Lessons Learned in Simplicity While Visiting Kalona, Iowa.

This week I spent a wonderful day with a group of blogger friends in the quaint community and rolling farmland of Kalona, Iowa

This town, much like Hazleton, Iowa - a few miles from where I grew up, is home to a large Amish and Mennonite community. In fact, Kalona's Amish and Mennonite population is the largest West of the Mississippi. 

During our day in Kalona, we toured the Kalona SuperNatural organic dairy, had lunch and learned about beer at the Kalona Brewing Company, and shopped at the Amish Springtown Grocery. While Kalona is only a few minutes from Iowa City and Washington, the simple way of life we saw while there made it 'feel' like we were hours away. 

There are lessons to be learned about simplicity, guys. Let's talk about that. 

From left to right: Me; Michelle from Simplify, Live, Love and her daughter; our tour guide, Phil; Susie from Flexitarian Filly; Kristen from Make the Best of Everything; Kier from Life in Iowa; Patty from Epicurean Explorer; Ally from Ally's Sweet and Savory Eats; Stephanie from Been There, Baked That and her daughters. 

Kalona SuperNatural

Kalona SuperNatural is a small, 100% organic dairy that proudly sources all of their milk from 80 family farms. About 35 of those farms are local Amish and Mennonite family farms in the area, and the rest are local and regional. Again, all are 100% organic.

Phil Forbes, our tour guide, said that when the 5,800 gallon milk trucks enter the dairy, the milk is pasteurized at 145* for 8 minutes, bottled, and makes its way to the consumer's hands sometimes in as little as 36 hours.

Life Lesson in Simplicity #1:The less my food is handled, the better. 
We learned that Kalona SuperNatural products are fresh. Like, super fresh, when they hit the store shelves. This is important to the dairy, which is why you might not see a lot of their products on the East or West Coasts. Longer travel times means more chances for a not-so-fresh product.

It is so clear to me that Kalona SuperNatural cares about the livelihood of their farmers and the quality of the products they are providing their consumers. Not only because they diligently test each product at various stages, but also because of the care they show their farmers and 80 dairy employees.

Life Lesson in Simplicity #2: Eat food as close to the natural source as possible. 

At Kalona SuperNatural, their milk is their showcase product. Rigorous quality testing from farm to consumer ensures we're eating and drinking the healthiest product possible. Phil said that SuperNatural milk is not ULTRA-pasteurized (which means heated to 240*), but rather pasteurized at 145*. This gives us a product as close to raw as possible, but still meeting all legal and sanitation guidelines.

Before we ended our tour, Phil and the gang gave us a half gallon of their whole chocolate milk. We were over the moon! We also learned that keeping our milk at 40* ensures a great product, so we promptly took our jugs to Kalona Brewing Company and they graciously stored them in the cooler while we ate lunch.

One more thing - Kalona SuperNatural purchased the former Kalona Cheese Factory building. They will have a larger dairy processing operation, as well as a storefront! They also hope to branch into cheese-making. Stay tuned for more info!

Kalona Brewing Company

After our tour, we headed a few miles down the road for lunch at the Kalona Brewing Company. The building is gorgeous, guys.

We were also happy to learn that local, organic, non-GMO ingredients are a high priority for the chefs and owners of KBC. They source as many ingredients as possible from farmers - everything from dairy products from SuperNatural, to meats from Wallace Farms, and produce from a variety of farmers.

Life Lesson in Simplicity #3: Dining out can be simple, local, organic, sustainable, hearty, and delicious - as long as I am intentional about where I spend my money. 

While we waited for our lunch, Nic gave us a 'quick and dirty' tour of the brewery side of KBC. While this photo is blurry, I need to tell you that their brewery is beautiful. Stunning, you guys.

They have almost 30 beers on tap, many of which are made right there on site and are award-winners. I didn't take a growler home with me, but think John and I might meet our friends (Hey, Jessica and Andy!) on the motorcycles for lunch and a brew later this summer.

I ordered the KBC Chicken Sandwich with Hand-cut Fries for lunch. It was hearty, fresh, and really flavorful - a clear testament to high quality ingredients. They even cut their fries to order and make their own pickles!

Stringtown Grocery

After chatting, Michelle, Ally and I broke off to do some shopping at Stringtown Grocery and Central Discount Grocery. I wish I had these two around every time I went grocery shopping. I learned the difference between turbinado sugar and sucanat, how to pronounce "acini di pepe", and what wheat berries are best for grinding flour.

Life Lesson in Simplicity #4: Buy in bulk, and be a savvy, label-reading shopper. 

Like Plainview Country Store in Hazleton, Iowa (where I do most of my bulk shopping), Stringtown has a HUGE selection of bulk spices, herbs, and baking supplies, as well as fresh produce. You can purchase huge containers or bags of items (50 pounds of raw cane sugar, anyone?) or smaller portions. I also scored some SuperNatural butter and cottage cheese at rock bottom prices. When the expiration date gets close, the dairy sends the products to Stringtown.

We can't wait to go back in a year or so when the new SuperNatural dairy facility is open, and to fill our bellies at KBC. Although, I might have to head back to Stringtown again next month. It's addicting.

Have you ever been to Kalona? Tell me about the local gems and communities in your area!


  1. My husband and I live in Jesup, we have Amish stores all around us in Fairbank and Hazleton. I absolutely love them! When cooking and shopping for our large family ( 4 older kids and a 6 month old baby) bulk food is the only way to go. I always stock up on baking ingredients as well as marked down goodies for the kids. My husband loves to go to Carters in Fairbank as they usually have lots of fishing gear marked really cheap. He also buys his work boots from the Amish as he can find them around a hundred dollars cheaper!

  2. Great recap post Kelli! As always, enjoyed hanging with you! I think I need to make a trip to Marion this summer (sans kids) to visit!

  3. It was great seeing you guys, we enjoyed our day. Only wish we could have stayed longer! Great post Kelli!

    1. Thanks Steph! Looking forward to hanging with you in your area soon!

  4. yum. your sandwich looks fantastic! I am gonna have that next time!


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