Cherry Berry Crumb Cobbler

Last week I enjoyed the Mini Me’s second year as a 4-H exhibitor at our county fair.  I take a week of vacation from my off-farm job to be at the beck and call of my kids and their projects and fair obligations.  It is the only week of the year that I unplug from my work and it honestly isn’t a week of rest for me.  It is a week that I do cherish, because I see my daughter grow and develop as a human. It also provides me with the deadline to make time to teach her life skills that I think she will need and personally benefit from having as a functioning adult.

 

This year we discussed presentations and participation.  She wasn’t immediately excited about doing a presentation this year.  I was a mean mom and made her do one, because I know that the ability to speak and interact in a crowd is a life skill.  She adjusted one of her Visual Arts Projects – a yarn print – into a working exhibit. She did well enough that she will be taking her presentation to the State Fair. She is excited and nervous and I’m thrilled for her and hopeful we can make it work.

 

This year the conversation in the car and barn was if my daughter would to do her own calf fitting. The Mini-Me made the decision and clipped her replacement heifer project 90% herself. It was a good first shot and I enjoyed watching her surf my phone to find videos of how to clip breeding heifers. We didn’t find that many, but she concentrated on the front legs, top line and tail.  Next year I’m hopeful we can take in a clipping clinic or find some additional resources online.

 

This year she was the only calf in her class and had to stay for the Champion Commercial/Cross-bred Heifer.  Her class had some really showy calves and one family had what I would call a groomer in the ring with them.  All the calves waiting were parked in the ring facing North and the groomed calf and another were parked facing West.  I counted the number of times that the groomer bumped into the Mini-Me’s calf.  Her calf was easy going and handled it well and he apologized once when he saw me give him the show mom stink eye, but my daughter dealt with it just fine. She didn’t lose her cool in the ring and she had prepared her calf well enough that it just came closer to her every time its space was invaded. It wasn’t the ideal situation, but I saw my daughter hold her ground in the show ring politely and without dissolving into tears for the Farmer to come save her from his place on the fence about 10 feet away from her.  That experience prepared her for times when coworkers or even mentors question or poke at her beliefs or values.

 

 I tried something new at this fair, too.  I entered some canned cherries in the open class.  I had never done that before and earned a blue ribbon and some helpful critiques.  A friend from church was kind enough to share some of his prolific cherries. I have 14 pints of pressure canned cherries that I can now use for pies, cobblers and other treats.

 

Lots of folks like to think that Iowa is only corn and beans, but our plant growing capacity is far more diverse than one might think. In every area of Iowa there are pick your own berry farms and orchards.  Before the accepted use of 2,4-D to control weeds in row crops, grape vines were almost an invasive species in Iowa’s fence rows.

 

Today, you can find producers of grapes, strawberries, cherries, blueberries, all kinds of melons, as well as apples, pears and some varieties of peaches along with the more traditional corn and beans. There are also commercial sweet corn and green bean, pea and other vegetable growers across the state.  

 

I’m fine with buying fruit at the store, and have bought fruit direct from the producer, too.  I like the ripeness of fresh produce. I love it when it is cheap and on my own ground but I don’t mind cheap from the store or direct from the producer.  My food philosophy is more about food security for the masses, spreading production out over different geographies and micro climates and serving those who are looking for local food production. 

 

I don’t claim that my gardens or selling what I grow there makes me a farmer. But, I am a food producer all the way from the hogs and cattle, to the row crops, to our gardens that feed several local families. I am realizing that the more we sell direct to the consumer, the more risk we take on and the more profit we have potential to net.  Farming is all about risk and profit and non-traditional crops may be an area where there is more profit per square foot for our family.

 

This is one way to look at it...

Hardin County Iowa Average Corn Yield 173 bushels /acre * 4.28/bu= $740/Acre income or $.02/square feet gross income ($740/43,560 ft2/acre)

 

Garden income over 16 weeks $1,125/2,700 ft2 in my garden= $.41/square foot and a lot of handwork and personal marketing. You work hard for those extra 39 cents.

Corn and beans are far more profitable on large scale production and when producers have loans out on land and 100's of acres to cover, labor costs for intensive food production quickly impacts net income per square foot.  At our farm we have close to 5 acres and a lot of free labor, so it makes sense to use our land resources to generate what income we can, how we can.  Our garden share will produce enough to cover input and marketing expenses, pay our property taxes and provide about 30% of our annual grocery bill.  I'm okay with those payouts, but a larger landed person wouldn't be okay with the amount of labor needed to weed or harvest and the time it takes to market the products.  That is just fine. There is a spot for everyone in ag.  It doesn't have to be one way or another.  Agriculture is a free choice haven, just like purchasing food is a free choice market.  If someone if going to pay me extra to do it one way or another, why wouldn't I consider the better paid option and weigh the costs and benefits?

 

Back to those free canned cherries and the county fair… The canned cherries were added to some fresh blueberries for a microwave friendly desert for a family fair supper at my parent’s camper. They were delish, especially with a big chunk of ice cream. The recipe is an adaptation of my mother-in-law’s recipe.  I’ve increased the flour to adjust to microwave cooking.

Berry Crumb Cobbler

The Groceries:

Crumb Topping

2 C All Purpose Flour

1 1/3 Cup firmly packed brown sugar

¾ C Almost Melted Butter

1/8 t Cinnamon

Berry Filling:

2C fresh Berries or frozen

1 Pt or 1 can cherries with 60% of juice drained off

¼ C Flour

¼ C Sugar

Dash of Cinnamon

 

Process:

Lightly grease a glass baking dish ( I like the size just smaller than a 9x13).

Toss berries together with flour, sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

Pour into the baking dish.

Combine Flour, Brown Sugar and Cinnamon.

Stir in butter until crumbly.

Top fruit with crumb topping.

Cook at full power in your microwave for 3, 5 minute intervals or until the topping is crisp.

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