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Tom Thoma / LOWELL WASHBURN, for the Globe Gazette  

An adult great horned owl — a “flying tiger.”

STEVEN THOMPSON, Mitchell County Press-News  

Steve Strasheim hand-weeds one of his beds at Twisted River Farm. 

The Gathering: Annual event connects North Iowans with local producers, foods

MASON CITY | The official start to farmers market season is still two months away, but North Iowans will have the opportunity to sample some of their local offerings in meat, produce, honey, wine and beer this weekend.

That’s thanks to “The Gathering: Coming Together Around Local Food,” an event hosted by Healthy Harvest of North Iowa in partnership with other organizations and businesses, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday at the North Iowa Events Center Olsen Building, 3700 Fourth St. SW, in Mason City.

“It’s good to get people out from hibernation from this winter and say, ‘Hey, look, we got farmers markets coming up and we have tons of growers and lots of local food,’” said Steve Strasheim, owner of Twisted River Farm in Mitchell. “We’ve got a lot more to offer from small-scale producers up here than people realize.”

The “jam-packed” “family-oriented” event, which is free and open to the public, will feature a Winter Marketplace, mini workshops and a children’s space offering hands-on educational activities.

This is Healthy Harvest of North Iowa’s second year hosting the event, but Jan Libbey, the nonprofit’s executive director, said the planning committee made “quite a bit” of changes this year to better connect and educate North Iowans with the local food system.

“This is just the first hint of what’s to come with our local food,” Libbey said.

More than 30 North Iowa producers promoting and selling products, like meat, produce, honey, eggs, wine and beer, will participate in the Winter Marketplace.

Twisted River Farm, an urban quarter-acre salad greens and microgreens farm in Mitchell, and Grand View Beef, a grass-fed beef producer in Clarion, are among them.

Strasheim said Twisted River Farm, which has been in the market gardening and microgreens business for the past three years, will offer its full variety of microgreens, like micro-broccoli, micro-mustard and pea shoots, to sample and purchase as well as information of where you can find its product in stores and restaurants in North Iowa, like Simply Nourished in Clear Lake, Café Mir in Fertile and Hy-Vee East in Mason City.

Its salad greens will be available at the farmers markets in Mason City and Clear Lake this year.

“Our hope is to get in front of a lot of new faces,” Strasheim said.

Amanda Severson said Grand View Beef, which was started with her husband, Knute, in 2017, will provide grass-fed products, like steaks, roasts and specialty cuts, as well as educational information about their farm.

“The Gathering is a wonderful opportunity to test out buying local, and all the producers are there to help and they want to share about their business, so if you’ve never been, this is the perfect opportunity to try it,” she said.

Grand View Beef attends farmers market in Clear Lake and Ames as well as special events throughout the year. Its product can also be purchased at Simply Nourished or directly from them.

The Winter Marketplace will also offer recipe samples thanks to support from MercyOne North Iowa Medical Center.

Libbey said the mini-workshop schedule featuring “an interesting mix of topics” aims to expand knowledge on buying, using and growing local food.

The sessions are as follows:

  • 9 to 9:20 a.m.: Local edible landscaping by Cerro Gordo County Public Health
  • 9:30 to 9:50 a.m.: First Church Food Initiatives
  • 10 to 10:20 a.m.: Cooking with local foods by Chef Joshua Frederick
  • 10:30 to 10:50 a.m.: How to buy local meat with County Line Locker
  • 11 to 11:20 a.m.: Microgreens for the home Gardener with Twisted River Farms
  • 11:30 to 11:50 a.m.: Charles City Edible Landscaping
  • Noon to 12:20 p.m.: Healthy Harvest of North Iowa annual meeting
  • 12:30 to 12:50 p.m.: Pie-crust making with Apples on the Avenue
  • 1 to 1:20 p.m.: Nut demonstration with Iowa Nut Growers

The children’s activities, supported by North Iowa Beekeepers, Club, North Iowa Gardeners and Central Gardens of North Iowa, will allow youth to explore their food and where it comes from through hands-on learning.

Libbey said breakfast and lunch offerings will be provided by grounded On Main of Clarion.

“We want people to come out and just enjoy everything there is,” she said.

For more information about the event, including a full list of Marketplace vendors, visit the event’s Facebook page or

Photos: Harvest in North Iowa

Photos: Harvest in North Iowa

STEVEN THOMPSON, Mitchell County Press-News  

Steve Strasheim spends many hours hand-weeding his beds at Twisted River Farm in Mitchell. 

O'Rourke to make multiple stops in Iowa

DES MOINES (AP) — Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke is planning a series of stops in Iowa beginning Thursday as he nears an announcement on a 2020 White House bid.

O'Rourke, a former congressman, is set to make stops in Burlington, along the Mississippi River in southeast Iowa, and Dubuque, to the north, during his three days in Iowa, according to two people familiar with the plans.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to disclose details of the plans.

A spokesman said Monday that O'Rourke planned to visit the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday to campaign for Eric Giddens, the Democratic candidate running in a state Senate special election this month. O'Rourke released a video Monday night from Texas, announcing his support for Giddens and wearing a University of Northern Iowa cap.

The additional stops in Iowa, host of the first caucuses of the 2020 presidential nominating campaign, have the look of an early presidential visit.

O'Rourke plans to headline a party at the house of Dubuque County Recorder John Murphy on Saturday evening.

"When they show up here, we know why. And it's not for the climate," said Dubuque County Democratic Chairman Steve Drahozal. "It seems to me to be indicative of someone with presidential aspirations."

O'Rourke, who lost a close U.S. Senate race in Texas in November to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz, had previously declined to accept invitations to visit Democrats in Iowa, New Hampshire and other early nominating states and hasn't yet made major staffing moves in those places.

He says he's decided on 2020 but has provided no further details except that he'll make his plans known soon.

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Cerro Gordo Board of Supervisors approves budget, countywide levy down and valuation up

CERRO GORDO | The Cerro Gordo County Board of Supervisors voted 3-0 on Tuesday morning on a resolution to approve the latest yearly budget.

The countywide levy, which Cerro Gordo residents would pay, dropped by six cents while the county's valuation rose by $150 million. 

For Fiscal Year 2018 to 2019 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019), the countywide levy was $6.19 and will now be $6.13 for Fiscal Year 2019 to 2020 (July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020).

The countywide valuation went from $2.638 billion to $2.788 billion over that same stretch.

Drops in the mental health/developmental disabilities levy and the debt service levy, which is typically used for brick and mortar "capital" projects​, account for the difference over the time periods. 

By department, the county is expected to spend $36.12 million in 2019-2020 which is up from $34.8 million over the previous fiscal year.

ValuationsFY 2014-2015FY 2015-2016FY 2016-2017FY2017-2018FY 2018-2019FY 2019-2020
Countywide valuation$2,282,153,509$2,322,398,085$2,403,046,851$2,545,051,873$2,638,850,112$2,788,076,023
Countywide levy$6.24$6.24$6.23$6.19$6.19$6.13
Utility and property tax dollars$14,320,960$14,595,427$15,038,458$15,815,801$16,395,740$17,146,561
Rural valuation$729,158,001$749,329,030$768,495,583$809,637,606$823,830,932$894,469,772
Rural levy$3.50$3.50$3.50$3.50$3.50$3.50
Utility and property tax dollars$2,557,442$2,628,189$2,695,414$2,839,715$2,889,496$3,137,254
General basic levy$3.50$3.50$3.50$3.50$3.50$3.50
General supplemental levy$1.43$1.49$1.55$1.78$1.77$1.77
Mental health levy$0.90$0.69$0.63$0.56$0.57$0.54
Debt service levy$0.40$0.56$0.54$0.35$0.35$0.31
Total countywide levy

The county engineer and secondary roads department accounts for the largest share of the budget at $8.38 million while the sheriff's department budget comes in second at a projected $7.52 million. 

The third highest is public health at $5.29 million. 

Department2019-2020 Budget2018-2019 Re-estimated budget2017-2018 Actual budget
CPC/Mental Health$2,267,305$2,294,327$2,256,059
Public health$5,297,077$5,297,671$4,909,578
Secondary roads$8,382,100$7,800,826$6,507,470

County Supervisor Casey Callanan said that the budget that was passed was a "good budget, a fair budget" and expressed the board's wish that they would've been able to drop the levy by even more. 

Fellow County Supervisor Tim Latham concurred with Callanan and thanked the various department heads in attendance at the meeting for coming in with budget proposals that were "realistic."

"That makes them a joy to work with," Latham said.