How does your garden grow?

It felt like an old-fashioned barn raising — friends and neighbors gathering over food and celebrating with drinks, building something together. In the corner, a fiddle player and guitarist made people want to dance (and a few did). The room was all exposed beams and excitement.

In a way, last night’s benefit for Jennie Smith and her Butcher Crick Farms heirloom tomato project was a barn-raising. But instead of using out collective strength to pull a wooden frame into the air, we were bidding on spices and pies and Locally Grown T-shirts in a silent auction.

photo via one of Jennie's Facebook friends!

Jennie, who I met when I wrote a story about how she quit her insurance job to start up a tomato operation on her family’s Century Farm, is an inspiration to a lot of people in Des Moines. Some of the city’s best chefs cooked and donated amazing food and desserts, breweries and wineries provided kegs and cases of wine, and the third floor of the Teachout Building in the East Village was bustling with community members who wanted to wish one of Des Moines most beloved farmers well. Jennie’s traveling to New Zealand to learn more about sustainable agricultural practices and bring new techniques and ideas back to farm again in 2013. It was awesome to see our city rally around this woman, who it the essence of home-grown Iowa wonderfulness.

She spoke at last year’s TEDxDesMoines about her journey:

I am so impressed by how Des Moines comes together, pooling energy, talents and resources to make dreams like this come true. Jennie spoke last night about how her farm operation wouldn’t be possible without hundreds of hands chipping in and laboring alongside her, and last night was a celebration of all that and a bright new future for a farm.

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