2013 WISA Conference Field Tours

Wednesday, November 6

(note: tour lengths are approximate)

Whiterock Conservancy: An Iowa Gift

Tour with demonstrations of prescription fire and chain saw safety

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Cost: $80

The Whiterock Conservancy is a non-profit land trust consisting of about 2,500 acres and growing.  Whiterock fosters a resilient and self-renewing Iowa landscape by integrating economics, social and ecological land management strategies, and engaging the public via outdoor recreation and education.

This full-day tour will immerse participants in a model eco-agricultural operation that takes both restoration of native plant communities AND agricultural production seriously. This tour will include instruction and demonstration of prescribed burns/prescription fire, chain saw safety, and use of other tools for maintaining healthy ecosystems.

You will see an oak savannah restoration which has improved grazing pasture and hunting opportunities.  Cover crops, prairie strips, and government programs will all be discussed.

Liz Garst, the granddaughter of the original Garst Family visionaries, will provide a history of this land and family, which includes a uniquely interesting visit from Nikita Khrushchev in the 1950’s and the journey that the Garst women have taken in gifting this land to the state of Iowa. The eight-hour trip will include a local foods lunch at the farm. Wear your field clothes!

Community Connections: Tour of area women-owned rural businesses

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Cost: $70

Participants on this tour will experience a taste of rural Iowa, and see how small sustainable agricultural businesses are a vital part of sustainable communities. From Des Moines the tour heads northwest, with the first stop at Prairieland Herbs and a visit with Maggie Howe to learn about her successful on-farm and on-line herbal products and fiber shop. Then we head northwest again to Jefferson, where a new coffee roaster, Greene Bean Coffee, is waking up Main Street. Enjoy a delicious lunch while Chris Henning, a local farmer and activist, talks about the wide range of sustainable practices that keep her life and farm interesting. In rural Woodward is Picket Fence Creamery, where Jill Burkhart runs a full-service dairy. (Jill is supplying many of the dairy products for our meals at the hotel.) Homemade pie and ice cream are on the menu here! From there we’ll have a short ride to the Snus Hill Vineyard and Winery. Meet owner Diane Larson, hear how the winery has enhanced life in the Madrid area, and of course, taste some local wine! Then it’s back to Des Moines for a fun evening of socializing at the hotel.

New Farmers, First Farmers: COMIDA and the Sac and Fox Settlement

9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $70

This unique tour offers participants a chance to meet some of Iowa’s newest farmers and first farmers. From Des Moines, the tour will travel to Marshalltown, where Sally Wilson will host a discussion and tour of COMIDA, a garden cooperative developed by Marshalltown Community College and Iowa State University to provide access to land for Latino farmers. The group will then travel to the small town of Toledo for a delicious lunch prepared by Deb Wacha at The Magnolia bistro. Jennifer Vazquez of the Meskwaki Food Sovereignty Initiative will host the afternoon at the nearby Sac and Fox settlement (Meskwaki Nation), where participants will meet families that grow heirloom vegetables in community gardens and hear about the settlement’s organic farm.

Iowa State University, Ames, IA: Student organic farm and university farm-to-school program

9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cost: $35

Manager Shari Sweeny will host this tour group at the Iowa State University student organic farm. The SOF is an ISU campus club whose members include undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and Ames community members. Since the organization’s conception in the fall of 1996, students have managed all aspects of the 6+ acre farm: planning, writing grants, managing money, stocking supplies, building structures, growing crops, and selling the products. In the past, the SOF has sold at the Ames Farmer’s Market, donated to shelters and food banks in Ames, and sold produce to ISU Dining through the Farm to ISU program. The farm currently operates a 40+ member CSA. Their goals are to help promote a sustainable food community system for students and faculty of Iowa State University and the surrounding community.

In 2006 Iowa State University hired Nancy (Levandowski) Keller as director of its dining services. Nancy created ISU’s Farm to School program, which purchased over $1 million from local farmers in 2012. Food waste from the kitchens is being mixed with animal manure at ISU’s dairy farm to return to the university for compost fertilizer. Nancy will discuss her goals at Iowa State and how she is able to meet them. A tour of the facilities and a locally sourced lunch will end the morning.

Neil Smith Prairie Learning Center – a U.S. National Wildlife Refuge

8:45 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cost: $35

This morning tour articulates nicely with the afternoon’s Science, Sustainability and Success intensive, which begins at 1:30 p.m. Participants will travel to Prairie City to the Neil Smith Prairie Learning Center. Get a tour of the visitor center and see, feel and hear the story of how prairies form healthy soil. The Prairie Learning and Visitor Center, which houses exhibits, bookstore, classrooms, and a movie theater, is a real showcase of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The refuge is also home to herds of elk and bison.

Visit and learn about the STRIPs project, an interdisciplinary team of researchers, educators, and extension specialists studying the impacts of integrating small strips of prairie within row-cropped agricultural landscapes. Returning to the hotel by 12:30 p.m. for lunch on your own, in time for the afternoon intensive on soil health and sustainability.

Tractor Repair and Maintenance

9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Cost: $35

Learn how to keep your tractor working and in good repair at this morning workshop at the Des Moines Area Community College Farm in Adel, IA. You’ll hear from a female farmer about the basics of tractor repair and maintenance, and have a chance to try out what you’ve learned on the demo tractor. This is one of our most popular workshops at every conference!

Thursday, November 7

Tasting tour of Des Moines farm-to-table restaurants

5:45 – 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $40

This popular option for dinner will highlight three of Des Moines’ best farm-to-table restaurants. Each site will serve up chef’s choice small plates to sample, and beverages will be available for purchase as desired. Our local chefs and/or owners will be on hand to visit briefly with us about their decision and commitment to support Iowa farmers. The price includes transportation by bus and all food. Space is extremely limited due to restaurant size and comfort level. Be sure to sign up early!<

Friday, November 8

Des Moines “grape and grain” tasting tour  

2 – 5 p.m.

Cost: $35

The Des Moines area is blessed with many entrepreneurs providing micro-brewery delights and Iowa-made wines. This tour will visit three establishments right in the city that will provide delicious, unique adult beverages to help you unwind, learn a bit about brewing and vinification, and celebrate your great conference experience! Stops will include Jasper WineryConfluence Brewing, and Exile Brewing. Cost includes tasting samples and transportation.

Rural Iowa business tour (with dinner – and beer!)

1:15 – 6:30 p.m.

Cost: $55  

Visit unique central Iowa businesses owned and operated by women, and finish your trip with dinner and a beverage at one of Iowa’s best microbreweries!

Reichert’s Dairy Air is a small-herd goat micro-dairy, with a custom-built milking barn and cheese-making studio, owned and run by Lois Reichert. Tour the operation, meet the goats, and sample some of the several varieties of delicious, award-winning, artisan cheeses.

Blue Gate Farm is the family operation of husband-wife team Jill Beebout and Sean Skeehan. They are a chemical-free produce farm that also raises honey bees, laying hens and alfalfa hay. Produce is raised in the field as well as in two high tunnels for (nearly) year-round production to supply the family and CSA and farmers market customers. In addition to produce, they make a variety of homemade products utilizing the resources of the farm including: jams, jellies, herb syrups, noodles and salts/sugars. They also produce hand-spun/hand-dyed yarns sourced primarily from local (Iowa) farms.

White Breast Pottery & Weaving is the life’s-work of a multi-talented pair of women. Handmade pottery made with local clays, from beneath the waters of White Breast Creek, are used in making pieces that reflect the area. View the beautiful loom-woven rugs made onsite. Add in wheat-weaving, broom making and playing “a bit of music,” and you’ve got Sharon and Carol in a nutshell. You can also visit their herd of miniature horses.

Peace Tree Brewing Company is a family-owned, craft microbrewery located in Knoxville, IA. They make a variety of beers to please everyone from the novice craft beer drinker to the experienced connoisseur. Those brews are then packaged and distributed throughout the state of Iowa. The tour group will enjoy supper here, catered by a nearby restaurant.

Des Moines urban ag tour

2 – 5 p.m.

Cost: $25

The afternoon will be spent touring food project-related sites in Des Moines including community gardens, farm to school projects, and church-based food-growing projects. The Iowa Food Systems Council will host this opportunity to learn about how Des Moines is working to become more food-independent and sustainable.

Tri-State Harvest Gathering for Women in Sustainable Agriculture

Van leaves after lunch – trip cost will vary depending on numbers