August 17, 2023
Returning to the family farm was something Carolyn Adolphs wanted to do, but she didn’t realize it would happen when it did — after the tragic death of her parents in 1983. They had purchased the farm in 1952 and she and her husband, Ken, took over the farm in 1984.
The Tama County diversified farm consists of corn, soybeans, hay, an orchard and a cow herd. When the Adolphses moved there, they added a large garden to the operation, which continues today. Adolphs had taught school before she and Ken returned to the farm; at that point, she stayed home to help run the daily tasks and raise their two sons, Darin and Brandon.
Her help on the farm and keeping everything going through the years is one of the reasons she has earned the 2023 Iowa Master Farm Homemaker award. After Ken’s passing in 2021, Adolphs continued to run the farm, including the large garden, and travel to a weekly farmers market.
“When the boys were growing up, we let them have their own garden area and take their produce to the farmers market also, in order to earn money for college,” Adolphs says. For 42 years, the Adolphs family has traveled to farmers markets, and they have raised just about every type of produce that will grow in Iowa soil.
“I don’t always move around what is planted where, but I do for some things. I’ve found through the years what part of the farm the peppers grow best; I know the green beans need to be where I can get a sprinkler to them; and I like to grow different kinds of lettuces, because people like fresh lettuce,” Adolphs says.
Since her husband passed, she has planted less sweet corn, but still has tomatoes, beets and other vegetables, as well as the ones previously named. The 60-plus trees in the orchard serve mostly as fruits for Adolphs’ baking.
Adolphs likes to provide her customers with a full array of baked goods — pies, breads, cookies — using mostly the apples from her orchard. In addition to fruits, vegetables and baked goods, she has added cut flowers to her sale list.
“I usually prepare everything the night before the market. I make some flower arrangements and put them in jars. My customers don’t really care what the flower combination is — they just like the fresh flowers,” Carolyn says.
Her sons, neighbors and friends help a lot on the farm, from planting crops and gardens to making hay and helping with the cows to loading the farmers market truck. Adolphs is very thankful for all the help. She is also glad to have her five grandchildren learning about farming and helping when they can. “I have some grandchildren who live in the city, and I want to be sure they know where their food comes from and can share that with their friends,” she adds.
When Adolphs isn’t working in her garden or on the farm, she spends time with her church family at the small country church her family helped form nearly 20 years ago.
She has also been active on the Tama County Conservation board since 1996. The supervisor-appointed group meets once per month to discuss what needs to be done around the county with the group’s funds. They also have a couple of fundraisers each year to help with the upkeep of the county’s parks.
To go along with her work with gardens, Adolphs works with the local food movement at the nearby University of Northern Iowa, providing many tours of her farm and hosting not only American students, but also international students to show them how food is grown.
“Many people ask me how long I’ll keep doing this. I will keep doing it as long as I can. Getting out and planting, weeding, picking is good for my body. I’m not sure what I’d do if I couldn’t get this kind of exercise and enjoy life on the farm,” Adolphs says. This is why she has earned the title of Iowa Master Farm Homemaker.
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