Every so often I'm asked, "What is the Wallace Centers of Iowa?" It's a non-profit organization inspired by the Wallace family legacy. The Wallace Centers of Iowa provide a variety of programs and services to build awareness of local food, sustainable agriculture and civility. It serves both urban and rural communities.
There are two locations—one is the Wallace House at 756 16th Street in the Sherman Hill neighborhood on the west edge of downtown Des Moines. The other is the Henry A. Wallace birthplace farm at Orient, Iowa—about 50 miles southwest of Des Moines. It is officially known as the Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center.
The Sherman Hill location is the restored home of the Wallace Family from back in the days when they owned Wallaces Farmer and family members worked for the magazine. There was the first Henry Wallace (known as Uncle Henry); his son was Henry C. Wallace; Henry C's son was Henry A. Wallace. There's a neat little museum inside explaining the house and the family's role in Iowa history. It's a free visit filled with interesting information about Iowa, agriculture and U.S. history too.
What about the programs?
To give you an idea of the type of speakers and topics offered, I received a card in the mail in March listing the schedule for April at the Wallace House. The activities include 3 programs:
1) Civility Today: Guest speakers discuss current civility issues and share experiences. Wednesdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Cost is $20 per person, lunch included. On April 9 Tina Mowry Hadden was guest speaker on "Tapping the Positive Power of Differences to Create Meaningful Results." On April 16 they'll have Carol Spaulding-Kruse of Drake University on "Talking With The Enemy: Dialogue in a Polarized Age." On April 23 it's Aaron Putze of the Iowa Food & Family Project discussing "Fields of Opportunity: How Better Farms Combined with Better Discourse Make a Better Iowa."
2) Food For Thought Dinners: Thursdays until December 18. Locally-sourced dining with conversation about food. Menu and topics change weekly. Reservations each half hour from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
3) Cookin' With Katie: On April 14 the topic is "Don't Forget About the Kids: introducing new foods to the young palate." On April 28 its "Pizzas at Home: traditional and inspired crusts with fresh garden toppings."
What about the rest of this year?
For the rest of 2014—beyond April—what is scheduled? Ann Taylor, marketing director, tells me The Wallace Centers of Iowa's popular Food for Thought dinners are being held through December 18, 2014. They began March 13 at the historic Wallace House at 756 16th Street in Des Moines. The weekly Thursday evening dinners combine changing themes and local experts with locally-sourced meals to spark conversation about food.
If you're interested in locally-sourced food and discussion about food, you can reserve a date and plan to attend.
Diners order from a changing menu created from local ingredients, including fruits and vegetables grown at the Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center near Orient, southwest of Des Moines in Adair County. The 2014 season for the Food for Thought dinners began on March 13 featuring a conversation with Diane Weiland, CEO of the Wallace Centers, about why the non-profit organization developed this program. Other food topics will range from specific ingredients such as asparagus May 1, ag education issues and farmers markets May 15, preparation methods and canning Aug. 21, and food issues such as eating vegan July 17, and sports nutrition Sept. 18.
Reservations required for dinners
For the Food for Thought dinners, a full listing of topics and dates is at www.wallace.org. Reservations are required as seating is limited. Call 515-243-7063 or email [email protected] to make your reservation.
Again, keep in mind The Wallace Centers of Iowa has two locations. The Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center is on a 40-acre farm in rural Orient; the Wallace House in Des Moines is in the historic Sherman Hill neighborhood, on the west edge of downtown. The two sites provide educational programs and community services, produce more than 45 different varieties of organic fruits and vegetables, and offer locally sourced meals.
What's going on at the farm?
At the Country Life Center near Orient, Gathering Table dinners are held on Fridays. Centered around the fresh produce grown on the site, dinners are offered 5:30 to 8 p.m. The changing menu can be observed on the Restaurant page at www.wallace.org. Reservations are suggested for groups. Contact [email protected] or phone 641-337-5019.
Also each Friday, Gathering Table lunches are served 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Country Life Center. Reservations are suggested for groups at the lunches. This destination attraction—The Country Life Center— includes the Gathering Table restaurant inside the historic replica barn, a gift shop featuring Iowa artists, a 9 acre prairie restoration with outdoor art sculptures, and seven different flower gardens.
Other Wallace Center programs
The Wallace Centers also offer other community building and educational programs. Here's a listing of all of them.
Real Soil, Real Food, A Real Difference educates teens about critical food issues such as food insecurity, food safety and nutrition with a 6-day intensive learning camp and long-term self-guided project.
Culinary Classes inspire cooks to use fresh, locally produced ingredients and expand their tastes.
Civility Lunches gather concerned community members around the table for discussion about civility in the community.
Everyday Civility helps to build civility in the workplace with a 2-hour learning session for employees.
Community Conversations facilitate conversation about current issues with community members and local experts.
Hearts & Homes Historic Teas share household tips and discuss topics of the day that were reported in the women's section of long-ago issues of Wallaces Farmer magazine.
Farm-to-Table Dinners showcase in-season produce grown at the Country Life Center in a gourmet menu at the Wallace House.
Garden Workshops offer advice from local and regional experts to both new and experienced gardeners.
The Wallace Centers also has an Entrepreneurial Food Production Processes and Activities program, sharing practical advice and methods with other producers. It has two parts: One Step at a Time helps emerging food entrepreneurs develop, test, process, package and market local food products to retail outlets; Small Farm Field and Business Apprenticeships bridges the gap between a typical partnership and independent farming with practical experience managing a medium-size organic produce garden.
The organization demonstrates its expertise in food entrepreneurial production with its own line of shelf-stable products such as jams, apple butter and flavored salts. Called Abundance, the products are for sale at both WCI locations.
Agri-Tourism Programs, Historic Tours and Archives provide information about the achievements of the Wallace family members to students, authors, researchers and the public for reports, articles, books, historical exhibits and general interest.
The Wallace House in Des Moines and The Country Life Center near Orient are open to the public. For dates and hours to visit or arrange a tour go to www.wallace.org.