Today, I wanted to share this guest post from my sister-in-law Rachel Formaro addressing a local news story that came to light in the last week or so. Larry is a great friend – not only is he a big supplier of locally-grown produce to Orchestrate restaurants, but he is also a supporter and patron of our properties.

SAVING CLEVERLEY FARMS (Guest post by Rachel Formaro)

Upon moving to Iowa, it didn’t take me long to become what I’ll lovingly call a “Farm Geek.” Yes, there is the famous Downtown Farmers’ Market. But I attribute much of the passion I’ve developed for understanding farming and local organic foods to farmer Larry Cleverley of  Cleverley Farms and his wife Beth.

I first met Larry many years ago, when he, my brother-in-law George, and George’s business partner Paul came to visit San Francisco on a food, market and restaurant reconnaissance trip. Tom and I met up with George, Larry and Paul a couple of evenings for dinner in the city – Delfina and The Slanted Door (put them on your list if you ever visit).

When we moved to Iowa a couple of years ago, we reconnected with Larry and met his wife Beth. When Larry introduced a flexible CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, we were among the first to sign-up. We have also attended their Spring Garlicpalooza for the last two years, despite the rather miserable weather for the event this past Memorial Day weekend.

Larry and Beth are incredibly welcoming at their farm. They want their customers (most of whom become friends, as we did) to see and know where their food comes from. I’m happy to say that my daughter’s first tastes of spinach, salad greens, rapini, cantaloupe, and yes, nettles, all came from Cleverley Farms.

So, it struck me all that closer to the heart when we found out last week that the Iowa Department of Transportation has proposed highway re-design plans that would result in Larry losing his home and half of the acreage (including all the acreage they have been growing their produce on for the last 17 years). There are two proposals the DOT is considering. As reported by the Des Moines Register one plan would take all three houses on the land—Larry’s house, his father’s house and his sister’s house.

The DOT’s proposed plans hope to reduce the number of fatalities and accidents in the area—apparently largely resulting from a poor highway design in the first place. When I spoke with Larry though, his point was that there are other alternatives to consider first, such as a reduced speed area with a stoplight.  It seems reasonable to start with a solution that doesn’t wipe out a farm that has contributed to the well-being of so many, and destroy the home and history of a family that has been there for 85 years. Not to mention the comparative cost to taxpayers.

What can we do about it? Sure, the mighty DOT has eminent domain rights, but we all have a voice we can use. If you want to help support Larry and his family and their efforts to continue providing the community with certified naturally-grown food, I invite you to do two things:

  1. Provide a public comment to the DOT on the proposals
  2. Keep up to date by visiting the Cleverley Farms’ Facebook page where they expect to have an online petition activated soon

I’m looking forward to many more Spring Garlicpaloozas, seeing my daughter walk those fields every year and pointing out to her where she first took a nap near the spinach.

(Also published at Des Moines is NOT Boring)

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