Chef Katie Porter’s specialty is local foods. As chef and food program manager for the Wallace Centers of Iowa, Porter oversees cooking classes and meal planning at the Wallace House in Des Moines.

The Wallace House is the historic home of the Wallace family, four generations of leaders in agriculture and journalism.

In 2022, Porter was named one of 40 Women to Watch by the Iowa Restaurant Association.

Porter turns to Iowa farmers for menu inspiration. The Wallace House hosts regular “Know Your Farmer” dinners, including during the Christmas season, to give guests the chance to meet and talk with the farmers who grow the ingredients.

Porter understands farmers and their priorities. She grew up in Mount Ayr in Ringgold County, studied at the Culinary Federation of Colorado Mountain College, then cooked her way around the world.

When she returned to Iowa, she connected with local farmers before joining the Wallace Centers of Iowa.

Porter knows each farmer she buys from and their farming practices.

“The one thing they all have in common is they care about the land and their animals and are committed to making the land better,” Porter says. “When you love what you are doing, you gravitate to what you love and you care about how things are raised.”

Porter notes that there are a growing number of Iowa farms that direct-market to consumers.

“There are so many (farmers) and products out there – from pork, beef, chickens and lamb to fruits and vegetables. They all fill a niche,” Porter says. “Greenhouse-grown microgreens add a bit of freshness in winter. Hydroponics growers provide lettuce and spinach year-round.”

Locally grown foods also help connect consumers with farmers and raise awareness about food quality and how food is grown and raised.

“Now more than ever, people want to know where their food comes from,” Porter says. “Farmers telling their story and showing their production practices through social media and other avenues have helped people see the real farm, not the idealized one. And that connects people to their food more than ever before.” 

Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield.

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