Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

Regional Food Systems Working Group - Iowa

Check out our latest evaluation of the statewide impact of the local food industry on Iowa's economy in connection with the efforts of the Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG). The data are summarized in an 18-page report and in a two-page impact brief. More information about this evaluation - including links to profiles of some of Iowa's local food champions - can be found on our Economic Impacts of Local Food in Iowa page.

RFSWG 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 14 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.

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

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?

The Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG) is a network of 14 geographically-based groups working in 81 of Iowa's 99 counties. Each group works with different stakeholders to build and strengthen local food systems in their region. Here are the 14 groups, the Iowa counties they serve, and their websites (if applicable).

See this PDF for a printable list of counties covered by each group as well as contact information for each one.

  • Flavors of Northwest Iowa: Working in Buena Vista, Cherokee, Clay, Dickinson, Emmet, Ida, Lyon, Monona, O’brien, Osceola, Palo Alto, Plymouth, Sioux and Woodbury counties. Visit their website here.
  • Healthy Harvest of North Iowa: Working in Cerro Gordo, Floyd, Franklin, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth and Wright counties. Visit their website here.
  • Northern Iowa Food and Farm Partnership: Working in Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Butler, Grundy and Tama counties. Visit their website here.
  • Field to Family Food Coalition: Working in Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, Poweshiek, Tama and Washington counties. Visit their website here.
  • Dubuque Eats Well: Working in Delaware, Dubuque, Jackson and Jones counties. Visit their website here.
  • Quad Cities Food Hub: Working in Clinton, Muscatine and Scott counties. Visit their website here.
  • South Central Iowa Area Partnership: Working in Appanoose, Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Madison, Monroe, Union, Warren and Wayne counties. Visit their website here.
  • Southern Iowa Local Foods Initiative: Working in Adair, Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Ringgold, Taylor and Union counties. Visit their website here.
  • Southwest Iowa Food and Farm Initiative: Working in Audubon, Cass, Fremont, Guthrie, Harrison, Mills, Montgomery, Page, Pottawattamie and Shelby counties. Visit their website here.
  • Eat Greater Des Moines: Working in Dallas, Marion and Polk counties. Visit their website here.
  • Central Iowa RFSWG : Working in Boone, Hardin and Story counties.
  • Greene County Local Foods Working Group: Working in Carroll, Greene and Guthrie counties.
  • Harvest from the Heart: Working in Marshall county. Visit their website here.

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.