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Local food systems

Conceptual Model for the Canadian Food and Nutrition System

Located here "Conceptual Model for the Canadian Food and Nutrition System," used by Health Canada. This model is more complex than ours will be, as it takes into account five levels of food use: food supply, distribution, consumption, utilization, and health outcome. Our model will certainly elminate the last two, as it will not incorporate the health aspects of the food we eat to that extent.

What crops grow best in Grinnell?

I have been researching online about what crops grow best in the Grinnell and Fairfield areas (in regards to Timlynn's question relating to the Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator). Though my online research has yielded no results, Jon Andelson sent me some good information in response to an e-mail:

"Among commodity crops, it's pretty clear than corn and soybeans grow best here (compared to wheat, for example, or rice). Corn can be for humans (sweet corn, popcorn), though that's a small part of what is grow here. Soybenas can, too (tofu, soy yogurt, etc.), though, again, that's a small part of what's grown here.

The nine counties surrounding Grinnell and Fairfield

There are nine Iowa counties of interest in this project. These include the four counties surrounding the town of Grinnell (Marshall, Tama, Jasper, and Poweshiek), and the five in the vicinity of Fairfield (Wapello, Jefferson, Davis, Van Buren, and Henry).

A map of the state of Iowa with the two regions outlined is shown in the attached file entitled "Outline of Two Regions."

Grinnell Region
Total Farmers' Markets: 7
Total Number of Residents: 113,442
Number of Farmers' Markets per 100,000 Residents: 6.17

Marshall County:

  • Population: 39,311

The Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator - Grinnell and Fairfield


Dig into using the Iowa Produce Market Potential Calculator a bit as it will be an important tool for the modeling project. In particular, check into two particular questions fist and then test the calculator based on what you find out in Question. See below.

From the research comes this caveat: County-level production data for several produce items were missing from the Agricultural Census. Data for these counties were estimated by comparing the undisclosed values for each item with the undisclosed values for each county. For this reason, county-specific production information may not be accurate in some cases and may affect some county-specific estimates of market potential.

Local Food System Studies in Iowa

Though I have not had a great deal of success in finding local food economy projects in Iowa, I have found a couple things, which are described below. I will continue to do research on the subject, and this blog will be updated with my findings.

Woodbury County Region's Food and Farm Economy: This web site consists of key points from a presentation by Ken Meter. The document is short; it profiles the farm families in the region in terms of the amount of the states resources they use. It also discusses the consumers of food in the region, and provides a summary of the County's food economy as a whole.

Organizations that develop and support local food economies

This entry will contain on ongoing listing of organizations in Iowa that help to develop and support local food economies:

Practical Farmers of Iowa ( "A non-profit, educational organization that began in 1985 and now has over 700 members in Iowa and neighboring states. Our mission is to research, develop and promote profitable, ecologically sound and community-enhancing approaches to agriculture. We carry out diverse programs to assist farmers with both production and marketing needs, to raise public awareness of where food comes from and how it is grown, and to educate youth about agriculture and the environment."

Before we begin modeling any thing ....

Before working any further on developing a model of a local food economy, it is clear that we need to know a great deal more about what is being done in Iowa to help develop/drive local support for local food producers.

Farmer's Markets are a pretty obvious example of a local food economy system. Do we have a list yet of how many are in Iowa, where they are located and as much information as we can find about each? If not -- there's a research task that needs some attention.

Farmer's Markets are one thing and we may choose to limit our modeling efforts to only Farmer's Markets this go round. But only understanding the role and importance of Farmer's Markets in the local food economy markets of Iowa is not enough.

Take time to stop and smell the data...

The next step before going too much further would be to do some field work. There is no substitute for direct observation of what you are trying to model.

You should plan to spend a Thursday session at the Grinnell Farmer's Market first, followed by a Saturday morning at the Fairfield market. Ask questions of buyers and sellers, take notes. Keep in mind all that you have been reading and thinking in terms of modeling the market elements. Use the blog space to share how this direct experience shapes your thinking around the system model.

Also before going further on the modeling side of this project, you should do a good bit of on-line research on the local food economy projects here in Iowa. Get a good feel for each project and develop a kind of 'mental model' if you will of how each 'system' is set up.

Facts about local food

  • In the United States, annual food sales total nearly $1 trillion. Locally sourced foods account for less than 1 percent of that figure.
  • In 2000, Kamal Hammouda--the owner of Phoenix Cafe & Inn in Grinnell, who buys local food for his business--and others formed the Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance. They tried to get Grinnell College to buy locally grown food products. So far, they have not succeeded.
  • Grinnell Area Local Food Alliance (GALFA) is a broad-based community alliance whose goal is to increase the demand for locally produced foods by selected institutions in the Grinnell area. Organizations involved in the alliance include Grinnell College, Iowa Valley Community College, the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture, a loccal community supported agriculture enterprise, and Imagine Grinnell (a nonprofit organization). Beginning in 2002 a half-time coordinator (who reports to the alliance) has begun to work with Grinnell area farmers to broker food to a range of Grinnell area institutions including restaurants, a retirement home, and Grinnell College dining services. The GALFA effort at Grinnell College builds on the student intern food brokering initiated in 2001.

For Good Measure in Ames - CSA Research at NCRCRD

I knew we were in good shape with regard to local food economy experts here in Iowa. In addition to Jon Andelson at Grinnell College (more on his exciting work in a follow-up post), Timlynn and I were aware of the wonderful group of social action-oriented researchers at the North Central Regional Center for Rural Development at Iowa State in Ames. These folks, led by Cornelia Butler Flora and Mary Emery, are doing exciting work developing the Community Capitals Framework.

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