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Supporting The Local Food Economy

Looking for something to do this summer that is educational, great for your community, and good for your health? Try attending your local farmers market, farm crawl or local food event to boost your community’s economy while supporting the producers that live in it.

The Regional Food Working System Group of Iowa works to form consumer and producer relationships, as well as strive to promote and create a sustainable regional food system. Representatives from 25 groups across Iowa meet regularly to discuss ways to educate and implement projects or programs to support its local food system.

According to a report from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, in 2012 local food purchases added almost $9 million to the Iowa economy.

“When you purchase food locally, the farmer gets the entire dollar, and it’s redistributed back into your community,” said Rachel Wobeter, from the Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership and University of Northern Iowa Local Food Program manager.

The Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership works to provide consumer education, producer education, information about food distribution and food access for those in need in the area.

On Sept. 14, a farm crawl will take place across the Cedar Valley region. Last year, 10 farms participated in the event, and this September will mark the fifth-year anniversary of the Farm Crawl in the region. Maps are handed out for self-guided tours that included demonstrations, samples and activities at each farm.

Another group, the Flavors of Northwest Iowa regional food program, also hosts numerous local food events, including food tours, workshops and farmers markets each Saturday throughout the summer.

Along the Missouri River, the Southwest Iowa Farm and Food Initiative offers Living Loess Tours available throughout the summer and fall. The tour allows you to visit many different farms in the Loess Hills of Harrison County such as the Sawmill Hollow Family Farm, the Loess Hills Lavender and Honey Creek Creamery, where you’re able to sample cheese and milk a goat.

The southwest region is also beginning a “Passport Program” that consumers can participate in by attending local farmers markets. How it works: Each time a consumer makes a purchase from a vendor, the vendor will sign off on the passport. For every five purchases, they will be entered in a drawing to win a large basket of fruits and vegetables from local producers.

“We really want to encourage individuals and families to get involved with farmers markets and buying local who have participated in the past,” said Michelle Franks, director of the Southwest Iowa Farm and Food Initiative.

“Passports” will be available at the farmers markets and for download on the Southwest Iowa Farm and Food Initiative website.

“Buying local is important because you know exactly where your food is coming from, eliminating the cost of transportation and lessening our footprint on the environment,” said Greg Mathis, coordinator of the Southwest Iowa Farm and Food Initiative.

Korthaus is a freelance writer from Udell.