roomJUNE 2012 41"He's small enough that he can crawl up in there, and old enough now to gather the eggs without breaking them," Eric explains as he walks among the colorful hens and roosters with his family on a recent Sunday afternoon.Eric hoists Milo up into the homemade "egg mobile" that he built to maximize grazing ground for their 600 pasture-raised chickens. Milo also helps corral the baby chicks.The family grows a bounty of vegetables: Spinach, Swiss chard, lettuce, mustard greens, arugula, cilantro, kale and Tatsoi, an Asian green, along with radishes, carrots, shallots, green onions, leeks, several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers, okra, beans and pumpkins.They also grow strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes and seven different types of garlic-all without pesticides. The property, once home to a one-room schoolhouse, was used as horse pasture for at least the last 20 years, ideal for growing organic produce. ?It's peaceful, but there's - Eric Menzel""always a lot of work to do."do.
42 roomJUNE 2012 A local beekeeper tends three large hives in a secluded corner of the acreage, accommodating some 3,000 honey bees that in turn pollinate their fruits and vegetables. There is a bit of irony in Eric's choice of farming."It was something I didn't want to do as a kid," he says with a laugh. "So it makes it fun because my sister likes to remind me that long ago I protested our family's move to Iowa farm country." Visiting his great aunt's farm near Center Point as a boy left a positive impression of the rural lifestyle, however."I got to see where food came from," he said. "We gardened extensively and got beef, sweet corn, green beans and tomatoes from the farm. I was always interested in food," he said. "My parents worked and we ended up preparing our own meals." Eric attended the University of Iowa and became a professional cook, manning the stove at The State Room in the Iowa Memorial Union, The Kitchen and was later a sous chef in California before returning to the Midwest to begin his vocation as an organic farmer. ?Even Milo, 2, has a job to do: Crawling up into the hen wagon to gather eggs.