Days 13 &14 Rowley, IA
Yes, I know. The last post said “days 10-14,” but I lied. That was only days 10-12. Days 13 & 14 were on the Gardner Family Farm in Rowley, IA, and it’s quite interesting how we found ourselves there.
Months ago I was scrolling Instagram and came across a post from my cousin, Ashley. The post was a picture of a few folks all smiling around a table. Ashley’s caption identified one of the smiling faces as her hippy, hemp-farming cousin, @iowahempgirl. I was intrigued and clicked on the tag to find out that @iowahempgirl’s name is Alissa and she owns a company that sells CBD products processed from the organic hemp grown on their 6th generation family farm.
I located Cedar Rapids on the map, which is the nearest city to the farm, and realized we could route our tour though there. I messaged Alissa, introducing myself and making the connection that we have a mutual cousin through marriage. I told her of my summer tour and that I would like to play on the farm. I received a quick response that simply stated, “Let’s do it.”
Fast forward through all the details, and here we are on this beautiful farm. We have been on farms before, but there was a special energy surrounding this one. Later, I would come to find out that they only use vintage farm equipment that had been in the family for generations. They like to be as close to the dirt as possible, and new farming technology has the ability create separation from the farmer and his farm. It’s a love that goes deeper than the dollars generated from their efforts. It’s a love of purity and simplicity. It’s a love for the past. It’s a love of farming.
Alissa’s twelve year old son, Tristan, greeted us at the driveway and raced us up the unpaved road to show us where we could pop up. Alissa was soon to greet us as well as her husband, Chad, who had just taken over the farm about a year ago. Tristan and August would become inseparable for the next forty eight hours.
After setting up, we drove over to the main house to cook dinner and visit with our newly acquainted friends. I grilled up the last of the crawfish boudin from Poche’s that I had, and that seemed to have broken the ice for an evening full of conversation and laughter around the fire. Chad’s mom and dad joined us, and Alissa made strawberry shortcake with berries freshly picked from the patch. We all packed it in around ten to rest up for the next day’s show.
I quickly found out that Alissa does nothing half- assed and is a marketing queen. After our conversation about playing the farm, she created a page named Iowa Farm Concerts and quickly gained almost a thousand followers. I originally thought she would just invite friends and family for the show, but as it turns out, she marketed through the local paper as well as at all of the markets where she sells her hemp products. She was nervous no one would show.
We had well over a hundred people show up to the farm for the show. Some had driven from just down the road. Others had driven from over an hour away. The stage was a hay cart set at the rear of an old barn that faced a stocked pond with all of the guests setting up chairs between the two. Annie and Iris from The Savage Hearts opened up the show with some beautiful, old timey fiddle music. All of the butterflies Alissa had in her stomach prior to the downbeat were gone. It was clear the evening would be a success.
With the sun setting directly in front of me over the pond, the crowd was tuned in and Maggie couldn’t get a break from the merch table. August and Tristen sat in on a few songs, and they wowed the crowd with their natural talent. The most moving part of the evening for me was how many people came up to me after the show to share the connection they experienced with the music. One girl with an exceptionality told me that my music made her believe in herself and feel comfortable just being herself. These are the moments that validate everything. Funny, I ended up laying in our camper later that evening and telling Maggie how I’m finally starting to gain complete confidence in what I do. I’m seeing that what I’m doing matters, and it feels good.
I slept well that night, and I woke up refreshed and energized. We spent the last morning with our newly acquainted families eating fresh omelettes and tilling the soil to prep for the upcoming hemp season.
Spencer Bohren imparted some wisdom on his son, Andre, who later passed on to me that if you don’t leave by 10, you won’t leave til noon. Well once again, that philosophy proved to have merit; but this time, I didn’t mind leaving at noon. Our next destination would be there when we got there, and we wanted to squeeze every last second we could with the Gardner family.
I know I always say how grateful I am for these experiences, but I truly am. And without any cell or internet signal to look up synonyms and a half dead brain from the last two weeks preventing me from coming up with anything on my own, I’ll just repeat myself. I am grateful.
Be good to yourselves and each other.