Opportunities for local foods expanding in Iowa

Farm Forum

All across the country local and regional food systems provide a wealth of opportunities for rural residents. They provide opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and producers to meet growing customer demand for local foods. Local food entrepreneurs are starting to start small businesses like food processing, distribution and retail markets.

Local and regional food systems are also building stronger connections between urban and rural communities. Eastern Iowa is case in point. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second biggest city, the NewBo City Market features the region’s local food offerings. Secretary Vilsack was on hand in the fall of 2012 to open the 18,000 square foot market, local food distribution center, and culinary training facility.

Last February, Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Doug O’Brien visited the market to see how things were going. He was impressed.

“Consumers want to know who is growing their food and the NewBo City Market gives them that opportunity,” O’Brien said. “There is a lot of evidence that shows consumers demand and really want food that comes from local places.”

From Cedar Rapids, O’Brien and I headed north where we were joined by John Whitaker, Farm Service Agency Executive Director for Iowa and Jay Mar, State Conservationist with Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) to visit FarmTek in rural Dyersville, Iowa (population 4,086). FarmTek benefits regional food producers by specializing in hydroponic systems, hoop houses, greenhouses and products.

This brief Iowa tour is only one example of how local food is contributing to regional economies.

“Creating jobs and expanding economic opportunity for rural small businesses are top priorities for this Administration,” O’Brien said. “That’s why I am excited about the investments USDA is making in Iowa and across the country to help support local and regional foods. The new Farm Bill expands the potential for economic growth in rural America by supporting these efforts which are helping to create jobs and strengthen rural businesses.”

To discover USDA investments in local food in your area, visit the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.