Introducing myself and urban farming

I grew up on a northwest Iowa farm in a township where my ancestors had farmed since 1878. There is much that I love about my heritage (especially the memories of my grandfather who farmed with horses and my grandmother and other neighborhood women who gardened). There is much that I regret that has been part of the march to modern day, status quo agriculture with lots of influence from the corporate world and government.

I graduated from Iowa State in 1967 and started my career teaching physical education then shifted to communications, including photography and video projects. I lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, then northern California prior to returning to my home state in 1993. I lived for 13 years in an apartment in Gilbert just north of Ames. I had a deck garden there, prior to finding my current place in Ames that I like to call an urban farm. I have four cats and five laying hens, own no television nor car, and get around town mainly on bicycle.

helen-amesFor many decades, I felt like an exile from agriculture even though I inherited farm land. In the 1990s, I took more interest in and control of my land. I am proud that I have put Conservation Reserve Program filter strips along drainage ditches on my property, using a diverse mix of prairie seed, and that one of my tenants is transitioning a third of my land to organic practices. I am concerned about agricultural issues in general and have a passion for promoting locally-grown food.

Friends do have plots in my food growing space, but it does not qualify to be called a community garden. That said, I have a vision for a future when plenty of food is grown within the Ames city limits. And maybe what I have going here is a start in that direction.

Some colleagues and I have started sharing thoughts about how to have an urban, backyard-farming CSA with several Ames homeowners and others (perhaps even the city) contracting collectively with a farmer or a farming group to grow food on our property for either a non-profit or retail enterprise. Lots to think about, including Will Allen’s “Growing Power” efforts in Milwaukee. He has a wonderful book about his life and urban food projects titled The Good Food Revolution and a web site. Plus there is an introductory video on YouTube.

I am also inspired by the work ISU student, Jason Grimm, did on analyzing Ames and its potential for urban food production. To learn more about Jason, go to:

I am eager to post more entries and, later today, will probably post some photos from my garden from this time a year ago when spring was bursting forth. And you may see future posts of my chickens and cats. But for the most part, I hope to get around to community gardening projects in Ames with camera and camcorder and post images of what is happening with other growers along with some of their perspectives. And maybe I can obtain some of Jason’s material to post here.

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