Lots to be thankful for!

Happy Thanksgiving!  I truly hope your cup is full today.  Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  It’s a time where so much of our family gets together and we just enjoy our time with each other.  I find it to be the most fulfilling holiday of the year!  

The Quiner family wishes you a happy Thanksgiving

Monroe enjoying our new handmade walnut farmtable

My family will be spending the day together enjoying each others company, great food, great drinks, and making lasting memories!  On Friday, we will be hosting a farm to table dinner at my house for Eric’s side of the family.  I'm excited to cook, but also to serve on our new farmhouse table.  Eric made the table using a walnut tree that we cut down at the farm.  We had it milled and it had been curing for over a year.  He is in the process of making a bench that will run alongside the wall.  The table is beautiful and I love the addition to our home!

During the season, Thursday's are arguably our busiest day of the week.  We are washing/packing for both our Salad Subscription and the FarmStand.  I also make restaurant deliveries on Thursdays as well, so much of my mornings are spent driving around the metro delivering to chefs.  This is my first Thursday off since April (excluding my trip to Naples, FL) and it feels wonderful!  I absolutely love farming, but the truth is that it’s a demanding career and I welcome the winter months as a way to recharge my battery.  Come spring, I will be raring to get out into the field, but for now, I’m ready for some R & R.

Looking back on the 2017 season, I have a lot to be thankful for.  My husband, Eric, has been a rock for both the business and our family.  He does a lot of the behind the scenes things for DUG that goes unseen, but trust me, his work for DUG is critical for our success.  I also want to thank my amazing crew of employees.  Kate, Kristen, & Jordi have been with me in the field throughout the season.  They work their butts off in extreme climates to provide our customers with the freshest food possible. Sherri, Katy Jo, Jessie, and Robin have been the smiling faces working the DUG FarmStand.  They sacrificed their weekends to keep the FarmStand running smooth.  I also want to thank you, our DUG supporters.  I truly blessed to have such great support for our local community.  You are what allows this business to thrive and I will miss seeing you in the winter.  

Katy Jo's smiling face behind the counter

Jordi rocking the carrots

Kristen and Kate transplant lettuces

Many people ask what I do during the off season, so here’s a glimpse:  

  • I’ve started to analyze my numbers/financials for tax season.  I enjoy sitting down and analyzing this data.  It helps to guide my planning for the following season.  Here is an example pie chart I recently created.  It allows me to visualize the different avenues where my cash flow comes from.  
  • I’m also spending time working on my business plan.  I’m beginning my second year in the Practical Farmers of Iowa Savings Incentive Program and one main goal at the completion of this year is to have a finalized business plan.  
  • I’ve started to plan out next season’s crops.  I will grow many of the same main crops, but am looking to add new varieties.  I will also tweak the amount of each crop I grow.  For example, I need to plant more beds of beets next season because we were short later in the fall.  I use all the sales data inputted in our Square program to get a better grasp/understanding of what products make us the most money and plan accordingly.  
  • While planning out my crop selection I also make a rough crop planting plan.  This planting plan gives me an idea of what I will plant throughout the 2018 growing season, but also where those crops will be planted.  I consider crop rotations, soil quality, sunlight, drainage, etc when selecting which beds will get planted with which crops.  Having this in place before the season starts is beneficial as it gives me a big picture plan for the season.  Also, as the season picks up my time is limited, so planning as much ahead of time is very beneficial.
  • After I get my crop plan in place, I get to order my seeds!  It’s always fun when the seed catalogs start coming in the mail.  The challenge for me is to use some self control and not grow 25 different varieties of tomatoes, peppers, or lettuces!  Each year I like to incorporate new varieties, but I really try to be selective.  

Our Aib BnB has been going great!  We launched it in October, and have essentially been booked for the past two months.  Our guests have been great and it has been fun getting to know them.  Please keep our place in mind if you have family, friends, or coworkers looking for a place to stay in Des Moines.  You can view the home details by clicking here

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As the weather gets cooler, keep in mind we have firewood for sale.  The wood is aged and burns great.  My family and I were joking around that this wood is “non GMO, organic, gluten free, and vegan!!"

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On Sunday, I hit the road to travel south to Selmer, Tennessee for the Small Farms for Big Change Event.  I’m so excited to be a part of this event.  I will be staying at Rose Creek Farms which is owned/operated by Ray Tyler and his wife.  Ray is doing amazing things for the market garden community so I can’t want to learn more about his farming systems.  On Monday, I will be participating in a day of round table sessions with some of my farming mentors - Curtis Stone (Profitable Urban Farming) and Ben Hartman (The Lean Farm).  10 market gardeners were accepting into this Mastermind class and I feel honored to be accepted!  The other days on the farm I will be learning about new tools, wash/pack set up, growing greens throughout the summer, farm planning, and more!  I’m very excited to meet some of my market gardening mentors (Ray Tyler, Curtis Stone, Ben Hartman, Jonathan Dysinger, Diego Footer, and Michael Kilpatrick).  The knowledge I gain from my trip will no doubt make me a better farmer.

A congratulations is in order to Stacy at Tiny Acre Farms.  She funded her kickstarter campaign!  Stay on the lookout for her Flower Truck next season!

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Stay tuned for a DUG holiday gift giveaway hapening soon.  I will post more details when I get back from Tennessee.

Cheers

Your Urban FarmHer, Jenny

 


 

 

 

Spring has sprung!

Spring is here, spring is here!!  Since that is the case, please don’t judge me when you see me in person and I constantly have dirt under my fingernails; that is a constant battle that I tend to lose.

Our hoop house will look similiar to this

Great news, we have received word from the NRCS that we are accepted into their High Tunnel Initiative program, and will receive a grant to install a high tunnel!  If you’re not familiar with a high tunnel (also known as a hoop house) just think of it as an unheated greenhouse.  This is a game-changer for the farm!  Having this structure will allow for me to grow in a more controlled environment and I’m so excited to get this puppy installed.  High Tunnels are great because they allow me to regulate the growing environment so much more than in the field.  The high tunnel will also allow me to extend the growing season so you will be able to enjoy DUG greens both earlier in the spring and later in the fall!  

We ordered the structure a few weeks ago and hope to get in installed by early May.  We will be working with Practical Farmers of Iowa to host a “barn-raising” event for the high tunnel build.  We ordered our high tunnel from a company in Ohio called Tunnel Vision Hoops, and Todd (a co-owner of the company) will come out and help us with the install.  If you are interested in being a part of the construction of the high tunnel please let me know.

A huge shout out to Steve Darcy from Quality Cut Lawn Care.  He did such great work getting the land ready for the high tunnel.  We brought in 10 loads of soil and he graded the land and also installed a swale that should help control some areas where we had pooling water last season.  51st Street does not have curbs/sewers so a lot of the water run off from the road ended up pooling next to our farm driveway. We are optimistic this dirt work will help to alleviate our standing water issues.  If you are in need of lawn care and or landscape services I highly recommend Quality Cut Lawn Care.

As the weather is getting nicer I have been enjoying getting to work in the field.  I've been able to get about ⅓ of my beds prepped and ready for planting.  When I prep beds it involves applying compost, broad forking the soil to increase airflow and loosen up compaction, using a landscape rake to get the beds shaped properly, and finally going over the beds with a roller to get a firm/flat seed bed.  My goal is to get as many beds prepped ahead of time which will make planting go so much quicker.  I’m also hoping to re-tarp most of the plot next week.  I have found the tarps to do a great job with weed control.

Transplanted lettuces all tucked in.

On Tuesday I was able to transplant my first seeds of the season!  The unexpected part was that most of the time I was transplanting it was snowing!  I got in the field early that morning to try to get a jump start on what (I thought) was going to be rain, which instead turned into beautiful massive snowflakes.  The snow was actually kind of nice because I was still able to transplant and it helped to gently water in the baby plants into their new home.  The snow melted about 90 minutes later and the new lettuce and kale transplants are doing great.  

My basement nursery is continuing to see a lot of seed starting action!  Microgreen production continues to increase.  I recently picked up an account with La Mie Elevate and am thrilled to be working with them.  If you haven’t checked out their new location (on the skywalk in the Ruan Building) you must make it a to-do.  The atmosphere is great and the food never disappoints.  

Lettuces hardening off in preperation for transplanting.

Along with microgreen production, I also have lettuces, kale, swiss chard, edible flowers, tomatoes, and peppers happily growing.  Today I plan to start more lettuces to get transplanted out in about a month.

In honor of national puppy day, Monroe spent the day with me at the farm.

Next week I will start to direct seeds some more plants out in the plot.  Spinach, mustard greens, radish, turnips, baby kale, and arugula are all expected to be planted early next week.  Each week the beds will continue to get more and more things planted.

Earlier this week we had our hearing with Polk County and our application for a Conditional Use Permit on at the farm was accepted!   One of our main objectives with getting the Conditional Use Permit is that it will allow us to install permanent signage at the farm.  The Conditional Use Permit will also open the doors for us to be able to host events at the farm, so that is great news!  We had record responses of support from those of you in the community and that means so much to us...THANK YOU!

Within the next few weeks we will be focusing on revamping the FarmStand and getting it ready-to-roll for opening weekend (Mother’s Day weekend).  Yesterday we got a new 2-door glass front fridge.  I envision this new fridge being stocked full with DUG greens!  Eric will start building new and improved displays.  The new displays are being built using wood from the trees we took down on the farm last season.  We had it milled and it’s been curing under a deck for almost a year.  It should be good to go soon and I love that we are able to repurpose that wood in this manner.  In about 6 weeks the FarmStand will be transformed from the off-season poker night spot to your destination to purchase fresh, seasonal produce!

If you missed our recent feature blog on Made in DSM be sure to check it here.  The boys at Made in DSM are wonderful and I love their mission of, “Wanting to remind people why Des Moines matters. By collaborating with other great designers, companies, and start-ups we plan on showing what’s great about Des Moines, Iowa."  The questions they ask people are great and I love how unique they.  Reading their blogs really allows you to better get to know that person.  I recommend getting on their mailing list so stay current on their blog updates

Cheers!

Your Urban FarmHer, Jenny

The 2017 season is almost here!

As a farmer I’m quickly realizing that I’m always talking about the weather, but holy cow, how crazy was this past heat wave in February?  I know it feels good for our souls to get outside and work/play in mid February, but my farmer self has an internal battle with this weather.  I’m concerned what the temperatures will bring this summer.  I’m also worried that my pest pressures may be more severe with this mild winter, but the optimistic side of me says the beneficial insect populations should also be higher, so they can help control the populations of my harmful pests.  Let’s hope this is the case!

Since this weather was so nice this past weekend, we were able to get a head start on prepping some land for better production.  Eric and some amazing friends in the neighborhood were able to take down three large trees that were hindering our sunlight and grow space.  It is nice to be able to get some of this necessary work done in late February!

The crew sets a game plan for tree removal.  Note: Oliver's chainsaw is only a toy!

Today is National CSA Day, so I want to thank all of you for your support of the DUG Salad subscription.  The spring session sold out quickly and I am so appreciative for what you do to make DUG successful!  Don’t worry if you missed out on the Spring Subscription, because you can still buy our produce at the DUG FarmStand, the Beaverdale Farmers Market, and the Iowa Food Coop.  There are also a few more subscriptions available for the fall session, so feel free to sign up for that before it sells out as well!

New T-shirts will be avaialble this season!

It may seem early, but we are excited to announce the FarmStand season will begin on Mother’s Day weekend (May 13th and 14th).  Be sure to add it to you calendar!  The hours are still not set in stone, but this season the FarmStand will be open Thursday evenings as well as Saturday and Sunday.  Keep our opening weekend in mind if you want to buy transplants for your own personal garden.  We will be selling our transplants as well as transplants from other local growers.  Mid May is the perfect time to plant most of the plants we are selling, so the timing is ideal!

As of earlier this week, my seed starting season has began!  On Monday, I started a bunch of kale seeds, and things will really start to pick up in these next few weeks.  I’m starting hundreds of lettuce seeds this week as well.  Next week I’ll be getting some extra tomato seeds started (Ben at Wabi Sabi Farm is starting most of my tomatoes, but I’ll do a few on my own) and each week the seed starting process will grow exponentially!

The infamous Jang Seeder!

When I plant in the field I do a combination of transplanting and direct seeding my crops.  It really just depends on what type of crop I’m planting.  I transplant all plants that are “long season crops” and need an extra jump start to be healthy early in the season.  Tomatoes, peppers, summer squash, cucumbers, kale, basil, some edible flowers, as well as some lettuce varieties are transplanted.  I do not have a greenhouse, but I do have an indoor nursery set up in my basement.  That is where I grow microgreens year round and it is also a great set up for me to start my transplants.  Transplants do prefer natural light as opposed to artificial lights, but I make sure to give my plants extra time hardening off and they have done great out in the field. Most greens, herbs, radish, carrots, turnips, and some edible flowers are directly seeded into the soil using one of my favorite tools called a Jang seeder.  The Jang is an amazing seeder which will furrow, plant, and bury my seed quickly and efficiently.  The Jang seeder is not necessary for a small home garden but it is such a time saver for my scale!

You may recall that we had to tear up most of our grow plot last fall due to the installation of our drainage system.  I’m hopeful to get the beds created again in the next couple of weeks.  It all really depends on what the weather decides to do, but as long as the ground isn’t frozen the soil should be workable.  Since we have the plot tarped, I’m not too concerned about rainfall because the tarps help to keep the soil moisture levels lower.  That said, I’m still not 100% sure how I will remove those massive tarps if they have a bunch of pooling water, but I will deal with that when the time comes!

I’ll leave you with a reminder that the 8th Annual Feed Greater Des Moines Conference is coming up.  The event is Saturday, March 4th from 9am-4pm at Grace Lutheran Church.  Attend the conference so you can, “learn from the top hunger fighting and local food organizations in Greater Des Moines about how they are combining efforts to make a difference.”  Jordan Clasen (Grade A Gardens) and I will be on the local foods panel discussing our experiences as beginning farmers.  Tickets are required and all the details can be found here.

Stay tuned for some exciting news on the horizon here at DUG!

Crop planning is complete!

A photo of my backyard

Beautiful snow is finally falling here in the Des Moines area. The boys are peacefully napping so I get a little quiet time to reflect on this imspiring past week.

Last weekend I attended the Practical Farmers of Iowa annual conference. This was my second year in attendance and I left feeling educated and energized for the 2017 farm season. A common theme I’m taking away from the conference is the critical importance of soil health.  Crop yields, water retention, pest issues, etc. can all be connected to fertility of soil.   

Here are some of the memorable sessions I attended:

  • Patrice Gros runs Foundation Farm in Arkansas and uses no till methods to enhance his soil.  He uses unique growing methods, and has a very profitable farm.  
  • Ajay Nair is an assistant professor from the Department of Horticulture at ISU and he shared a wealth of information on building soil fertility specific to a vegetable farm.
  • Mark Quee is the farm manager at Scattergood Friends School, in West Branch, and he gave a good talk on his use of cover crops for their farm.

Another thing I love about the conference is getting to connect with my fellow farmers. It's great to talk shop with farming friends at an event like this because in the thick of the season it can be difficult to be as available for each other.  

I was also able to meet other participants in the P.F.I. Savings Incentive Program. We ate lunch together and had a nice gathering after the conference.  There is a wide variety of farmers involved with this years SIP program from organic vegetables to livestock, but we all working to become better farmers and better stewards of the land.

At the conference, I had my first meet-up with my SIP mentor, Jill Bebout from Blue Gate Farm.  I’m so excited to be partnered with Jill.  She has a wealth of farming knowledge and she will be a great resource for me as a beginning farmer.  

In other news, Dowling Catholic High School did an article on the farm in their recent publication, “Focus.”  As a DCHS graduate and former teacher, it was very exciting to be approached about an article. You can read the article here

I spent almost six hours on Tuesday knocking out my crop planning for 2017.  It’s a difficult process for many farmers, but being a beginning farmer seems to make it even more challenging.  Crop planning is essentially a jigsaw puzzle for farmers.  While planning, you have to consider crop rotations, pest issues, climate, soil types, etc.  It’s no easy task.  That said, I’m really happy with the set up.  Now that the task is complete, I know exactly where I will be planting which seeds throughout the season and when they will be planted.  What is also exciting is I now have a much deeper understanding of crop planning and it should only get easier in years to come.  

A screenshot of a portion of my crop planning.

I’m really happy that all of my beds will get cover crops at some point in 2017.  A third of my beds will be planted with buckwheat cover crops in July, while the rest of the beds will get a combo of rye/pea cover crops in mid October.  Cover crops serve many functions that all revolve around soil health.  I’m planting the cover crops to increase organic matter, as a method of weed control, and also to fix nitrogen in the soil.  Growing intensively on less than ¼ of an acre can make cover cropping a challenge.  Many farmers will designate specific areas to be cover cropped for long periods of time, but I don’t have that luxury because I don’t have excess amounts of land.  I’m hopeful the system I have in place this season will work well and I will continue to incorporate cover crops into my crop planning each year.

With all the crop planning finished, I have been able fill my seed orders!  I love flipping through seed catalogs and deciding what to grow for the season.  I'll be growing many of the same things as last season, but I am most excited for the addition of edible flowers.  I'm experimenting with growing Nasturtium, Gem Marigolds, Viola, Bachelor's Buttons, and Dianthus.  Since much of what I grow focuses on salads, I figured edible flowers were a perfect addition to my arsenal.  I'm a rookie with edible flowers, so hopefully I have success! 

Now, off to finish taxes!

January Rain?

Happy New Year to you all!  I hope your resolutions are holding strong!

The “off season” has allowed us to make improvements to some of our infrastructure.  Just a few weeks ago Eric did some great work in my indoor nursery.  We recently expanded the space and so Eric made the whole area one unified room by painting the floor and walls.  He also constructed a permanent shelving system and moved my soil table from the garage to the nursery.  This will streamline the space and make growing microgreens and some of my plant starts more efficient.  I’m loving the improvement and it will allow me to grow more product!

Tomorrow morning I’m hitting the road to make a mini road trip to go see one of my market gardening mentors, Jean Martin Fortier.  JM is speaking in Lincoln, Nebraska and I’m stoked to go see him in the flesh!  His book, The Market Gardener, has been a huge resource for me. When I heard he was coming to the midwest, it was a no-brainer to go see him.  I’m actually looking forward to the making three hour road trip by myself.  I’ll catch up on some farming podcasts (The Farmer to Farmer, Permaculture Voices, and The Sample Hour are some of my favorites) and just get some nice time to myself.

This past week I was able to attend two great events focusing on local food systems in the Des Moines Area.

I was privileged to be on the panel for a Food Still Matters get together.  I was in great company with Ash Bruxvoort from The Iowa Food Coop, Rick Hartman of Small Potatoes Farm, and Aubrey Alvarez from Eat Greater Des Moines.  

The goal of Food Still Matters is to, “explore our relationship with food through community meals (vegan potluck), film screenings and panel discussions. We will explore issues of food insecurity, workers rights, local foods, environmental impacts of food and nutrition.”  The night kicked off with a great vegan potluck and then we had amazing discussions on what’s happening in the Des Moines food scene.  The conversation was very enlightening and educational.

The organization meets monthly, so be sure to follow them on Facebook to stay up to date with other events.  Something to definitely keep on your radar is their upcoming, VeganFest (a healthier alternative to BaconFast.)  VeganFest is February 18th and will feature vegan dishes from Des Moines restaurants.

I also attended a monthly meet up with the group, Growing for Profit.  Growing for Profit is a peer group of market gardens that get together to discuss various topics on growing food for profit.   The meeting began with an amazing potluck.  One thing is for sure, when you attend a potluck with a bunch of farmers, the food will not disappoint!   What I enjoyed the most was the sense of community amongst growers.  The people in attendance were there to offer advice on tools, techniques, pest control, etc. all with the hopes of making each other better farmers. I was able to meet new farmers and establish connections that I will be sure to maintain.

Who else thinks it’s crazy that it’s almost mid January and I had to use an umbrella this morning?!?  Stay dry my friends.

November 2016

The holiday season is here and I hope you’re feeling the spirit!

Our family had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving here in Des Moines.  We enjoyed family time and, of course, amazing food.  One of the highlights of our Thanksgiving meal was the smoked pork butt from Berkwood Farms.  We sell their Berkshire pork products at the Farmstand and finally found the time to smoke the pork butt!  It was delicious.

We may have even started a new post Thanksgiving Day tradition at our house.  For years, Eric and I have hosted both our families to a party at our house the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Even though my family was out of town, this year’s party was a huge success.  I love our house, but one of my biggest complaints is when we host a get together there’s not a great place for us all to sit down and enjoy a meal together.  Instead, we have people sitting in random spots throughout the house using their laps as a table.  This year we tried something different.  We used our tables and table cloth from our set up at the Beaverdale Farmer’s Market and at the Farmstand.  We set up the tables in our garage; yes the garage.  While it sounds strange, we ended up having a beautiful garage dinner.  Our garage is heated (not energy efficient, I know) yet it was perfect for hosting our new tradition, “the gourmet garage feast.”  

We were able to enjoy fabulous grilled steaks, a fall harvest salad featuring DUG produce and microgreens, and oven roasted radish and turnips all from the farm, and naan made from HoQ restaurant.  Come to think of it, our garage is the perfect spot for hosting.  You can enjoy everyone’s company while eating great foods and drinking fine wines all while not worrying at all about making a mess!  

Here’s an update on what’s happening at the farm:  

I was recently accepted into the Practical Farmers of Iowa Savings Incentive Program (SIP).  I’m both excited and honored to be a part of this program.  SIP is a two year program and it will, “pair beginning and aspiring farmers with experienced farmer mentors; provides targeted learning and peer networking opportunities; offers business planning support and guidance; and gives participants the chance to save money while learning how to build a profitable farm.”

After the two years, I will have cash available to purchase a farm asset. I’m leaning towards purchasing a walk-behind BCS tractor but I have some other great ideas for how to spend that money as well.

The crew is almost finished with the installation of our new water drainage system.  As most of you probably recall, we dealt with some major standing water issues this grow season.  We decided that instead of dealing with the flooding issues again we wanted to fix the problem as soon as we could.  While it is a financial investment to have the drainage system installed, I’m confident we won’t regret it.  We are even thinking to the future and plan on installing a water collection tower that we will be able utilize all the water pumped through the new drainage system and reuse the water in the field.  We may not get it installed for the next grow season it is something that is high on our to-do list.

Our massive pile of logs has all been split and neatly organized on the backside of the plot.  This was a big undertaking and it took Eric and friends days of laborious work using the log splitter, chainsaw, and man-power.  The wood is now neatly piled and it has opened up our back plot.  Once the wood is seasoned we will be selling it by the bundle.  The next step is to build our permanent compost bin system next to the stacked wood piles.

 

As the colder weather approaches it’s nice to be able to take a break from the farm work and spend some time relaxing, enjoying family, and accomplishing random tasks that kept getting put aside during the busy grow season.  I’ve learned very quickly to appreciate the seasons as winter is the time to regenerate.  I’m not sure how some farmers grow year round without completely burning out.  My house is the cleanest it has been in months and I’m actually all caught up on laundry!  

That said, I’m just starting to get my seed catalogues in the mail and I’m already shifting gears to what seeds to order for next season.  It’s exciting to start looking back on the ups and downs of the season and use that data to plan for the spring.  I’ll grow many of the same crops as this season but will also be experimenting with some new crops.

Cheers to snow, warm fires, family time, and basketball season!

 

The Gourmet Garage

The Gourmet Garage

Photo taken by Chef Lynn P. from Table 128

The crew dug a trench, laid the perforated pipe, topped it with rock, covered with fabric, and filled in the hole.

An interesting shot of about 7 feet of our soil horizon in the heavily flooded area

A glimpse of some of the wood before Eric began the project.

The finished product

Enjoying more free time at a wreath making class at The Botanical Gardens taught by Tara from Plant Life Designs

Happy Face Emoji

Greetings DUG family.  I realize it’s been far too long since I made a blog post, but (as you know) finding free time to write a blog is difficult during peak farming season.  I am making time for this post because there are so many great things happening at Dogpatch Urban Gardens and I want to share all the positivity.

This past weekend I was awarded, “Partner of the Year” at the Urban Ambassadors FriendRaiser event.  I was nominated by a community member and the board selected me (amongst many other great projects happening in the Des Moines area.)  I was honored to be selected for this award.

The Urban Ambassadors mission is to, “Help you clarify your sustainability goals, connect you with local resources, and make a positive impact in your community for a healthier planet.”  Their mission aligns so well with the principles and practices here at DUG, and that is one key reason why I’m so proud to win the "Partner of the Year" award.

Seedstock is a publication which, “fosters the development of robust and sustainable local food systems…”  They are based out of California and just did a feature article on Dogpatch Urban Gardens.  The editor happen upon our website when she was researching urban farms.  She was formulating ideas for farming with families and when she saw the DUG website she thought our story was a perfect fit!

You can read the article here: http://seedstock.com/2016/09/27/amidst-sea-of-monocrop-farms-urban-garden-in-iowa-cultivates-community-and-diversity-of-produce/

The Farmstand is continuing to expand and we are seeing more and more customers each week.  I started working with a company called FarmTable Delivery (based in Harlan, Iowa).  FarmTable works with smaller scaled farmers to both purchase and deliver their goods.  The company has weekly pickups/deliveries and travels between Omaha and Cedar Rapids.  They have allowed us to support other smaller scale farms that have similar farming philosophies thus allowing the farmstand to have more diversity in our products.  I also recently connected with Berkwood Farms and are selling top-of-the-line Berkshire pig products.  This past week we purchased a retail fridge and can now sell farm-fresh eggs, dairy products, hummus, and other cold storage items.  The retail fridge is also great because we can keep our greens and microgreens in there during store hours and I don’t have to worry them wilting in the heat.

I’ve also been continuing to build relationships with local chefs and have really enjoyed providing them with DUG produce throughout the grow season.  Check out the photos, and you will see a sample of how some of the Chefs are incorporating DUG produce into their beautiful dishes.

As the growing season is starting to slow down, it’s so great to be able to take a few breaths and really comprehend the things that have happened at the farm in just one season.  As a start up business, there are always “teachable moments”, failures, difficulties, etc. but I’m very optimistic about the direction DUG is going.  I realize I’m not in this alone and there have been so many people that have helped get us to where we are today.  If you are reading this blog, I guarantee you are someone who has helped DUG be successful and I want you to know how appreciative I am for your support.

As an FYI, the Farmstand will be open through the month of October and we will close up shop for the winter.  Eric and I have our flight to Florida booked for early November, and it will be a well deserved vacation for both of us!

 

In the company of some great Eco-Heros

Some fall produce at the Farmstand

Le Jardin - DUG tomatoes used to make sauce

Baru 66 - DUG pea shoots

Proof - DUG baby carrots

HoQ - DUG Spring Mix

Reeds Hollow - DUG radishes

May update

Greetings DUG family!

Spring is always a busy time of year for farmers and here at DUG we are no exception!  So much is happening that it’s hard to even decide where to begin…

  • Yesterday was the first farmers market for DUG!  We participated in the Johnston Farmer's Market and really enjoyed meeting community members.  So many people have been driving by the plot recently and are interested in what we are doing.  It’s nice to see the enthusiasm towards the farm and be able to “tell our story” to the community.  I will be set up at the Johnston Farmer’s Market next Tuesday (3:30-6:30pm) and then will be a full-time vendor at the Beaverdale Farmer’s Market every Tuesday night (4-7pm) the rest of the season.

  • The Spring Salad Subscription has launched!  This has been in the works for a few months and it felt great to get it released.  The excitement towards this program has been overwhelming.  We sold out of “shares” for the Spring Session in about a week.  The two other sessions (Early Summer and Late Summer) still have openings, but they are filling up fast, so if you would like to be a part of the Salad Subscription you want to sign up soon.  You can learn all about the program at http://www.dogpatchurbangardens.com/salad-subscription/

  • Chefs are excited about our products and DUG items are popping up in restaurants around the Des Moines Metro.  You can sample our radishes at Le Jardin, pea microgreens at Grounds for Celebrations, microgreen varieties at Baru 66, salad mixes and root veggies at HoQ, and Chef Brett at The Cheese Shop has used our goodies for farm-to-table events.  If you’re looking for a night out I highly recommend any of these dining establishments.  Tell them DUG sent you!

  • Progress on the pole barn (which will double as our Farm Stand and my work station) is moving along.

    • The interior for the store is almost complete.  Eric and friends completed the framing, sheet-rocking, mudding, and painting the interior of the farm stand.  Electrical is complete and the garage door is installed.  We need to finish installing some light fixtures and then we get to start setting up displays!

    • Our goal is to have the farm stand open starting in mid June.  I am working on sourcing local goods from other farmers/producers in the Des Moines area.  We will have honey, maple syrup, spices, oils, soaps, lotions, and other items.  When we do open, we will have weekend hours.  Stay tuned for more details.

  • Work is almost complete for getting my washing/package systems finalized

    • The framework for my wash station and dry station are put together.  We have some dirt work to do outside of the pole barn and then those areas will be installed.  Eric is also going to build a lean-to over my work stations, so I can have a covered work space.

  • We moved the smaller shed on the farm plot about 20 feet and rotated it 90 degrees in order to make the space more usable.  It was a very impressive process to see Eric and his buddies remove the siding, put the shed on dollies, and move the structure all while keeping it in tact!  We had siding leftover from the pole barn, so Eric used that to finish the shed.  Our buddy, Mike Gannon, from AAA Roofing installed an awesome faux slate roof (made from recycled materials) for us and it looks great!

  • Seeds are planted, sprouting, and growing!  The plot is really starting to emerge and it’s great to see all the shades of greens (and reds) pop up.  I use successive plantings so I’m putting new seeds in the ground weekly.  Most all of my beds are currently planted, and it’s just about time to pull some older crops and get beds prepped to plant a new succession.

  • My main summer crops are now in the ground.  Last week, I planted around 90 tomato plants, 90 peppers, and 60 summer squash varieties (thanks for my dad for help with the squash transplants).  The plants transplanted well and seem to be liking their new homes.  Next week I will fertilize them with fish emulsion to help give them some added nutrients for growth.

This is my last week as a teacher.  It is bitter-sweet to be saying goodbye to my Dowling teaching community, but I am excited to be able to commit more of my time to the farm.  

I’ll keep you all posted on the farm stand progress and let you know when we will officially open.  Our family is always at the farm on Sunday’s from 9-11 distributing our Salad Subscription, so if you’re in the area stop by and say hello!




 

Week 2 of the Salad Subscription (photo taken by subscriber Alex B)

Chef Brett from The Cheese Shop using turnips and radish in this dish for a farm-to-table event.

Chef Brett from The Cheese Shop using turnips and radish in this dish for a farm-to-table event.

Francisco was a HUGE help with interior of the farmstand.

This homemade farm table will be the centerpiece for the farm-stand.

Jamie D and Eric working on relocating the shed.

Jamie D and Eric working on relocating the shed.

Mike G hooking us up on the roof!

Monroe - my right hand "man" at the farm.

Baby Red Russian kale in its early stages.

The plot on May 15th, 2016 (just before summer crops were planted)

The plot on May 15th, 2016 (just before summer crops were planted)

Spring is here!

Spring is finally here!  I have been waiting for spring to arrive ever since Dogpatch Urban Gardens became a business in mid October.  Now is the time our vision for DUG can start becoming a reality.

After a little over a 3 month time span, we officially became the owners of the back ½ acre plot directly north of the farm.  Acquiring that land was more of an endeavor than we imagined.  We had to do a "lot tie agreement" which meant we bought and joined someone else's land to our current land.   Anytime you change land boundaries in a county any city within two miles can have jurisdiction over the process. Based on our location that meant we had to work with Polk County, the city of Des Moines, Urbandale, and Johnston.  There were not issues with the process, but working with all those entities took time. Both Eric and I were admittedly restless with the process, but all that is behind us now because the land is now in our names!

As soon as we got possession of the land Eric converted from a salesman to a lumberjack.  In total he cut down 5 trees in less than one week (mind you he had lots of help from our neighbors and friends!)  Taking down all those trees was not a walk-in-the-park considering they were mature and large.  It is hard (both mentally and physically) to cut down beautiful trees, but it was necessary to do in order for us to build the pole barn (which will be the farm stand and my work station).

One key value at Dogpatch Urban Gardens is sustainability, yet cutting down all those trees seems far from promoting sustainability.   I guarantee we will enhance the area and put in new trees/plants/hedge rows/etc. that will further enhance biodiversity and our soil quality.  It will take time, but we have a very exciting vision for the back plot.

Another cool thing about removing those trees is that we had a man come and remove the major trunks and he is working to mill all that wood for us.  We will have an abundance cherry, maple, and catalpa wood that we will use inside the farm stand and for other DUG projects.  The rest of the wood is currently neatly piled on the plot and over time we will sell it as firewood.

Last week we acquired 3 permits from Polk County.  We got the permit to build the pole barn (construction should begin this week, weather permitting).  Since our fence will be 8 feet tall in most areas, we had to get  a permit for that height of fence.  The city wrote that permit last week and the fence installation should begin this week as well.  The last permit we acquired was to add a driveway as an entry to the pole barn.

Along with all the new infrastructure things happening, I was able to get out in the soil today and get my first transplants in the ground.  I planted one bed of Red Russian Kale (90 total plants) and one bed of Green Incised Salanova (200+ plants).  The process was slower than I would have liked, but there is a learning curve with so many things on the farm, and the more I do it the more efficient I will be.

I also set up a poly-low tunnel over the two newly planted beds.  The poly-low tunnel is essentially like a portable greenhouse.  It will help to protect the plants during cold temperatures at night, but will also keep the soil warmer during the day and speed up the growth rate for the plants. 

I had initially planned to direct seed some more beds today, but instead I decided to tarp a large area of beds and will shoot to get more things planted at the end of the week.  The tarps are used as a means to help with weed control.  Before tarping, I watered the beds, and then secured the tarps down.  The tarps help to heat up the soil and promote weed germination.  Once I am ready to plant in those beds I will remove the tarps and flame weed the newly emerged weeds.  This method is commonly referred to as the “stale seedbed technique” and is a great tool to increase crop yield through weed control.

If you are someone who commonly commutes on Beaver Ave I’m sure you are aware of the recent bridge work and road closure.  As much as we all dislike road construction, it has been wonderful for us because the detour now takes people right in front of the farm!  Lucky for you, in the next month so many new things will be happening at the farm that each time you drive by there should be more things for you to see!

Your Urban Farmher, Jenny

Luckily this is already cleaned up

Dirt work getting done at the site of the pole barn

3 content boys

Kale plugs ready for the ground

First two beds planted at DUG

Spring Break

Happy Spring Break!

While most of my fellow teachers and students are enjoying some R & R on a tropical beach or exploring beautiful ski slopes; I’m hunkered down in Des Moines spending the week getting the farm ready for the season.  This may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m actually very excited for this week!  The boys are still enjoying their days in daycare so Eric and I are able to knock out key farm tasks.  Now, all I ask is that the weather cooperates and allows us to get done everything that we plan to do.

This past week Jordan from Grade A Gardens was our rockstar!  He’s a proud owner of a BCS walk behind tractor, and he graciously allowed us to rent it from him.  Not only did he allow us to use it, but he came to our plot on two separate occasions and ran the BCS for us.  One day he rotary plowed the areas where we were unable to pull all the sod.  Another day he came out and tilled the whole plot.  

The initial plan was for me to come out and help him with the tilling, but that plan was quickly thwarted.  As I was getting the boys ready to head out to the farm, Walter decided to “catch a fall” on the corner of a table.  Instead of going to the farm to work, I ended up at an Urgent Care clinic getting Walter’s eye checked out.  Luckily no stitches were required and he handled it very well.  He’s one tough cookie!

The goal for the rest of this week is to get our beds formed (Jordan will bring the BCS over for one more session.)  Here’s a list of other tasks we hope to complete once the beds are created:

  • Broadfork any beds where root crops will be planted

  • Using our flame weeder, we will burn holes in our landscape fabric.  The landscape fabric will be used on steady crops (tomatoes, peppers, squash, and kale) which are planted essentially all season long.  

  • Install drip irrigation on our steady season crop beds

  • Setup poly low tunnels

  • Tarp beds to prep them for stale seed bedding

We had some rainy last couple of days, so our soil is too wet to be able to create the beds right now.  There is no rain predicted in the next few days, so I’m hopeful that is the case and the soil will be able to dry out enough to allow us to get all this work done.

Ideally, I get some seeds in the ground next week, so fingers crossed we can make this happen!

Your Urban FarmHer, Jenny

 

Oliver trying to steal the credit for the great work Jordan put in with his rotary plow.

 

You should see the other guy...

Spring Break to-do list

Salanova starts will be transplanted in about 3 weeks.

Positive Momentum

Lots of great things are happening at DUG giving us positive momentum as we quickly approach the u- and-coming grow season.  The farm is still a work in progress but more tasks are getting crossed off the “to-do list” daily.

The farm sign is currently under construction and making great progress!  My husband built it using wood from an oak tree that we had to cut down in our backyard.  Like so many of our farm projects, many people have contributed to the creation of this sign.  Once the sign is complete I'll blog about the whole process from start to finish.

I had a great week of meeting and connecting with chefs in the Des Moines metro. There is excitement toward what DUG is doing and it's always a bonus to get cell phone numbers from chefs!

I'm in the process of expanding the indoor nursery so I can get transplants started.  I was able to purchase a bulk amount of shop lights for a great deal and will be using those for starting the seeds. In an ideal world, transplants are exposed to more natural light as opposed to indoor lighting, but sadly we won’t be able to have a high tunnel this grow season.  I’m very optimistic we will have one for the 2017 season and will be able to use that for most of our transplants.  I’m learning quickly that part of farming is being able to adapt to your surroundings, and available resources, at the current time and place.

I was able to have two coffee meetings with ladies doing great things for the agricultural field in Des Moines.  Courtney Long works for the Iowa State University Community Design Lab and is also associated with the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit.  She has been traveling the Midwest visiting various farms and is is very plugged into local food systems.  She filled me in on different programs that could be helpful for me as well as talked me through ways to design the DUG farm plot.  I also met with Jennifer Miller from Clarion Sage in Waukee.  Jennifer and I have similiar grow philosophies and it was wonderful to pick her brain and learn more about her processes.  I’m looking forward to being able to distribute her products at our farm stand.

This past Saturday I visited Black Cat Acres in Nevada, IA.  Black Cat is an organic farm and is owned by Deb and Ken Blackledge.  Deb and Ken have been farming for many years and it was nice to be able to sit down with them and talk farm.  Honestly, I wish I could have stayed longer!  I drove there because they recently began distributing Cowsmo products (from Wisconsin).  Cowsmo is a highly reputable product  and I purchased organic compost and organic seed starting medium.   Along with the compost and potting mix, I also purchased homemade gourd birdhouses that Deb and Ken built.  They are beautiful and the whole production (from gourd growth, to painting, to creating a hanging mechanism) was done by Deb and Ken.  I’m excited to be able to sell them at our farm stand because they will make great homes for some lucky birds!

On one of my days off from teaching, I was able to attend a Transplant Production class that was hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.  Horticulturalists and Plant Pathologists discussed topics ranging from light, water, grow environment, pests/diseases, and growing mediums.  It was a very informative class and I’m glad I was able to attend.  I had a lot of great take-away points, but something else that was exciting was that it reinforced many ideas that I was already familiar with.  It was reassuring to feel like my knowledge base about growing plant transplants has a strong foundation.

With all these great things happening these past few weeks you would think my to do list would be getting smaller, yet somehow it keeps growing!  Let’s hope my plants grow as well as my lists!

Your Urban FarmHer, Jenny

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eric and Lucas bending hoops for low tunnels (and a sneak peak at the sign)

 

The current state of our nursery.  Within the next few days both grow racks will be equipped with lights, there will have a seed germination station, as well as 1 more rack for growing.

 

Adding some color to the microgreen arsenal with Bulls Blood Beets and Red Cabbage.  Both trays are 5 days post seed sowing.

 

Black Cat Acres beautiful farm

 

Notes from the Transplant Production course

For those of you starting you own transplants, this is a very helpful chart for soil temperatures for seed germination (http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/vegetable/temperature.html)

Sustainable Sweetheart

This past Friday, Dogpatch Urban Gardens was a sponsor for the Sustainable Sweetheart event hosted by Urban Ambassadors.  My husband and I were both able to attend and represent DUG.  We had so much fun and really enjoyed getting to know other people in the community who are also focused on sustainability.  

If you are new to the Urban Ambassadors I highly recommend you check them out.  They are a non-profit organization and their mission is, “Planting the seeds of sustainability for a greener greater Des Moines.  We help you clarify your sustainability goals, connect you with local resources, and make a positive impact in your community for a healthier planet.”  Take some time to explore their website to gain a better understanding of what the UA’s are all about.  

While at the event we were able to connect with some local businesses that are doing great things in the Des Moines area, and I wanted to share some of them with you (you can click on the company name to go to their websites):

BRAISED Bone Broth Company - Kate Brown is the founder of BRAISED and she was our neighbor table sponsor.  It was great getting to know Kate and her family.  Kate uses organic and local products to create a flavorful bone broth that is loaded with nutrition.  Her passion for the bone broth she creates is very obvious and you have to check out this product!  I loved sipping on the broth during the Sustainable Sweetheart event, and we even added DUG microgreens to the broth!  Be sure to read through their website to learn more about this amazing product:   

Fresh Cafe & Market - My husband and I really enjoyed meeting the owners of Fresh Cafe & Market.  Kerri Rush (aka the Wheatgrass girl) is very passionate about providing fresh, local, and organic food/drink options to the Des Moines community.  If you frequent the Downtown Des Moines Farmer’s Market you have probably seen their set up right in front of Mickey’s Irish Pub.  The cafe is located in the YMCA Healthy Living Center (12493 University Ave) and you do not have to be a member of the Y to enjoy their goodies! 

Plant Life Designs - Plant Life Designs’ slogan is, “Live among your plants.” Owner Tara Dudley has a background in both horticulture and design and uses her knowledge for landscape design, hardscapes, containers, floral arrangements, wreaths, and she will even help with weddings!  Browse through her photos on Facebook and you will be blown away by the things Tara creates!

Recycle Me Iowa  - We  were table neighbors with Recycling Ranger, Matt Becke, from Recycle Me Iowa.  He is a great guy and very passionate about providing affordable and convenient recycling programs and services to the Des Moines area.  If your home and/or work place does not have a recycling service definitely look into using RMI.

Be sure to check out these great organizations and help support those in the community that are working to make Des Moines a more sustainable place!

Love to all as Valentines Day is right around the corner!

Your Urban FarmHer, Jenny.

 
 
 
 

Seeds!

Here at Dogpatch Urban Gardens we aim to provide you all with the highest quality produce from seed to your plate.  Last week was an exciting milestone because all of our seeds for the 2016 growing season were ordered!  The companies we ordered seeds from are High Mowing Organic Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Seed Savers Exchange.  Each of these companies align with our farm philosophies, and have signed the “Safe Seed Pledge” which is stated below:  

The Safe Seed Pledge:
"Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities."

Here are some of the crops I am excited to offer you during the 2016 growing season...

Greens

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 2.21.12 PM.png

Spring Mix

  • A seasonal combination of lettuces (Tango, Nevada, Red Sails, Red Salad-bowl) Salanova, beet greens (Early Wonder Top & Bull's Blood), & Mustard Greens (Tatsoi, Red Giant, Ruby Streaks, & Scarlet Frills) 

Spicy Mix

  • A seasonal combination of arugula and mustard greens (Red Giant, Ruby Streaks, & Scarlet Frills)

Space Spinach

  • Characteristics: A tried and true spinach variety with smooth, medium dark green leaves.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Conventional

Astro Arugula

  • Characteristics: Long green leaves and characteristic mildly spicy flavor.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Red Russian Kale

  • Characteristics: Bright purple stems and slate green, deeply lobed foliage. Leaves are tender, smooth and very sweet compared to other kale.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Carrots

Starburst Carrot Blend

  • Characteristics: This rainbow of sweet and crunchy roots with striking shades of white, yellow, orange and purple in a variety of shapes and sizes. Flavorful, extra-nutritious roots are packed with antioxidants.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Yaya

  • Characteristics: Truly stellar flavor and crispness, this variety is versatile and suitable for storage, bunching or soup-grade carrots.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Beets

Chioggia Guardsmark

  • Characteristics: Unique and beautiful beet with candied stripes of red and white on the interior.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Conventional

Touchstone Gold

  • Characteristics: Striking golden fleshed beet with an excellent sweet flavor.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Conventional

Radish

Cherry Belle

  • Characteristics: Classic, smooth red radish with attractive crispy white flesh (AAS winner).
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Easter Egg

  • Characteristics:  Beautiful multicolor mix of red, purple, and white round radishes with crisp and mild flavor.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Conventional

Turnip

Tokyo Market

  • Characteristics: Sweet, petite, juicy, smooth-skinned, tender, and delicious raw.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Tomatos

Sun Gold

  • Characteristics: Exceptionally sweet, bright tangerine-orange cherry tomatoes.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Conventional

Italian HEIRLOOM

  • Characteristics: This plump red tomato is one of the most popular varieties and is very versatile.  Can be eaten fresh, sauced, roasted, canned, or frozen to use later.
  • Seed Source: Seed Savers Exchange
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Peppers

Lunchbox Orange & Yellow

  • Characteristics: Sweet and flavorful snack-sized peppers.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Hungarian Hot Wax

  • Characteristics: Definitely, but not yet overly, hot.  These peppers are easy to stuff and are great for roasting, or frying.  Sunset-ripening peppers change from yellow to orange to red, and make attractive pickled peppers.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Summer Squash

Dark Star Zucchini

  • Characteristics: Dark green with glossy fruit.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Golden Glory Squash

  • Characteristics: Medium-dark vibrant yellow color.
  • Seed Source: Johnny’s Selected Seeds
  • Seed Quality: Conventional

Herbs

Sweet Basil

  • Characteristics: Traditional Italian favorite used fresh, in vinegars and as the main ingredient for pesto.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

  • Characteristics: Classic flat leaf variety for use either fresh or dried for seasoning.
  • Seed Source: High Mowing
  • Seed Quality: Organic

To say I'm excited for spring is an understatement!

Your urban farmher, Jenny

Wellness Fair

Mark your calendars; in less than a week (Wednesday, January 20th), DUG will be participating in Capital Chiropractic's Winter Wellness Open House. I'm really excited to be a part of this community event which promotes wellness and healthy living.  I will be offering samples of various types of microgreens.  Along with sampling some tasty microgreens you will be able to make bike powered protein smoothies, view a new photography exhibit from Christopher Maharry, toast the new year with a healthful glass of red wine (or water), and mingle with some great folk!

The event is from 5-7pm at Capital Chiropractic which is located in East Village on 601 East Locust Street, Suite 102.

I am honored to be featured as Capital Chiropractic’s guest blogger, so head over to their website and check it out!


http://capitalchirodsm.com/events/our-health-community-meet-jenny-quiner-of-dogpatch-urban-gardens/


Your Urban FarmHer, Jenny

The Capital Chiropractic crew (from left to right): Jen Morrow, Abbie Sawyer, and Dr. Chris LoRang

New Year & New Plans!

Happy New Year to all!

These past few weeks have been wonderful as we were able to spend quality time with family and create many lasting memories.  Seeing the joy on my boy’s faces on Christmas day is something you just can’t beat.

The newest farm update is that we recently bought the ½ of land located directly behind our current plot.  We close on the property at the end of the month and are currently exploring all our options for what we want to do with the land. One thing that is for sure, we will be constructing a building on the back plot.  The backside of the building will be my work space and will house a washing station, processing space, packaging area, as well as the walk-in cooler.

I’m really excited about the front portion of the building because it will be our FARM STAND!  This is something we wanted to have all along and purchasing this land allows us to offer this amenity.  We will sell our produce directly through the farm stand and will also sell other locally sourced products.

The microgreen operation is expanding and doing well.  Le Jardin used my China Rose Radish microgreens as an in ingredient on their New Year’s Eve menu and I’ve been meeting with other metro restaurants about my products.  I’ve also been experimenting with various grow mediums to find out which yields the highest quality product.  My seed inventory keeps expanding and this week I’m experimenting with broccoli, red cabbage, and swiss chard.  If you’re interested in trying some of my product just let me know!

Cheers to healthy food, healthy bodies, and healthy spirits throughout 2016.

Your Urban FarmHer, Jenny

 

 

 

Walter, Lewis, & Oliver excited for Santa!

Walter, Lewis, & Oliver excited for Santa!

Newest plot plans

Newest plot plans

Microgreens on Le Jardin's dish

Microgreens on Le Jardin's dish

Our "new" farmhouse

My 10 weeks of maternity leave came to an end this week and I’m back educating the youth at Dowling Catholic High School.  Instead of me blogging about how finals week went for me, I’m going to pass this blog off to my husband, Eric…

Hello DUG bloggers, Eric here!  I am a Realtor for Iowa Realty, and I grew up in the center of the world (aka) Beaverdale.  As a result I have always had an affinity towards older homes. I market a large portion of my business to the neighborhoods in the Des Moines North West corridor like Beaverdale, Roosevelt, Cottage Grove, and Waveland. Homes in these neighborhoods always sell at a fast pace; despite the fact that they tend to have small kitchens, bedrooms, closets, and baths. The foundations are older and commonly leak (well… only when it rains) yet these homes still fly off the shelf. One word can describe the demand, character. No amount of space, or modern finish, can pull this type of homeowner away from the mature trees and the aesthetic of a Beaverdale brick or a Waveland bungalow. The commercial districts are always packed and whatever form of micro-culture that these shops are selling, we are always buying. 

Because of all of this I have started a business of restoring homes.  My focus has been restoring homes in Des Moines North West communities to sell and rent.  This business has come in handy for my wife’s newest farming endeavor because the land that we bought has a home on it.  I like to look at it like we bought a home with some land, but Jenny keeps reminding me that this is the other way around. 

It seems fitting that the home on the Dogpatch Urban Garden plot was one of the old farmhouses for the employees of the Meredith Family Farm (more on the history of the home in another post). It feels, in part, like we are bringing the home back to its roots. 

The family we bought the house from lived there for many years. It was their childhood home and their mother could no longer maintain the house so they decided to sell.  The condition of the home structurally was just fine but it needed some ascetic updating. 

The goal was to get the home renovated and rented within 3 months of purchasing it.  Jenny posted information about the home and farm on a few of her social media outlets and was able to connect with an interested family.  The kicker was they needed to move into a place by December 15th.  This cut my original timeline by half for the restoration. To say that achieving this timeline in the midst of my wife starting the new business, raising our three children, and maintaining my regular workflow was going to be tight is a huge understatement. That said, thanks to an amazing crew, we were able to get the house ready just in time.  The couple that has moved in is almost too good to be true. They have a huge passion for what we are doing with the farm and we couldn’t be more excited to have them as tenants. 

Check out a few of the before and after photos of the restoration. This home turned out better than expected.

Master bed after

Master bed after

Mater bed before - Located in the attic

Mater bed before - Located in the attic

Walk-in closet in Master-bed - Windows are on order

Walk-in closet in Master-bed - Windows are on order

Master bath finished

Master bath finished

5085 Meredith Dr.

5085 Meredith Dr.

Dining Room - We replaced panel on the wall and ceiling with drywall, removed the old linoleum, repainted, and replaced the lighting.

Dining Room - We replaced panel on the wall and ceiling with drywall, removed the old linoleum, repainted, and replaced the lighting.

Family room 

Family room 

We replaced the countertops, added a dishwasher, hardware, faucet, flooring, painted, and kept the vanity and cabinets.

We replaced the countertops, added a dishwasher, hardware, faucet, flooring, painted, and kept the vanity and cabinets.

The vanity we used was all metal and porcelain. It was likely manufactured in the 50's and is still in pristine shape.

The vanity we used was all metal and porcelain. It was likely manufactured in the 50's and is still in pristine shape.

Front Porch

Front Porch

Bed before

Bed before

Bedroom

Bedroom

Main bath before

Main bath before

Main bath after - We removed the old tile, added new drywall, vanity, lighting and flooring.

Main bath after - We removed the old tile, added new drywall, vanity, lighting and flooring.

Master bath - There was a ton of unfinished space in the attic that we turned into an awesome walk in closet and bathroom

Master bath - There was a ton of unfinished space in the attic that we turned into an awesome walk in closet and bathroom

Microgreens

The work outside is basically over for the season, so now I have shifted my focus indoors.  Eric and I recently rearranged our basement so that we could build a nursery.  ( I have discovered it’s very important that I clarify that we built a nursery for our plants, not for children.  We realized this term was causing confusion...rightfully so.)  I know the nursery is bittersweet for Eric because his music room is now replaced by my plants.  All I can say is, I know I’m loved!

Since I love having young children in my life, I figured why not incorporate young plants into my life as well!  The nursery is already blooming with my new microgreen operation.   For those of you that aren’t very familiar with microgreens, prepare to have your mind blown.

Microgreens are young, and tender, plants that are used in foods to enhance color, texture, and/or flavor.  They are commonly used by higher end restaurants yet are also increasing in popularity amongst household kitchens.  Microgreens are great additions to salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies, omelets, or as plate garnishes.  

Microgreens are essentially the shoots of vegetables, greens, and/or herbs that are grown until their cotyledons (first leaves of an embryonic seedling) and/or true leaves emerge.  They are commonly consumed with the stem as well as the leaf.  What’s so amazing about these plants is they taste just like their vegetable.  For example, radish micos taste just like radishes and pea shoots taste just like peas!

Microgreens are not to be confused with sprouts or baby greens.  They are all different from each other yet tend to be thought of as the same.  Sprouts are the youngest and smallest form of the early plant.  Microgreens are the next stage of plant development and baby greens form after microgreens.  That said, there is no clear definition that can easily distinguish micro from baby greens.  Essentially, micros are smaller than baby greens yet larger than sprouts.

Studies have shown that microgreens have a higher nutritional content compared to their more mature counterparts.  The added nutritional value is one major perk of these super plants!  While not all micro seeds have the same nutritional values, studies showed that on average microgreens had 5 times higher amounts of vitamins and carotenoids (helpful in decreasing the risk of disease in humans) compared to the more mature plant.

Who's ready to try some microgreens?!?!  Let me know if you are interested and I would love to have you over for some taste tests, or I can grow some specifically for you.

Your urban farmHer, Jenny

 

The basement nursery

The basement nursery

Trays of sunflower and pea microgreens

Trays of sunflower and pea microgreens

Sunflower microgreens

Sunflower microgreens

Pea shoots after 8 days of growth

Pea shoots after 8 days of growth

Finished product of sunflower, radish, and pea microgreens

Finished product of sunflower, radish, and pea microgreens

Closing out the fall

I hope you had a great Thanksgiving with your loved ones!  We spent our time in Des Moines, split between both our families, and made some great memories.  One highlight for me was seeing my oldest two boys bowl for the first time.  It was a hit!

The craziness of the land prep for the farm has settled down.  We basically have the land ready to hibernate over the winter.  Here are the last few things we accomplished in order to be as prepped for spring as we can be:

After the sod was pulled, Eric and our neighbor Lucas cut down a total of three trees (one on the plot, one in the front yard, and one of the neighbors trees).  Getting those trees down really enhances the growing area and decreases a good amount of shade cover.

The final task we accomplished with the land was spreading 20 cubic yards (20 tons) of compost. Moving “dirt” is never a fun task, but getting the compost spread is essential for the soil health. Luckily, I had a good crew to help with the task!  With the 20 cubic yards we were able to get roughly an inch of coverage over the whole growing area.

There were some areas on the plot where we were unable to get the sod pulled.  It was very compacted and the sod cutter was just not able to get the sod cut.  We think those areas were so compacted due to the fact that the previous owners had an auction before moving out and there were some heavy trucks on the plot.  We put tarps over the remaining sod so that it will be killed by the spring.  We should have no problems getting rid of that sod when we till the plot this spring.

Now I feel like we are in the “hurry up and wait” stage for the garden.  That said, there are still a lot of things in the works.  I recently started the microgreens operation in our basement, Eric is busy flipping the house, seed catalogs are pouring in (yay!), and we have some exciting news about the growth of the farm to announce soon!

Get out and enjoy this great weather before the snow flies (again).

Your urban farmHer (and proud University of Iowa alumni), Jenny

 

 

Uncle Jon - Oliver's bowing mentor

Uncle Jon - Oliver's bowing mentor

1 man + 1 chainsaw = Bliss

1 man + 1 chainsaw = Bliss

The never ending pile

The never ending pile

Happy Meleagris gallopavo day!

Bonus points to you if you knew that Meleagris gallopavo is the scientific name for turkey!  Partial bonus points if you googled Meleagris gallopavo and discovered what it meant!  

Turkey day is upon us so it seems only fitting that I give some shout outs to those people that have been integral parts to the start up of Dogpatch Urban Gardens...

Big thanks to:

Eric - While technically DUG is my personal business, this could have never happened without my amazing husband. He has given me full support and the confidence to start this adventure. He has done so many things during the infancy stages of DUG. He's my business mentor, website creator, handy-man, free laborer, networker, and even childcare while I have farm work to get done.

Dad - Thanks for being Eric's copilot on the walk-in cooler journey. I hear Melvern, Iowa is beautiful this time of year!  Thanks for your labor as well as input on the business end of things. I really appreciate your knowledge and input!

Mom - Thanks for your willingness to help out with my little rugrats. They love the time they get to spend with you and I love being able to get work done without a 7 weeker, 2 and 4 year old by my side!

Lucas, Adam, &, Kendal - One thing I love about our neighborhood (the Dogpatch) are our neighbors. People here help each other out and we've benefited first hand from the work from our Piekenbrock crew. Lucas, Adam, and Kendall have all contributed by getting their hands dirty and lessening our load. I am very grateful for all their have done. On that same note, big thanks to their better halves (Dida, Chantel, and Mel) for letting us steal them away from your families!

Hillary - Our amazing logo was designed by Hillary Fieldsend (http://hillaryfieldsend.com). She has been great to work throughout the design process.  My initial thoughts of what I wanted the logo to look like evolved throughout the design process and she did a great job of listening and creating the final product. 

Baby Lewis - Thank you for being a good sleeper and allowing me to get work done during your 2 hour intervals between feedings!

Dogpatchers - Thanks for reaching out on Facebook and introducing yourselves. I can't wait to meet all of you and get to know you better!

Those of your reading this blog - Thank you for your enthusiasm and support of DUG. It really helps to motivate me to grow the best possible product for you. I’m excited for spring to get here so I can supply you with fresh, local, and nutritious produce!

As you can imagine, Life is CRAZY hectic right now. That said, I couldn't imagine it any other way. I was driving behind a van yesterday that had a bumper sticker that spoke to me. The bumper sticker said, "If you think my hands are full you should see my heart."

Hope your hearts (and stomachs) are just as full as mine this thanksgiving!

Your urban farmHer, Jenny

Quality time with Grandma

Quality time with Grandma

Piekenbrockers: Lucas, Liam, & Dida

Piekenbrockers: Lucas, Liam, & Dida

Piekenbrockers: Chantel, Zophia, & Adam

Piekenbrockers: Chantel, Zophia, & Adam

Piekenbrockers: Kendal & Mel

Piekenbrockers: Kendal & Mel

zzzz...

zzzz...

Oh my sod!

Dogpatch Urban Gardens is officially underway!  We closed on the house, as well as the land, on October 27th, and have our work cut out for us.

I like to think we bought land that conveniently has a house on it as well, but my husband, Eric, may disagree.  He is a Realtor and wanted to buy to property to restore and rent the house as well as start the urban garden.  So while we are prepping the land for spring, Eric is also working his magic in restoring the beautiful home to be rental ready by 2016 (if you know of anyone who may be interested in renting this property please let me or Eric know!) As of now there is a lot of plumbing work happening in the home, but I’ll be sure to keep you updated on the progress of the restoration.

Since closing on the property there has been a lot of work happening here.  People in the area are very curious and it’s been fun to have people stop by and pick our brains about what we are doing to the land.  There’s a great buzz and excitement about this upcoming urban garden.

Eric and my dad recently rented a Uhaul and went on a fun journey to Malvern, Iowa to pick up our walk-in cooler.  We purchased the cooler off of Craigslist from the local town watering hole because they were upgrading and needed to sell their old one.  The cooler is larger than we expected (which is not a bad thing) but it will take some time to reassemble.  Luckily we won’t need to use it until produce is being harvested starting in the spring.

Our big undertaking as of now is preparing the land for spring planting.  When we bought the property the ¼ acre plot was all sod.  We rented (and by “we” I mean Eric) a sod cutter and Eric and some very helpful men in the neighborhood started pulling and rolling the sod (big thank you to Adam and Lucas for your help).  In about four hours they were able to make a healthy dent on the sod removal but we also realized this was a MAJOR job.  There were a lot of sore backs in that 4 hours of work, so I decided to hire the rest of the job out.  I found two men on Craigslist and they were wonderful.  They finished the job in a day and were great workers. 

All in all it took about a week from start to finish to have all the sod cut and rolled.  Throughout that week we had advertised “free sod” on Facebook, Craigslist, and put a sign in the yard.  We were able to give away all that sod in the week time.  It was great to give sod to people who needed it, but it also was so helpful for us for people to take it off our hands.  Win-win situation!  The free sod really brought our community together and it allowed us to meet many new people in our neighborhood!

There are varying philosophies on the best methods to remove sod (plowing, tilling, lasagna method are just a few) and they all have pros and cons.  Using a sod cutter to remove all that sod is a double-edged sword because we need it gone in order to plant our crops, yet it also removes precious organic matter.   In order to help rejuvenate the soil we also added 20 cubic yards (roughly 20 tons) of compost. 

Stay tuned for the next post to hear all about the joys of spreading 20 tons of compost!

Your urban farmHer, Jenny

The men in my life ready to work

The men in my life ready to work

5085 Meredith Drive

5085 Meredith Drive

The walk-in cooler unloaded into the garage

The walk-in cooler unloaded into the garage

The infamous tool we hope to never use again

The infamous tool we hope to never use again

Never too young to roll sod

Never too young to roll sod

FREE SOD

FREE SOD