Debra Prinzing

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Episode 269: Living on a U-Pick Flower Farm and channeling your inner flower farmer, with Cathy Lafrenz of Miss Effie’s Country Flowers in Donahue, Iowa

November 2nd, 2016

The cutting garden at Miss Effie's is filled with sun-loving annuals, old-fashioned favorites, and lots of surprises for U-Pick customers to take home. (c) Jean Zaputil Photography

The cutting garden at Miss Effie’s is filled with sun-loving annuals, old-fashioned favorites, and lots of surprises for U-Pick customers to take home. (c) Jean Zaputil Photography

Do you need to relax? Do you need a break from traffic jams and hectic schedules? Then you need to come to Miss Effie’s. Miss Effie’s is a U-Pick flower farm on the east coast of Iowa.

Called the "corn-zebo," this charming open-air structure is fashioned from a former corn-storage silo and decorated with a whimsical door and roof. Here's where tea is served, with views of farm fields beyond.

Called the “corn-zebo,” this charming open-air structure is fashioned from a former corn-storage silo and decorated with a whimsical door and roof. Here’s where tea is served, with views of farm fields beyond.

That’s the invitation from Cathy and Cliff “Honey” Lafrenz the real human flower farmers who preside over Miss Effie’s Country Flowers (and Garden Stuff), a picture-perfect, two-acre country farm. Visiting was on my to-do list this past September, when I traveled to the Quad Cities area, which is a metro hub that connects Iowa and Illinois across the Mississippi River.

Two views of "The Summer House" at Miss Effie's, a tiny country crafts store where flowers, fresh eggs, and fine handcrafted linens can be purchased.

Two views of “The Summer Kitchen” at Miss Effie’s, a tiny country crafts store where flowers, fresh eggs, and fine handcrafted linens can be purchased.

I was lured to the area for several reasons, including an invitation from a local garden club in Moline, Illinois, which invited me to present a lecture about the Slow Flowers Movement, followed by a hands-on design workshop for 25 members using only Iowa-grown flowers.

Jean Zaputil captured the character and detail in every view -- from quilting fabric (and kitty) to a small wood stove.

Jean Zaputil captured the character and detail in every view — from quilting fabric (and kitty) to a small wood stove.

When the garden club booked my lecture, I told them I wanted to source local flowers — and fortunately, Miss Effie’s isn’t too far outside of the urban core. The garden club members arranged their pickup of hundreds of Cathy’s beautiful blooms and took time to process and every beautiful stem in time for our workshop.

Cathy Lafrenz (aka Miss Effie) and I enjoyed refreshments and recorded this podcast episode inside the cool shade of her "corn-zebo"

Cathy Lafrenz (aka Miss Effie) and I enjoyed refreshments and recorded this podcast episode inside the cool shade of her “corn-zebo”

That left room in the schedule for me to visit Cathy for a private tour, for refreshments and to record this podcast. I couldn’t have done any of this without the help from my dear, longtime friend Jean Zaputil of Studio Z – Design & Photography in Davenport, Iowa. I’ve called Jean my “garden muse” for years and now that she has moved back to her childhood state after being in Seattle for more than two decades, I don’t get to see her very often. The occasion of coming to Quad Cities to lecture was really a chance to visit and play with Jean, tour Iowa, go antiquing, sit by the fire as her husband Mark played old Beatles songs on his guitar, and generally soak up the Iowa life.

Gotta love a motto like this one, spotted high on a barn in the cutting garden.

Gotta love a motto like this one, spotted high on a barn in the cutting garden.

As it happens, Jean and Cathy are also friends, and we made a fun morning of our visit. Jean documented Miss Effie’s charm, character and creativity with her camera, and I have her permission to publish those photos on the podcast show notes. All images are (c) Jean Zaputil.

Find all-American and all-local Iowa-grown flowers at Miss Effie's.

Find all-American and all-local Iowa-grown flowers at Miss Effie’s, plus the clothesline and flagpole flapping in the breeze.

Here’s more about Miss Effie’s from the farm’s welcome page:

Welcome to the first U-Pick flower farm in Iowa. Walk through our acre of flowers and cut the perfect blossoms for your bouquet. Our flowers are grown naturally without the use of harmful pesticides. The selection changes by the season.. there is always something new.

getpart-3 Our farmhouse was built in 1892 and is a perfect example of a Queen Anne Classic-L Victorian farmhouse. These houses were built throughout the upper Midwest by German, Swedish and Norwegian immigrants as they settled on homesteads. In honor of the family that settled here first, we have Jenny’s Garden . . . a garden full of heirloom flowers.

Teacups strung from the apple tree.

Teacups strung from the apple tree.

Miss Effie’s will remind you of your grandparent’s farm. The rolling hills, clothes on the line and chickens and ducks roaming our gardens will take you to a simpler era. Relax with a glass of lemonade in our corn-zebo and remember a life from yesterday. You are always welcome to bring a lunch and enjoy the sounds and sights of rural America.

getpart-5 Besides flowers, you can cut bouquets of  herbs for culinary and household needs. Fresh basil for pesto, lavender for sachets, mints for refreshing lemonade are all available on the farm.

The Summer Kitchen is our new retail store where you can find local treasures. From our colorful farm-fresh eggs to cheerful dried flowers . . . the Summer Kitchen is a delightful farm experience. Miss Effie’s is dedicated to working with other local farm women to provide interesting and unusual items for our small store.

2up_3 Experiencing the rural American lifestyle is an important part of Miss Effie’s. From hosting your event or teaching you new skills …. Miss Effie wants to reach your inner farm-girl. Look for our class schedule to learn how to make cheese, bake bread or turn a heel on a hand-knitted sock. Teaching classes gives Miss Effie an excuse to wear a ruffled apron. And you should, too!!

getpart-17 Search the farm to discover the special touches that Miss Effie has left for you. From the tea cup tree to Miss Effie’s vintage prayer flags…. Miss Effie wants you to remember your great aunt’s china collection or your grandmother who always carried a lace-edged hankie. Nap on the bed tucked in the garden. Sit in the lath house. Relax. Put your feet up. Smell the flowers.

Miss Effie won’t be rushed . . . and neither should you.

getpart-7 Starting 15 seasons ago with a 20-foot-by-20-foot patch of cut flowers, Cathy and Cliff expanded their operation to encompass almost an acre of flowers. Every spring they plant more than 8000 annuals for their customers’ cutting pleasure.

When guests visit, they are given a bucket and a pair of clippers and invited to cut anything in the gardens. The flowers change by the season so every day, something new blooms. A one gallon bucket of flowers is $20. In 2011, the farm was named a partner site by Silos and Smokestacks, the National Heritage Area for Agriculture.

getpart-4 If this sounds like the good life, like a way to generate income from your property, you’ll be inspired by Cathy’s story and you’ll want to visit. I promise, she will welcome you with a boisterous laugh and a few good stories. Enjoy our conversation today.

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And follow Miss Effie’s at these social places:

Miss Effie’s on Facebook

Miss Effie’s on Instagram

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The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 127,000 times by listeners like you. We ended the month of October with more than 7,000 downloads in a single month. That is a freakin all-time record. It’s humbling and encouraging to know that the Slow Flowers Podcast is reaching so many. THANK YOU to each one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

If you value the content you receive each week, I invite you to show your thanks and support the Slow Flowers Podcast with a donation — the button can be found on our home page in the right column. Your contributions will help make it possible to transcribe future episodes of the Podcast.

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Thank you to our lead sponsor for 2016: Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit americangrownflowers.org.

More sponsor thanks goes to Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at syndicatesales.com.

A big bouquet of thanks goes to Longfield Gardens… providing home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at lfgardens.com.

A fond thank you Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of 50 family farms in the heart of Alaska providing high quality, American Grown peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at arcticalaskapeonies.com

And finally, thank you Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at ascfg.org

Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto Itunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew and Hannah Brenlan. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com.

One Response to “Episode 269: Living on a U-Pick Flower Farm and channeling your inner flower farmer, with Cathy Lafrenz of Miss Effie’s Country Flowers in Donahue, Iowa”

  1. Cindy Says:

    Cathy LaFrenz is an inspiration to us all! I love her farm and her! Unfortunately we live two hours away, but I follow her along online. She is so hard working and so sharing of her love of what she does. I wish I could attend all of her classes. Thank you for visiting with Cathy and sharing her with so many more.

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