Iowa has a new statewide program that aims to boost production, processing, distribution, marketing and consumption of Iowa-grown food. The Local Food and Farm Initiative's purpose is to increase profitability for farmers and the number of jobs in local foods. The program brings together the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension and ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
"This initiative is designed to get more of the food we produce here in Iowa on the table while keeping more of the food dollar on the farm," Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says. "By using the expertise of all three organizations it should help speed the development of this already growing part of Iowa agriculture."
Craig Chase, an ISU Extension farm management specialist and interim leader of the marketing program at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Ag at ISU, is coordinating the new program.
John Lawrence, director of Extension to Agricultural and Natural Resources at ISU and associate dean in the college of ag, says that Chase's 27 years of experience in Extension programs as well as co-leading ISU Extension's new Regional /Local Food System Task Force makes him a good choice to be the Local Food and Farm Program Coordinator for Iowa.
New initiative will help network activities already in place across Iowa
"This initiative will help network the many activities already underway across Iowa and will leverage new investment in fruit and vegetable production expertise made by the college, ISU Extension and the Leopold Center," says Lawrence.
The new program was created by the Iowa Legislature, which outlined broad goals and membership of a Local Food and Farm Program Council within IDALS that will advise the coordinator. First-year operating funds of $75,000 were included in the agriculture and natural resources budget bill signed by Governor Terry Branstad in July.
The initiative's four goals are to:
• Promote the expansion of local food production, processing, distribution and marketing of Iowa food;
• Increase consumer and institutional spending on Iowa foods;
• Increase the profitability of farmers and businesses engaged in local food enterprises; and
• Increase the number of jobs associated with local foods.
The six-member Local Food and Farm program council will include representatives from IDALS, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Farmers Market Association and three people appointed by the governor to represent Iowa resource conservation and development; a food processor, wholesaler or retailer; and a regional food system working group participant or expert in local food.
The Local Food and Farm Initiative follows recommendations outlined in an Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan prepared by the Leopold Center at the request of the Iowa Legislature. The plan calls for more coordination of programs at the state level and assistance in business training, loans, food processing, food safety and programs for beginning, minority and transitioning farmers. Since April, Chase has been leading the Marketing and Food Systems Initiative at the Leopold Center. One of Chase's duties is to work with 16 groups throughout the state that participate in the Regional Food Systems Working Group.
Investment to improve economic viability of regional food systems in Iowa
"Craig has been effectively coordinating these regional food system efforts to increase Iowa's local food supply and use and is a well-known leader," says Mark Honeyman, interim director at the Leopold Center. "These groups will be an important part of achieving some of the goals set out for the new state initiative."
New investment at ISU to improve economic viability of regional food systems in Iowa has included hiring an extension commercial horticulture specialist for central and western Iowa and a new faculty member in horticulture to conduct research and extension on vegetable production. Financial support for the new hires for the next three years was made possible by donor support to the Leopold Center. The two new hires join nine other ISU faculty and staff on campus and around the state who work in commercial fruit and vegetable production.