The Northeast Iowa local food system has experienced tremendous growth over the past ten years, which is due, in part, to the careful planning and creative partnerships that were established to support this work. The local and regional food system is much stronger now than it was ten years ago. We have seen that when food is grown, processed and consumed locally, there are benefits for farmers, communities, the environment and our health. The purpose of this plan is to ensure an even stronger regional food system ten years from now.
The previous strategic plan was developed in 2006 and included three key strategy areas:
The Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition formed in 2006 to begin implementation of the strategic plan. Priorities from the 2006 strategic plan were then adopted by the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) when it was funded and launched in 2007. The work of the Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition became one of the FFI work groups.
Much has been accomplished since the 2006 strategic plan was created, including:
This strategic plan seeks to expand on the great work that has already been accomplished since 2006 and to set a roadmap for the next ten years in the Northeast Iowa food system. It is our vision to provide opportunities for producers, strengthen aggregation and distribution networks to get product where it needs to go and to get good food into the homes of everyone in the region.
The Northeast Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative has brought people in northeast Iowa together to make our region a place where every day, all people have access to healthy, locally grown foods and abundant opportunities for physical activity in the places where we live, learn, work and play. This vision statement focuses the work:
Northeast Iowa is a unique place where all residents and guests experience, celebrate, and promote healthy, locally-grown food and have abundant opportunities for physical activity and play every day.
Picture, if you will, a regional food system that is economically vibrant and growing. Farmers choose to work through the local food hub to assure that together they can meet commercial and institutional needs, while also assuring that every resident has access to affordable, healthy food. Local entrepreneurs are supported in establishing processing and storage facilities, and other value-added businesses, that make local food available all year round and attractive to buyers. We are nurturing a generation of new farmers. The number of farmers growing local food is expanding to meet growing needs. At the same time, leaders in the local food system have creatively implemented structures that assure community members with limited financial resources can afford to eat what is grown close to home.
In November 2016 and January 2017, more than 60 diverse stakeholders gathered on the Luther College campus to dream and strategize about the future of the food system in northeast Iowa. Stakeholders included commodity producers, community supported agriculture growers, lenders, market gardeners, extension agents, retailers, independent meat processors, community members, value added producers and staff from hospitals, schools, Iowa Food Hub, institutional food service, Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness, Iowa State Extension and Outreach, food pantries, and food banks.
Refer to Appendix A for a list of participants in the planning process.
The four key strategies for this plan include:
The words local, regional and sustainable are used throughout this plan. Recognizing that each institution should have the opportunity to define these terms for themselves as they go about setting goals and making purchasing decisions, this plan does not fully define these words. The following are ways in which the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative has defined these words when teaching children about the food system.
Strategy 1: Increase sustainable production of local food and engage more farmers in producing for regional markets.
Strategy 2: Advance processing, aggregation, and distribution systems for local food to scale up and reach new markets.
Strategy 3: Expand access to affordable, healthy, local food for all people in northeast Iowa.
Strategy 4: Develop sustained funding for people and programs that support the regional food system.
Appendix A - Strategic Planning Participants
Mary Abbas - Kitchen Table Ministries
Merrill Angell - County Line Locker
Kimberlea Baker - D&K Family Farm
Drew Baker - D&K Family Farm
Maren Beard - Luther College, Luna Valley Farm, ANB Board, Oneota Co-op Board
Andrew Blair - Food Corps Member, NEIA Food and Fitness Initiative
Anne Bohl - Low Oaks Farm
Mike Bollinger - River Root Farm
Hannah Breckbill - Humble Hands Harvest
Rachel Brummel - Luther College, Highlandville Honey Farm
David Cavagnaro - Pepperfield Project
Flannery Cerbin-Bohach - Northeast Iowa Community College, Oneota Co-op Board
Barb Dale - Community Member
Josh Dansdill - Northeast Iowa RC&D
Chad Elliott - Decorah School District
Glen Elsbernd - G It’s Fresh
Kristin Evanrud - Oneota Community Food Co-op
Beverly Fredrick - Spectrum Network
Brandon Friedlein - Community Savings Bank
Nate Furler - Oneota Community Food Co-op
Seth Gengler - SnoPac Foods
Elaine Govern - Community Member
Larry Grimstad - Decorah Bank and Trust, Community Member
Kyle Holthaus - Kymar Acres
Rachelle Howe - Upper Explorerland Regional Planning Commission
Sheri Huber-Otting - Northeast Iowa Food Bank
Jon Jensen - Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities
Mark Jensen - CUSB Bank
Haleisa Johnson - NEIA Food and Fitness Initiative, Facilitator
Peter Kerns - Turkey River Farm
Kayla Koether - ISU Extension and Outreach
Barb Kraus - Canoe Creek Produce
Carolyn Lambright - Cedar Ridge Farm
Neal Lambright - Cedar Ridge Farm
David Lester - Oneota Community Food Co-op
Ann Mansfield - NEIA Food and Fitness Initiative, Facilitator
Cheryl Martins - Northeast Iowa Community Action Corp Child and Adult Care Food Program
Steve McCargar - Winneshiek County Farmer’s Market
Liz Murphy - WW Homestead Dairy
Diane Narum - Luther College Dining Services
Emily Neal - Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities
Eric Nordschow - Windridge Implements
Caite Palmer - Prairie’s Edge Farm
Jodi Peake - J&J Farm
Jeremy Peake - J&J Farm
Betsy Pierce - Oneota Community Food Co-op, ANB Board
Barbara Prather - Northeast Iowa Food Bank
Katie Prochaska - River Root Farm
John Rodecap - Community Member
Pat Ryan - Quillins, Decorah
John Schroeher - Decorank Bank and Trust
Bill Thom - Community Member
Caleb Timp - Luther College Dining Services
Wayne Tudor - Luther College Dining Services
Kraig Tweed - ISU Extension and Outreach
Jennifer Votsmier - Veterans Memorial Hospital
Tom Weighner - WW Homestead Dairy
Teresa Wiemerslage - ISU Extension and Outreach
Patti Wild - Veterans Memorial Hospital
Georgia Windhorst - Iowa Food Hub
Dave Wise - Foresight Dairy
Halley Wise - Community Member
Kathy Zurcher - Consultant / Facilitator