THE PRODUCER – From farm to table

By Ashley Buckowing

What is more true to Iowa than a hard-working family starting a farm business that has been around for decades? Outside of breaded pork loin sandwiches and strawberry shortcake, not too much.

Cleverly Farms takes pride in bringing fresh, new produce to many tables in the state of Iowa.

Cleverly Farms takes pride in bringing fresh, new produce to many tables in the state of Iowa.

Larry Cleverley at Cleverley Farms holds the ideal American dream. Moving back to Iowa from New York City (and a time in Chicago) after 24 years to work on his grandparents’ farm, Cleverley has made quite the name for himself. Cleverley Farms distributes to about a dozen restaurants in the Des Moines metro, as well as to Gateway Market and selling at the Des Moines Farmers Market each Saturday of the summer and fall months.

“I do things that will make the next day easier,” said Cleverley. “There’s obviously a lot of different tasks that we perform every day. We just do what needs to be done. You know, we do planting or weeding or harvesting, you know, you name it. Usually we work ‘til dark.” In short? Running a farm means working hard from before sunrise to far after it sets — and Cleverley loves doing it.

Cleverley Farms produces just about every vegetable you can think of. From salad greens, spices and fruits to specialty vegetables, Cleverley Farms has it all. “We probably do 50 different vegetables in untold varieties of each one,” explained Cleverley.

But that success hasn’t come easily. When he first began farming in 1997, society wasn’t so receptive. Cleverley did say, though, that one of the best things about being a farming producer in Iowa now is that the people have grown to be more supportive and accepting.

“People [at the Farmer’s Market] in 1997 had never seen baby leaf lettuce, nobody had ever seen fingerling potatoes, no one had ever seen a farmer growing their own garlic, or carrots that were something besides orange,” explained Cleverley. He remembered one woman telling him to bring back the beans when they were all grown up, and another giving him a hard time about his baby leaf lettuce. “I think we expanded Des Moines’ food variety tremendously.”

Cleverley Farms is located in Mingo and is frequently represented at the Farmers Market on Court Avenue in downtown Des Moines on Saturdays. Find Cleverley and his farm-fresh fare at the market and share his passion for homegrown Iowa goodness. RELISH


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Categories: The Producer

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