Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Wallace Centers of Iowa

When leaving a legacy, some families really know how to do it BIG TIME. The Wallace Family would be one for those families. Who are they? Why should we be interested? I am going to borrow some information from the website to help start off our experience at this wonderful place in rural Adair County.

Four generations of Henry Wallaces have profoundly influenced the development of American agriculture and agricultural policy. The impact of their activities has reached every corner of the world.

The first Henry WallaceHenry Wallace, the first editor of Wallaces' Farmer agricultural journal.The first Henry Wallace came to Iowa in 1862 as a Presbyterian minister, and co-founded  Wallaces' Farmer with his sons Henry C. and John in 1895. Through this publication, he became known as "Uncle Henry", helped establish Iowa State College as a premier agricultural research institution, and promoted the Agricultural Extension Service. When asked to serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Wallace deferred to his friend James "Tama Jim" Wilson. He died in 1916. 
Henry C. WallaceHenry C. Wallace: farmer, college professor, editor, US Secretary of Agriculture. Son Henry C. Wallace was a professor at Iowa State College, editor of Wallaces' Farmer, co-founder of the American Farm Bureau Federation, and longtime secretary of the Corn Belt Meat Producers' Association. Henry C. worked hard to help farmers organize in associations and cooperatives. He served as Secretary of Agriculture for two presidents from 1921 until his unexpected death following surgery in 1924. 
Henry A. WallaceHenry A. Wallace: scientist, editor, politician, US Secretary of Agriculture, US Vice President, humanitarian.Grandson Henry A. Wallace graduated from Iowa State College and went to work for Wallaces' Farmer. In high school, Henry A. was already researching and breeding corn. He founded the Hi-Bred Corn Company in 1926, now known as Pioneer, A DuPont Company. Henry A. served as Depression-era U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933-1940, implementing revolutionary farm policies and programs for resource conservation and economic stabilization, many of which have remained in place into recent times. From 1953 to 1996, programs he designed to assure family-scale farmers support of commodity prices in the marketplace through supply management and on-farm grain storage were eventually weakened or phased out. Parallel to this has been a dramatic consolidation of farm units and a massive out-migration of population from America’s rural landscapes into urban settings. As Vice President from 1940-1944, Wallace traveled widely. He became Secretary of Commerce until 1946, and then ran for president in 1948. After his defeat, he retired from politics to write, travel, give speeches and farm. He died of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in 1965. 
Henry B. (H.B.) WallaceHenry B. Wallace: scientist, businessman, environmentalist.Great-grandson Henry B. (H.B.) Wallace did for chickens what his father had done for corn. In 1939 he took over the fledgling hybrid poultry division of Pioneer Hi-Bred. His efforts icreased egg production and industrialized the egg and broiler business. The pouktry division became Hy-Line Internation, the world's oldest layer genetics company. H.B. died in 2005.  

Now THAT is a family legacy! And lucky for us that legacy continues today at the Wallace Country Life Center nearby Orient, in Adair County. The Country Life Center is a self-sustaining farm and restaurant that showcases seasonal produce grown on the farm. Their goal is to utilize and highlight sustainable agriculture, supporting local food growers and providing an opportunity for education about farming and sustainability.

Also at the Country Life Center is The Gathering Table restaurant, a very unique restaurant experience led by Chef Katie Routh. The menu changes depending on the season and what produce is available, making each experience unique and surprising. Chef Katie also holds cooking classes at different times throughout the year. At our visit I got Sarah to agree to try lunch there. The menu was very unique for a small town. Sarah chose pork and veggie meatballs, made from Bridgewater Farms ground pork, roasted eggplant and tomatoes, served with basil Israeli cous cous.

I chose the Beef and Vegetable Tacos. Braised Cory Farms sirloin tip, shredded, with salsa verde, cilantro lime slaw and pico de gallo. I LOVED the food, the presentation and creative use of ingredients. VERY unexpected in a rural setting.

We also sampled the dessert offerings that day, Sarah had an ice cream filled cookie with a chocolate and caramel sauce and I had a chocolate cake with apricot sauce, almonds and whipped cream.

After dessert we thought we better walk off some of those calories! The Center is a large complex of trails and interesting artworks and restored prairie, fish ponds, wild flowers and loads of beautiful Iowa countryside.

We walked around the working farm gardens as well and got to see the people actually hand weeding and tending to the vegetables that are grown for use in the restaurant and as part of the Center's CSA program. 

The Center is very involved in community activities as well, providing education, entrepreneurial guidance, and standing out as a leader in sustainable farming. They also have rental facilities for meetings, weddings and other activities. Several bed and breakfasts are in the area as well the historic and would make a great overnight visit to rural Iowa!

August 2013 mmc

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