Tell us about your history and how you got your start into organic farming.
Grade A Gardens was born in 2009. After spending some time in California I first started growing Wheatgrass – ‘Grade A Grass’. Mentors Larry Cleverley and John Whitson had gave me some garlic to plant in the fall of ’09. I tilled up my first half acre and started ‘Grade A Garlic’. In the early years I was doing this while managing the produce department at Gateway Market & Cafe in downtown Des Moines. After a few seasons of working two full time jobs I decided it was time to try farming as a full-time profession. 2012 (worst drought in 80 years ) was my first season farming full time – it’s been a whirlwind of fun ever since.
Why is your farm unique?
90% of the land in Iowa is used for agriculture and the average farm size is 331 acres. Mainly growing two crops – corn and soybeans. My farm is unique because it is only 5.5 acres and we grow over 60 varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Why is organic farming important to you?
Farming organically is important to me because I believe food is the best medicine we can give ourselves. This means we use no harmful chemicals for weed control or fertilization. Our growing practices have been used for thousands of years, pulling weeds manually, and fertilizing with the help of our 200 laying hens. Growing organically is more labor intensive but we feel is worth it.
What’s next for Grade A Gardens?
I plan to grow the finest produce available in Des Moines for as long as I am alive. I also hope to work with younger generations to grow their own food responsibly – Iowa has the best soil in the world, we need to put more people to work growing real food on it. I will also be adding an heirloom apple orchard and experimenting with fermented products in the future.
How can people find you and in what ways can they buy your produce?
We are a full time vendor at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market, located on south 4th st. We also offer a CSA with our drop site being the Cheese Shop of Des Moines on 42nd St. We will be there this season on Tuesday, from 4-7 PM. Lastly, we sell to the areas top markets and restaurant, ask for Grade A Gardens if you do not see us.
What do you love about Des Moines?
People in Iowa are nice, the type who wave at you while driving in your car. They are also open minded and embrace new exciting ideas. I believe the American Dream lives strong in Des Moines – if you work hard enough you can earn a comfortable living.
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