Access to Food, Land, and Opportunities in the Urban Core of Des Moines

Monika Owczarski
Sweet Tooth Farm LLC
Des Moines , IA
Sweet Tooth Farm wants to continue to be a quality producer of the freshest produce - available in your neighborhood and grown in your neighborhood. We have the knowledge, the land, and the determination. We need funding to purchase a tractor and additional implements to expand our business.
Sweet Tooth Farm started in a Parks and Recreation board room just outside of downtown Des Moines. My husband and I had moved into the River Bend neighborhood and as luck would have it, I had also moved in next to a pocket park. As the years went by all the equipment was removed, and the city didn’t have the funds to build a new playground.

I have always had a passion for gardening, and feeding people. An idea formed between my husband and I. Let’s start something on this land, let’s grow food. One of my favorite quotes is from Amelia Earhart “The most effective way to do something, is to do it.” We started immersing ourselves in books, University Extension materials, and whatever we could find online about how to get started.

We worked with the Parks Department for a little over 3 years before we were able to do anything on what is now our primary growing space. We then had to go through multiple City Council votes. In the end we were allowed to farm on the land, sell what we produce but are prohibited from putting up any structures.

2019 has been our second growing season. We host a market every week in the middle of our neighborhood as well as work with a local restaurant to grow specialty items that they use in some of their sauces. This produces a steady stream of revenue, but we would like to increase our productivity and in addition to our neighborhood farmstand we want to be able to participate in an established farmers market.

We started this season also offering a weekly, non-recurring CSA style box. Folks would reserve and pay online for that week, and then pick up the following weekend. This was wildly successful and our average for selling out was within the first hour of it being posted - on a Friday morning at 8am! Unfortunately due to our scale and capacity for growing with the tools we have we were not able to meet the demand for both the weekly box and our farmstand customers. So in the end, we decided to discontinue the weekly CSA box experiment in the middle of season, so that we could fully focus on the farmstand. This is one of many ways we are always innovating and striving for new and unique ways to make a profit, as well as feed our community.

We have a passion about providing high quality produce to folks who are often underserved. We proudly accept EBT and participate in the Double Up Food Bucks program to be an access point in our neighborhood. We are so proud of the connections we have made in our community and the people who have been empowered to eat healthier because they could afford and get to our farmstand.

There is one other person in Des Moines doing something similar - but the market is so small we are both in high demand and work very well together. Shout out to someone who has given me advice and help along the way - Jenny Quiner at Dogpatch Urban Gardens. She is doing great things in her neighborhood too!

In terms of my industry - there are other farmers around Des Moines (and other than one I believe they are all outside of the city of Des Moines) but no one has a focus on growing food in the city - growing a diverse assortment of food on small plots that come together to create a vibrant array of choices for the people who live in the urban core of Des Moines.

We are doing all of this with hand tools, stubbornness, and determination. I can’t imagine how much we could expand and how much we could provide for our community if we had a tractor and implements to help us.
Monika is the heart and soul of Sweet Tooth Farm. Rene is the backbone and the brains and the bookkeeper (and bee keeper!)

Monika is the only employee and in addition to raising two children under three full time with no regular childcare, manages to tend to the farm, the chickens, and host a market with about 30 loaves of freshly baked bread every week.

Monika does the farm layout, the seed selection, the planting in the greenhouse and then plants all ~700 seedlings by hand each spring. She puts in the infrastructure and minds the vegetables as they grow.

Monika has groups of children come in from different community groups and schools in the metro to learn about food production and farming.

She is the public face and the person who handles all of the social medial and community outreach.

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