Ames, Iowa -- Iowa State University Dining Services, the Stomping Grounds restaurant in Ames and other food services throughout Iowa have found the value of buying locally grown and processed foods and are featuring these items on their menus. With this new trend, producers have another avenue for marketing their products. Learn why food service establishments want to buy local food and how producers can benefit at the Building Local Food Connections display at Iowa State University’s Farm Progress Show Exhibit.
“The interest in local foods has increased with both consumers and foodservice operators looking for locally grown and processed foods,” said Catherine Strohbehn, ISU Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management Extension. “There are many opportunities as well as details producers need to be aware of when establishing a market for their produce with local retail foodservices.”
At the Farm Progress Show, Aug. 26-28 in Boone, visitors can learn how direct marketing connects Iowa farmers and producers with food service establishments and the resources available from the Iowa State University Extension Local Foods: From Farm to Food Service program.
For example, the ISU Dining Service purchases items for its cafés, food court, and residential dining centers. Last year they exceeded their goal of $300,000 of local, sustainable, or organic purchases including fruits and vegetables, meat, milk products and other items said Nancy Levandowski, director of ISU Dining Service. The goal for this year is $600,000.
ISU Dining Service has made the commitment to purchase local, sustainable, or organic products because Levandowski believes local foods are fresher and taste better. “It’s not about prices, it’s about quality and safety.” ISU Dining Service is seeking contracts with local producers for products. Levandowski stresses the need for producers to maintain the highest standards of food safety.
“We can help producers learn what those food safety guidelines are and how to comply with regulations,” said Strohbehn. The Extension program includes resources and workshops on best practices for handling food, foodservice regulations and effective marketing skills.
Jonathan Reed owner of Stomping Grounds said they are buying almost 100 percent of what they can get locally including salad greens, strawberries, rhubarb, tomatoes, pork products, eggs and herbs. The Stomping Grounds menus are starting to list the locally produced food items the restaurant uses.
One of the suppliers for both ISU Dining Service and Stomping Grounds is Joe Lynch of Onion Creek Farm, Ames.
“I can sell local food; restaurants, nursing homes, hospitals, schools – all want local food. Some grocery stores will buy everything available,” said Lynch. Some of the products Onion Creek Farm sells are salad greens, herbs, green beans, beets, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, onions and garlic.
Picket Fence Creamery, Woodward, Iowa, is another local supplier for ISU Dining Services. Owned and operated by Jeff and Jill Burkhart and family, Picket Fence Creamery has 80 Jersey cows, plus an on-site bottling plant and store.
“We think food should not have to travel very far,” said Jill Burkhart. The Burkharts have developed a local market and customer base. The on-site store sells Picket Fence Creamery milk, cream, butter, ice cream, cheese curds and other dairy products. The products also are sold in stores and served in restaurants within about 30 miles from the farm.
For more information about the Iowa State University Extension Local Foods program visit www.iastatelocalfoods.org.
Catherine Strohbehn, Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management, (515) 294-3527, firstname.lastname@example.org