DES MOINES, Iowa – A six-member advisory council met for the first time 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, 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.
- 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 said. “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 said.
Chase said 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 www.leopold.iastate.edu/marketing/iowa-local-food-and-farm-plan.