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Professor Jon Andelson, and the Grinnell Area Local Foods Alliance

Today, I met with Jon Andelson, Professor of Anthropology and Direction of the Center for Prairie studies at Grinnell College. Among the things that Professor Andelson and I discussed:

  • The Grinnell Area Local Foods Alliance (GALFA), for which Professor Andelson is the Chairperson, originated in 2001 to apply for a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture to work with local producers and institutions. GALFA functions as an umbrella for local food projects, as well as a link to encourage relationships between local producers and institutions that can make use of locally foods. According to the GALFA handout, "the Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance is a partnership among several private non-profit organizations and government agencies in and around Grinnell dedicated to drawing the public's attention to the virtues of eating locally produced food and assisting in the further development of a local food system."
  • The four Grinnell Area Local Foods Projects that GALFA functions as an umbrella over:
    • The Grinnell Farmers Market: "The farmers market is the cornerstone of a local food system, giving customers a chance to select farm-fresh produce and other products from a variety of vendors."
    • Compass Plant CSA: "Community Supported Agriculture ventures create a contractual relationship between one or more food producers and a group of consumers interested in receiving local produce, eggs, and baked goods on a weekly basis throughout the growing season. The Compass Plant CSA sells several types of shares to meet different needs and interests."
    • Local Foods Initiative: "Modeled on a highly successful project in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and funded by a grant from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, GALFA's Local Foods Initiative works to bring together local food producers and local institutions that sell food to the public or prepare and serve meals to clients. In this way, consumers not only get fresher, healthier food, but money stays in the local community."
    • Grinnell College Student Garden: "Students learn about vegetable gardening from experienced growers and enjoy fresh produce they've raised themselves. Surplus goes to the college dining halls, community meals, and MICA."
    • According to Andelson, plans are also in the works for a Grinnell High School garden, as well as a program to serve Bailey Park Elementary students locally produced snacks.
    • For more information about the Grinnell Area Local Foods Alliance, see http://web.grinnell.edu/cps/galfa/

  • For much of its existence, GALFA has been trying to establish a relationship between the Grinnell College dining services and local producers. Initially, this relationship was not successful, but dining services is now paying more attention to local food issues. Among the problems that must be overcome to ensure a good relationship between dining services and local food producers:
    • Reliability
    • Volume
    • Quality consistency
    • Labor (washing/chopping food)
    • Complexity of obtaining local food
  • Local foods don't have to be more expensive. The work done by Andelson's local foods class in the spring of 2006 shows that in some cases, local foods are cheaper than alternatives, and in other cases they are more expensive. Andelson lent me a copy of the findings of his local foods class; I will be posting relevant sections of the papers as well as my thoughts on them as I get through the book.
  • Grown Locally, a producer cooperative in Northeast Iowa, is an organization that reduces the complexity of obtaining local food. Those institutions that want to buy local foods can simply go online and choose how much of each product they would like to buy from local producers.
  • Professor Andelson also wrote an article in the Free River Press about CSA in Grinnell. It's located at: http://www.freeriverpress.org/Andelson.htm

Comments

I was particularly interested in

"Among the problems that must be overcome to ensure a good relationship between dining services and local food producers:
Reliability
Volume
Quality consistency
Labor (washing/chopping food)
Complexity of obtaining local food"

Keep these and mind and add to them as you 'chat up' folks at your local farmers markets. What are the key problems they see? This is more important than asking if they value local produce -- buyers wouldn't be at a Farmers Market if they didn't value what gets sold there -- and sellers wouldn't be there if they weren't making some kind of money.

This goes back to your spending any more time developing "interview questions." Not too important. But you do need to change your approach.