Posts tagged fresh produce

Buy Local directory

On Saturday Sept. 20th a special Buy Fresh Buy Local directory distribution will be held at the Monticello Farmers Market.  The market will be 8 a.m. to noon at the Monticello Middle School just off South Main Street (Business 151).  Volunteers from the National Civilian Conservation Corps that are currently working in Jones County will be on hand to distribute copies of the directory.


The River Bend Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local was formed this year to make connections between consumers and available supplies of locally produced fruits, vegetables and meats.  The Buy Fresh Buy Local campaign is built upon the premise that local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances.  In addition, when you buy local food it keeps your food purchase dollars circulating within the local economy and supports family farm producers. 


The River Bend Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local includes 33 members from the region that support the production, marketing and consumption of locally produced foods.  The directory notes members and locations where consumers can obtain fresh, local products.


Besides Saturday’s event, the directory is being distributed by members at stores, restaurants, farmers markets and other venues around the region.   If you are unable to attend the Monticello Farmers Market, copies of the directory can be obtained from members of the steering committee, which includes:  Rose Rohr, Joe Wagner, Steve Swinconos, Marilyn McCall and Kris Doll in Jones County, Lori Schnoor in Jackson County, Jim Keitel in Clinton County, Dave Kronlage in Delaware County and Tom Thompson in Dubuque County.  Directories can also be obtained from Limestone Bluffs RC&D Office in Maquoketa (563-652-5104.)


River Bend Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is a partner of FoodRoutes Network, which provides technical support to non-profit organizations working to strengthen regional markets for locally grown foods. Visit to learn how the network is reintroducing Americans to their food – the seeds from which it grows, the farmers who produce it, and the routes that carry it from the fields to their tables. As a national nonprofit organization, FoodRoutes Network provides communications tools, networking and resources to organizations working to rebuild local food systems across the country.



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Food pantries

   Something has been missing from my summer.

   One of the highlights I enjoyed during past growing seasons was taking my extra produce to a food pantry.

   Loaves & Fishes in Cedar Rapids was one of the places I liked to take my garden overruns of tomatoes, cucumbers or whatever else I grew faster than my family could consume.

   The satisfaction of knowing someone would enjoy the fruits of my labor and at least one healthy meal was often the high point of my week. The smiles and thanks from the volunteers and the folks who lined up to get the food was humbling.

   This year, either I figured out how to limit the number of plants growing in my garden or it just hasn’t been a high-yield summer. With 12 pepper plants, I should have three or four dozen peppers, at least. So far, I’ve picked one. Not one dozen. Just one. The same is true for many other things I planted.

  Even if this has not been a bumper year for my garden, maybe it has been for yours. Don’t let your veggies go to waste.


Following is a list of area food pantries or organizations that have in the past accepted fresh garden produce. I haven’t checked with all of them since this summer’s floods, and I know some of them were affected by flooding, so please call ahead first. If you know of other food pantries that accept garden produce or if you know one of the following no longer needs it, please add a comment below.


Cedar Rapids


Catholic Worker House, 1027 Fifth Ave. SE, (319) 362-9041

Green Square Meals, 400 Fourth Ave. SE, (319) 241-3448

Loaves & Fishes, 1251 Third Ave. SE, (319) 366-7185

Mission of Hope, 1537 First Ave. SE, (319) 362-5559

St. Vincent de Paul, 928 Seventh St. SE, (319) 365-5091

Salvation Army, 1000 C Ave. NW, (319) 364-9131

Waypoint, 318 Fifth St. SE, (319) 365-1458

Willis Dady Emergency Shelter, 1247 Fourth Ave. SE, (319) 362-7555


Surrounding area


Churches of Marion Pantry, 802 12th St., Marion, (319) 377-7309

Crisis Center Food Bank, 1121 Gilbert Ct., Iowa City, (319) 351-0128

North Liberty Food and Clothing Pantry, 85 N. Jones Blvd., (319) 626-2711

Camp Courageous, Monticello, (319) 465-5916.

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Downtown market update

   I’ve heard some people have been upset that the Downtown Farmers Market was canceled instead of relocated after the June floods in downtown Cedar Rapids.


   Nearly 150 vendors had planned to sell fresh produce, baked goods and more at the market on June 21 and this Saturday, July 5.


   Jill Wilkins, events director for the Downtown District, explains: Some of the market materials, including tents for the sponsors, were in the Downtown District headquarters, and were damaged in the floods. The group needed time to recover and find an alternative site, which it currently is seeking. For health reasons due to the extensive flooding, it’s unlikely that the downtown market will remain downtown, at least for the next couple of months, Wilkins said.


   It appears the market will resume, in a temporary location, on Aug. 2. The first downtown market, on June 7, attracted about 10,000 customers.


   If you’re missing your fresh veggies, the list of other Eastern Iowa sites can be found on the Farmers Market tab on this blog.


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Victory Gardens

It appears the Oak Hill Jackson Neighborhood Association will soon have a demonstration garden in Poet’s Park, at Otis Road and 12th Avenue SE. An agreement expected to be signed today will now be signed on Monday, the group’s president, Michael Richards, said.

Richards and others hope the garden will inspire neighborhood residents to plant their own gardens.


Julie Sina, director of Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation, who is signing the agreement with the group, said that had the agreement been signed earlier, seedlings planted already would have been lost to this week’s frost. As an aside, she noted  that  the city gardeners at Ellis Park have seen their gardens wiped out by flooding this week from the Cedar River. This hasn’t been the ideal spring for gardeners.


On a more inspiring note, CURE International sent the following news release to me today. And Michael Richards passed along the item on peace gardens/victory gardens below.


LUSAKA, Zambia, May 2, 2008 – As food costs continue to rise around the world, the CURE International children’s hospital in Zambia has cultivated a ground-breaking solution. Many young patients arrive at the hospital so malnourished their frail bodies are unable to handle surgery. In an effort to strengthen their bodies and immune systems, children are fed a nutrient-rich diet of vegetables pre- and post-treatment.

When a hospital administrator noticed the cost of purchasing and transporting fresh produce was rising, he decided the hospital should grow a garden of its own. By converting unused land into farming ground and hiring two full-time gardeners, his research revealed that the hospital could yield enough crops to fulfill its needs and the project would pay for itself by the first harvest.

The first harvest was abundant, providing enough food for all of the hospital’s patients and staff members. There were even enough vegetables to sell to the local community at reduced rates. Hospital gardeners have also started teaching their advanced agriculture techniques to the patients’ family members so that they can apply it to their own gardens when they return home to their remote villages.

CURE, the largest provider of specialty surgical care in the developing world, treating more than 650,000 children to date, brings children around the world the benefits of First World health care. One hallmark of all CURE hospitals is to provide meals for patients during their treatment. CURE’s hospital in Zambia was established in conjunction with UK-based charity, The Beit Trust, as a pediatric orthopedic and neurosurgery training center.



Peace Gardens

One of the most successful civilian programs in WWI and WWII was the widespread cultivation of home victory gardens. The Federal Government did not support this program at first, due to the belief that it would be a poor allocation of resources and essential labor for a tiny yield of output.

But as many of America’s farmers went overseas to fight, domestic food production dwindled. This caused shortages and strict rationing of foodstuffs. Victory gardens quickly became an essential part of the civilian war effort. These small gardens supplied low cost and nutritious produce, and helped build morale during the hard times. By growing victory gardens, our grandparents resolved their food shortages through practicality and common sense.

Today, we Americans are confronted with similar dilemmas which could imperil our very survival: an economy in deep recession, a devalued U.S. dollar, war in the Mideast, totalitarian repression at home, contaminates in the food chain. Add to this the decline of small and family farms, the explosive growth of global factory farming, genetically modified seeds and foods, declines in food production due to drough and global warming, water pollution, and an ever increasing reliance upon imported food. By considering these factors, we begin to see the approaching spector of global famine on the horizon.

Today, the creation of home gardens has become an important aspect of personal sustainability. In a few short years it will be an absolute necessity. Because of this we must relearn these traditional skills, and begin supplying our own produce, just as our our grandparents did.

Gardening is a healthy and satisfying endeavor. It provides numerous benefits, including a sense of accomplishment and personal wellbeing, an inexpensive supply of high quality vegetables, and builds morale during stressful times. Growing vegetables reconnects us with nature, and strengthens us in many ways. Gardening is a perfect antidote for these dark and depressing times. I think of them as “Peace Gardens.”

A surprising quantity of delicious and healthy produce can be grown in this way, and it is easier to accomplish than one might suppose. This can be done almost anywhere: in backyards, vacant lots, in containers or planter boxes, on porches or on window ledges. Community gardens are popping up in urban areas as well as in small communities accross the country.

Small gardens are easy to create using inexpensive, local materials: wood, stone, soil, compost, manure, and water. The size and layouts of the gardens will be dictated by the spaces available. Raised beds are a good solutions for most gardens, and can be built using clean recycled wood, or local stone. They should be designed to provide good drainage (Gravel can be put in the bottoms to assist drainage). The best raised beds are 3-4 feet wide, 16″-24″ deep, and can be worked from either side.

When picking a spot, make sure that is has good solar access, and the availability of good water. If you must use city water, acquire food grade 55 gallon plastic barrels as a temporary holding tanks. This will allow the chlorine in the city water to evaporate prior to watering. Roof water catchment is also a good alternative in areas where pollution is minimal.

Find the best garden soil that you can acquire. Do not dig soil near roads or highways, as these are all polluted with petro chemicals and lead. Ask around and find our where others get their garden soil. It should have lots of worms. Soil with a high clay content can be used, but must be improved. If you must use soil that is marginal, start by sterilizing it with solar, heat or steam. This will kill all bacteria, spores and nematodes, etc. Then augment the soil. You can add washed sand, wood shavings, organic compost, chicken, sheep or horse manure (seasoned not fresh), etc. Mix it in well with shovels and pitchforks.

The economic gifts of gardening are considerable. In addition to supplying ourselves with high quality organic vegetables at a low cost, we are also able to trade, barter or sell our extra bounty. This facilitates our participation in the alternative (underground) economy. The alternative economies will be essential as the traditional ones will soon collapse under their own dead weight.

As spring approaches, it is a good time to begin gathering the seeds, the supplies and the tools necessary to begin gardening. During the dark and cold months that precede spring, one can brush up on the essentials of gardening: composting and making soil, acquiring organic fertilizer, sprouting and planting the seeds, making raised beds, protecting the seedlings from pests, weeding, harvesting, “putting up” the produce, and finally – the many ways of preparing and eating the bounty. There are numerous resources available to assist in this learning process: Libraries, used book stores, university extension programs, and best of all – from experienced gardeners in our own communities.

Planting a peace garden is an excellent vehicle for re-establishing one’s connection with nature, restoring one’s place in the natural food chain, for preserving personal freedom, and for sewing the seeds of peace. This is the essence of true homeland security.

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Market blooper

Lynn Perry, market master of the Cedar Rapids Eighth Avenue farmers market, pointed out that both the Noelridge and Eighth Avenue markets were left out of the list published in Sunday’s Gazette.

We’re still trying to figure out what happened. Both were in the original list and somehow got dropped in the editing process. It was certainly unintentional.

Information for the markets is included in the list on this blog and also appears below.

Noelridge Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids, 4 to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays

and Fridays, May 2 through Oct. 24, corner of Collins Road and Council Street NE,

contact Teresa White at (319) 286-5731.


City parking lot at Eighth Avenue and Second Street SE in Cedar Rapids, 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturdays, May 1 through Oct. 25, contact Teresa White at (319) 286-5731. Closed June 7 and 21, July 5, Aug. 2 and 16, 

Sept. 6 and Oct. 4 in deference to downtown market.

Both markets have a wonderful selection of fresh produce, live plants, soap and other handcrafted items. I’ve also found organic meat and great baked goods at the markets. Lynn notes that Cedar Rapids is unique in this area in having a farmers market every day of the week, except Sunday. (And Hiawatha has its market on Sundays!)


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What’s your favorite farmers market?

Old Market - Omaha, Nebraska

One of my favorite memories of a childhood trip to Georgia was my mom getting me to try a peach she had purchased at a roadside stand. Juicy and incredibly sweet, it was nothing like the bland store-bought peaches we could find at grocery stores in Iowa.


That’s one of the great things about fresh produce. In and of itself, it’s tastier and healthier just on its own. No need to add anything. Gardeners understand this. I can’t eat supermarket tomatoes after having eaten them fresh out of my garden.  That’s why farmers markets are so wonderful. Everything is fresh and even if you have your own garden, there is bound to be something different at the farmers market.


The Old Market area of Omaha, Neb., shown in the photo, has a great ambience for farmers markets, with old shops, wonderful restaurants and street musicians.  Is it possible to create something like that here?


Eastern Iowa has some excellent farmers markets that are listed in a new tab on this blog for reference throughout the season. The list will  be printed in the Sunday, April 27, edition of The Gazette.


We’d also like to know what your favorite farmers market is. Is it here in Iowa, or elsewhere? What do you like about it? Let us know by adding your comments.



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