Face of a Food Champion: Dennis Wimmer
Wimmer Farms has been in the family for nearly a century but is taking on new life with Dennis Wimmer at the helm. Dennis grew up on the farm but moved to Chicago for 29 years before returning to buy the family farm from his father.
|Dennis and Patty Wimmer sell at the Creston Farmers Market. Photo contributed by Brenda Strauss.|
“It had been rented to a conventional farmer for 30 years while I was gone,” says Wimmer. “We’re trying to convert to organic and show that a small farm can produce enough [income] to feed a family.”
Now in his third season of farming, Wimmer and his wife grow vegetables and alfalfa on the farm. “We’ve got a couple high tunnels, and we grow a lot of lettuce,” he says. Wimmer has also planted nearly 4,000 aronia berry bushes, which are not yet in production. He plans to expand aronia berry production, eventually planting all the alfalfa ground to aronia.
Wimmer sells most of his produce through farmers markets and started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) this year. He is happy with how his first year of CSA sales is proceeding. “Just starting out, we’ve grown relatively quickly,” he says. “We exceeded our goal for members.”
Other local businesses have proven to be valuable partners by purchasing Wimmer Farms products. Wimmer Farms sells produce to the Creston Hy-Vee, the Iowa Food Cooperative in Des Moines and a couple of local restaurants. “A small restaurant in Arispe, where we live, just opened two years ago and started buying tomatoes and some lettuce from us right away, and the Windrow Restaurant in Creston joined the CSA.” While the owner of the Windrow uses the CSA mostly for personal use, she once asked that her CSA box deliver only lettuce, which she used to cater a wedding.
Wimmer and Hy-Vee co-advertise, meaning Hy-Vee highlights Wimmer Farms in its advertisements while Wimmer advertises that his products are available at Hy-Vee. “I know the Hy-Vee in Creston wants to have a section just for our products. They’ll take everything we can give them at this point.” In addition, Hy-Vee provides Wimmer with boxes with the Hy-Vee logo on it, in which he delivers CSA shares to customers’ doorsteps. In this way Wimmer saves money on boxes, and Hy-Vee receives recognition for its partnership with local farmers.
Wimmer also partners with others through the Southern Iowa Local Foods Initiative (SILFI) Council. He is a member of the local foods council, which is working hard to increase awareness of local foods.
When asked how he has benefitted most from his local food group, Wimmer cites “more publicity.” For example, SILFI coordinator Alexi Groumoutis has written several stories about Wimmer Farms as part of a Farmers Market Promotion grant received by the Iowa League of Resource Conservation & Development.
Last year, SILFI sponsored a “food crawl,” where multiple restaurants in downtown Creston featured foods made with local products. Spinach from Wimmer Farms was used in an Alfredo spinach pizza served at the A&G Steakhouse and Lounge, and Wimmer was present to greet customers.
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: 2013 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 Local Foods Initiative website or contact Alexi Groumoutis (email: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 641-782-4033).