Mary Swander

Mary Swander

An Iowa playwright is looking for local “talent” for a production coming to Maquoketa in November. 

“Farm-to-Fork Tales” will feature Jackson County farmers who will share their stories with their friends and neighbors.

“Farmers are a key piece of the fabric of this community, and they have important stories to tell,” said Nancy Kilburg, educational liaison for the Maquoketa Art Experience (MAE), where the performance will take place on Nov. 10.

“We would love to hear their stories about their experiences and the role farming has played in their lives,” she said. “We want real people with real stories. No past theatrical experience is necessary, as part of this process involves working with a professional storyteller to hone the performances.”

Four or five local storytellers is the target for the performance that will also include local musicians and local food. 

People interested in participating or seeking more information should contact Kilburg at (563) 249-6200.

The program, which reflects a region’s agricultural activity and heritage, was developed by Swander Woman Productions. Mary Swander, a former Iowa poet laureate and an accomplished playwright, founded the company as part of her quest to combine Iowa’s rich agricultural history with its equally rich arts community. 

The show changes in each community where it is performed. Past productions have featured an 80-year old conventional corn and bean grower who has lived on the same century farm his whole life telling the tale of how his ancestors managed the land years ago; a middle-aged farmer telling of his experiments with prairie strips and cover crops; a forager telling how she learned to identify mushrooms; a high school student telling of learning to cook, highlighting his biggest success and biggest failure. 

Swander is no stranger to Eastern Iowa. Her play “Map of My Kingdom” was performed in DeWitt and Maquoketa in February 2015. Performances of the one-woman play about land transition were followed by discussions during which local farmers, bankers and others shared their own stories, asked questions or gave tips on how to navigate these waters.

Her play “Farmscape” was performed by the Peace Pipe Players community theater group in Maquoketa last year. Swander wrote that play with assistance from her 2007 Iowa State University creative writing class based on a series of personal interviews with Iowans connected to farming. 

“Farm-to-Fork Tales” is sponsored by MAE, Maquoketa State Bank, and The Eastern Iowa Farmer magazine.

More information on “Farm-to-Fork-Tales” and Swander’s other work can be found at