Celebrate Family Farms

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Sawmill Hollow Family Farm, Missouri Valley, Iowa, hosts the North American Aronia Berry Festival each year.
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Artisans disply their wares on the wrap-around porch of the cabin near the lake at Sawmill Hollow Family Farm, MIssouri Valley, Iowa.

In recent years issues like sustainability, the peril of family farms and food security have become major topics of conversation.  Much has been written and featured in recent films such as “Food Inc.,” “FRESH” and “King Corn” about the plight of family farmers and health-minded consumers. At times these stories depict a bleak future, but the Sawmill Hollow Family Farm in rural Iowa, sandwiched right in Monsanto country, is bucking that trend, and encouraging others to do the same.

Sawmill Hollow Family Farm, Missouri Valley, Iowa, has received national acclaim for reintroducing the antioxidant-rich, native Aronia berry (chokeberry) to the United States. The certified organic farm has served as a model for democratizing agriculture and expanding taste rather than monopolizing it. 

On September 18 and 19, thousands will attend the third annual North American Aronia Berry Festival for all things Aronia (food, craft beer, recipes), dozens of artisans, artists, children’s activities, local speakers, wine tastings and winemaking, and group demonstrations. The demonstrations include such attractions as bio-diesel and wind production, putting the festival at the forefront of the alternative energy movement.

Also featured in the festival are “Slow Food” cooking workshops and “Perennial Ag,” which helps family farms shift from conventional (GMO) to organic workshop.

“Our festival brings community, economic development, and environmental sustainability to the forefront of Iowa agriculture,” says Andrew Pittz, co-owner. “There’s a revolution in organic, ‘open-source’ farming, emerging among your mainstream corn and soybeans. It’s about expanding the taste for food, not monopolizing it.”

Begun five years ago as a field day with 35 people in attendance, last year’s festival drew a crowd of 1,400. The festival celebrates community, sustainable development, slow food and family farms. It also facilitates the shift from conventional agriculture to perennial agriculture, and fossil fuel to sustainable alternative energy. Distinguished speakers this year include internationally renowned speaker and author John Ikerd, who was featured in the movie “FRESH”; Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs, who was instrumental in passing the anti-corporation farming amendment; Kent Frederickson, organic farmer and fertilizing specialist; Vaughn Pittz, farmer and co-founder of Sawmill Hollow Farmily Farm, the first aronia berry farm in the county; and Dave Murphy, founder and director of Food Democracy Now!

For more information, visit the Sawmill Hollow Family Farm website.