A Farmers’ Support is Necessary
Our farmer story this week is not about one of our farmers, but about a non profit connecting and educating in support of North Iowa local food farmers and the overall local food system. The USDA “Running a Food Hub: Learning from Food Hub Closures” (something NIF wants to stay far away from) lists six key lessons for success. Number 4 is “Focus on Your Strengths and Find Partners for the Rest." The document describes the importance of partnerships in filling the myriad of gaps in the local and regional food system. Food hubs that have attempted to fill those gaps themselves have often been overwhelmed by the demands. North Iowa Fresh is fortunate to have Healthy Harvest active in our region. This partnership is one of the assets in NIF’s tool box.
A food hub, as defined by the USDA, is “a centrally located facility with a business management structure facilitating the aggregation, storage, processing, distribution, and/or marketing of locally/regionally produced food products. North Iowa Fresh fits this definition.
Healthy Harvest began in 2011 to help cultivate a local food network. Many farmers in North Iowa Fresh got to know each other through Healthy Harvest activities such as winter workshops. The conversation about farmers working together collaboratively started with a 2012 workshop Healthy Harvest organized. It was a subsequent project of Healthy Harvest in 2013 that began the very early exploration of online sales that today has blossomed into the Bounty Box Build Your Own Box and A-La-Carte options.
It is Healthy Harvest’s leadership in a Farm to School grant that is motivating several school districts to add locally grown produce to their menu. North Iowa Fresh has recently been selected by the Mason City school district to supply their local ingredients this fall. Just last week NIF producers were confirming that crops the school has ordered will be ready when and in the quantities requested.
NIF and other local food businesses have been directly impacted by the heightened awareness of and support for local food that Healthy Harvest is generating. This feature is particularly timely as they are hosting Bites & Brews this Thursday, July 25 in Mason City as a celebration of their impact on the local food movement.
The Summer Newsletter highlights the many activities going on thanks to Healthy Harvest. As a Bounty Box subscriber, you support North Iowa Fresh producers by buying their food. You can support North Iowa’s local food system by attending Bites and Brews and becoming a Healthy Harvest of North Iowa member.
Note: Pictured above are Mark Hopple (Produce Manager at Hy-Vee W in Mason City, Jessica Baldus (Owner/Chef of Taste in Osage and Lora Jenson (recently retired Food Services Director at Clear Lake School District) while participating in local buyers panel at The Gathering (local food conference in 2018).