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Aronia bush to be planted at Osceola library

MISSOURI VALLEY — Sixth generation Iowa family farmer Andrew Pittz is visiting all 99 counties to celebrate Iowa agriculture and the highest antioxidant "Superfood" — the aronia berry. The Pittz family reintroduced the then-endangered aronia berry nearly two decades ago at Sawmill Hollow, just down the road from the family's Century Farm.

"The Iowa Healthiest State Initiative sets out to make our state the healthiest in the nation by 2016. In the last year we have moved from the Top 20 to the Top 10 with farmers like Andrew Pittz of Sawmill Hollow, the aronia berry and these great public-private partnerships,” Gov. Terry Branstad said.

Pittz will plant an aronia berry bush at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, at Osceola Library.

The tour centers around an "Iowa Heritage" series, which follows last year's gubernatorial proclamation declaring September "Aronia Berry Month."

Sawmill Hollow "Farmer-in-Chief" Andrew Pittz will plant an aronia berry bush at select community landmarks ranging from courthouses to churches to libraries and city parks.  A Renew Rural Iowa business leader, Pittz also selected several fellow RRI "Business of the Month" recipients for special plantings throughout the tour.

"Iowa produces more soy than Canada and nearly as much corn as China. Today, it is set to lead the world once again: in aronia berry production. We're celebrating our farming families, big and small, conventional and organic, in what's just another chapter of Iowa's proud agricultural legacy," Pittz said of the tour.

While Pittz is planting aronia berry bushes around the state, his parents Cindy and Vaughn will continue to tend to the farm's organic aronia berries, the first to be cultivated commercially in North America.

Pittz will also continue to lead collaborative programming, which he refers to as "21st Century Barn Raisings."

Previously, at an April 1 event, Missouri Valley area small businesses, the public library association, chamber of commerce and Google partnered to create the "Legends of the Loess Hills," a shared marketing platform that also provided the rural businesses an opportunity to get online.

"Google values its relationship with the community ... the idea was to go into a more rural area and assist a few businesses with an initial web presence — the first step into entering the digital economy. This will hopefully be the first of many events," said Shawne Zuber, a Google operations manager who participated in the event.

The Healthiest State Initiative is a privately led public initiative intended to inspire Iowans and their communities throughout the state to improve their health and happiness. To achieve its goal, individuals, families, businesses, faith-based organizations, not-for-profits and the public sector will unite in a community-focused effort to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.

With sales of more than $7.6 billion and more than 235 retail stores across eight Midwestern states, Hy-Vee ranks among the top 20 supermarket chains and the top 50 private companies in the United States.

Supermarket News, the authoritative voice of the food industry, has honored the company with a Whole Health Enterprise Award for its leadership in providing services and programs that promote a healthy lifestyle.

Sawmill Hollow is the first commercial and organic Aronia farm in the United States. The 'Farmer-in-Chief', Andrew Pittz, lives and works on the farm in Missouri Valley. According to the Natural Products Industry Forecast, Sawmill Hollow is a Top 51 Company Shaping the Natural and Organic Industry and is the only family farm to make the list.

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