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Backyard Abundance's Edible Plant Sale

Local Experts Speak on Growing Food for Health April 30th

by Molly Martlin

Terry Wahls
Dr. Terry Wahls will talk about growing your own food on April 30.

On April 30, 2011, Backyard Abundance, a non-profit organization based in Iowa City, will host its first annual Edible Plant Sale.  The Iowa City Park and Recreation Department is providing space at the Robert A. Lee Community Center, 220 S. Gilbert Street, to put on the event.  The morning will begin at 8:00 am with an educational presentation by Dr. Terry Wahls and Roxane Mitten on growing food for health. Several powerhouse plants, such as kale, will be discussed both in terms of how to grow them and how to prepare them for optimal health. Many of the plants that Terry and Roxane talk about will be featured at the sale, which will run from 10:00 am to noon. Registration for the presentation is required and can be done at www.backyardabundance.org.

Plants that will be available include fruiting shrubs and trees from regional grower Stark Brothers out of Missouri, a large variety of annuals grown from seed by volunteers, and many perennials divided and shared from local yards.  Backyard Abundance saw a gap in what has been available at local plant sales and nurseries in the past—namely, sustainably grown edible plants, plants for making tea, plants to attract beneficial insects, and plants that help improve soil conditions, such as comfrey. Planting with species that support those around them can help reduce labor and the need for outside inputs.  

Several local growers will help round out the offerings at the sale. Nan Fawcett of Wapsinonoc Gardens in West Branch will be selling homegrown herbs for use as homemade tea or for accenting culinary creations. She also grows a variety of prairie plants useful for providing diversity in your yard and for attracting beneficial insects necessary for pollination and helpful in keeping garden pests in check. 

Regional agroforestry guru Tom Wahl of Red Fern Farm in Wapello, IA will be present, offering a host of nuts and perennial fruits for sale along with a wealth of information on how to grow them. Tom will have aronia berries, Asian pears, hazelnut bushes, and chestnut trees. Perennials yield food year after year and the nuts will allow you to incorporate a protein source into your yard, both for the benefit of wildlife as well as your family.

Fungi expert Todd Mills will be offering mushroom-growing kits and plugs for inoculating your own logs at home. Not everyone is aware of the fact that it is quite simple to grow many varieties of mushrooms at home and Todd will be happy to share his vast knowledge.

“Our aim is to help more local and regional growers thrive doing what they love,” says Fred Meyer, Director of Backyard Abundance. “We attempted to source plants as close to Iowa City as possible.”

There will be several other educational stations, including “Soil Fertility and Composting” with Scott Koepke of Soilmates, “Season Extension Methods Using Cold Frames and Low Hoops” with Jason Grimm, regional food coordinator with the Iowa Valley Resource and Conservation District, “Growing and Harvesting Fresh Herbal Tea” with Mary Crooks, Certified Permaculture Designer, and more. 

Local plant experts will be on hand to assist you in your quest to create a more abundant yard.

For those of you without yards, Johnson County Master Gardeners will be on hand sharing information on how to create and maintain healthy container gardens. Several varieties of edible container gardens will also be available for purchase for those of you who would like to eat fresh food from a deck, patio, or porch. 

During the sale, tours of the children’s garden will be available. Designed by Backyard Abundance in 2009, it is based on principles set forth by the Arbor Day Foundation and Dimensions Research for creating Nature Explore Classrooms.  Such thoughtfully designed outdoor settings are created to help immerse children in nature, providing opportunities for hands-on learning and exploration with natural materials. 

Rounding out the event will be a bake sale featuring locally grown ingredients and a silent auction with items useful for the plant enthusiast, such as a one-hour on-site yard consultation with Backyard Abundance or a few hours of garden labor.  Funds generated by the plant sale will be used to help put on workshops throughout the year and to support a variety of yard tours this coming growing season. 

Here’s what Mary Crooks, lead organizer of this exciting event, has to say: “Food doesn't get any more local than when it is raised in your own backyard!  Backyard Abundance is excited to be offering a wide selection of edible plants to the Iowa City community at our plant sale-vegetables and herbs, fruit trees, berries and much more. We will also have knowledgeable folks there to answer questions about growing, harvesting, and preserving all of the delicious food that people can raise in their backyards. You won't want to miss our plant sale on April 30!”

Purchases may be made by cash or check. More information can be found online at www.backyardabundance.org.  An events calendar with a multitude of events can also be found here. Volunteers for this and other events are always welcome.

There will be something for everyone at the plant sale. So, gather up the entire family, and get ready to grow! 

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