From the Ground Up: Local food options for non-gardeners

Michelle Kenyon Brown From the Ground Up column gardening cedar rapids

The growing season in Iowa is officially under way. Over the winter, gardeners planned their gardens, ordered seeds and some are even starting their seeds.
However, not all of us are interested in or able to grow our own plants.
Another option for locally grown goods is the Iowa Valley Food Co-op. Anyone can become a member, which allows access to the Iowa Valley Food Co-op online store at
On distribution day, producers and consumers convene at the pickup in downtown Cedar Rapids. Some say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Well I say, keep your friends close and your farmers closer. Iowa Valley Food Co-op helps you do just that.
The next shopping cart opens Monday and you have until April 17 to buy. Join me for pickup between 4 and 7 p.m. April 17.
For more about local food communities, we asked Kristi Cooper, a family life specialist with Iowa State University Extension & Outreach, author of the Eco Family Blog and HomeGrown Lifestyles graduate. Contact her at
Kristi Cooper
Q :Is there a community I can join to learn about the local food opportunities in my area?
A : What a wonderful local meal we enjoyed last night. Homemade butternut squash ravioli, organic spinach salad, free range chicken and a glass of local wine.
Learn about local food opportunities through the Iowa State University Extension & Outreach Eco Family Virtual Conference. Explore resources we have collected for you and join us for an online gathering with other families across the Midwest.
For example, at Local discover producers near your home. Buy a share in a CSA (community supported agriculture), or dine at a restaurant that serves local products. Farmers market season is right around the corner. Find one at
I appreciate the local food options as I seek to live more sustainably. For me, choosing local food is a triple win - I get fresh, high-quality food that my family loves. I get to meet the farmers and sometimes the animals, too. I support the local economy and greenhouse gases and the demand for energy is minimized when there are shorter distances between me and my food.
Topics for the 2013 Eco Family Virtual Conference include water, energy and living green. Online gatherings are held the first Thursday of each month from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Upcoming days and topics are:
• Thursday: Stuff
• May 2: Food
• June 6: Neighbors Registration is $15 per session. Find it at Extension.iastate. edu/linn/news/livegreen-2013
• Linn County Master Gardeners Creative Gardening Series: Don Engebretson, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Kirkwood Community College, Cedar Hall Room 234, Cedar Rapids. 'Really Cool Plants for Cedar Rapids Gardens': Learn about new perennials, shrubs and trees with which northern gardeners may not be aware, in addition to some standard, triedand-true selections to create gardens and landscapes as gracious and beautiful as gardens in any part of the country.  'Embrace Your Shade: Plants & Design Tips for Shady Spaces': Design gardens and entire landscapes in the shade. This talk will cover some fabulous part shade and shade plants, plus give gardeners an array of design tips so that those shady areas can dazzle.
Bringing Color to the Shade Garden, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Cedar Rapids West Public Library, 3750 Williams Blvd. SW, Cedar Rapids. Creatively add color to any shade garden using garden art and some favorite annual and perennial shade plants. Linn County Master Gardener Lori Bailey looks beyond hostas for great alternative shade plants and complementary plants.
Identifying Edible Mushrooms, 2 to 4 p.m. April 7, Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St., Iowa City. Project Green presents Marty Augustine, an avid mushroom hunter and a member of the Prairie States Mushroom Club to discuss some of the most common and easily identified edible and poisonous mushrooms. Collecting habits that will avoid mushroom poisoning also will be addressed.
Using Pesticides, 6:30 p.m., April 8, Linn County Extension 383 Collins Rd. NE, Suite 201, Cedar Rapids. Mark Shour, ISU Pest Management and the Environment, will discuss pesticide active ingredients. In his talk Shour will focus on insecticides and herbicides. To register, contact Linn County Extension at (319) 377-9839 or
• Michelle Kenyon Brown is community ag programs manager for Linn County Extension & Outreach. Send questions to From the Ground Up to

Share |