6 bloggers came to Franklin County Iowa for the first Harvest Tour. The tour guides took them to the REA Plant and Museum (first farmer owned electricity plant in the United States), the Old Stone House (built in 1854) and Maynes Grove Lodge for some wine and food and mingling on the first day.
There was a gift bag in each room and the Franklin County Farm Bureau gave each blogger a couple of packages of chocolate covered soy nuts – just a nice treat to warm them up for the bean fields the next day! There was also a pig poop candle from Cornerstone Cottage, two small bottles of wine from TownsEnd Winery, a corn shaped flash drive from Latham Hi Tech Seeds and a few sheets of printed material. A packet of Field Notes notebooks and a painted pumpkin rounded out the gift.
WorkMomTravels: Highlight so far ? The goats that live at our B&B. More fun to come!
Country Heritage is a bed and breakfast on Highway 3 west of Hampton – out in the country. There’s the house, garage, barn and outbuilding with a couple of goats in the fenced off area. I’m told they do a great job of weed eating and talking to kids.
That’s right, the bloggers were a big deal and Hampton was thrilled to have them. In this picture you can also see the Franklin County Courthouse. It sits in the middle of the square and is a beauty to behold. Hampton is a Main Street community and the entire downtown area has been designated by the state on the Historic Register. There are several eating places, the Specialty Shops, Band Shell Park, 100 year old Windsor Theatre and many businesses.
There’s a chill in the air, but the sun is shining and it feels like fall.
Our first stop was the REA Plant and Museum. Larry Meyer from the Historical Society and Fran Buckel from the Rural Electric Coop came and shared the story of the place and some interesting facts and figures about electricity. The kids got to see how things were done before electricity and during the early days of electricity. This building was built in the deep cold of winter 75 years ago and still stands proudly today.
This is a picture of the entire group of bloggers and Jennifer Healy from Franklin County Farm Bureau and me. We were at Maynes Grove located 4 miles south of Hampton in the middle of a huge grove of trees. It’s the diamond in the county conservation park system in Franklin County.
6 bloggers woke up to country fresh air in Franklin County Iowa on their second day of the tour. They came to find out about:
- how food ends up on their table,
- rural living and the changes made in the last 100 years,
- entertainment in a small town, and
- why someone would want to live here.
The day started at the Franklin County Historical Society with a tour of the museum. Darwin Meyer, board president, showed the bloggers a tile cutter, a threshing machine, a tractor from back in the day, how corn used to be harvested, and many other historical collections housed in the museum. He spoke about the new Admiral Leahy exhibit. William Leahy was born in Hampton and a group of committed citizens have arranged for some of his artifacts from the Navy and a 1/48 replica of a ship named after him to be displayed in the museum.
Shopping was the next item in order. Hampton has 12 Specialty Shops and our bloggers visited many of them. Got You Covered had warm hats for Adam and his family who didn’t quite bring warm enough clothing. Darcy, Liz and I finished our tour at Korner Bakery where we had angel food fingers. Liz called them cotton candy on a stick. Many of the shop owners we stopped at suggested they visit the best bakery in the state! merry bee’s sold some coffee and Orange Possum found new customers who promised to return and spend more time.
Larry, our driver provided to us by ABCM Corporation, drove us to Latham Hi-Tech Seeds where we started with lunch. Pork loin sandwiches made by the Farm Bureau agents with a secret sauce I’ll spend years trying to get from them were served. There was baked beans with apples in them and spicy too, Val Plagge did provide her recipe. Pumpkin cupcakes rounded out dessert and Shannon Latham made those. I mention the food because all of it was made with items farmers grow. It was a great segue into the presentation given by two of the founders of Ag in the Classroom North Central Iowa. These two instructors spend 40 minutes a year in each grade from Kindergarten to 6th grade and share information about how food comes from farms. The kids get to do experiments, learn about crops and animals and have a great time doing so. They visited 25 school districts and talked to over 8000 students last year.
Annette Sweeney, chair of the Agriculture Committee for Iowa, was present also. It was a nice surprise! She spoke briefly on how she’s been farming since 1981 when her dad passed away, the importance of educating the public on what farmers really do, the raw milk debate and welcoming the bloggers. There was a small discussion on getting legislators up to Franklin County so they could see the same thing the bloggers were being shown! Shannon Latham welcomed the bloggers and talked about blogging for Latham Seeds. She began giving a recipe on Friday and her dealers thought she was crazy. As it happens, Fridays have become one of the most read days on their blog www.thefieldposition.com She then introduced her husband John who gave a presentation just what Latham Seeds is and does.
John took the group outside and we got to see what its like inside a seed plant. When the seed is brought in from the fields, Latham Seeds personally inspects each load. That was something John’s grandfather started. If there is a problem, then can find out right away and take care of it right away. We saw three methods they use to clean the seeds. Last year they got a robot that now stacks the bags of seeds on pallets, saving many backs! There were oversized shopping bags — and I mean HUGE bags that could hold 12 of me in them — that held $12,000 worth of seed. The thing that really stuck out for me was the plant was extremely clean. You might think a large plant would be dusty, given they are cleaning dusty crops, but it was not. There is equipment in place to remove the bean dust so the employees are kept from breathing in all that dust.
The afternoon was spent at Roy Arends farm riding in a combine. Roy and Jeanne live just outside of Alexander, Iowa. Roy first talked about the land and the amount of water in the soil. We’ve had a drought this year and very little rain and farmers with different soil fared differently. Roy’s land is well tiled, if not it would be a wetland. This wet subsoil made for a good year this year, despite having no rain. The combine was a huge machine and I don’t believe our bloggers realized the amount of technology farmers really use. The GPS system drives the combine. The header (the part that collects the crop on the front of the combine) can be changed out in 4 minutes. Years ago that would take half a day to change. Roy stressed safety and didn’t allow anyone near the machinery unless he was with them. It was a cold day out in the field, and I think we all developed a lot more respect for these farmers that feed us.
Saturday night provided a hot time in the old town. We ventured into Hampton and enjoyed An Evening Like It Used To Be Part 2 at the historic Windsor Theatre. The show began with a silent film featuring Charlie Chaplin. It was laugh out loud funny! Members of the Hampton Municipal Band played live music directed by Leon Kuehner during the entire evening! It was if we stepped back in time to 1917 and were attending a Vaudeville Show. We were treated to an aria, barbershop quartet, a ventriloquist, a sing along and the Pythian Players who did humorous skits. It was a fun time and the perfect ending to a great day on the Harvest Tour 2012.
Bloggers Tours are a great way to introduce visitors to your town and also create buzz around what they see. This kind of tour is affordable, interactive and the long tail of sharing the stories is worth every penny you invest.