Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Local Food and Farm Program

Projects  -  Activities  -  Team  -  Council  -  Plan  -  Resources  -  Contact

The Local Food and Farm Program is part of the Local Food and Farm Initiative (LFFI), established by the Iowa Legislature in 2011. The LFFI outlines broad goals of increasing the production, processing, distribution, marketing and consumption of local food.  Additionally, the Initiative outlines the need to increase the profitability and the number of jobs all along the local food chain. The Initiative created the Local Food and Farm Program to be delivered by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

kids in a cafeteria

Current projects and research

2014 Iowa Local Food Conference


IMPACT SNAPSHOT: Seven one-year projects funded by this program in 2012 and 2013 leveraged quite a few dollars. A recent evaluation showed that for every dollar of LFFI investment, another $17.92 was leveraged by project leaders and their partners. Read the report [February 2014]

For 2013, the Local Food and Farm Program funded these special projects as a result of the 2012 RFP [PDF]:

  • Scaling vendor managed inventory systems to further leverage the competitive advantages of local foods, $9,400, Nick McCann, Winneshiek County Extension and Outreach: This project seeks to help Iowa food businesses access retail markets through vendor-managed inventory, which can result in both increased sales and increased margins for locally produced products.
  • Small farm field and business apprenticeship, $6,824, Diane Weiland, The Wallace Centers of Iowa: The project will develop an apprenticeship program and train apprentices looking to begin small farming operations.
  • The faces of Iowa’s farm to school movement, $2,485, Flannery Cerbin, National Center for Appropriate Technology: The goal of this project is to increase awareness and understanding of Iowa’s Farm to School movement by finding best practices and stories from across the state and archiving them on a newly created website. Iowa Farm to School website

In 2012, the Local Food and Farm Program funded these special projects:

  • Scaling Up Case Study, $5,000, Sally Worley, Practical Farmers of Iowa: This case study will include interviews of farmers and wholesale buyers in Iowa who are selling fruit and vegetables in wholesale markets. The project will include a report outlining some of the barriers and opportunities of these markets, and offer strategies to increase farmer success. Read the report [October 2012]
  • Working Together to Grow More: A Community-based Approach to Food Hub Development, $1,700, Prairie Winds Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., Garner, Iowa; and Jan Libbey, Healthy Harvest of North Iowa: Funds will be used to host an April 2012 workshop, Working Together to Grow More, in Mason City.
  • Harvest Our Potential On-farm Mentorship Program, $2,000, Leigh Adcock, Women, Food and Agriculture Network: Funds will be used to conduct WFAN's 2012 mentoring program that pairs new/beginning women farmers with established producers.
  • School Gardens at Kate Mitchell and One Unidentified Ames Elementary School, $9,470, Prairie Rivers of Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, Inc., Ames: Funds will be used to expand a pilot school garden program within the Ames Community School District. Read about this project [Summer 2012 Leopold Center newsletter]

Activities and workshops

Program team

  • State coordinator, Craig Chase
    Chase, in addition to being the state coordinator, is currently the program manager of the Leopold Center's Marketing and Food Systems Initiative, and lead in the ISU Extension Iowa Food System Working Group, focusing on local food system development and alternative enterprise analysis. He has been devoting considerable time and energy to food systems and fruit and vegetable profitability from a producer viewpoint since 2004.
  • Assistant state coordinator, Lynn Heuss
    Heuss is the Local Food and Farm Program assistant coordinator, and a program coordinator at the Women, Food and Agriculture Network. At the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition she worked for the passage of the Farm to School legislation within the Child Nutrition Act. She also has worked with Buy Fresh Buy Local, the Farm to School National Network, and the Iowa Farmers Union.ich supports continuing education and advancement opportunities for key sustainable agriculture educators.
  • Evaluation team, Corry Bregendahl and Arlene Enderton
    Bregendahl is an associate scientist at the Leopold Center where she leads evaluation of local and regional food system initiatives and projects, Center-funded programs, and externally funded food- and agriculture-related efforts. She co-authored the Iowa Food and Farm Plan and currently is leading evaluation for the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, the Regional Food Systems Working Group and the Iowa Food System Working Group. Enderton joined the Leopold Center as a program assistant in 2013, where she assists in evaluation efforts through conducting interviews, creating surveys, analyzing data, and creating reports.  She is involved in evaluation of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, the Regional Food Systems Working Group, the Iowa Food System Working Group, and Leopold Center success stories.
  • Research associate, Laura Kleiman
    Kleiman’s responsibilities include aggregating and summarizing local food system research findings for the Local Food and Farm Program, the Leopold Center's Marketing and Food Systems Initiative, the Iowa Food Systems Working Group (IFSWG) and special projects conducted by researchers and Extension personnel. She also developed resources and a website for the IFSWG Grant Committee.

Local Food and Farm Program Council

A local food and farm program council was established by the Initiative legislation to “advise the local food and farm program coordinator carrying out the purpose and goals of the {Initiative}”. The council consists of six members representing different aspects of Iowa’s local food systems. The Council includes:

  • Maury Wills, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship,
  • Rick Hartmann, Iowa Farmers Union,
  • Warren Johnson, Iowa League of RC&Ds of the Natural Resources Conservation Service,
  • Teresa Wiemerslage, local food industry (Northeast Iowa Food and Farm Coalition),
  • Marcy Billings, Loffredo's Fresh Produce, and
  • Barb Ristau, Iowa Farmers Market Association.

Iowa Local Food and Farm Plancover of Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan

The Iowa legislature asked the Leopold Center to develop and submit a Food and Farm Plan with recommendations to create a more robust local and regional food and farm economy in the state.

More than 1,000 people from 95 of Iowa’s 99 counties contributed to the Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan. Information was gathered at workshops, 15 listening sessions throughout the state and two surveys. The draft recommendations were discussed with leaders of 21 state agencies, institutions and organizations.

More than 150 people attended an initial work session to discuss short- and long-term strategies that could be used to reduce obstacles in 10 agricultural sectors, including crop and livestock production; processing, distribution and aggregation; financial assistance; marketing and market venues; food safety and other regulations; beginning and underserved farmers; planning; and consumers. Discussion is summarized in this document  [PDF].

Recommendations address 12 issues that emerged from these discussions:

  1. Farmers, processors, and food entrepreneurs need access to affordable loans to start and grow businesses.
  2. Farmers, processors, and food entrepreneurs need incentives (such as tax credits, tax rebates, grants, and equipment cost-share programs) to supply markets.
  3. Existing and beginning farmers need access to land and water to initiate or expand operations.
  4. Farmers, processors, and food entrepreneurs need affordable and comprehensive insurance products to minimize risks in crop production, liability, and health.
  5. Existing and beginning farmers, processors, and food entrepreneurs need education and technical assistance to develop profitable enterprises.
  6. Small and mid-sized farmers need customized environmental and food safety regulations to be profitable, protect natural resources, and ensure food safety.
  7. Farmers and processors need access to a skilled, affordable, and reliable workforce.
  8. Iowa needs investment in aggregation, distribution, storage, and processing facilities (such as cold storage, packinghouses, and distribution warehouses) to reach existing and new markets with high-quality local food products.
  9. Iowa needs marketing networks for local food processors, food entrepreneurs, and farmers.
  10. Consumers need better access to local foods and more information about local foods.
  11. More coordination and data collection on the state of local foods is needed within and across organizations and agencies supplying technical assistance, financial assistance, and regulatory oversight to local food producers, processors, and entrepreneurs.
  12. Iowa needs innovative and creative ways beyond tax instruments and funding reallocation to pay for programs and assistance to build a strong local food business sector.

Resourcesgrowing lettuce in high tunnel

Who to contact

Coordinator: Craig Chase, cchase@iastate.edu  (515) 294-1854

Assistant Coordinator: Lynn Heuss, leheuss@iastate.edu  (515) 201-9405