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Squash Harvest 2018

Volunteers load the first of many wagonloads of butternut squash at the 2018 harvest.

MASONVILLE – Tracy Blackmer of Madrid and his family created Iowa Gardening for Good about six years ago as a way to involve “people in growing things of value for a good cause.”

According to their website, www.iowagardeningforgood.com, “Tracy has a Ph.D. in agronomy with a background working in agricultural and water quality research. [His wife] Doreen was raised on a farm near Decorah, Iowa, and has a master’s degree in animal science and is a registered dietitian. Since they both have an agricultural background, Tracy and Doreen wanted to find a way to utilize their large acreage in a positive manner that promoted ag production and involved others who wanted to learn about growing ag products.”

One of their larger projects is producing vegetables for the Food Bank of Iowa, located in Des Moines. The Blackmers raise 15 different crops, including peppers, sweet corn, string beans, cabbage, watermelon, and eggplant.

Blackmer wanted to expand the project beyond central Iowa.

“There is no reason in Iowa we shouldn’t be able to grow produce for the food bank,” said Blackmer.

Through his 20-year friendship with Dennis and Barb Lindsay of Masonville, they worked last year to create a two-acre plot of land along the Buchanan-Delaware County line to raise butternut squash for the Northeast Iowa Food Bank in Waterloo. Butternut squash was chosen for the trial run because it requires only one harvest and has a long shelf life. Timing was also important. It was planted in mid-June after the Lindsay corn was planted, and the squash harvest would then occur before the main harvest.

The call went out for volunteers through local churches, extension offices, schools, and food pantries. One notice stated, “This opportunity is open to all ages and no experience is needed. Anyone comfortable walking in a farm field can help....This is a great way to participate in a harvest of locally grown produce and help fight hunger without incurring any cost. ”

The Lindsays and Blackmers are putting the call out again.

This Saturday, September 28, volunteers will be needed to help with the harvest. There will be acorn squash, watermelons, and butternut squash.

Food pantries can come and take what they want straight from the field. Produce not taken directly by local food pantries will be donated to Northeast Iowa Food Bank for distribution to other food pantries.

Last year, more than 40 volunteers helped harvest over 50,000 pounds – all donated to food pantries. This year, the goal is 20,000 pounds from a bit smaller plot.

Volunteers are asked to be at the plot beginning at 9 a.m. The harvest may last until noon. The location is just north of Masonville, about a half-mile west of the intersection of 110th Avenue and 200th Street.

Directions: From Highway 20, take Exit 266 and turn north on to IA-187. Go 1/4 mile north to 220th Street and turn right (east). Go 3 miles to 110th Avenue/County Hwy-W63 and turn left (north). Go two miles to 200th Street and turn left. The garden site will be about 1/4 mile on the right (north) side of the road.

Come when you want. Leave when you want. Buckets, tools, sunscreen, and water provided.

An RSVP would be helpful but not required. Contact Dennis (563-920-8763) or Barb (563-608-3931) or email (denlind2@gmail.com) for more information.

Make a difference in your community. Come bring the family to help with the harvest on Saturday, September 28, from 9 a.m. to noon.

To learn more about the project, visit www.iowagardeningforgood.com, and to volunteer, either in the harvest or at the Independence Area Food Pantry, talk to Director Vicki Samec at 319-334-2451.