Fremont County, Iowa

Local Foods
Author Unknown

View from the Attic ~ A Weekly Series
Fremont County Historical Society
Week of April 1, 2012

It is said that history repeats itself. In Fremont County and many other places, the return of local foods is demonstrating that point. The growing popularity of organic foods and the general interest in fresh foods grown close to home is leading to a growth in enterprises taking advantage of this trend.

One of the first examples of local foods in Fremont County was the County Home. Back in the early 1860s the Fremont County Home, known as the Poor Farm, was established two miles south of Sidney for the purpose of providing a home for returning Civil War veterans who were needy. It also provided local food for area residents because it ran a working farm as part of its sustainability.

Through the years, folks stopped by the farm to buy eggs, garden produce, and thick country cream. They brought their clean Mason fruit jars into which the cream was ladled for transportation to their kitchens where they could make it into butter, or pour it on oatmeal cereal, or whip it into thick swirls to spoon over desserts. This continued up into the 1950s. Eventually federal regulations and restrictions on having residents of poor farms used as laborers (fear they were being exploited?) ended the farming practices of the County Home and with it a great source of local foods.

In the late 1880s into the early 1900s Fremont County was known for it fresh produce. There were asparagus fields along with other truck gardens in the area. Orchards were abundant. Early accountings of local communities describe railroad depots shipping cows, hogs, chickens and garden stuff to Omaha and St Joseph on a regular basis.

The latter part of the 1900s, most of the orchards and gardens disappeared replaced by corn and soybeans. All due to the economics of making a living in agriculture helped in part by laws passed for food safety.

The 2000s are seeing local foods making a comeback. First, processes have been developed that make local food production safe. Second, the interest of big city residents wanting to get back to a simpler time is resulting in the blossoming of local food producers. The first to come back were the wineries. Now, along with orchards, there are fields of Aroni berries. Another growing market is meat and cheeses organically grown. In that vein the current chef of Lied Farms in Nebraska City is using his expertise in obtaining and utilizing locally produced foods for the menu at the Lied Center Conference destination resort. Chef Matthew Taylor has developed a network of farms in south east Nebraska and western Iowa that provide him the foodstuff he needs to produce a gourmet menu for the Lied Center Dining Room.

The Historical Society is teaming up with Chef Taylor to help promote his mission though a gourmet dinner on April 12 in Sidney, Iowa. Those attending will be treated to a gourmet dinner along with a presentation by Taylor on the way he obtains and prepares food that he uses for his restaurant. He'll share tips on his cooking techniques and generously share recipes. Chef Taylor will also distribute a list of local foods producers.

The Gathering Place doors will open at 5:00 so participants can view silent auctions items and learn about local growers. Chef Taylor's program begins at 5:30 with his special dinner served at 6:00. The proceeds from this evening will go to continuing the work needed on the society's Rodeo Museum. Seating for the dinner is limited.

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Page updated on May 10, 2017 by Karyn Techau