Writer: Andrea Love
Do you know the name of the farmer who grew the vegetables in your fridge?
Even though more than 85% of Iowa land is used for farming, most of us can’t really pinpoint where our meat, produce and dairy products are actually produced. About 90% of the food in our grocery stores comes from out of state, according to Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.
Healthy Harvest of North Iowa is working to change that. Its small, part-time staff works with farmers, local food leaders and consumers to raise awareness about food production and distribution — in other words, how food gets from Iowa farms to Iowa tables.
The Hampton-based nonprofit promotes farmers markets across north Iowa and leads workshops for potential and new market vendors. They lead classes about gardening and cooking, too, and post all kinds of seasonal recipes online (at healthyharvestni.com). It’s all about teaching Iowans how to produce food or support others who do.
Healthy Harvest creates “one unified connection resource for multiple parts of the food system,” executive director Marie Boyd said.
Connecting food producers and consumers offers several benefits, she explained. It helps consumers make better choices and creates collaborative marketing opportunities for farmers that otherwise might be overwhelming.
“It would be a huge undertaking for [one producer] to recognize what a community needs and take that on themselves,” Boyd said. With Healthy Harvest’s help, producers work together to strengthen local-food systems by increasing access to locally raised beef or fresh eggs, for example, or providing local produce for school lunches.
“We have really cool partners doing really cool stuff,” Boyd said. “The fun part is when we also get to learn where our food actually comes from.”
Boyd encourages Iowans to think more about where their food comes from and to consider adding a few dollars to their grocery budgets to invest in locally produced food. And if they learn the name of the farmer down the road, well, all the better
Iowa Stops Hunger is an ongoing Business Publications Corp. initiative to raise awareness about food insecurity in Iowa and inspire action to combat it.