Summarized by Kent Larsen
Project Seeks to reintroduce a Mormon crop in Iowa
Council Bluffs IA Nonpariel 23Jan00 D6
By B. J. Balm: Staff Writer
OAKLAND, IOWA -- Citizens in Oakland, in Western Iowa are trying to
reintroduce vineyards into the Loess Hills area. Vineyards were first
introduced to the region by Mormon pioneers, who planted the grapes to
provide refreshment for later companies of pioneers.
At their height, vineyards occupied more than 6,000 acres in Iowa,
including 618,768 vines in 1935 in Pottawattamie County. The vines
yielded more than 2 million pounds of grapes that year, down from 4
million pounds in 1929.
But the depression, prohibition and a freeze on Armistice day in 1940
killed many of the vines or pushed growers to other crops. And then a
herbicide, 2-4D was introduced for use on corn. The herbicide blew into
the vineyards from miles away, causing the grapes to ripen too late and
lowering their sugar content, and thus their quality. By the 1970s there
were just 10 growers of grapes left in Iowa.
Now the Hungry Canyons Alliance is trying to reintroduce the crop, and
is holding an introductory seminar for those that want to learn more.
Pam Neenan of Hungry Canyons says that grapes can be good for the soil,
"Vineyards protect the soil, prevent erosion and are a perennial crop,
so one gets away from yearly tilling of the soil."