Diane Weiland, CEO of the Wallace Centers of Iowa, said the two groups merged because both honored the legacy of the Wallace family.&nbsp; Photo by Duane Tinkey<br />
Diane Weiland, CEO of the Wallace Centers of Iowa, said the two groups merged because both honored the legacy of the Wallace family.  Photo by Duane Tinkey

The Wallace Centers of Iowa have been around for only two years, but the nonprofit already has a large list of events and programs focused around its main mission of educating the public about local agriculture and civil discourse.

The organization is named after the Wallace family, which has a long and influential history in American agriculture and policy, with three members serving as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under various administrations.

Diane Weiland, president and CEO of the centers, said the organization is the result of a 2010 merger between the Henry A. Wallace Life Center in Orient and the Wallace House in Des Moines, both of which have been around since the 1990s.

She said each nonprofit honored the Wallace family legacy, so the merger seemed like a natural fit. Throughout 2011 the centers held dialogue dinners and luncheons that discussed civility in politics – a topic that Weiland said needs more emphasis.

“It seems that there is an emergence of groups talking about how civility is lacking – and not just in politics,” Weiland said. “These were just reminders on how we treat each other.”

Weiland believes the dialogues show off values important to the Wallace family, whose members always strove to be courteous and kind to people with different opinions and always encouraged respectful debates.

The centers are now working on their dialogue luncheons for this year, which Weiland said will most likely focus on immigration.

The combined centers have six full-time employees and seasonal staff. To celebrate the Wallaces’ agriculture legacy, the centers grow fruits and vegetables on four acres of land outside the Wallace Life Center and have seven themed flower gardens.

The organization also holds a nine-day youth camp for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 17. The program teaches teens about healthful eating and their local food systems.

The nonprofit even has its own restaurant, The Gathering Table Café, which offers home-cooked meals made from locally grown food, and caters the group’s events.

“We want to remind people what real food tastes like,” Weiland said.