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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

True Grinnellian: Ann Brau

Ann Brau works to produce locally- sourced food for all Grinnellians. Photo by Kelly Page.

Grinnell-based produce and small animal farmer Ann Brau has not always been a farmer, but in her words, she’s “always wanted to [be].”

Brau has always gardened at home (her current house in Grinnell has chickens on the front lawn) but she says she moved to professional agriculture because “I grew too much for my own family to consume.” Now she sells produce directly from her farm and through the Grinnell Farmers Market, which she additionally manages on Thursdays.

Brau also works on the College’s garden as a paid consultant through the Center for Prairie Studies. Professor John Andelson, anthropology, and leader of the Center, was one of the first subscribers to Brau’s CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and invited Brau to advise students about growing and harvesting their crops.

Brau moved from Malcolm, Iowa to Grinnell just over 10 years ago; she worked at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company and wanted her children to be able to go to school near her job.

Brau enjoys living in Grinnell because of the resources that it provides to its residents.

“I like the diversity of the community, the different activities that you can do. There’s more things in Grinnell that you can do than you could accomplish in a day, whether it be art or … a great library. You’ve got the College, you’ve got a variety of business, you’ve got the downtown which offers some amenities [and] the parks. There’s music, there’s almost monthly activities that different organizations have,” she said.

Although her job at Grinnell Mutual is more or less what brought her here, Brau does not work in insurance anymore — she gets to live her dream of being a farmer instead, owning Compass Plant CSA, a 4-acre farm located 10 miles east of Grinnell, with her husband Lisle Dunham.

There are currently about 10 members in her weekly CSA, an agricultural distribution model where a consumer “subscribes” to a farm’s produce for a season, taking home a box of veggies on a weekly basis. Most of Brau’s produce ends up in the fridges of Grinnell residents, a true example of buying local.

In addition to growing 40-50 different vegetables per season, Brau also raises chickens and guinea hogs, a very small pig she likes because they are “hearty, thrifty and do not require a lot of attention.” The hogs forage around her farm, helping make it more of a self-sustaining system.

Farming is Brau’s true passion.

“I like everything about farming. Going out at four below [zero degrees] in the snow to make sure everybody’s okay at the farm, to trying to figure out when to work on a day that’s 100 degrees to accomplish what needs to be accomplished, to especially harvesting and eating the produce out of the garden, that’s the best part” Brau said.

She also encourages others to try growing their own food.

“Just do it. Don’t be afraid. If you grow a pot of basil on your kitchen window you’ve done more than a lot of people, but we need more people to understand where their food comes from, how much work actually goes into it so they appreciate it and to understand that fresh food is the best food, nutritionally, for your local economy, for the environment. You don’t have to eat junk. There’s plenty of good stuff around.”

Ann Brau works to produce locally- sourced food for all Grinnellians. Photo by Kelly Page.
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