March 21, 2007 – Committee Work

Today, I attended two meetings in Ames. One with Practical Farmers of Iowa to talk to them about the system design of their new food cooperative. It is one of the missing links in a local food system. The press release about the project follows:

Practical Farmers of Iowa to launch Iowa Food Cooperative

AMES, Iowa—Iowa consumers soon will find it easier to have their pick of a wide variety of Iowa products, under a project starting through Practical Farmers of Iowa. Practical Farmers of Iowa has received a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to launch an Iowa Food Cooperative.
The Cooperative, when launched early next year, will be similar to ones now operating in Oklahoma and Nebraska. The effort will sell only food and non-food products that are produced by members of the cooperative directly to consumers.
The benefits of a direct-to-consumer distribution system like this are many. Consumers know more about the products they’re buying and they are supporting our Iowa economy, while farmers are getting the best price they can. Customers will know exactly who produced the food, where it was grown or raised, and what production practices the farmer or rancher used. “You don’t just order five pounds of generic hamburger, you order it from a specific producer. Our food has a story, and customers of locally raised foods are part of that story,” according to Eric Franzenburg, president of Practical Farmers of Iowa.
The Iowa Food Co-op will be modeled on the successful Oklahoma and Nebraska Food Cooperatives. The older of these two, the Oklahoma Food Co-op, has nearly 1500 different items available each month. As of February 2007, the coop has 1000 members, 101 of them are producers. Total sales average $25,000 – $35,000 each month. The advantage for consumers? “We are discovering the unique and authentic regional tastes of this area and rediscovering the importance of local food production to healthy, local communities,” said Eric. The project also recognizes that Iowa is unique with various local and regional farmer-led food distribution efforts. The project will work with these efforts to help deepen and broaden the base of consumers who buy products directly from farmers.
PFI is a non-profit sustainable agriculture group dedicated to farming that is profitable, environmentally sound, and healthy for consumers and communities. Founded in 1985, PFI has over 700 farmer and non-farmer members throughout Iowa.

The second meeting was at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture. There was a meeting to discuss mechanisms for small niche agricultural producers to have access to capital. It was a brainstorming session for another Leopold project.
one year ago…