Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Regional Food Systems Working Group - Iowa

NEW! Check out Best Practices of the Regional Food Systems Working Group, a new working paper that shares the knowledge of this dynamic network of people working to build local food systems in Iowa.

This group is comprised of geographically-based practitioners and community leaders with a goal to increase the investment in and support for local and regional food businesses in Iowa. There are 15 local groups that participate and jointly manage this group. The group was convened in 2003 by the Leopold Center Marketing and Food Systems Initiative as part of the Value Chain Partnerships program.

This publication outlines the impact of Leopold Center support for this working group.

Read a March 2012 report from Michigan State University about the collective impact of this group, Creating Change in the Food System: The Role of Regional Food Networks in Iowa [PDF]

A regional food system supports long-term connections between farmers and consumers while helping to meet the health, social, economic and environmental needs of communities within that region.

Producers and markets are linked via efficient infrastructures that:

Iowa map of local groups

  • promote environmental health;
  • provide competitive advantages to producers, processors and retailers;
  • encourage identification with a region’s culture, history and ecology; and
  • share risks and rewards equitably among all partners in the system.

The Regional Food Systems Working Group supports education, conducts research and facilitates partnerships to increase investment and support of community-based, economically sustainable and environmentally and socially responsible regional food enterprises. Representatives from more than 25 groups meet quarterly in central Iowa to discuss and coordinate efforts to build more vibrant regional food systems.

The goals of the RFSWG:

  • Identify the key elements found in specific geographic areas that create a vibrant and sustainable regional food system.
  • Work with leaders and food businesses in specific geographic areas and/or communities to identify and support the key elements that are not yet well developed.
  • Help identify and measure key indicators that determine whether there is positive change in the regional food system as a result of projects or programs.
  • Develop and implement a process for continuous learning across Iowa about what it takes to make a regional food system more vibrant and sustainable.

Where is our work?

[view larger map]

Printable list of contacts and counties covered by each group  [PDF]  January 2015

  • color blockCentral Iowa: Serving Boone, Hardin and Story counties
  • color blockFlavors of Northwest Iowa: Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Ida, Monona, O'Brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Sioux, Lyon and Woodbury counties Visit website.
  • color blockNortheast Iowa Food & Farm Coalition:  Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Howard, Fayette and Winneshiek counties
  • color block Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership: Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Grundy and Tama counties Visit website.
  • color blockHarvest from the Heart (Comida):  Marshall County Visit website.
  • color blockSothwest Iowa Food and Farm Initiative: Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Guthrie, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Pottawattamie, Page and Shelby counties as well as counties in Nebraska. (This was formerly the Food and Farm Initiative of the Heartland) Visit website.
  • color blockSouthern Iowa Regional Food Systems:Adair, Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Ringgold, Taylor and Union counties
  • color blockSouth-Central Iowa Area Partnership: Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Madison, Monroe, Union, Warren and Wayne counties   Visit website
  • color blockHometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa: Davis, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Van Buren, Wapello, Appanoose, Lee, Des Moines, Monroe, Henry, Washington and Louisa counties. Visit website.
  • color blockDubuque Eats Well: Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties. Visit website
  • color blockField to Family Regioinal Community Food Coalition: Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Poweshiek, Tama and Washington counties  Visit website
  • color blockHealthy Harvest of North Iowa: Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth and Wright counties  Visit website
  • color blockEat Greater Des Moines: Polk, Dallas and Marion counties  Visit website
  • color blockQuad Cities Food Hub: Clinton, Muscatine and Scott counties Visit website
  • color blockGreen County Local Foods Working Group: Greene, Carroll and Guthrie counties

Working group resources

Related grant projects

Links we like

Our partners

  • Buy Fresh Buy Local (Iowa)
  • Cedar Valley RC&D
  • Crossroads Resource Center
  • Drake University Agricultural Law Center
  • Golden Hills RC&D
  • Hometown Harvest of Southeast Iowa
  • Iowa Community Vitality Center
  • I-Food
  • Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship
  • Iowa Department of Public Health
  • Iowa Department of Transportation
  • Iowa Farm Bureau Federation
  • Iowa Farmers Union
  • Iowa Network for Community Agriculture
  • Iowa Valley RC&D
  • ISU Center for Transportation Research and Education
  • ISU College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • ISU College of Business
  • ISU Extension
  • Johnson County Local Food Alliance
  • Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture
  • Limestone Bluffs RC&D
  • Marshalltown Community College
  • North Central Regional Center for Rural Development
  • Northeast Iowa Farm and Food Coalition
  • Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership
  • Northwest Iowa Regional/Local Foods System
  • Pathfinders RC&D
  • Practical Farmers of Iowa
  • Prairie Winds RC&D
  • Prairie Rivers RC&D
  • Southwest Iowa Food & Farm Initiative
  • University of Northern Iowa
  • Wallace Foundation
  • Washington County Economic Development
  • Webster City Area Economic Development
  • Women, Food and Agriculture Network
  • In addition, we work with many Iowa farmers

To learn more about the RFSWG, contact Craig Chase, (515) 294-1854, cchase@iastate.edu, or Lynn Heuss assistant coordinator, leheuss@iastate.edu, (515) 201-9405.