From Suburbs to Soil

From the “Around the Kitchen Table” Guest Blog Series

Guest blogger: Mallory DeVries of Woodside Acres in Charles City, Iowa

The year was 2013 and I was deep into learning how to cook. I’d been learning for a few years, mostly through practice and America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks. Growing up, we lived out of Hamburger Helper boxes, bags of cereal, and Nutter Butters. But I was determined to feed myself and future husband something more satisfying and complex. It wasn’t until I watched Food, Inc., however, that I really began to think about where our food was coming from. I began grocery shopping in an entirely new way: by seeking out food. Real food. Local food. Ingredients rather than ready-made meals and condiments.

It was in this same documentary that I was first introduced to Joel Salatin and his work on sustainable agriculture and holistic management of livestock. I very quickly began questioning every aspect of food; not just what was on my plate, but what was on America’s plate and why. I found some answers to the “why” a few months later when I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by (my now favorite author) Michael Pollan. This book impacted my life and future in ways that I couldn’t begin to fathom.

Having grown up in Iowa, you would think that I would have been exposed to lots of farming, but that wasn’t the case. It wasn’t something young people really talked about. We knew that the combines driving down the highway were a huge inconvenience to us and that there were cornfields EVERYWHERE, but I didn’t even know what that corn was used for. I just didn’t care. But just before my husband and I turned 30, we made the decision to “go back to the land” and purchased an 11-acre property in Northeast Iowa.

Fast forward to now, Spring 2019, and our very first large-scale gardening adventure is in full swing. Our fifteen Wyandotte hens are busy preparing and fertilizing our garden area just to the East of our new home in Northeast Iowa. Our flock is also tasked with converting our food scraps into compost. An entire room in our home has been converted into a “garden room” filled with very eager tomato, pepper, onion, herb, and flower plants. The asparagus patch and rhubarb have sprung into production. There are buds on the existing apple, pear, peach, and cherry trees. Two new pear trees just went in the  ground. There are beet greens popping up in a large tub near the front yard. The most wonderful time of the year, indeed.

It is my hope that other “young” people will begin this journey with us and start questioning everything around them. I hope the next generation will be drawn to the land. To care for it and receive care from it as well.  I see it working when our toddler asks to go dig for worms or help daddy mulch the fruit trees. And when she laughs at the chickens doing funny things. She wants to be outdoors, rain or shine. It is working.

If you want to follow our journey to sustainability, follow Woodside Acres on Facebook!

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