Meskwaki Nation will host a field day and tour on starting a community-based farm business – Sept. 9, near Tama

For Release: August 22, 2014

TAMA, Iowa — When members of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (aka Meskwaki Nation) expressed a desire for more local food and agriculture options within the community, they didn’t just consult with a handful of people or experts about how to achieve this. They involved the entire tribal community in extensive discussions about what members wanted – and what sort of farm business would work for them.

The Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa invites farmers and the public to learn about the new business, Red Earth Gardens, and the in-depth process behind it, at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Tuesday, Sept. 9, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., near Tama. The garden is located at 1401 305th St., behind the tribe’s casino on the Meskwaki Settlement. The event, “Community-Based Farm Start-Up,” is free to attend and will include lunch. Guests are asked to bring their own tableware. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow at (515) 232-5661 or [email protected] by Friday, Sept. 5.

Attendees will learn what it means to integrate a farm business with community-based goals and input from the beginning, including the tribe’s extensive strategic planning process. Tour the garden and learn about Tribally Supported Agriculture, which operates the same way that Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) businesses do by allowing tribal members to pre-purchase shares of Red Earth Garden’s harvest.

Other topics will include sustainable fruit and vegetable production; transitioning former row crop ground to organic production; developing new markets; starting a growers’ cooperative; planning hands-on food and farm workshops; and rural community development. Speakers will include Bryant Bear, farm staff; Jerry YoungBear, community organizer; and Laura Kleiman, local foods coordinator.

Jennifer Vazquez, farm manager for Red Earth Gardens, says that in the beginning, ideas ranged from grass-fed beef and chickens to pastured pork and vegetables. “We deliberated a lot about the best place to start, because eventually we want to do all those things,” she says. “We settled on a vegetable farm because we wanted to be able to provide more healthy food to the community right away, whereas pastured pork or poultry would take time to start and people might only buy once a week. Vegetables they can incorporate right away.”

Red Earth Gardens was started in 2013 and is entering its second year transitioning former row crop ground to certified organic by 2015. The farm also serves as a community education resource and provides space for the Meskwaki Growers’ Cooperative, which will offer community garden incubator space to interested growers. The farm spans 40 acres, with about 4 acres in produce, 1.5 acres in community garden incubator space, and the remainder in hay and conservation habitat. The farm sells produce through a farm stand, a TSA share and online ordering; at farmers markets; and wholesale to the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel, area grocery stores and restaurants. The farm is part of the Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative, which offers cooking classes and workshops through the farm.

Directions: From U.S. 30, turn south into the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel. Drive around the casino to the west, going past the parking ramp and continuing toward the most southern end of the parking lot. Just past a set of bleachers is a large, red farm building. This the packing shed for the garden, where the field day will begin. Red Earth Gardens is located about 1 hour from Des Moines, Ames, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2014 field day season features 35 field days around Iowa. All field days are open to the public, and most are free to attend. The guide is available on Practical Farmers’ website, or contact the PFI office at (515) 232-5661 to request a printed copy.

Practical Farmers’ 2014 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; BlueStem Organic Feed Mill; Calcium Products; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment Company; Gateway Market and Café; Grain Millers, Inc.; Grassland Oregon; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa Farm Service Agency (USDA); Iowa Farmers Union; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; Iowa Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (ICASH); ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Klinkenborg Aerial Spraying and Seeding, Inc.; La Cross Seed – Soil First; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Insurance Corporation; MOSA Organic Certification; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); National Wildlife Federation; Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; The Nature Conservancy in Iowa; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; and Welter Seed and Honey Company.

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Founded in 1985, Practical Farmers of Iowa is an open, supportive and diverse organization of farmers and friends of farmers that seeks to strengthen farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Farmers in our network produce corn, soybeans, beef cattle, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. For additional information, call (515) 232-5661 or visit www.practicalfarmers.org.

Contact:

Jennifer Vazquez | Red Earth Gardens | (641) 481-5305 | [email protected]

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | [email protected]