Perhaps Tom Petty said it best: “You never slow down, you never grow old.”

That’s how Chris Bass is keeping things fresh on his farm. He is constantly trialing new things, from varieties of vegetables to agritourism events. When he spoke with Country Folks Grower, he was in his truck, en route from one vital task to another.

“I grew up on a small farm in Iowa,” Bass said, with the traditional row crops of corn and soybeans. There are very standard practices for growing those commodities and deviating from the norm can be difficult. “I wanted something I could control and make my own decisions over.”

So, after completing two degrees at Mount Mercy College in Cedar Rapids, he decided to start farming chemical-free vegetables and herbs. It wasn’t just the freedom of choice he was after, though; he started farming vegetables because of his health.

“I lost 90 pounds through diet and exercise, and I wanted to keep feeling that. That’s how I got into the healthy side of it,” Bass said.

Bass Family Farms was founded in 2008 – in “the right time at the right place,” as he explained. With about 40 acres total, the operation is located directly across from a state park, on a four-lane highway. Bass said they were incredibly lucky to get it.

Today, they have a full-service nursery, a grocery store on the farm and sell houseplants, vegetables and more. When they first began, they were selling at local farmers markets and depended on a lot of grassroots marketing.

Bass grows the greatest hits – tomatoes, kale, rainbow Swiss chard, bell and hot peppers, zucchini, potatoes and Brussels sprouts, for example, on four to five acres – but they’re known for their herbs and edible flowers such as borage, nasturtium and thyme.

The operation uses a state-of-the-art irrigation system on raised beds and fertigates its crops through the lines. “We have a lot of sand in our soil, which is great for growing vegetables,” Bass said. “But I stop picking vegetables on September 1. It’s a hard stop – but I will buy from other local farms for our store and donate any excess produce to HACAP.” (HACAP is a community action agency serving nine counties in Eastern Iowa. They distribute Bass Family Farms vegetables to local food banks.)

“We’ve developed such a market over the past 15 years that it’s hard to sell outside with the demand on the farm,” Bass admitted.

They have a 30-x-90-foot heated greenhouse for annuals, preferring to raise perennials outside, and they also use a big canvas tent for cover. They will start some perennials and veggies in the greenhouse, but it’s mostly for retail flower sales.

Springtime means the greenhouses are full and the farm tours are running nonstop in Mount Vernon, Iowa. Photos courtesy of Bass Family Farms

For autumn, they grow about 10 acres of pumpkins. Out there, they use an organic hydraulic weeder. They also plant a corn maze for visitors. Bass said they like to do “a lot of innovative stuff.”

He, his wife Brenna and their three children, ages 9, 6 and 19 months, are all involved in the operation. The kids’ input is invaluable, as the agritourism side of the operation caters heavily to students in kindergarten through sixth grade and their families.

“We’re seeing a big uptick in general educational tours,” Bass said. “We had 65 total last year, and we’ll probably have double that this year. We are open year-round, but it’s not only fun in the fall. I think it’s more fun in the spring to see things growing, to see more life.”

There are a lot of challenges with running the events and the farming all together. “Farming vegetables by itself makes it hard to support a family,” Bass said. “You have to make your farm diverse – try every avenue to be successful. We will try anything once, and we have.”

His general rule is that they will try something new three times before moving on – which worked out well for their bring-your-own-camera Santa Claus and Easter Bunny events, which were very slow their first years.

“I’m very open to new things – it’s a blessing and a curse,” he laughed. “Learning costs money in the real world. But we still want to be a driving force in our community for outdoor activities.”

Agritourism is a big part of the farm’s appeal. The corn maze is a popular draw come late summer and autumn.

Giving back to the community is a driving force at Bass Family Farms. They do so in two ways: through fun, educational events and through monetary donations. So far in 2024, they’ve hosted a houseplant and custom pot open house; an Easter egg extravaganza; a Friends of Palisades-Kepler State Park fundraising 5K race; and a flower open house celebrating spring. They also recently donated $15,000 to the Glioblastoma Foundation.

“We try to give back in ways that really matter,” Bass said. “Instead of spending marketing dollars, we spend money in our community.”

Other events scheduled for this year include a Mother’s Day Weekend event, the Fridays on the Farm series, bingo and family movie nights and a fall festival. Bass has a separate team for all their agritourism operations, so growers aren’t worried about booking field trips. “It takes an army,” Bass joked.

To help with the agritourism side of things, Bass is a member of NAFDMA. He appreciates the membership because he’s able to talk to people openly – “no one’s worried about stealing ideas,” he said. “It’s a great place to meet people and learn about what has worked for them. It also provides opportunities to meet vendors face to face and learn about new products.”

With large gathering spaces, a sizable parking lot and an easily accessible, clean and affordable site, the farm also hosts corporate events, birthday parties and more. Bass Family Farms serves as a Harvest Host site too, welcoming RV campers to come set up and hang out.

Like a lot of other operations, they saw increased numbers during the peak of COVID and so their goal is to maintain that success.

“We’re dedicated to adding value back to agriculture, but back where it belongs – in the farmer’s pocket,” Bass said.

The innovation continues in that each year Bass tries to take on something in-house that an outside vendor currently sells to them. For example, they’re now manufacturing their own pots. He purchased six commercial 3-D printers and can make whatever size and shape he needs on the farm these days.

Bass Family Farms is also entirely off the grid, as their electricity is 100% solar. While focusing on the world around them, Bass is working on installing a wetland protection area and creating a secondary source of water (with the likelihood of more droughts looming).

“I need to think about our environmental impacts,” he said. “And there is money out there for projects like this.”

To see what Bass and farm get up to next, visit

by Courtney Llewellyn

Editor’s note: Among the many things the Bass family has done over the years, one of the first was a CSA. While that is no longer running, they did want to share some of their favorite recipes from back then with our readers.


Garlic Scape Strawberry Salsa

(Makes 1 1/2 cups)


1 cup strawberries, hulled, chopped

4 garlic scape stems, finely chopped (remove flower bud and save for soup stock)

½ medium red onion, finely chopped

¼ cup cilantro or mint leaves, finely chopped

¼ cup orange juice

2 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. jalapeno, seeded and diced small (optional)

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper (or to taste)


Wash strawberries, garlic scapes and onion and put into a bowl. Combine other ingredients and pour over strawberries, etc.


Mason Jar Bok Choy Salad


1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup white vinegar

1/3 cup white sugar

3 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 bunches baby bok choy, cleaned and sliced

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1/8 cup slivered almonds, toasted

1/2 (6-oz.) package chow mein noodles


In a glass jar with a lid, mix together olive oil, white vinegar, sugar and soy sauce. Close the lid, and shake until well mixed. Combine the bok choy, green onions, almonds and chow mein noodles in a salad bowl. Toss with dressing and serve.


Gluten Free Zucchini Bread


1 cup diced zucchini

2 eggs

1/2 cup canola oil

1 tsp. gluten-free vanilla extract

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup white rice flour

1/2 cup sweet rice flour

1/2 cup cornstarch

2 Tbsp. tapioca starch

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1/2 tsp. salt


1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp. lemon juice


Preheat oven to 325º F. Grease a large loaf pan. Combine zucchini, eggs, oil and vanilla extract in a blender; pulse until mixture resembles a milkshake.

Whisk together white sugar, white rice flour, sweet rice flour, cornstarch, tapioca, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, xanthan gum and salt in a large bowl. Stir zucchini mixture into flour mixture until batter is well blended; pour into prepared loaf pan.

Bake in the pre-heated oven until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Mix confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl to form a thin glaze. Drizzle over top of loaf.