Iowa's New Local Food & Farm Program Reviewed

Iowa's New Local Food & Farm Program Reviewed

Advisory council is appointed to review progress on Iowa's new Local Food & Farm Program, which seeks to boost farmer profitability and increase jobs in local foods.

A six-member advisory council met for the first time recently to review progress on Iowa's new Local Food and Farm Program that seeks to increase farmer profitability and the number of jobs in local foods. Craig Chase, interim coordinator of the Marketing and Food Systems Initiative at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, coordinates the new state program. He met with the newly appointed Local Food and Farm Program Advisory Council January 17 in Des Moines.

Coordinated within the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS), the advisory council has representatives from IDALS, the Iowa Farmers Union and Iowa Farmers Market Association, plus three people appointed by the Governor's Office to represent Iowa's Resource Conservation and Development Areas, a food processor or retailer and an expert in local food systems.

Advisory council members appointed for Iowa's Local Food & Farm Program

The six members of the new advisory council are:

Maury Wills, bureau chief at IDALS and organic apple grower near Adel;

Rick Hartmann, Iowa Farmers Union and owner of Small Potatoes Farm near Minburn;

Barb Ristau, Iowa Farmers Market Association board member, Hampton;

Warren Johnson, executive director of the Iowa League of RC&Ds, Chariton;

Teresa Wiemerslage, coordinator of the Northeast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition and natural beef farmer in Allamakee County, and

Andrea Geary, local food program manager at the University of Northern Iowa's Center for Energy and Environmental Education and coordinator of the Northern Iowa Food & Farm Partnership, Cedar Falls.

"The Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan that the Leopold Center prepared for the legislature, and is the basis for this program, had 29 operational recommendations divided into six sections," Chase says. "We're looking at major barriers to developing a vibrant food system in Iowa and then at what we could do to eliminate these barriers."

The six areas are: business development and financial assistance; processing; food safety; issues relevant to beginning, minority and transitioning farmers; program assessment and implementation of local food incentives. Leaders are assessing current challenges and successes, identifying what's needed, and suggesting future activities.

"Some recommendations from the plan have been accomplished, such as adding a farmer member to the Iowa Food Safety Task Force. Others will require more attention, such as the food safety training that already has begun in northeast Iowa," he says. Chase says aggregation, storage, processing and distribution of locally grown food are among the larger issues, but he's confident those efforts will grow, too.

Learn more about the Iowa Local Food and Farm Program at  

Leopold center strengthens partnership with Iowa Learning Farms


In other Leopold Center news, a statewide program designed to build a "Culture of Conservation" in Iowa will be working closely with the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture over the next three years. 

The Leopold Center has strengthened its partnership with the Iowa Learning Farms (ILF), beginning in January 2012 and running through December 31, 2014. The Leopold Center is supporting development of educational materials for new audiences, including young people, and resources that can be used at ILF field days, workshops, classrooms and the Conservation Station, the ILF's mobile learning center.

"The Iowa Learning Farms has been successful in capturing the attention of farmers and generating public awareness about practical ways that we all can improve our water and soil quality," says Mark Honeyman, Leopold Center interim director. "This new aspect of our partnership will get Leopold Center research findings into the hands of farmers and increase the outreach and impact of the Leopold Center."

The Iowa Learning Farms is an outreach and education program that brings together farmer and non-farmer conservationists, educators, and organization and agency personnel. Here's a snapshot of activities during the past year:

* Monthly webinars on various topics, including research supported by the Leopold Center

* Five workshops on cover crops, no-till planters and strip-tillage

* Creation and distribution of three new how-to videos on adding a cover crop to a corn-soybean operation, using grass waterways and manure management

* 24 field days attended by over 1,100 people

* 80 Conservation Station events attended by over 13,000 people

* Completion of a 43-minute video, "Out to the Lakes," about watersheds and water quality

* Publication of a new book, Water Quality Matters To Us All, that offers insight on Iowans' perceptions of water quality and watersheds.

Thanks to the stronger partnership with the Leopold Center, ILF will be able to host additional farmer activities, continue to increase the number of farmer- and non-farmer partners and conduct evaluation sessions with mixed audiences about ILF programs. New educational materials on prairies, wetlands, food systems and the Iowa landscape also will be developed for youth education programs and the Conservation Station.

ILF began as a research and demonstration project in 2005, and was coordinated by Leopold Center Director Jerry DeWitt from 2007 until his retirement in 2010. The program is now led by ISU sociology professor Lois Wright Morton, director; program manager is Jacqueline Comito of ISU Sociology Department; administrative manager is Matt Helmers, an ISU professor of ag and biosystems engineering.

ILF funding partners are the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship, Iowa State University Extension, USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service in Iowa, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Leopold Center. Cooperating partners are the Conservation Districts of Iowa and the Iowa Farm Bureau. For more information about the ILF program visit
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