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FarmHer Jenny Quiner and Marji Alaniz standing in a greenhouse

Pivoting Through A Pandemic

Plan, Plant, Pivot and Run.

That’s the name of the game for FarmHers…and well…all of us really these days. Keep up with the world or get left behind….and this FarmHer is not getting left behind. In the continuing discussion around farming and pivoting Marji talks to Jenny Quiner at Dog Patch Urban Gardens in Des, Moines, IA about the changes she has made as we sank into a new farming normal.

An Urban Salad Garden

Jenny understood at the beginning of the year that having diversity in a business matters and being prepared matters. While no one was prepared for how 2020 would unfold their farm has continued to pivot to serve the needs of the community while growing their business.

Dong Patch Urban Gardens consists of 1 acre at their main location where they grow lettuce on 1/4 of an acre. There is an on-site Farm Stand to sell produce and an Air B&B. They also cultivate on a couple of other nearby properties which is helping reach their ideal spot of growing crops on about an acre of land.

The farm focuses on growing salad greens like lettuce, spinach, baby kale, mustard greens, and argula. They also have some tomatoes, peppers and summer squash.

Growing lettuce through the summer is a specialty because it is so challenging to grow lettuce in heat. They have special techniques to help keep lettuce sweet and tender. Harvesting lettuce quickly after planting also helps improve quality.

Pre-Pandemic Pivot

Jenny began 2020 as a participant in the Goldman Sachs Small Business Program – 10,000 Small Business. She had planned to grow their business by participating in the downtown Des Moines Farmer’s Market and launch salad dressings and salad toppings.

While the idea to produce salad dressings was set aside as the pandemic set in she has recently resumed the pursuit of being able to deliver an entire salad to customers.

The larger downtown market hasn’t opened yet, but they’ve seen an increase in customers participating in their online store. An unplanned pivot has been launching an online store with their farmstand and increasing their “Salad Subscription” CSA.

A true focus on customer service with contactless pick=up. Customers purchase online. When they arrive at the farm stand they don’t get out of car, they hold up a sign and the farmers place their produce in the car.

Events were previously a part of the business and there was planned growth for 2020. The team is currently cautiously optimistic about the ability to host Dinners on the Farm in August, September and October.

A shot gun approach to starting new things and moving forward with areas that are seeing the exponential growth has worked. Jenny and her team are building a new business model based on current success.

Customer Service

Dog Patch Urban Gardens started with a strong, loyal customer base who are local to the farm and their solid efforts at customer service are yielding growth. They are located in a residential part of town which makes shopping more convenient for people in the area. Word of mouth has fueled growth for the farm.

Having an email list of customers has been critical to help communicate with customers and pivot the business during a pandemic.

Storing Lettuce at Home

Jenny shares the importance of keeping greens refrigerated. Just tossing them in the trunk can cause wilting, so be sure to refrigerate right away.

Freshly picked salad greens should be stored in a closed, sealed container in the refrigerator. It is not necessary to wash salad greens right away, wait until you’re ready to serve to wash. Moisture will make salad greens break down faster. Only water greens if they came from the store that way.

Dog Patch Urban Gardens Has A Bright Future

By filling the needs of residents and restaurants in the Des Moines area and a continual ability to pivot, Jenny and the team at Dog Patch Urban Gardens will continue to grow!

Follow them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on their latest plans for expansion!

Everybody Eats

Find More Stories at Everybody Eats

We all eat, and that is why farming will always matter.  Everybody Eats is where the stories of food and farming intersect.  

These stories told through my FarmHer lens connect us to our food and more importantly, the people behind it.  

Everybody Eats is a collection of stories of those who protect our rural communities, who grow our food with extraordinary care, and who provide support, education, and assistance to make sure Everybody Eats. 


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