Linda S. Nelson, Dallas County Extension Education Director, Central Area
Producers of local food become so intensely involved in the operation of their businesses, that they find it difficult to find time to communicate with other growers. Local food growers need to have expertise in not only production, but also in financial management and in marketing. It is difficult to have the time and the expertise to balance these three parts of a local food business. There are statewide organizations that encourage this, but networking groups at the local level are lacking.
In the fall of 2005 Dallas County Extension partnered with the Iowa Network for Community Agriculture and National Catholic Rural Life to begin a networking group of local growers in Dallas County called Planting and Growing Food and Profit. It began by identifying a core group of mentors that included a former county supervisor, two local growers new to the county, FSA director, commodity farmer and Farm Bureau Representative, and one insurance salesman turned local grape grower. This group helped to identify and reach out to local growers to form the Growing Food and Profit group. The group began with monthly meetings held during the late fall and winter months. The meetings begin with a potluck meal and conversation and moves into a time when members share with the group and ask questions about issues they are having. The evening ends with a presentation which has ranged from a presentation on organic certification to the importance of a good business plan, and learning about a CSA in Ames. One evening session was a swap meet of sorts where participants brought their wish lists of equipment or resources they were needing.
One of the couples who have been attending the GFP meetings since the earliest meetings began selling their local foods at the farmers market in Winterset this season. They had been encouraged by the group to research the various markets and find one that fit them. Another individual who had been supplying restaurants with herbs branched out to be a supplier of a CSA cooperative in Ames that he had discovered as a result of attending. This same individual shared information with others about companion plants that can be placed to discourage insects and reduce the need for chemicals. One of the commodity farmers had an old piece of farm equipment that he gave to one of the others to use in their planting. Another provided advice on how to move a building. Each meeting results in the sharing of information and lessons learned and continues to build networks to support the local growers.
132 Market Development
Page last updated:
September 28, 2007
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