Farmers Feed Us Pie: Apple-Barb Berry Pie

Farmers helped me make this pie.

A lot of farmers.

They help me make all my pies.

Well, sort of…

(Can’t you just imagine about eight or nine farmers in their iconic seed corn caps, standing in my kitchen, pastry blenders and rolling pins in hand?)

No, farmers didn’t exactly assist in the making of the pie, but they did perform all the initial steps. And I’m glad they did, because if I had to do all they did on top of making dough and rolling it out, combining (no pun intended) fruits and thickeners for the filling, and baking the pie, I think I wouldn’t make any pie at all. Ever.

The flour for my pie crust was ground from wheat that some farmer grew, probably in the Dakotas or Montana. Maybe even Kansas. (Maybe even by the Peterson brothers while they sang “I’m Farming and I Grow It…”) Another farmer, likely here in Iowa, raised the hogs, parts of which were eventually rendered into the lard I used for the fat in my pie crust. More farmers grew the fruit, including berries, apples, and even rhubarb, that make up the basis of my pie filling. Even the corn starch I used to thicken the filling is an end-stage product of some farmer who grew, you guessed it…corn. And the tapioca? It came from the cassava plant, likely harvested by some farmer in South America. (I think. I don’t know much about tapioca and cassava plants, so if someone cares to enlighten me, I’d much rather claim that my tapioca arrived via a farmer here in the U.S.)

I’m bringing this up because this week’s pie on Sunday was originally inspired by a recipe in Iowa Farmer Today. How do I know? Because I read Iowa Farmer Today. I even have a paid subscription. I’m not a farmer myself, but I know how important farmers are to us all. All farmers. Whether they grow corn that becomes ethanol or soybeans that become, well, anything soy, like soy milk, vegetable oil, or renamed as edamame. Farmers who grow crops conventionally or those who follow organic methods. Farmers who raise cattle for beef or sheep for wool. Dairy farmers who sell their milk to processors, or those who use their milk to craft specialty cheeses. Large-scale farmers with thousands of acres of farm land, or small-scale niche farmers who raise things like aronia berries or operate CSA’s or u-pick farms. Farmers whose land has been in their families for generations, or rookie farmers who are getting their start with the guidance of some good-hearted veteran farmers. And I’m leaving out more descriptions of farmers and farm products than I’m including in this list.

The point is, there are a lot of farmers, and we need them all. Our sources for food, fiber, and fuel really do depend on them.

So I pay attention. I read Iowa Farmer Today. (Along with the Farm Cooks feature, I especially enjoy reading the advice column "Farm and Ranch Life", now written by Dr. Mike Rosmann, which was previously the "Family Life" column by Dr. Val Farmer. Coincidence?) On occasion, I browse through Successful Farming Magazine at the library. (Mostly, I like the family feature with recipes and news for the home. The rest is usually a little too technical for me.) When visiting my dad, I like to thumb through his copies of the Iowa Farm Bureau Spokesman as well as Farm and Ranch Living Magazine. Over lunch on weekdays, I tune in to "The Big Show" on WHO Radio. (My favorite segment is on Fridays at about 12:45 with Lee Kline. I've been listening to his stories since I was a kid.) I also follow the stories of bloggers whose families farm, like Emily Webel of Confessions of a Farm Wife, and Sara Ross of Sara’s House HD. And I gain a greater appreciation for where my food, fiber, and fuel begin their journey.

But I’m not a complete stranger to farming and the world of agriculture. Are any of us really? I bet there are fewer degrees of separation with farmers, for most of us, than there are with Kevin Bacon.

My roots, as well as those of my husband, begin in farming. My grandparents on both sides farmed; they grew crops and ran a dairy. Several members of my extended family, including aunts, uncles, and cousins, all farm. The same can be said for my husband’s family. I did not grow up on a farm myself, my own parents were not farmers, though my dad did some custom farming when I was young. He also worked at a grain elevator much of his adult life. A few years ago, my mom retired from John Deere. During part of her time there, she worked for their cotton division. That division manufactured cotton pickers and strippers. Here in Iowa. Where we grow corn and beans.

A little ironic.

For five summers of our teenage lives, my sister and I detasseled seed corn. By hand. Every year, we worked with a handful of others (our mom and aunt included) on a small crew. We contracted acres from a local seed corn company, which was owned by my mom’s cousin and started by my great uncle. When you grow up in a small rural Iowa town, in a place where you look out over a bean field from the front yard and a corn field from the back and can still say you are living in town, detasseling corn is what you do every summer. Back then, it was a teenager’s rite of passage.

And for my husband? The guy who laughs and jokingly asks me what price cotton is up to every Friday night while I watch “Market to Market” on our local PBS station? He grew up on a farm himself, and his parents and brother are still farming today. My husband also now works for one of the largest, leading seed and crop protection companies in the world.

And yet, he laughs.
Again, a little ironic, don’t you think?

(By the way, cotton was at $75.72 last week after a loss of $1.54 per hundredweight.)

While I’m no expert on agriculture and farming, I pay attention. Because it’s important. Just as the sign above the Machine Shed Restaurant at Living History Farms reads, “Farming is everyone’s bread and butter.” Whether it gives you money in your bank account, food on your table, fuel in your car, or clothes on your back, farming affects so many facets of life.

And that includes pie.

Farmers help me make my pies. And I’m so grateful they do. I couldn’t do it all by myself.
Yours in pie,

The recipe for this pie was inspired by a recipe for Four-Fruit Pie, orignially printed in the Farm Cooks feature of Iowa Farmer Today on April 21, 2012. The recipe was shared by Alice Buman of Harlan, IA, though I made a few changes. I like to use corn starch and tapioca for berry pies. The first time I made this pie, I used 2 T. corn starch and 1 T. tapioca, and also increased the amount of sugar to 1 1/4 c. The pie was very sweet and a little more thick than I like. So this time, I decreased the sugar a little, and also decreased the cornstarch. I think it came out just right -- not too sweet, with perfect "ooze", and I could taste each fruit. A perfect marriage of Spring (rhubarb), Summer (berries), and Fall (apples)...in a pie.

Apple-Barb Berry Pie

Pastry for a two-crust 9" pie

1 c. diced rhubarb

1 c. apple, peeled, sliced and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 c. blackberries

1 c. red raspberries
1 c. + 2 T. sugar

1 T. cornstarch

1 T. quick-cooking tapioca

Dash of cinnamon

2 T. butter

Combine sugar, cornstarch, tapioca, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour over fruit in a bowl and combine gently. Set aside while you roll out the pie crust and place in pie plate. Spoon filling onto bottom crust and dot the top of the filling with small pieces of the butter. Roll out and lay the top crust on the filling. Trim and crimp edges. Cut slits in top of pie to allow steam to escape. Cover the edge of the crust with foil. Bake on the middle rack in the oven at 350° for 60-75 minutes, removing foil the last 15-20 minutes of baking. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into pie.

A few notes: If using store-bought frozen rhubarb, be sure to defrost it most of the way, and then cut it into smaller pieces (about 1/2-inch). If using frozen berries, only partially thaw them first. Also, I typically brush the top crust with milk and sprinkle it with sparkling sugar, but I was out of milk. Maybe if I had my own cow that wouldn't be a problem...


  1. This pie looks scrumptious! The crust looks so flaky!! Putting this one on my list to try!

  2. Just wondering if you used frozen rhubarb for this recipe. If so, where do you find it in the store (if you didn't freeze your own)? I don't believe I have ever seen it in the frozen fruit section at the grocery store.

    1. Yes, Judy, I did use frozen rhubarb from the store. Not sure what stores are available to you where you live, but here in West Des Moines, I did find rhubarb in the freezer section with the other fruit (though technically I think rhubarb is a vegetable), at both Fareway stores and Hy Vee stores. Hope that helps, and I hope you make the pie!

  3. I'm going to be following this blog. Well said, Mindy. Thank you for championing the farmer. Too many people think it is an easy life. It is a wonderful life, but it ain't easy. :)

    1. So glad you found the blog and appreciate the post, Rhonda!

  4. I baked an apple pie yesterday and thought of your new blog. Do you have a recipe for caramel apple pie? Would love to try it sometime. Thanks for the shout-out to Iowa farmers! Have you ever thought about becoming a Farm Bureau member? You can get the Spokesman (and the recipes) free with membership. Then you wouldn't have to wait to read your dad's copy :)

    1. Hi Teresa! Thanks for your comment!

      I do have a few caramel apple pie recipes and will plan to make one for pie on Sunday, probably in two or three weeks, so keep reading my blog. Thanks for the idea!

      I was a Farm Bureau member several years ago and then let my membership lapse. This year as I walked by the FB tent at the state fair, I kept thinking about it. And now that I "know" (in an online blogging sort of way!), a features writer for them, I think I will take the time to renew.

      I know you write for their Farm Fresh blog. Do you also write for the Spokesman, or Family Living, or both?

      Thanks again for your comment,

  5. Mindy,
    I'm loving your blog! It's a great idea and I can hear your voice come through the writing. I can imagine we're sitting down with a cup of coffee (and a piece of pie!)and having a chat at the kitchen table during the kids' nap time.

    1. Then I think we should have some coffee (and pie!) sometime soon...during naps, of course! The kids, not ours...

      Email me and we'll set it up! So good to hear from you,

  6. I have added your blog to my list! Are you conducting classes? Ted's absolute favorite dessert is pie. I have tried many different places around Des Moines to buy pie for his birthday but they have all fallen flat. I would LOVE a lesson... especially for a good crust.
    Have you been to Cathy's Pie's in Cedar Rapids. When we lived there we would get them for all our special occasions and they are quite good but you probably have a very refined pie pallette!
    See you Wednesday!

    1. Hey Hilery! I will be posting my pie crust recipe along with some tips sometime soon, so keep watching. I have not heard of Cathy's Pies, but another person mentioned Coffee Cup Cafe in Sully (a little closer than CR anyway), and I've also heard that they have terrific pies. Until then, we'll have to work on you making pies for Ted instead!


I'd love to hear from you! Share a comment, or even a pie recipe...