Trailin': Wedding Mints and Wheat

Posted 7/15/99

Tom Williams and his son Guy have farmed the ground around the Iowa City Airport for over twenty y…

By Tina Turney

Tom Williams and his son Guy have farmed the ground around the Iowa City …

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Trailin': Wedding Mints and Wheat


Tom Williams and his son Guy have farmed the ground around the Iowa City Airport for over twenty y…

By Tina Turney

Tom Williams and his son Guy have farmed the ground around the Iowa City Airport for over twenty years. They were combining wheat the other day and I had the chance to talk to Tom while I was waiting to pick up my film at Walmart. There were three generations of Williams farmers in the combine cab that day, Tom, his son Guy and Guy’s son, eight-year-old Casey.

FAA regulations require that only a crop not over four feet tall can be grown on the acres next to the airport runways. Because of this the Williams’ have rotated beans, oats and wheat on this ground.

Tom said they have about thirty-eight acres of wheat this year. The eleven-acre field located between Walmart and Menards he referred to as a problem field because it is so low and drainage is poor. When those stores were built they raised their sites about three feet. Also there is a large sewer line that runs through the field.

This year the crop was good and Williams figured after taking the first load to the elevator that they’d get about sixty bushels to the acre. He said in some bad years they had gotten only eleven bushels per acre off the same ground.

Gringer’s had offered him two dollars per bushel the day he started combining and he said he was going to do some calling around to maybe English River Pellets and Pillsbury at Davenport. He also mentioned that there was the chance he would store the grain rather than sell it now.

On the rest of the airport ground, not adjacent to the runways, the Williams’ grow some white corn. This year they have about three hundred acres of the specialty crop. While white corn brings a premium price, there are problems associated with marketing it.

The Williams’ sell their white corn to Quaker Oats in Cedar Rapids and refer to it as their “Captain Crunch fields” because that’s what it is used for. The company sets extremely high standards for the corn which is used for human consumption. They have a zero tolerance on mold or damaged kernels. The corn must be thoroughly cleaned, and if rejected by the company it must be dried by fans and cleaned again to remove any mold or fines.

Williams explained that the white corn has a neutral taste without a definite corn flavor. For this reason elevators don’t want it for animal feed. So if a load is rejected by Quaker Oats, finding another buyer can be a big problem. At times in past years Tom has had corn rejected. While it can be a profitable crop, it represents a lot of extra work and time.

Tom gave me a jar of the wheat berries he had just combined. He said it makes a good breakfast. You soak a half cup in water in the refrigerator overnight then microwave it in the morning, add milk and sugar or fruit. I tried it and it was very tasty.

Wheat isn’t grown too much in eastern Iowa, although it can be followed up with late beans which will work if the season is long enough and if there is rain after the soybeans are planted. Wheat straw is in demand because it is clean and weed free. Wheat can’t be used as a nurse crop like oats because being so thick, it would smother out the grass and alfalfa seeding.


My daughter Maggie’s wedding is fast approaching, July 17th is the big day. My neighbor Evelyn Knebel has been such good help for us in planning some of the wedding details. Evelyn does ceramics in her basement, and over the years my girls and I have enjoyed painting lots of things for ourselves and for gifts. So when the need to find a wedding cake topper came up, the logical place to look was in Evelyn’s basement.

Several months ago Evelyn offered to make the party mints for the reception. Earlier this week she made up the dough and I got to learn how to make little rose-shaped mints, something I’d never had the chance to do before.

Evelyn’s great grandson Dillon was also on hand to help and he got to pop a few out of the mold after we’d made enough (500) for the wedding. Evelyn has made fancy candies for as long as I’ve known her and she’s a pro. She even matched Maggie’s colors perfectly, sage green and slate blue.

So here is Evelyn’s recipe for party mints.

Wedding Mints - Cream Cheese Recipe

1-8 oz. pkg. cream cheese

2-1 lb. boxes powdered sugar

1/2 tsp. flavoring oil (not extract)

Coloring as desired (paste colors will give light tint to deep shade; liquid colors for pastels only).

Cut sugar into cream cheese (at room temp.) Add oil and color. Hand knead until smooth.

You are now ready to mold candies. Roll small balls in granulated sugar and press into mold. Drop out on waxed paper and let air dry. Candies may be frozen in molded or unmolded state.