MOUNT VERNON — Kit Kirby’s interest in farming started with her passion for food.
A graduate of Kirkwood Community College’s culinary program, she started meeting farmers while working at Cedar Rapids restaurant Caucho. They would drop off boxes of tomatoes and peppers and other produce that Kirby helped turn into tacos and salsas. Talking with them, her interest in their work grew.
“I had never really thought of where my food was coming from,” she said. “I like serving food where I know where it came from and tell people about where it came from.”
She moved to Washington state to work on a farm there, then moved back to Iowa and spent a season working at Morning Glory farm, a small vegetable farm just outside Mount Vernon. There she found a way for her two passions, farming and cooking, to come together, when Morning Glory owner Donna Warhover asked her to help the farm start it’s own food truck.
Warhover hopes the food truck, which focuses on dishes made with the farm’s vegetables, helps raise awareness about the farm and it’s mission of promoting sustainably grown food while fostering community.
“I’m very passionate about growing good food, but I’m more passionate about growing community around good food,” Warhover said.
When she and Kirby talked about ways to get their produce in front of more people, they briefly considered a full restaurant, but decided that would be too large of an investment. They landed on the idea of a food truck instead, with the benefits of lower overhead costs and greater flexibility. Kirby moved onto the farm full time to run the truck. She designed the menu, helps pick the vegetables she cooks with, and prepares the food.
“I go out for an hour or so in the mornings and pick what I want, so there’s minimal waste,” she said.
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The food truck started serving in June. Warhover had it custom built; it has no fryers, just flat top cook surfaces with burners and grill, plus plenty of refrigeration space so all the food can be made fresh.
Their offerings include quinoa bowls topped with charred seasonal vegetables, pork and vegetarian tacos and breakfast sandwiches.
They make the English muffins for their breakfast sandwiches from scratch, cooking them in the truck. Whenever possible, they use local ingredients, Warhover said. The produce served on the truck is all from Morning Glory farm, as are the majority of the eggs. They source black beans from Grimm Family Farms, tortillas from La Reyna, pork from Pavelka Point farm or Big Boy Meats, Wake Up Iowa coffee and Dan & Debbie’s Creamery milk.
“It’s very important to us to support the other small local businesses in our community,” Warhover said. “As a small local business owner, I know I couldn’t do what I’m doing without the support of my community. This community has so much to offer. I think the consumers benefit when we use local products.”
Warhover and her husband Bill own three acres and rent an additional 2.5 acres for their farm. In addition to the food truck, Morning Glory sells produce at the Iowa City Farmers Market and through a CSA, or community supported agriculture program, in which people pay upfront for a weekly box of produce throughout the summer. They also sell directly to area restaurants.
CSA members are welcome out to the farm to see how their produce is grown and to lend a hand with farming itself. Warhover also works with community groups, like Goodwill of the Heartland, where Warhover was previously executive assistant to the CEO. Adults with disabilities work at the farm two to three times a week through Goodwill’s Day Habilitation program.
“This is their farm, and they do good work and contribute to this place,” Warhover said.
She also has middle school students from Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy and Matthew 25’s summer camps visit the farm for hands-on learning experiences.
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The food truck, meanwhile, both takes the farm into the community and brings people back to the farm. In addition to serving meals at places like the Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers’ Market and Science Thursdays at the University of Iowa, the farm hosts monthly breakfasts on the farm, open to anyone.
“I really want Morning Glory to be the community’s farm,” Warhover said. “By having the truck here for monthly events, it’s encouraging people to come and spend time here and see what we’re doing and see what it takes to grow food in a sustainable way.”
Sustainability is a key part of her ethos. Warhover said the weather this year, with the late, cool spring, has meant the crops have not been ready when she would normally expect them. The season is delayed by about three weeks, she said, which raises worries about getting all the warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers harvested before frost sets in. She wonders if this is the new normal in a changing climate.
But she thinks part of the solution lies in encouraging small scale, local farming.
“I want people to know we live in a place where we can grow really, really good healthy, sustainably grown food. That’s going to become more and more important, and we need to educate people that they can eat sustainably grown, local food,” she said.
“Morning Glory is about more than growing food. It’s a big part of what we do, but an even bigger part is growing community around good food.”
• Comments: (319) 398-8339; firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go
• What: Morning Glory
• When and where: Follow location updates via Facebook, and look for the truck at Science Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Oct. 31 at the University of Iowa Carver Medical Center campus and Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers’ Markets. The truck also will serve breakfast from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday and Sept. 22 at Morning Glory farm, 681 Highway 1 S., Mount Vernon
• Details: (563) 451-6676, www.facebook.com/MorningGloryACommunityHarvestFarm and morningglory.community