We host a number of parties each year on the farm. Usually we’re leading guests in some kind of activity to help us on the farm. In 2008, farm broadcaster Ken Root suggested we host a farmers market cook-off between he and his wife Gail and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey and his wife Cindy. They spent Saturday morning shopping at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers Market and then prepared four courses each at our farm in a head to head matchup. With our friend Diann joining us in the judging, the match ended in a tie with each couple winning two courses apiece. We were the real winners though with our guests cooking a fabulous meal for us to enjoy on our lawn.

Chicken Butchering Party

We’ve hosted three chicken butchering parties. Killing is a regrettable but necessary part of a sustainable farm with livestock. Our laying hens produce eggs for about 18 months before they start to come to the end of their productive life. We invite family, friends, and customers to come help us “retire” the girls. Everyone who helps gets to take stewing hens home to put in their freezers for winter soup. In 2010, we butchered the day after a blizzard and assumed none of the 20 people who’d sent an RSVP to the party would be able to make it. Eight people braved subzero wind chills and drifted roads to come experience butchering their own chickens. We plan to host our next butchering party in early spring 2012.

Garlic Planting 2009 

Nearly 20 people joined us for garlic planting in 2009. We plant by hand in October and try to pick a Sunday to have a garlic planting party. Friends and customers are a great help with this labor intensive job. Separating the cloves is nearly as much work as the planting itself. 2009 was our largest planting of garlic and in 2010 when so many vegetable crops failed, garlic saved the season for us. We continued to expand our three varieties of garlic at our 2011 garlic planting party. We grow one soft neck variety–Inchelium Red and two stiff neck varieties Spanish Roja and our biggest seller German Extra Hardy.