Face of a Food Champion: Lindsay Kaiser
Local food is opening doors for beginning farmers in northern Iowa. Lindsay Kaiser was able to join her husband’s family farm by adding new enterprises. Kaiser Farm is a third-generation dairy farm located near Waverly that now includes vegetable and poultry production. Lindsay joined the operation in 2013, producing a variety of vegetables, while her husband Travis began producing chicken, ducks, turkeys and eggs.
|Lindsay Kaiser displays her pea harvest. Photo contributed by Travis Kaiser.|
“Travis’s grandparents had a garden and raised poultry, but that was scrapped because of the work on the dairy, and we’re working to bring diversity back to the farm,” says Lindsay.
Having grown up in Iowa, Lindsay struggled to understand the state’s unique farming system and her place in farming until she left Iowa. After graduating from college with a degree in psychology and French, she began working at a plant nursery and, later on, a farm. Then she moved to California and worked on farms there. “I felt healthier, because I was working hard and eating well,” she says.
Lindsay came to the conclusion that California was not the best place for her to farm, however. “Sustainability—everyone talks about that in California because they are dependent on irrigation. I didn’t realize until then that you don’t get thunderstorms everywhere during the summer. I moved back to Iowa because the land is good and we get rain during the growing season, so it can be more sustainable.”
Lindsay markets her vegetables through farmers markets in Waverly and Cedar Falls. She also uses a unique community supported agriculture (CSA) model called a “Flex-CSA,” which combines pre-season payments with farmers market shopping. “People choose how much they want to invest before the season, and we add ten percent to that,” she explains “For example, if they put in $100 by May, we put $110 into an account for them, and they use that money to shop at our booth at the farmers market.” This arrangement gives customers an incentive to join the CSA and gives Kaiser working capital at the beginning of the season.
The Flex-CSA is growing faster than Lindsay expected. “We tripled our CSA membership this year and didn’t even have to market it. It grew through word of mouth, a few brochures, and a Buy Fresh Buy Local directory that Rachel [Wobeter] did.”
Rachel Wobeter is the former coordinator for the Northern Iowa Food & Farm Partnership (NIFFP), which opens local markets for beginning and established farmers so they can focus on farming.
NIFFP has benefitted Kaiser Farm in several ways. “The local food fair that Rachel did was really helpful,” says Lindsay, referring to a fair held in the spring of 2014 at the Grout Museum in Waterloo. She also credits NIFFP with connecting her to potential buyers, starting a new farmers market on the UNI campus where Lindsay sells, hosting Buy Fresh, Buy Local networking meetings, and connecting Lindsay to the media, which has helped spread the word about her work. Lindsay and Travis also were included in the Faces of our Farmers exhibit, a collection of posters displayed in the UNI dining halls, created by NIFFP and featured in local news stories.
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 northern region, visit the Northern Iowa Food & Farm Partnership website.