LOCAL FOOD PROGRAM TARGETS FOOD HUBS, BEGINNING FARMERS, FARM-TO-SCHOOL EFFORTS
AMES, Iowa – A statewide program designed to boost production and sales of Iowa-grown food will focus on food hubs, business training opportunities for farmers and getting more school districts involved in farm-to-school programs during its second year of operation.
The Local Food and Farm Initiative, or LFFI, has received a second year of funding from the Iowa legislature. A description of the proposed work, and why it is needed, is included in a year-end report submitted to legislators in June.
Craig Chase, local food specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and interim marketing program leader at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, will continue as LFFI coordinator.
“We are pleased to get funding for another year, having made good progress toward the original recommendations from the Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan,” Chase said. “Our focus this coming year will be narrowed to three areas; business development, beginning farmers and food incentives. We believe that substantial progress will be made in these areas.”
Chase said the LFFI program follows a 2011 master plan developed by the Leopold Center at the request of the Iowa legislature. In April 2012, more than 130 people attended an Iowa Local Food Summit to discuss which of the plan’s 29 operational recommendations should be a priority for the second year of the program, if funding was approved.
During its second year, LFFI will focus on:
-- Business Development and Financial Assistance through development of food hubs, where products are aggregated for wholesale and institutional markets;
-- Beginning, Transitioning and Minority Farmers, specifically incubator farms, mentoring programs and processing kitchens; and
-- Food Incentives, particularly support for school gardens and farm-to-school programs.
Another need discussed at the summit was a central place to share information. Chase said ISU Extension and Outreach would be developing a website, blog and other communication tools as early as January 2013.
Chase said he was pleased to report that an Iowa Small Business Loan Program has been expanded for farmers and businesses involved in local food production. LFFI also supported half-day workshops for commercial ag bankers and FSA loan officers about the unique challenges and opportunities associated with local food operations and related businesses. At least 15 schools in northeast Iowa are buying fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy products directly from farmers, and farm-to-school programs are operating in 16 community school districts in Iowa.
LFFI activities are conducted by a team of extension educators and local food consultants. They are:
-- Andy Larson, a program specialist in Small Farm Sustainability for ISU Extension and Outreach;
-- Nick McCann,a food value chain coordinator for ISU Extension in northeast Iowa;
-- Teresa Wiemerslage, program and communications coordinator for ISU Extension and Outreach in northeast Iowa;
-- Jason Grimm, food system planner for Iowa Valley RC&D in Johnson County;
-- Andrea Geary, local food program manager at the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy and Environmental Education; and
-- Lynn Heuss, local food and farm program assistant coordinator for the Women, Food and Agriculture Network and assistant coordinator for LFFI.
Find the LFFI program’s first-year report to the Iowa legislature on the Leopold Center website : www.leopold.iastate.edu (look under Pubs & Papers, Local Food and Farm Program Final Report).
An electronic version of this news release is available on the Leopold Center website: