If you think Iowa farms are all corn and soybean fields, the J40 Farm Crawl will open your eyes to a multifaceted world of agricultural creativity and richness. This year’s event, on Saturday, August 10, 2019, celebrates the crawl’s 11th anniversary with farm tours, wagon rides, local artists, historic sites, wine tasting, handcrafted furniture, and homemade ice cream.
It’s also a fabulous opportunity to explore Iowa’s Historic Hills Scenic Byway and celebrate the rural local businesses and farms that add vibrancy to the Iowa landscape.
Started 11 years ago to showcase local farms and rural craftspeople, the J40 Farm Crawl has become a popular summer tourist activity. “We brought in about 500 people last year,” says long-time organizer and participant Kim Steele-Blair of Bloom and Bark Farm. She says that the event attracts local sightseers, as well as visitors from Des Moines, Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and even St. Louis.
“There’s a lot of really interesting businesses that pop up along the highway,” she says. Steele-Blair enjoys connecting people with local farmers and artisans, and says the J40 Farm Crawl is a lot of fun. “It’s great for families and kids. There’s always something to do!”
The J40 Farm Crawl is like a focused day trip with planned rest stops, and the whole loop is only 20 miles. “You can easily get to all the different stops along the way,” Steele-Blair says. And the stops generally involve tasty treats, interesting adventures, and the bounty of nature.
The J40 Farm Crawl begins with a home-cooked breakfast at the Amish School in Lebanon, served from 8 a.m. until noon. Feast on homemade biscuits and gravy or pancakes and sausage. Free-will donations are accepted to cover costs. After eating, participants can explore several different farms, businesses, and historical sites along the route.
Bloom and Bark Farm in Keosauqua has gardens, orchards, and greenhouses to explore. They’ll be offering samples of fresh produce, artisan bread baked in a handcrafted clay oven, and cold, refreshing mint water. You can also tour their Glass Blowing Studio and watch demonstrations by glass artists Tim Blair, Jim Topic, Ian Anderson, and Tristan Edmund. Enjoy live music throughout the day.
A number of local businesses will also be set up at Bloom and Bark Farm for the J40 Farm Crawl.
- The Villages Folk School will have several artists on hand offering class demonstrations and selling their art. Join artist Pat Crawford as she teaches how to fuse nature onto cloth.
- Crane Winery, best known for wines that “grandma used to make,” will be sampling their delicious, sweet wines.
- Along with honey, Hershey’s Honey will be sampling and selling a variety of health and beauty products.
- Sonja Hoie will have yarn and textiles for sale, created from her flock of Icelandic Sheep which graze on the Thomas Home Farm.
- Local blacksmith Douglas Blackwolf will be demonstrating this ancient art, and will have some of his forged pieces available for sale.
- Van Buren Art Club will be grilling hotdogs and brats with all the fixin’s, adjacent to a delightful display of art.
- Fairfield Girls Swim Team will be serving up freshly spun cotton candy.
Moving on down the route to Lengacher’s Greenhouse & Variety Store, stop and explore the gardens, greenhouses, and general store, and take a ride on a horse-drawn wagon.
A family-owned business crafting quality furniture since 1981, Yoder’s Indian Creek Furniture will be showing finely crafted Amish furniture. Enjoy their petting zoo and some free homemade ice cream to beat the heat.
Milton Creamery in Milton will be offering samples of award-winning, handcrafted cheeses. They use milk from local Amish farms to make their world-recognized Prairie Breeze variety, an exclusive creation of this small, local cheese factory.
The J40 Farm Crawl runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit J40 Farm Crawl on Facebook, or call (641) 233-8210.
View the 2019 map and featured stops along the route here.