At the ranch, cows help with lawn and the bottom line

By Steve Dinnen

Wildwood Hills Ranch is all about horses. Maya, Mr. Joe and the rest of the gang help all kinds of Iowans, from disadvantaged youth to veterans with PTSD.

So what’s with the small herd of cows? Why do they share the 400-acre property near St. Charles?

“I got tired of paying someone to mow perfectly good forage,” executive director Matt Moeckl joked.
He said horses can be finicky about the kinds of grass they eat, but cows — not so much. This lawn care strategy has diversified the program at the ranch, especially since one by one those cows eventually end up on the dinner table. The nonprofit has saved $3,000 by serving its own ground beef to visitors, and Moeckl said the ranch will soon add its own grass-fed, all-natural steak to the menu at the retreat center.

Here in Des Moines, Meals on Wheels also is diversifying. Soon its operations will move into new digs on University Avenue, into a kitchen that’s three times the size of the current setup. Also on tap: a hydroponic garden tended to by a staff gardener, and a restaurant that will serve the public.

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