The saying “Do what you love, and it will never feel like you’re working” rings true for Ashley Wenke and her husband, Zach. 

The couple owns Pleasant Grove Homestead in Montezuma, through which they provide 100% homegrown products like meat, produce, eggs and honey to surrounding communities through farmer’s markets, cooperatives and other direct-to-consumer channels. 

The Wenkes, who are Poweshiek County Farm Bureau members, recently won the Iowa Farm Bureau's 2024 Grow Your Future Award for young ag entrepreneurs.

They planted the first seed for their business after getting married in 2016 and purchasing their 6-1/2 acre plot. 

“Little by little, we’ve grown this small acreage into a big place for our community to find fresh produce, poultry, honey, eggs and pork,” Wenke says. “Once we started having chickens and gardening on our acreage, we saw others in our community wanting access to fresh foods, too. We started off with a little roadside stand that was self-serve, but we soon had more than that shed could hold, so we just kept expanding to more markets where we heard there was a need for products we had.”

Wenke explains they came up with the name for Pleasant Grove Homestead because their home was originally in Pleasant Grove township in Barnes City.

“As for homestead, we wanted our place to serve as a resource for food in our area, and a homestead traditionally was known as a house with farm buildings,” Wenke says. “It's fitting because our house is literally right at the city limits for Barnes City.”

Over the years, the Wenkes have learned there are a lot of farmers who want to figure out how to scale up their small acreages to serve their communities. 

“It's been fun to network with them and present at various conferences to show like-minded people just how possible it is to serve their community,” Wenke says. “Even more rewarding is the number of people who continue to support us year after year. We were so surprised to see how many people voted for us in Iowa Farm Bureau’s 2024 Grow Your Future Award and continue to share posts on social media every day about our operation and how we've touched them in some way.” 

For Wenke, one of the best parts of owning Pleasant Grove Homestead is seeing how people use their products to cook something nourishing that their family loves. This stems from her passion for cooking and family life as it relates to mealtime. 

As an extension of this, Wenke hopes to grow the business’s blog, at 


“I have a huge interest in helping people learn how to prepare farm to table meals, and the blog seems to be a great way to connect with customers I don't get to interact with on a weekly basis,” she shares. 

For example, one post series covers how to cook and use a whole chicken and make broth from the carcass. 

“The whole chicken is a cheaper purchase option, but most people turn away from it because they think it's difficult or they are worried they will waste it,” Wenke says. 

Thanks to Wenke, that doesn’t have to be the case anymore. 

Both Ashley and Zach feel it’s important to be connected to their customers and others who want to supply more food to their communities. 


“You visit nearly any small-town farmers market around Iowa, and they are missing high-quality fresh foods,” Wenke says. 

“If we can help grow that across the state, we are happy to help any way we can. Producers shouldn't have to travel to Des Moines to feel like they can make money, and consumers should be able to visit any town in their county and find someone with locally grown food for sale.” 

This year, the Wenkes are excited to grow their CSA (community supported agriculture) membership, known as PGH Elite, as well as streamline some processes to make things more efficient for both the business and its customers.  

For the Wenkes, even though they go to bed after midnight and are often tired (they’re welcoming their fourth child soon!), they often say to each other, “Pretty cool life,” after they realize they’ve accomplished something they thought was impossible — like picking fresh tomatoes in January from their high tunnel. 

“That’s got to be the big win,” Wenke says.

Giardino is a freelance writer from Polk City.