What I Discovered on my Sustainability Road Trip to Fairfield
By Chris Evergreen | June 7, 2021
My first time in Fairfield
I first visited Fairfield, IA on a sustainability-themed road trip; I wanted to stay longer because I loved the vibe so I set off to discover what else the town had to offer. My hope is you will be able to fully enjoy your time in Fairfield by knowing some of the best things about it for those passing through.
I came in 2015 to check out the carbon-negative Schwartz-Guich Sustainable Living Center at Maharishi International University. From there I followed the main road around the corner and discovered Everybody’s Wholefoods, which now serves as homebase of sorts for me. I wish I would have known at the time to take advantage of the best bulk food section in SE Iowa, with its bulk spices, teas, chocolate chips, nuts, oatmeal, rice, lentils, etc.
I took the crossroad Everybody’s is located on, Kirkwood, east to see if I could find anything interesting in that direction within a 5 minute drive. I found myself at Pleasant Lake hanging out under a gazebo and dipping my toes in cool water on a hot summer day. Imagine my delight to discover a bench on the water’s edge with a peaceful view of the lake just a short walk down the well-maintained trail.
Speaking of the great outdoors, When I was a new student here all I knew about was Waterworks Park across the street from campus and the 16 mile loop trail that goes all around town. It took me years to learn about the many nature spots I’ve come to love. Besides the previously mentioned Pleasant Lake here are four more spots I recommend starting out with:
- Chautauqua park - perfect walking loop, picnic tables, frisbee disc golf, playground
- Jefferson County park- miles of trails, campground, reflecting pond
- Whitham Woods - beautiful fishing pond and well-maintained grassy, mossy paths
- Lamson Woods State Preserve - cattails catwalk and red wing blackbirds.
What's a trip without some good food and Fairfield has not only great food but restaurants that have sustainable practices and provide vegetarian and gluten-free options. Cafe Paradiso is a really good, locally-owned coffee shop. I highly recommend ordering online and then going to pick up based on the weather and if time is a factor. They are not slow, but they are busy, rightfully so. Ordering online and then heading to pick it up is ideal for me when I want my Cafe P ASAP.
Now, we are lucky to have Bountiful Bakery serving up delicious pastries, bagels, sandwiches, bread, pizza, and many creative tasty baked things. If you have the chance to go - take it - I promise you will not regret that decision. I once got a handmade pizza with sourdough crust, locally grown nettles, and organic butternut squash. I’m drooling right now remembering eating it last summer, at the height of lockdown that pizza gave me life. They practice zero-waste by providing 100% compostable containers.
I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Revelations bookstore and cafe, Hazel Moon Cafe, and, coming back soon, the Bookhouse Cafe. All great spots for relaxing, socializing, and enjoying a beverage located on the square.
Solar Powered Businesses
In Fairfield, you can go to a solar-powered bank, gas station, and drive-thru, and university.
- Iowa State Bank
- Conoco and BP
- Taco Johns (yep the Taco Johns is solar powered!)
- Maharishi International University powered by the Meg’Array, viewable on the loop trail
Road Trip Resources
If you want to stay while on a budget then I recommend these resources:
- Camping spots and cabins in Jefferson County Park.
- $5 day pass - shower, work out, swim, play at the Fairfield Rec center
- Dexter laundromat on 4th and Burlington, do laundry without change, using their app
- The free wifi is good and the power outlets are plenty.
The roads that lead to Fairfield are essentially traffic-less, which makes them great for road tripping. However, I wish I would have known to really keep to the speed limits because the state troopers are plentiful and it’s easy to go too fast with no traffic and long, straight roads.
One way I love getting to Fairfield is to catch a train from Chicago on the Amtrak to either Ottumwa or Mount Pleasant. If you know someone that lives in Fairfield and can give you a ride it’s a great way to get here without having to drive. The train ride takes about as long as driving but there is pretty good wifi for working or studying on the trip. However, plan accordingly for late arrivals and late take-offs unfortunately since freight trains have right of way over passenger trains.
For those that will fly to get to Fairfield, I recommend flying into Chicago and taking the train (if it works with the timing) and then arranging for a ride to and flying out from either Cedar Rapids or Des Moines.