Locally grown produce benefits farmers and residents

BY MEGAN DEPPE | MARCH 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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The comfortable atmosphere and reasonable size is not the only reason that local shopper Katie Peterson choses to buy her groceries at New Pioneer Co-Op.

“I know some local growers in the area, which is a huge incentive,” Peterson said. “I can shop to help support them.”

All across the country, locally grown food helps to build stronger connections between the urban and rural community. Iowa is one example of how local food is contributing to regional economics, according to a post released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture last week.

Peterson, along with knowing farmers in the area, has had experience in growing vegetables.
This helps her decision-making when it comes to purchasing her own food.

While right now is a slow season for locally grown foods, Corey Bausch, the grocery manager for New Pioneer, said a large percentage of the store’s products are locally grown in an attempt to support local economies.

“That’s been our mission statement since Day One,” Bausch said. “Everything we had in the beginning is local. That is what we’re here for.”

Bausch said local produce helps to keep prices low for consumers, as well as helping local producers.

“The further [the product] comes, we have to pass that price along to the customer,” Bausch said.

Melissa Dunham, the executive director for Local Food Connection, said local produce plays a large role in the lives of consumers.

“I’ve seen firsthand how [local food] works for families,” she said. “It is incredibly gratifying.”

Local Food Connection is an organization whose goal is to make locally grown food available to the disadvantaged members of the greater Iowa City area, such as some single-mother families, some ethnic minorities, some immigrants, and some of the elderly.

“The overall idea is to help local farmers and supply the disadvantaged,” Dunham said. “It’s supporting two walks of life — local farmers and local families.”

Once families are accepted by Local Foods Connection, they will receive either a credit to a booth at the Farmers’ Market, a credit on a wholesale purchasing account with a farm, or become enrolled in a Community Supported Agriculture group.

The group allows for a weekly box of vegetables directly from farmers.

Dunham said many families write thank-you notes to the local farmers after they begin to receive their food to let them know how much the food is appreciated.

“It’s very touching to see how it can have an impact, to see how eating healthy can positively affect someone’s life,” Dunham said.

Local Food Connection purchases its goods from farmers who use sustainable farming practices, such as growing vegetables without chemical pesticides and raising animals in a humane environment.

New Pioneer Co-Op labels its items local, items that come from a 250-mile radius or in the state of Iowa, and regional, items that are grown in any of Iowa’s border states.

“We’re not here to sell stuff — we’re here to help local farmers,” Bausch said. “We help feed [the farmer’s] family; we’re here to help the community first and foremost.”

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