116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMANA — Many folks want to support their local farmers and producers. But aside from the weekly farmers markets in the summer, the question is: how?
With answers on the who, what, where, when and why for shopping local, one Amana nonprofit started releasing monthly videos in February about the most common methods of accessing local food and specialty crops in Iowa. The Choose Local campaign is deploying videos through the height of farmers market season, targeting Iowans through social media ads. The ads also will reach major cities in states surrounding Iowa, including Nebraska, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
Iowa has a rich farming history, but in today’s busy world, some consumers need a little help connecting with knowledge and resources to buy local.
“We wanted to get that info out there because people are interested in supporting local, but aren’t quite sure how to go about that,” said Julie DeSpain, creative coordinator for Iowa Valley Resource, Conservation & Development. “Especially outside typical farmers markets seasonally.”
The videos from Iowa Valley RC&D, a nonprofit that works to strengthen local food systems and enhance natural resources through projects for Iowa producers, were first launched in February and continue to come out once each month. In recent years, the organization has noticed that knowledge is the missing link between consumers and producers — a disconnect that’s prevalent in both rural and urban areas of Iowa.
Consumers can find all the videos at the Iowa Valley RC&D’s YouTube page.
Videos will educate consumers on community-supported agriculture systems, local restaurants using local produce, farm stands, farmers markets, on-farm events and flower farms featuring producers on camera in the Meskwaki Nation, Des Moines, Clear Lake, Decorah and Van Horne. Videos were produced with local producers in multiple locations with a message of accessibility across the state in mind.
Buying local benefits your wallet, local farmers and the environment. Did you know that:
The average cost of food grown locally is $1.25 per pound. The average cost of food grown commercially and shipped is $1.39 per pound, according to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
39.6% of farmers market vendors are able to sell imperfect produce that would otherwise go to waste, since it cannot be sold in conventional grocery stores, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The average locally grown apple travels 60 miles. The average Washington apple travels 1,700 miles to an Iowa consumer, according to the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.
“Most of our state is common crops like corn and soybeans that aren’t the crops people buy for their table,” DeSpain said, explaining the disconnect on edible crops in one of the most agriculturally rich states in the nation.
“Iowa is blessed with a large diversity of local food opportunities in Iowa from a wide range of farmers and producers,” said Jason Grimm, executive director of Iowa Valley RC&D. “We are excited to celebrate this diversity with Iowans and highlight some of the amazing farms across the state.”
The benefits of buying local go beyond quality produce, though.
Farmers receive a higher profit margin and reduce waste when they can sell directly to consumers instead of shipping or selling through grocery stores. Better connections with consumers support their bottom line long-term, too.
And with less need for shipping, buying local benefits the environment. Dollars spent on locally grown food also stay in the community, providing more resilience to the local economy.
“It’s back to the basics, but it does have a wider range of effects,” DeSpain said. “If you spend your dollars locally, you help your local community and your state.”
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