Free food project launched in Iowa City

Children harvest vegetables last year at a community garden in Cedar Rapids. Iowa City-based Backyard Abundance is launching a new program that will provide free food in yards and public spaces. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Children harvest vegetables last year at a community garden in Cedar Rapids. Iowa City-based Backyard Abundance is launching a new program that will provide free food in yards and public spaces. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Iowa City-based Backyard Abundance has another innovative project underway.

Already, the nonprofit is at the forefront in designing edible landscapes and is helping Iowa City start its first edible forest, at Wetherby Park.

Today, director Fred Meyer announced a new initiative called “Pick Me!” that goes back to the basics in offering free fresh fruits, vegetables and more to everyone. Continue reading

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Brush fire takes life of homegrown businesswoman; was heart of Oneida, Iowa

Genny Bennett tried to stay out of the spotlight as photojournalist Max Freund shot her husband Donald Bennett at work in their shop in Oneida. (photos/Cindy Hadish)

Genny Bennett tried to stay out of the spotlight as photojournalist Max Freund shot footage of her husband Donald Bennett at work in their shop in Oneida. (photos/Cindy Hadish)

“How is your mother?”

The question was an odd way for an interview to start, as I’m usually on the other end of the queries.

A photojournalist and I had traveled to the small community of Oneida in northeast Iowa to talk to Genny Bennett about her business, Oneida Nameplate Co., which makes medical alert jewelry, and discovered she and my mother had roomed together years ago while attending Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids.

I remembered Genny’s question as I read about the tragic brush fire that took her life on Easter. What came through during my interview with her and  afterward was an overwhelmingly caring person, from her customers to her employees, family and even to this daughter of a former roommate. Continue reading

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Earth-y events happening Saturday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City

A dung beetle sculpture greets visitors to the NewBo City Market and EcoFest 2013 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This year's festival is set for Saturday, April 26. The beetle is said to be among the world’s most efficient recyclers, a point of emphasis for the daylong event. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

A dung beetle sculpture greets visitors to the NewBo City Market and EcoFest 2013 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This year’s festival is set for Saturday, April 26, 2014. The beetle is said to be among the world’s most efficient recyclers, a point of emphasis for the daylong event. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

This Tuesday, April 22, is Earth Day, but many activities are happening Saturday, including special events in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

Backyard Abundance has its fourth annual plant sale scheduled from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 26, in Iowa City and EcoFest will take place the same day in the NewBo City Market and surrounding area in Cedar Rapids, with environmental films, live music, tours and more. Continue reading

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Changes coming to Eastern Iowa farmers markets; retirements, new market locations announced

Laura Strabala (right) and Danielle Martin (center) chat with a customer during the indoor Mount Vernon Farmers Market this spring. The two sisters are retiring from selling at farmers markets, but will continue as the market's managers. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Laura Strabala (right) and Danielle Martin (center) chat with a customer during the indoor Mount Vernon Farmers Market this spring. The two sisters are retiring from selling at farmers markets, but will continue as the market’s managers. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Note: Find an updated list of more than 50 Eastern Iowa farmers markets all season here at Homegrown Iowan. For a printed copy, order the  April 21 edition of the Corridor Business Journal at this link.

By Cindy Hadish/For the Corridor Business Journal

Danielle Martin and Laura Strabala are hanging up their baking hats after seven years of selling artisan breads and more at Eastern Iowa farmers markets.

The sisters, who operate Wild Prairie Acres in rural Lisbon, started at the Mount Vernon Farmers Market at the tender ages of 16 and 17. They expanded from there, including a regular spot at the summer Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids, but are now “retiring” from selling in their mid-20s. Continue reading

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Gardening folklore: Planting potatoes on Good Friday and phases of the moon

Gardening tradition calls for planting potatoes on Good Friday. The reason may be related to phases of the moon. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Gardening tradition calls for planting potatoes on Good Friday. The history may be tied to phases of the moon. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Fans of the Old Farmer’s Almanac are aware of the practice of planting by phases of the moon.

According to this gardening tradition, flowers and vegetables that bear crops above ground should be planted during the light, or waxing, of the moon, from the day the moon is new to the day it is full. Flowering bulbs and vegetables that bear crops below ground are planted during the dark, or waning, of the moon, from the day after it is full to the day before it is new again.

The tradition of planting potatoes on Good Friday likely is related to those moon phases.  Continue reading

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Seed giveaways, composting, recycling and more scheduled during Earth Month events in Iowa City

A composting workshop with Scott Koepke of SoilMates is among the events scheduled April 19 in Iowa City. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

A composting workshop with Scott Koepke of SoilMates is among the events scheduled April 19 in Iowa City. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

So much is happening in the coming days in Iowa City, beginning this Saturday, April 19, 2014 and running through Earth Week.

Johnson County hosts two Earth Week events next week that are free and open to the public and The Salvage Barn, operated by Friends of Historic Preservation, hosts a daylong event this Saturday that includes recycling for crafts, prairie tours, composting and more. Continue reading

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Noelridge Greenhouse ready to open for Easter weekend

One of the displays at the Noelridge Greenhouse is seen during last year's Easter Showcase in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

One of the displays at the Noelridge Greenhouse is seen during last year’s Easter Showcase in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

CEDAR RAPIDS – The annual Easter showcase inside the balmy greenhouses at Noelridge Park will offer a tropical getaway for Iowans weary from an especially cold spring.

Admission is free to the event on Saturday, April 19, 2014 and Sunday, April 20 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The park is at 4900 Council Street NE, just off Collins Road. Continue reading

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Grandma’s miracle flower

Grandma's African violet, blooming in April 2014, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Grandma’s African violet, blooming in April 2014, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Our challenges in saving the family farm continue and it looks like, despite all of our efforts, it probably won’t remain intact.

I found one message of hope, however, in all of the despair that surrounds losing something you love. A little background: our uncle was living on the family farm in rural Chelsea, Iowa, a Century Farm – belonging to the same family for 100 years – on its way in 2016 to becoming a Heritage Farm with 150 years in the family. Continue reading

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DNR reports first case of chronic wasting disease in Iowa’s wild deer population

Deer saunter through a forested lot in southeast Cedar Rapids in April 2014. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources notes that chronic wasting disease has beenconfirmed in deer in the wild in Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Deer saunter through a wooded lot in southeast Cedar Rapids in April 2014. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources noted that chronic wasting disease was confirmed for the first time in deer in the wild in Iowa. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Bad news for Iowa’s deer. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources reported today that chronic wasting disease was detected for the first time in a deer in the wild.

The deer was killed in Allamakee County in December, but the announcement was not made until today. Previously, the disease – which is always fatal – had been detected in confined deer on pay-to-shoot game farms in Iowa. Continue reading

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How to bring native pollinators back to Iowa

monarch butterfly

A new program through the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, promotes planting gardens for pollinators such as monarch butterflies. (photo courtesy Blank Park Zoo)

Just love this new statewide program coming from the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines. The zoo is teaming up with 10 organizations to introduce Plant.Grow.Fly., a conservation effort to bring back native pollinators.

Through Plant.Grow.Fly., Iowans are encouraged to plant pollinator habitat in yards, schools and businesses. Continue reading

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