Where most people would see a fixer-upper house along a busy Des Moines street, Polk County Farm Bureau members Eric and Jenny Quiner envisioned a different future to unite their community.
The Quiners planted one of Iowa’s first urban farms in the northwest Des Moines neighborhood where they live, affectionately called the Dogpatch by the locals.
And their neighbors have embraced their new urban farm, with regulars stopping by each week to buy fresh lettuce, enjoy the greenspace in the city and get to know a local farm family who grows their food.
“Our farm slogan is cultivating community,” says Jenny Quiner. “We live here, and we want to make this community stronger."
As the busy Meredith Drive traffic zooms by, the farm's specialty lettuce grows in stripes of jewel colors, with light-to-dark shades of green, purple and ruby red.
“It’s a secret little gem here,” says Quiner, about her family’s urban farm, Dogpatch Urban Gardens (or DUG, for short).
Jenny credits her husband’s entrepreneurial spirit for planting the idea to create an urban farm in their neighborhood.
The Quiners, who both grew up in Des Moines, didn’t have much experience in farming before they started Dogpatch Urban Gardens.
Jenny taught environmental science at her alma matter, Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines. Eric works in real estate and home renovation.
Three years ago, the Quiners bought the fixer-upper house on Meredith Drive, removed the yard’s sod and sowed their first crop of lettuce greens, tomatoes and more. Surprisingly, soil tests showed that the land was perfect for growing vegetables, Jenny says.
The plot sits on a former farm owned by the Meredith family, founders of Meredith Corp. in Des Moines. The Quiners learned that the house once served as living quarters for the Merediths’ farmhands. They renovated the house and opened it as an AirBnB rental for overnight guests.
The Quiners also built a farmstand to sell their produce directly to customers. Their gourmet greens are sold to Des Moines-area restaurants and DUG farmstand customers. In addition, the Quiners offer a salad CSA (community-supported agriculture) program.
Jenny says their long-term goal is to host family-friendly events on the farm, such as local band concerts or weddings, so their three boys, all under the age of 7, can get more involved.
“This idea of ‘grow foods, not lawns,’ it’s really taking off. It’s got momentum,” she adds. “So we just saw an opportunity and thought let’s do it.”