Ag Tourism Publications
Corning Winery and Vineyards
This article was taken from Food Connections: Southern Iowa Local Foods Initiative Community Food Profile, written by Local Foods Coordinator, Alexi Groumoutis. Click here to view the full Community Food Profile.
Corning, Iowa, is forever stamped on the map for being the birthplace of the late television personality Johnny Carson. This quaint Midwestern town has added attractions which include The Corning Opera House Cultural Center, Lake Icaria, Icarian Village, Adams County Speedway and now Corning Winery and Vineyards that make it a town worth visiting. Corning Winery and Vineyards sits on five acres of land directly off of U.S. Highway 34.
In the early 2000’s, Barbara Corey and her late husband Ron flirted with the idea of planting a vineyard on their property to sell grapes and possibly craft and sell wine. With very little wine knowledge, the couple started doing their homework. Ron attended seminars learning as much as he could about the business of winemaking. Soon after, their idea became a reality and wine was being crafted, bottled and sold from their garage.
Eventually they built a pond in their front yard and constructed a building. Once completed, Ron pushed the building into the pond with his John Deer tractor, thus erecting the first floating winery in Iowa. Corning Winery and Vineyards opened Labor Day weekend of 2013. Sadly, Barbara lost Ron to cancer in 2014.
The floating winery is a cozy get-away accented with a charming wrap-around deck overlooking the pond and vineyard. Inside, a rectangular tempered glass floor, lights up, daring curious visitors to stand over it for a first-hand glimpse into the pond below.
The vineyards contain 2,700 grape plants which include six different varieties of grapes. After they were initially planted, the grapes took three years to mature before they could be harvested. The wines, which are made from the previous year’s crop, range from sweet to dry.
As the sole proprietor of the winery, Barbara wears many hats. She does everything from booking the parties to serving the drinks to preparing the food. She hires Amish workers to prune and pick the grapes and has retired medical doctor Steven Gruba make the wine.
Barbara credits Iowa State University Extension’s Horticulture Department as being a great resource for her business.
In addition to the winery, Barbara continues to work full time as surgical technician at the hospital in Corning where she has been employed for 22 years. Although she’s got a lot on her plate, Barbara says she enjoys her job at the winery so much, she doesn’t feel like she’s working. Barbara says the winery benefits Corning because it’s a tourist attraction that brings people to the community.
“This is a destination people come to,” said Barbara. “I get a lot of people off the highway traveling by. I get people from Omaha, Des Moines, Council Bluffs.”
During the summer months, many of her customers spill over from Lake Icaria. The winding road that has led to the winery’s opening has been a journey says Barbara, from the loss of her husband, to other challenges that have come her way. After all that Barbara’s been through, she finally experienced a moment of Zen that allowed her to slowly exhale.
Barbara recalls Fourth of July, 2014 when she hired her first band to perform. While walking from her house to the winery, the band was warming up. Hearing their music nearly brought tears to her eyes.
“I thought to myself,” ‘yes, that’s why we built this building,’ said Barbara. “It almost made me cry.”
It was at that moment she felt everything she had worked towards had come to fruition, from the planting of the grapes eight years prior to the winery finally opening.
“My greatest reward is seeing people enjoying the wines and the music coming out of the building,” said Barbara.
Corning Winery is open to the public and is available for parties and wedding (there is an outdoor gazebo). Patrons can stop by to enjoy a glass of wine or beer while watching the big game on television. Hot food can be ordered when booking a party in advance, otherwise light snacks and appetizers are available for purchase. Caterers can be brought in for special events. The winery hosts special classes like yoga and ‘Paint and Wine,’ where customers attend a painting class while enjoying a glass of wine. ‘Like’ Corning Winery and Vineyards on Facebook.
Osceola Diversity Garden
The following article was taken from Food Connections: Southern Iowa Local Foods Initiative Community Food Profile, written by Local Foods Coordinator, Alexi Groumoutis. Click here to view the full
Community Food Profile.
As she bends down to fill her weaved basket with freshly harvested produce, Marilyn Dorland’s white hair glistens in the sun. At 80 years-old she tries carefully not to agitate her fragile knees. Rummaging through the garden, Dorland begins plucking fresh green beans off their vines. Her tanned skin tells the story of a close relationship with the outdoors while her aching knees are testimony to the many years she’s devoted to gardening. Although age has proven unforgiving in many ways, Dorland still remains physically strong putting one foot on top of her shovel while using the weight of her body to sink the shovel deep into the ground unearthing purple potatoes. The wind blows a brief bit of respite against the battering sun on this hot Iowa day where temperatures are expected to reach 102 degrees. Neither blazing temperatures nor a previous battle with cancer will come between Dorland and the vegetables she grows.
“I was born during the depression,” said Dorland. “My mother always gardened. I can always remember gardening at her knee.” Osceola Community Diversity Garden (OCDG) is the brain-child of master gardener Dorland who years ago sold produce at Osceola’s Farmers’ market. She would hear people say they wished they had a place to grow their own fresh food, so with the help of Iowa State Extension and other community sponsors she was able to make that wish a reality back in 2003.
OCDG started with eight plots back in 2003 and has since grown to 32 plots. Garden plots, size 10×20, are available to anyone from the public and are also rented out to educational groups such as Future Farmers of America, horticulture classes, the learning disabled and 4-H Groups. People interested in reserving a plot must sign up at the Iowa State Extension office. Plots cost only $20 for the entire season. In exchange for five hours of seasonal volunteer work at OCDG, stakeholders have an opportunity to get $10 of their investment back.
Cabbages the size of basketballs, red peppers almost too pretty to eat, giant green watermelons and golden quinoa are just a few of the jewels that have replaced the Canadian thistles and weeds that once blanketed the backyard of the Farm Bureau where community gardens is located.
Dorland recounts a young boy around 10 years of age who belonged to a 4-H group and when asked how he felt about what he was doing he said, “Oh, it’s just like a miracle. You put this dead old seed in the ground and give it some water. Up from the ground comes this thing I can eat!”
Dorland and her gardening side-kick, Master Gardener Sue Wilder, farm two plots of land dedicated to Cultivate Iowa. The produce from these plots are donated to individuals in need. Dorland and Wilder also farm several educational demonstration plots that are sponsored by Iowa State University. These plots are used as studies. For example, one year a variety of beans were planted and then they were able to compare which varieties grew best. The results were then passed on to stakeholders.
When asked why she continues to volunteer her time year after year (Dorland and Wilder both work 300-400 hours each per year at OCDG) she says, “I just want to see people develop an enthusiasm for gardening. It’s been a special thing in my life and I’d like to see other people develop their enthusiasm as well.”