This article is from the Summer 2007 edition of the Extension Connection newsletter.
People in Boone know they can drive out to Scott and Julie Wilber’s farm and buy fresh, locally-grown produce. Or they can buy from the Wilbers at the Boone farmers’ market on Thursdays. But there is another option for finding out about and ordering from Wilber’s Northside Market — the Iowa MarketMaker Web site, www.marketmakeriowa.com.
Iowa State University Extension staff learned about MarketMaker at a value-added agriculture conference and soon became a partner in this interactive mapping system that links producers and consumers of Iowa agricultural products.
“It is a wonderful tool for Iowa producers,” said Ray Hansen, director of ISU Extension Value Added Agriculture. “And, we recognized that this tool needed to be expanded nationally so Iowa producers could sell products across state borders into additional markets.”
Extension headed up a campaign to secure funds for implementing an Iowa MarketMaker site and simultaneously began assisting University of Illinois Extension to promote MarketMaker on a national level.
“By being involved in the forefront of this project and our continual encouragement to bring other states on board, the more economic activity we potentially raise for our producers in access to new markets,” Hansen said.
According to Julie Wilber, “We have had our information on the Web site for about a year because we want people to be able to find us. We want them to know that they can order by phone, then pick up vegetables at the farm or at the farmers’ market. I like being able to offer everyone the produce they want, when they want it.”
Wilber networks with other Boone market vendors to expand her market area and fill in product gaps at her roadside stand. This in-person networking is limited to a dozen producers. The Iowa MarketMaker Web site provides her a larger network — five states of producers and buyers — and a greater potential for growth.
The Wilbers and an increasing number of Iowa farmers, producers, wholesalers, restaurants, processors and farmers’ markets are posting their information on Iowa MarketMaker. In Jefferson County, there has been a concentrated effort by ISU Extension, Pathfinders Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) and Fairfield Buy Fresh, Buy Local to get producer and retailer information posted, and to provide education supporting locally produced food.
“There are many growers in our district, but no infrastructure to connect them with buyers or each other,” said Detra Dettmann, Pathfinders RC&D coordinator. “This is an entirely new venue for our growers and buyers.”
Dettmann said that while it is still gaining momentum in the state, Iowa MarketMaker is a great option for people unable to get to farmers’ markets, but who want to purchase locally grown produce for their family, restaurant or store.
“Iowa MarketMaker also is useful when growers want to locate other growers of similar products,” Dettmann said. “It has the potential to really benefit the locally raised food market by connecting growers to growers and growers to buyers.”