Almost every restaurant chef in Des Moines sourcing local food knows Larry Cleverly from Cleverly Farms in Mingo, Iowa. Cleverly has over six-acres of organic crops growing on a farm that has been around since 1928. It wasn’t until 1996, however, that Cleverly took over the farm.
After 24 years working in Chicago and New York City in the Graphic Systems Division of a printing equipment manufacturer, Cleverly decided to go in a new direction.
“It was quite a leap of faith!” Cleverly says of his decision to leave his life in a big city. He was raised on a farm, though, and he was quick to fall back in to the lifestyle.
In addition to producing organically grown produce, Cleverly is the central Iowa distributor for Niman Ranch pork, beef and lamb. His food can now be found in restaurants throughout Des Moines including Centro, Django, Sbrocco, Court Avenue Brewing Co., Flour, Star Bar, Dos Rios and even more.
Even with his success, however, Cleverly says that the price of organically grown food can make it difficult to sell his products to chefs. It’s also more work for the chef to contact a group of farmers rather than one commercial food source.
Cleverly suggests, “There’s an unwillingness to make more than one call to Sysco.”
His business continues to grow despite the difficulty he sometimes faces in selling his products. Cleverly says what keeps driving him is that he believes in selling his products “as close to the consumer’s plate as possible.”
Cleverly sources to local chefs because he believes they value his food as much as he does.
“My customers treat the food I grow with respect,” Cleverly says.