, each year the cows give birth to adorable baby calves in mid-April. Cindy learned years ago from an old Amish veterinarian, to feed kelp to her Angus mothers in order to improve their health and strengthen them for calving. She uses about 250 pounds of kelp/year for her cows… that which doesn’t get absorbed by the cow gets spread across the fields by natural processes. The calves are weaned and then sold to a farmer friend who raises them on large green pastures and gives them a happy healthy life.
Cindy is a wise and experienced farmer. For those starting out in fruit and vegetable growing she has many great tips. Tip #1 –grow two things you like to eat and add two new things every year. That allows you to enjoy what you grow and learn the nuances of growing new fruits or vegetables before overinvesting your time and energy. Practice makes perfect. Tip #2 –Every week, whether it looks like it needs it or not, roto-till the top ½ to one inch of soil between and around every row. Stay on the surface –that’s where most of the weeds and weed seeds are. Then all you need to do is pull the occasional weed between plants. Great tips!
Cindy’s scrumptious fruit, vegetables, and beautiful flowers can be found at the Clinton Farmers Market and the Freight House Farmers Market from May through October.
Saturday, February 29, 2020
Nestled behind a winding blacktop driveway with hundreds of maturing fruit trees framing the idyllic road is Craver’s Little Red Barn. A family owned, operated, and produced, work of love, filled with overflowing dedication and abundance. Jill and Jeff Craver are the minds and muscles behind the 25 acres of fertile soil which are nurtured on their family farm. Apples, peaches, cherries, pears, blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries fill the yearnings for fresh, naturally grown, fruit.
“Our children love fruit… They can’t get enough of it.”
The Cravers have six children ranging from four years old all the way to 21. Their youngest bundle of energy, Bode, often can be found alongside Jill picking berries in the long, 500 foot, neverending, wellmulched blueberry rows. Jill’s pickings go into the bucket. Bode’s? Well, those amazing plump berries go straight to the tummy. And who could blame him?
The varieties of vegetables grown on the farm seem endless. “We grow everything from apples to zucchini.” Asparagus, beans, okra, carrots, beets, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, and some of the best tasting scrumptious sweet corn one can find in the Quad Cities can be found throughout the growing season from Craver’s Little Red Barn (among many other varieties). One of the first vegetables of the season for Jill and Jeff is asparagus. And after a long, cold winter, the richness and flavor of fresh asparagus is like no other.
But there’s more! In addition to fruits and vegetables, Craver’s Little Red Barn raises Suffolk meat sheep and lambs, Black Angus beef, and horses for barrel riding and competition. The children have the primary responsibility for feeding and caring for the animals. And then, each year a few of the cattle are sold and all the profits of the sale go into one of the children’s college savings account.
The soil on the farm is tended and cared for in an environmentally friendly manner. Manure, cover crops, light till, mulch, and crop rotation keep the earth filled with nutrients and that soil health is then integrated into the happy and healthy plants. Pollination is enhanced through honeybee hives and pollinator friendly practices are followed for pest management. The end result? Luscious green plant growth, nutritious healthy produce, and happy taste buds.
All this harmonious environmental living and farming comes at a cost. Farming fruits and
vegetables is labor intensive. The “easy” part is tilling, planting, and harvesting. The day in and day out maintenance of watering and weeding is always a challenge. Jill is the “weeder extraordinaire” and hand pulls each and every weed growing close to the thousands and thousands of
plants. However, the Craver’s have an ingenious tool they made from an old pull behind 5 foot rototiller. Inspired by a farmer friend, Jeff removed the center tines of the rototiller. By creating a 12 inch space for the row plants within the middle of the tiller itself, Jeff is able to clear two feet on each side of the row easily and efficiently. Such a time and back saver
Craver’s Little Red Barn, located in Taylor Ridge, IL, is an amazing example of a small family managed, and labor of love farm. Some of life’s best, hardest, and most soul filling lessons are discovered on a family farm. Quiet meaningful conversations while tending the soil and caring for animals result in a family with strong bonds of love and respect for one another and the environment. And the Craver’s certainly epitomize these qualities.
One can discover Craver’s Little Red Barn through Facebook, purchase fresh, beautiful grown local produce at the Freight House Famers Market, the Quad Cities Growers Market, and at their cute family farm stand in Taylor Ridge, IL May through October.
Friday, February 28, 2020
Cyndy Pollentier of DCP Naturals started her home based business to make natural and nontoxic products after doing years of research on commercially made synthetic ingredients. Her first products were soy wax melts and candles, lotions, perfume, lip balm and bug spray. Cyndy started making organic coconut milk soap “out of necessity” after her husband Dave would get dry and cracked hands and fingers. They tried everything, including natural soaps, but nothing seemed to help. One day while grocery shopping, she happened to see coconut milk and wondered if she could make a soap out of it. “I wanted to make a good quality soap, using as many organic ingredients as possible. I used the best oils I could find that were not only pure, but had healing properties. And I wanted essential oils to use for the fragrance. After much trial and error, I made the coconut milk soap. And we were amazedhis cracked and bleeding fingers healed after a few days of using the soap. I know I had something special,” Cyndy said of the origins of her organic specialty.
After her discovery, she started making the soaps with a few different scents and it just “grew from there.” She realized how family and friends loved the moisturizing properties of the soap and decided to incorporate it into her business. “I introduced the soap at our local farmers market in East Moline in 2016, and as customers tried the soap, they couldn’t get enough,” she stated. “We now sell the soap at the East Moline, Moline and Port Byron Farmers’ Markets. We also sell at a variety of craft fairs including the Antique Working Farm Show and Country Tyme craft show.” Soap scents include honey and oatmeal, sage, 60’s love child, and lavender. She also offers fragrance free for those who prefer unscented.
Cyndy has also expanded her product line to include muscle rubs, lotions, and sunscreen, as well as her homemade jewelry such as Mississippi River rock pendants and guitar pick earrings. Cyndy said one of her favorite places to sell is the Port Byron Farmers’ Market. “It may not be a huge market, but the people that come are amazing. The vendors and customers are more like family. We all support each other, which makes selling a joy. We have met so many wonderful people who sell and who buy. Many thinks to those who support the market, and to those who organize it. Come on down!””
Thursday, February 27, 2020
The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offer three hours classes for anyone interested in being certified to sell morel mushrooms legally within the state of Iowa. The workshop is held every year during the spring on the Iowa State campus. More information can be found at the Iowa State Website.
Saturday, February 15, 2020
- 3 pounds Asparagus
- 1 large onion (red or sweet)
- 1 sliced medium zucchini
- 1-2 tablespoons Olive oil
- 1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 pint Cherry tomatoes
Rinse and trim asparagus and then layer with onion and zucchini in a 11 x 13
inch pan. Drizzle olive oil and salt. Bake on 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Add whole cherry tomatoes on top in the last five minutes. Enjoy!