Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

October 9, 2013

Farm Crawl defies the rain

The Journal Express

---- — It had never happened before. In all its seven years the Farm Crawl had never hosted rainfall. But the chill rain that came down for the Crawl on Sunday, October 6, 2013 did not slow the people. They came to visit eight special farms that offer themselves for viewing and their products for sale on the first Sunday of October every year. From White Breast Pottery and Weaving near Lacona to Crooked Gap Farm near Knoxville, these small farms are drawn together by a single criterion: they sell direct, through Farmers’ Markets, CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), or on site. No middle man involved.

No one really knows how many people attend the Crawl. Blue Gate Farm at the southern edge of the county reports nearly 1,300 visitors this year, and Coyote Run out by historic German Town might have had 1,300, too. But a different 1,300. Let’s estimate at least 2,000 Farm Crawlers in 2013.

Ethan and Rebecca Book own Crooked Gap Farm located on the Crooked Road between Knoxville and Melcher-Dallas. The newest on the Crawl, Crooked Gap keeps adding attractions, but for some, the greatest attraction there would be seeing a live pig – not in confinement. Their pork products are best sellers (Crooked Gap sausage is a breakfast star at Coffee Connection in Knoxville); one big hit on Crawl day was the chicken brooder house displaying chickens in their different stages of growth. Over at Dairy Air the Reichert family’s goats rested in peace waiting for nighttime milking, and guests lined up to sample – and buy – award-winning cheeses before they sold out. Others took time for a wee sip of wine from Pleasantville neighbor, Grape Escape Winery. Down the road at Dan-D the children had many choices. Toast marshmallows? Ride out to the famous Maze? Climb the hay bales? And, Mr. Dan D (Dennison), we heard great things about the pig race this year. Who won?

Pumpkin Patch with John and Joy Pierce provides all manner of gorgeous pumpkins and squash, but it’s also become known for its fine brisket sandwiches. And shiver my timbers, if they haven’t opened up Alfred Hitchcock’s notorious Bates Motel for Halloween!

Blue Gate Farm, where Sean Skean and Jill Beebout originally hatched the idea for the Farm Crawl, offered its rich produce, raw honey, chicken, and a sample of Peace Tree Brew. Sales were good there for Mary Parks, of Stillwater Fibers.

Warm wool hats and sweaters – from the wool of her own sheep – were very popular on this cold day. Mary worked at her spinning wheel, making yarn from her Angora rabbit’s generous supply.

Coyote Run, home to the famous mules of earlier stories, still provides a tasty Borscht soup, but Matt Russell, co-host with husband Patrick Standley, explained that their huge quantity of soup was exhausted; cold weather made people hungry for hot soup.

Brisk was the word for the Crawl over at Schneider’s Apple Orchard. Co-host Jane Schneider said, “I was dumbfounded at how many people came out in the rain!” At Jane and Arnie Schneider’s they not only got to eat pie ala mode, but could buy candy from Piper’s Store of Chariton, make rope with the rope maker, and get their faces painted by local FFA artists.

Over close to Lacona, Carol Oliver and Sharon Seuferer presented White Breast Pottery and Weaving. Their pottery comes out of the clay from their part of White Breast Creek. And Carol uses wheat, another farm product, to weave words of blessing on a decorative cloth. This year, the cold may have inspired sales of their well-shaped stone bread warmers. A hot stone to keep that basket of bread warm!

Farm Crawl organization is impressive. Not only are there well-placed signs to guide you to all eight sites, but when you arrive a competent and pleasant parking staff creates a steady flow of traffic. Impressive!

The Farm Crawl is distinctly cosmopolitan with guests from as far as Africa and China. Closer to home, the Crawl is popular with Des Moines residents.

One said that it was particularly important to her children, not only as a source of great fun, but as a tiny view of a real farm. Another Des Moines visitor said, “I felt honored to be allowed to visit these special farms!”

Honored, indeed. Knoxville, Pleasantville, Melcher-Dallas, Chariton, and Lacona should be honored to sit so close to the many creative farmland endeavors that cluster at these eight sites. As the Crawl partners market their distinctive products, they also strengthen our farm economy and share our distinctive rural tradition.

The Farm Crawl. First Sunday of October in 2014. Save the date.