Celebrate the summer solstice with Grow: Johnson County

Solstice Party and Open House

Grow: Johnson County farm — Sunday, June 26 a 1 p.m.

Grow: Johnson County
Grow: Johnson County’s mission is “to combat food insecurity and promote health through charitable food production and education” — photo by Jessica Rilling

Grow: Johnson County, an organization formed over the last year to work towards and strategize ways to combat hunger in Johnson County, is inviting the public to a Solstice Party and open house event at their farm (4811 Melrose Avenue in Iowa City) on Sunday, June 26. The free event, which starts at 1 p.m., will feature music from Cedar County Cobras and refreshments from New Pioneer Coop.

Representatives from the Johnson County Historical Society will be on-hand offering tours of the farm, including the old asylum, with an eye towards its past. More present- and forward-looking tours will be available as well, guided by the Grow: Johnson County initiatives founders. Grow: Johnson County is the brainchild of Bob Andrlik, executive director of Table to Table, John Boller, executive director of the Coralville Ecumenical Food Pantry, Jason Grimm, a food systems planner at Iowa Valley Resource Conservation and Development, and Scott Koepke, founder of New Pi’s Soilmates educational organic gardening program. This supergroup of local food heroes joined forces to, as their website puts it, ensure “that our neighbors in need can access foods that will sustain and nourish them.”

Scott Koepke, Grow: Johnson County's garden educator, speaks to a group of children -- photo by John Boller
Scott Koepke, Grow: Johnson County’s garden educator, speaks to a group of children — photo by John Boller

“It’s an incredible feeling!” says Boller, the group’s project director. “[O]n Sunday we celebrate getting this far, but also look ahead and continue dreaming about what this program can do to reduce hunger and improve the health of our community.” He notes that the group’s past two years of “dreaming and planning” have resulted in a successful “two acres of tangible food in the ground.”

Those two acres will be turned around starting this year in donations to a variety of local hunger-relief agencies. Grow: Johnson County is committed to reaching the community both directly, through provisions, and more deeply, through educational opportunities and hands-on learning. Solstice party attendees will get a taste of that hands-on learning with a chance to make and eat a massaged kale salad. The festivities run from 1–3 p.m. on Sunday. More information, including directions to the farm, is available on the Facebook event page.

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