Monday, October 08, 2012

Fall crawl

We made it as planned to five of the eight stops on Sunday's Farm Crawl 2012 on a beautiful, cool and sunny day with fall foliage at its best on the hills above the White Breast and English creek valleys. The Crawl involves eight farms near the Lucas-Marion county line, each of which is home to commercial enterprises that range from pottery and weaving to market gardening.

The event, held yearly since 2007, is beautifully organized to move more than a thousand people and their vehicles along back roads from farm to farm, then park those vehicles efficiently in a land of no parking lots. I came home with garlic from Coyote Run (some to plant, some to eat), comb honey from Blue Gate and some of Chad and Danelle Stamps' sausage (the Stamps farm is south of Chariton, but they were displaying at Dairy Air). The borscht at Coyote Run was a culinary high point.

Mary Ellen wanted apples, so we stopped first at Schneider Orchard (Arnie and Jane Schneider), the stop nearest Chariton via the Newbern Road, knowing in advance a late frost had wiped out most of their crop. But some still were available to early guests, so the stop was a success.

Despite a shortage of apples, there was plenty to do and see, including a hands-on experience with corn shellers and grinders --- corn is being ground into meal in the top photo --- rope making and various activities for kids and adults organized by FFA students. Desserts, jellies and other items were on sale (some standing here on the driveway were enjoying pie) and Jill (below) was out from Piper's in Chariton with a full selection of homemade candy.

The next stop was White Breast Pottery and Weaving (Sharon Seuferer and Carol Oliver), west and a little north of Newbern, down a dead-end road almost to the White Breast valley floor. Much of the pottery created here includes clay from the White Breast's bed and lots of that, as well as woven items, were available.

But so was live entertainment --- and a live pottery demonstration (plus broom making, basket weaving and other crafts). There was a food stand here, too.

The folks at White Breast took top prize in the parking category, too --- which had as much to do with the way farm driveways had been arranged as it did with the skills of the attendants (they were pretty skillful, however). Parking was more of a challenge on farms set back on long lanes in hilly terrain.

The third stop was at Coyote Run (Matt Russell and Patrick Standley), just north of the White Breast (and Germantown), a little deeper into Marion County.

Here, there was live music by Matthew John and plenty of produce (this was the source of my garlic, which hopefully I'll get around to planting about mid-month).

The borscht was wonderful (and with a cookie served as lunch) --- you can find the recipe on the Coyote Run Web site. Then we talked Patrick into giving us a tour of the operation's high tunnel, which extends the growing season at Coyote Run into December. Spinach had just been planted. With typical grace, I stepped on it.

I'm passionate about poultry, so that visit inside the fence also offered a chance to mingle with some of the old hens, whose home this is.

The Saturday Des Moines Farmers Market, one of the biggest in the Midwest, is a principal outlet for Coyote Run products, as it is for others we visited Sunday.

But I've run out of time, so Dairy Air will have to wait for another day.

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