Face of a Food Champion: Dale Raasch
By Alexi Groumoutis
Dale Raasch and his 24-year-old son Tyler take pride in working their two-man farming operation, the 40-acre Bridgewater Farm in Adair County. They market their products with confidence because they know they are high quality, healthy and sustainably grown. By creating new marketing relationships and taking advantage of networking opportunities, they have reached new customers with their meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables.
|Dale Raasch (left) and son, Tyler, show the produce in their high tunnel. Raasch’s operation grows numerous vegetables and fruit; in addition, he raises cattle, hogs, chickens and ducks. Photo contributed by Alexi Groumoutis.|
Raasch, who has farmed for 35 years and hails from a family of farmers, describes himself as an unconventional farmer swimming upstream. Four years ago, he started the shift toward farming practices that do not use pesticides, antibiotics, hormones or GMOs, believing it better for people, animals and the environment. He recognizes that Americans face a health crisis due to poor eating habits and reiterates his son’s advice on the importance of making mindful food choices: “By buying better food now it’s just like an insurance policy. Pay a little bit more now and eat better, and you’re going to be healthier. If you don’t, you’re going to pay for it later. It may even cost you your life.”
Raasch sells his products at farmers markets in Creston, Johnston, Atlantic, Greenfield and Winterset, Des Moines’ Farm Bureau Farmers Market and Drake Farmers Market. He also sells to specialty and mainstream grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants and nursing homes, and through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). He says he built a loyal customer base because people like knowing where their food comes from and enjoy the taste of his locally grown produce. “That’s one of the biggest selling points,” Raasch says. “If you can get them to try it and they like it, they’re going to be back.”
Networking has been a crucial tool for Raasch. He expanded his customer base by participating in networking opportunities hosted by Southern Iowa Resource Conservation and Development’s local foods coordinator, Alexi Groumoutis. Raasch attended three Southern Iowa Local Foods Initiative food council meetings and met with food council member and Creston Hy-Vee store manager, Chuck Irelan, to discuss selling his produce at Creston’s Hy-Vee.
Through stakeholder updates sent by Groumoutis, Raasch learned about the Des Moines’ Farm Bureau Farmers Market, which allows vendors to sell produce at no additional cost. And in a March 2013 meeting between producers and institutions hosted by Groumoutis, Raasch met a representative for the French Icarian Village outside Corning, and arranged to use their discontinued community garden as a CSA drop-off site for his business.
Raasch produces antibiotic- and cage-free broiler chickens and eggs; cattle that are pastured part-year; hogs, duck eggs, vegetables and fruits. He has 12 acres in vegetable production and a 30x96-foot high tunnel. In 2013, he planted 1,150 tomato plants, 1,100 pounds of potatoes and 2,000 sweet potatoes. He also grows herbs, radishes, kale, squash, spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, peppers, berries and watermelon, to name a few.
Bridgewater Farm is located at 2409 Brown Avenue in Bridgewater, Iowa. Raasch can be reached at 641.745.5368. Bridgewater Farm is also on Facebook.
About this story
This story was produced to accompany a report documenting the impact of the local food industry on Iowa’s economy associated with the efforts of the Regional Food Systems Working Group. Consult the statewide report: 2012 Economic Impacts of Iowa’s Regional Food Systems Working Group.
For more information on the local foods work occurring in the southern region, visit the Southern Iowa RC&D website.