Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Awards Grants to 4 Farmers Markets, Food Hubs Partnering to Give Iowans Access to More Locally-Grown Foods
Decorah and Iowa City Farmers Markets, Iowa Food Cooperative and Iowa State University Extension in Wapello County receive grants to help connect consumers to local producers
DES MOINES, Iowa (Aug. 14, 2020) – Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig announced today that the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is awarding $3,000 grants to four farmers markets and food hubs that are partnering to connect Iowa consumers to local farmers. The Decorah and Iowa City Farmers Markets, Iowa Food Cooperative, and Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach in Wapello County will receive funding to support partnerships that give consumers access to more locally-grown food options.
“Producers of all sizes have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions. This has created an opportunity for farmers markets and food hubs to explore innovative ways to shift their distribution models to help connect local producers and consumers,” said Secretary Naig. “These partnerships are just a few examples of the creative ways farmers markets and food hubs are working together so local producers can continue selling their crops, and Iowans can continue enjoying a large variety of fresh, local foods.”
COVID-19 has increased awareness and demand for locally-grown foods. Farmers markets play important roles in their communities and many vendors have established strong relationships with their customers. Food hubs have regional distribution networks that allow specialty crop producers to reach more consumers. Combining the strengths of both food systems gives customers access to more locally-grown choices.
The lessons learned from these partnerships will be shared with other farmers markets and food hubs across the state in hopes of replicating the success of these mini supply chains.
Decorah Farmers Market
The Decorah Farmers Market is partnering with the Iowa Food Hub to operate a virtual farmers market. The first event was held on March 23, 2020, and now 16 local vendors are participating. The online market started as a home-delivery service and has evolved to include a curbside pick-up option. The Decorah Farmers Market and Iowa Food Hub are working to find a solution that allows EBT customers to place orders online and pick-up and pay for their orders at the farmers market.
Iowa City Farmers Market
The Iowa City Farmers Market started working with the Field to Family Food Hub in May 2020, to offer a virtual farmers market. The virtual venue gives vendors a larger market for their products and consumers can purchase a larger variety of foods in a safe, contact-free environment. The Field to Family Food Hub is working on a direct-to-consumer sales strategy to support specialty crop producers after the Iowa City Farmers Market ends in October.
Iowa Food Cooperative
The Iowa Food Cooperative is an online-only sales platform that helps local growers sell their produce. In previous years, the Iowa Food Cooperative has hosted a farmers market at its physical store in Des Moines but it was canceled due to COVID-19. The Iowa Food Cooperative is developing a “farmer-less market” that gives growers a chance to stock and sell their products without being physically present. This option reduces the number of people on-site, making the event safer for everyone.
ISU Extension and Outreach in Wapello County
The ISU Extension and Outreach in Wapello County’s “Produce with a Purpose” program functions like a community-supported agriculture system. Customers order a box of local, fresh produce, then staff and volunteers assemble and distribute the boxes through 10 drop-off sites in two counties. The Wapello County Extension office plans to use the grant money to purchase an EBT/SNAP machine to make the program available to more residents. They will also extend the program into the fall to sell seasonal produce, like squash and pumpkins.
This grant program is funded through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant and is administered by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. For more information about the grants, contact Tammy Stotts at firstname.lastname@example.org.