Community Food Systems + Farm to School and Early Care Conference

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June 13-14, 2024 | Iowa City, Iowa

Registration is now closed. 

2024 Conference

Rooted in Community: Growing Partnerships for Sustainable Food Systems

Join us in Iowa City, June 13-14!  

This annual event is hosted by the Community Food Systems program and Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition. This year's theme is Rooted in Community: Growing Partnerships for Sustainable Food Systems. Join us for this unique, two-day event, celebrating food systems, farm to school and early care, and local food. 

Conference Agenda

Thursday, June 13: Farm Tours + Community Dinner
1:30 pm - Field Trips & Farm Tours  5:00 pm - Community Dinner & Program at Johnson County Historic Poor 7:00 pm - Adjourn

 

Friday, June 14: Conference Sessions

Location: Graduate Iowa City

  • 7:00 am - Optional: Morning Movement
  • 7:30 am - Registration & Breakfast
  • 8:30 am - Welcoming Remarks & Opening Plenary
  • 10:00 am - Breakout Sessions 1
  • 11:00 am - Break & Exhibitor Session
  • 11:15 am - Breakout Sessions 2 
  • 12:15 pm - Lunch & Afternoon Keynote
  • 1:45 pm - Breakout Sessions 3
  • 3:00 pm - Bite-Size & Exhibitor Sessions
  • 4:00 pm - Closing Remarks 
  • 4:15 pm - Adjourn

 

Lodging: Graduate Iowa City

Graduate Iowa City is located in the Ped Mall, in the heart of downtown Iowa City. Find yourself immersed in local history, legends, and traditions, as creative interiors and college nostalgia come together for a state that's undeniably Iowa City. All conference sessions, Friday, June 14, will take place at Graduate Iowa City. 

Nearest Airports

Eastern Iowa Airport (CID), Cedar Rapids, IA: flycid.com - 23 miles/ 30-minute drive from hotel

Quad Cities International Airport (MLI), Moline, IA: qcairport.com - 64 miles/ 1-hr drive from hotel

Des Moines International Airport (DSM), Des Moines, IA: flydsm.com - 120 miles/ 2-hour drive from hotel

Keynotes

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Logo: Squatters on Red Earth Swander Woman Productions

Conference Kick-off: Squatters on Red Earth

Squatters on Red Earthis a play written by Mary Swander under the guidance of members of the Meskwaki Settlement, and supported by grants from Anon Was a Woman Environmental Art Award (The New York Foundation for the Arts) and The State Historical Society of Iowa, Inc. It is a one-man show starring Rip Russel, directed by Brant Bollman. The drama explores the issue of the white settler land grab from the Native Americans. The core story revolves around a peaceful encounter between the Meskwakis and the Inspirationists, a German Utopian group, all the while the colonialists were forcing the Natives from their land. 

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Iowa Food System Coalition Logo

Session Sponsor: Iowa Food System Coalition

A very special thank you to the Iowa Food System Coalition for sponsoring Squatters on Red Earth

The Iowa Food System Coalition (IFSC) is a network of individuals and organizations formed to chart a course toward a thriving, sustainable, and equitable food system in Iowa. Members came together in 2021 to develop a food system plan for Iowa – Setting the Table for All Iowans. The Coalition continues to convene as a community through priority teams and quarterly meetings where you can expect to connect and learn, engage in strategic reporting and planning, advance policy development and advocacy, and help raise awareness of the important food and farming work taking place throughout the state. If you are not already connected, we hope you will introduce yourself to us during the conference and become an active partner! 

Mary Swander

An award-winning author of poetry, non-fiction and drama, Mary Swander is the executive director of AgArts and artistic director of Swander Woman Productions (SWP) with offices in Kalona, IA. SWP performs plays about food, farming, and the wider rural environment. She has toured the country, with shows for the Idaho Wine Commission to the USDA.

Swander's play, Squatters on Red Earth, will be performed the pre-conference day, Thursday, June 13. Following the play will be a facilitated discussion and group activity focused on the themes of the play and how they continue to impact the food system in Iowa today. 

Rip Russell

Rip Russell is a well-known Iowa actor, having appeared on almost every stage in the eastern region, including Iowa City Community Theatre, Theatre Cedar Rapids, Riverside Theatre and City Circle. Lockdown transformed into a visual artist with exhibits of his paint pours throughout the area.

Rip Russel is the sole performer of Squatters on Red Earth and will perform the play live during the pre-conference day, Thursday, June 13. 

Rip Russel bio pic

Rip Russell

Cultivating Community: Investing in Farm and Food Businesses

Friday Morning Plenary

Community Food and Farm Grant, Johnson County 

Our morning plenary will set the stage for the day, highlighting local food businesses with a panel of recipients of the Community Food and Farm Grant. Johnson County created the Community Food and Farm Grant Program in response to COVID-19’s impacts on our local food system. Funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Johnson County has administered two cycles of the Community Food and Farm Grant. In the most recent cycle, Johnson County funded 15 of the 40 applications received, totaling around $285,000 in grant awards.

The pandemic impacted small farms, small food businesses, and households, affecting how food is grown, sold, and accessed. The following impacts show a need to both increase access to fresh food and support the small farms and food businesses who feed our community. The purpose of the grant is to increase community-based food production, processing, and distribution capacity to strengthen food security in Johnson County, IA. 

The panel will be facilitated by Ilsa DeWald, Local Food and Farm Manager, with Johnson County. Panelists will share how this grant has benefitted them and their businesses and  remaining challenges. Attendees will leave the session feeling inspired, with heightened awareness of public systems that invest in community food and farm businesses. 

 

Community in Every Bite

Friday Lunch Keynote

JayJay Goodvin, Chief Explorer of The Iowa Gallivant

Traveling through Iowa has led me to some of the most interesting stories when it comes to our state’s culture and heritage through culinary wonders throughout communities of all sizes. The farm to table concept reaches consumers in our urban centers and onto Main Streets all over the state. This presentation will bring together Iowa’s farmers, the restaurants that feature local products, and the folks that enjoy our home state’s producers and growers in several ways.

The foods we love have origins of how they get to our tables with a story that many have never heard before and the only way we can illustrate these journeys is by continuing to tell their stories through opportunities like we have at this conference. Not only will I be entertaining the attendees with our gallivants throughout the past ten years, but I will also be including my time with the Iowa City Community Independent School District as a proud para educator and during my days as the lead “Bearded Lunch Lady.” A nickname the students gave me at South East Junior High. During this time with the ICCSD I’ve experienced countless students and staff enjoy the local produce that make it to our cafeterias each school year. This is where education can start for many youngsters with the possibility of these meals being in their own stories about where eating local began for them. Truly our most important consumers.

From the farms on the rural blacktops and gravel roads to the child’s tray during lunchtime. From the farmers market to the menus designed by Iowa’s talented chefs. There’s heritage and history when it comes to our food and a never ending pioneering spirit in Iowa that I can’t wait to talk about. All of that is paired with incredible organizations everywhere and there’s community in every bite!

JayJay Goodvin

Chief Explorer of the Iowa Gallivant

Jay Goodvin is a professional traveler and the Chief Explorer of The Iowa Gallivant which is why he’s been magnetized to small town America. Writer, author, blogger and constant storyteller, Jay can’t wait to roll into another Main Street, order another memorable breakfast from a legendary eatery, share a cold pitcher of beer with the regulars, hear about the unique history and keep up with the stories and tales from the locals. Jay encourages everyone to set out on their own excursions because he always says that you can’t spell routine without rut. He always cherishes the finer things in life but doesn’t mind a little duct tape on the barstool either. In his travels he’s visited and highlighted hundreds of small towns all over the Midwest and throughout the entire country.

Jay left his home state in the late 90s and went on to live in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona, the Crazy Mountain Range of Montana, Cape Cod, the Florida Keys, the Black Hills, Central Illinois and Austin, Texas before returning home to Iowa where he lives today. As you can see, the eagerness to explore is in his bones and traveling is what quite literally drives his daily life along with being a handsome husband to a beautiful wife and dad joke slinging father of 3 incredible kids.

Jay is also a regular contributor on 1540 KXEL radio, Little Village Magazine, Bread and Butter Magazine, author of Rural Iowa Sausage and the Voice of Iowa Irish Fest in Waterloo. All this while being the constant promoter of communities of all sizes including his adventures within the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area. His experiences in the nation’s kitchens and life on the road has lead him to all these opportunities.

Farm Tours

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Johnson County Historic Poor Farm, Preserving the past, looking toward the future.

Johnson County Historic Poor Farm

Iowa City, Iowa

Johnson County Historic Poor Farm provides a public space for connecting to the land and local history through inclusive, community-led opportunities. The Johnson County Historic Poor Farm is a historic site that was established in 1855 to care for and house individuals with diverse life experiences, consistent with the poor farm model that was seen in counties across the U.S. in the 19th century. Some examples of individuals who found themselves at the farm include people with low wealth, elderly folks who did not have relatives to care for them, immigrants, widows, orphans, and people with disabilities. The farm was a working farm that produced agricultural products to be consumed by residents or sold to customers. The county operated the JCHPF under the poor farm model until 1988. In the years after,  the land was farmed privately and by nonprofits. 

In 2016, the Board of Supervisors set out to revitalize this land and make it available to the public. What came next was an extensive planning process to ensure that the future development of the farm aligned its history with the needs and desires of our current community. The concept of The New Century Farm was adopted as the vision for the farm. This concept prioritizes the preservation of historic farm structures, land access and education for beginning farmers, conservation, recreation, and education.

The Johnson County Historic Poor Farm will be the primary location for the pre-conference day, Thursday, June 13. JCHPF will be the backdrop for our morning session, Squatters on Red Earth, and the networking activity and catered lunch, following. Attendees will walk through the past, present, and future on a farm tour of the various work and program areas JCHPF offers. JCHPF will also be the setting for the Community Dinner, the evening of Thursday, June 13. 

Camp Creek Organic Produce

Kalona, Iowa

Camp Creek Organic Produce is an organic farm located in Kalona, Iowa that specializes in growing and distributing food all over the state. Grown by a group of passionate young farmers, and led by James Nisly & Corbin Scholz. 

Corbin will lead a farm tour for attendees on our pre-conference day, Thursday, June 13. Then, join us for a breakout session led by Corbin on our conference sessions day, Friday, June 14: Changing the Way We Look at Food. This breakout session with start with the history of agriculture in our country, explaining the path from indigenous farming to industrial ag, highlighting the layers of exploitation along the way. We will learn, explore, and discuss the reason local producers are the ones at risk but also the ones making the biggest impact for their communities and access to fresh, local food. We will show a glimpse of Camp Creek Organic Produce and how we are paving the way for local food to find it's way into early child care and institutions around the state, while creating a safe, non-exploitative workplace for our crew!

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Camp Creek Organic Produce logo

Sponsor the 2024 Conference

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Sponsor Registration

Sponsorship Opportunities

Funding from sponsorships will be prioritized toward scholarship opportunities, assisting individuals that may have been otherwise unable to attend the conference. There are multiple sponsorship levels, ranging from $300 to $2,500, so you can select the best fit for your organization. 

Level 1: $300

  • One conference registration 
  • Exhibitor booth (optional)
  • Recognition on conference materials
  • Recognition during conference welcome 

Level 2: $500

  • Two conference registrations
  • Exhibitor booth (optional)
  • Recognition on conference materials
  • Recognition during conference welcome
  • Recognition on publicity materials

Level 3: $1,000

  • Four conference registrations
  • Exhibitor booth (optional)
  • Recognition on conference materials
  • Recognition during conference welcome
  • Recognition on publicity materials
  • Social media promotion

Level 4: $2,500

  • Six conference registrations
  • Exhibitor booth (optional)
  • Recognition on conference materials
  • Recognition during conference welcome
  • Recognition on publicity materials
  • Social media promotion
  • Recognition at Community Dinner

We appreciate any contribution to the conference. If you would like to make an in-kind donation or volunteer at the conference, please reach out to:

2024 Conference Sponsors

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Conference sponsor logos
Johnson County Food Policy Council

Johnson County Food Policy Council's purpose is to improve dialogue and discussion and provide advice on food and agriculture issues to the county, municipalities, community boards, local agencies, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and other interested groups. The Council addresses food system issues in the county, including the development of the Council's Governing principles and strategic goals, data-gathering, research projects, and policies to address food system issues. 

Learn more about the Food Policy Council or contact Johnson County.

ISU Extension and Outreach Agriculture and Natural Resources

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Agriculture and Natural Resources recognizes that agriculture is important to Iowa. We grow crops and raise livestock to feed our nation and beyond. Much of Iowa’s economy thrives on our rich agricultural heritage and ANR Extension and Outreach plays an important role in providing research-based information and resources to educate Iowa’s farmers, producers and agribusinesses. Our programs impact all Iowans, whether they live in a rural or urban area, and have been developed to improve our quality of life. 

Contact isuanr@iastate.edu for questions and more info.

Choose Iowa, Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship

Choose Iowa is the state's signature brand to identify Iowa food and beverages that are grown, raised or made within Iowa. Choose Iowa also offers cost-share grants for value-added agriculture and dairy innovation (on-farm processing and labor-reducing technology).

Contact ChooseIowa@IowaAgriculture.gov for questions or more info.

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services

The Healthy Eating Active Living Team at the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services uses evidence-based approaches to educate individuals and families about nutrition and physical activity through direct education and social marketing messaging, as well as working with communities to establish and enhance policies, systems and environmental (PSE) changes that support healthy eating and active living.

Iowa Food System Coalition

The Iowa Food System Coalition (IFSC) is a network of individuals and organizations formed to chart a course toward a thriving, sustainable, and equitable food system in Iowa. Members came together in 2021 to develop a food system plan for Iowa – Setting the Table for All Iowans. The Coalition continues to convene as a community through priority teams and quarterly meetings where you can expect to connect and learn, engage in strategic reporting and planning, advance policy development and advocacy, and help raise awareness of the important food and farming work taking place throughout the state. If you are not already connected, we hope you will introduce yourself to us during the conference and become an active partner! 

Contact iowafoodsystemcoalition@gmail.com for questions or more info.

North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) strengthens communities, increases producers' economic viability, and improves the environment through grants and education. North Central SARE's network of state coordinators–housed at each land grant university throughout the region–conduct train-the-trainer programs and share information about our grant programs and other sustainable agriculture resources in their respective states.

Contact Christa Hartsook at hartc@iastate.edu for questions and more info.

Field to Family

Field to Family is an Iowa City, Iowa-based non-profit that increases access to and education around healthy and local food. We operate a comprehensive regional food hub and market available online, powered by partnerships with producers, institutions and community members who share a purpose to create a diverse, abundant, sustainable food system by making fresh local foods more available and accessible to more people.

Contact info@fieldtofamily.org for more info.

ISU Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Community and Economic Development's programs, processes, and people play an important role in providing research-based information and resources to sustain communities into the future. 

Contact extced@iastate.edu for questions and to learn more.

Next Step Adventure

Next Step Adventure: Through a unique blend of development, leadership, and facilitation, we help organizations and people reach the next level of their highest potential. Our educators teach students & teachers, create content & curriculum, facilitate groups, and build teams. 

Contact Sara Lockie at sara@nextstepadventure.com for questions or more info.

MarketMaker

MarketMaker is a national network of states that connect farmers and fishermen with food retailers, grocery stores, processors, caterers, chefs, and consumers.

Contact Olivia Hanlon at ohanlon@iastate.edu for questions or more info for the state of Iowa.

Capital City Fruit

Capital City Fruit is 75 year old, 3rd Generation Family Owned Business in Norwalk, Iowa. We have supplied Local Grocery and Food Service companies for decades. Now that same high quality, fresh produce can be delivered directly to your home, office or sent as gifts to friends, customers or vendors across the US.. We also work closely with Local non-profits and National health plans on ProduceRx, Food as Medicine and other Healthy Incentive\ Initiatives.

Contact ccfgifts@capitalcityfruit.com for questions and to learn more.

Iowa Farmers Union 

Iowa Farmers Union is a grassroots, membership-based organization founded in 1915. We focus on legislation, education and cooperation with free year-round educational programming and representation at both the state and national levels. Our goal is to educate, activate and empower our members, working on behalf of all small-to-medium independent family farms throughout Iowa.

Contact info@iowafarmersunion.org for questions and to learn more.

Golden Hills RC&D

Golden Hills Resource Conservation & Development's mission is to collaboratively develop and lead community, conservation, and cultural initiatives to improve our quality of life in rural western Iowa. 

Visit goldenhillsrcd.org to learn more or contact info@goldenhillsrcd.org for more information.

Hy-Vee

Hy-Vee values corporate giving, but each store tailors contributions to meet the needs of their local communities. The company’s autonomous structure fosters a spirit of entrepreneurship that allows stores to custom-tailor their contributions to meet the needs of their communities. In the beginning, it took the form of donations of heating oil or a box of groceries to a family suffering through hard times during the Depression; today, it encompasses financial contributions to hundreds of causes, leadership roles in non-profit organizations and one-on-one volunteer contacts in the community. 

Learn more about Hy-Vee's charitable donations

Our team is working to plan the most welcoming and educational conference experience. Please keep posted here for updates and announcements on the 2024 conference or like us on Facebook, message us, or subscribe to our mailing list.

Previous Conferences

The Community Food Systems Program began hosting the Community Food Systems (CFS) Annual Event in 2015, formerly known as the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit Annual Event. In 2023, the CFS Annual Event merged with the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Annual Conference, hosted by the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition, to offer a unique event that promotes collaboration and cross-sector partnerships.  

2023: Growing a Culture of Celebration

The 2023 Community Food Systems + Farm to School and Early Care Conference was held June 15-17, 2024 in Waukee, Iowa and the surrounding area. This year was the first year a joint conference was held, coordinated by the Community Food Systems program and the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition. The theme was Growing a Culture of Celebration and celebrates local foods, learning, and collaboration. Topics included community food systems, farm to school and early care, and included two days of conference plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and bite-sized sessions focused on community food systems and farm to school and early care topics. The conference also hosted a farm tour and site visit day, visiting local farms and schools and ended with a local foods reception held at Grade A Gardens in Earlham, Iowa. 

For more information on conference sessions, speakers, and sponsor organizations, check out:

Conference Session Recordings, hosted on the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Network site

Community Food Systems Session Abstracts

Farm to School and Early Care Session Abstracts

View our 2023 CFS + F2SEC Conference Success Story!

2022: Reacting and Adapting

The 2022 Community Food Systems Annual Event was held February 24-25, 2022 in West Des Moines, Iowa. The theme was Reacting and Adapting: Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the food system and strategies for moving forward. The event consisted of plenaries with local experts in the area of community food systems, breakout sessions, and lightning round presentations. A networking event was also hosted and included public input session held by the Iowa Food System Coalition. 

For more information on sessions, speakers, and sponsor organizations view the event program:

2022 Community Food Systems Annual Event Program

2021: Retail and Leadership within Community Food Systems

The 2021 Community Food Systems Annual Event was held virtually, February 12, 2021. The theme was Retail and Leadership within Community Food Systems and included plenary sessions, breakout sessions, and lightning round sessions. 

For more information on sessions, speakers, and sponsor organizations, view the event program:

2021 Community Food Systems Annual Event Program

2020: Inclusive Partnerships & Food Entrepreneurship

The 2020 Community Food Systems Annual Event was held January 10, 2020 in West Des Moines, Iowa. The event theme was Inclusive Partnerships and Food Entrepreneurship and consisted of plenaries, breakout sessions, and lightning rounds focused on community food systems. 

For more information on sessions, speakers, and sponsor organizations, view the event program:

2020 Community Food Systems Annual Event Program

2019

The 2019 Community Food Systems Annual Event was held March 29, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa. Sessions included plenaries and breakout sessions and focused on local food systems development, food systems curricula, and tools and resources. For more information on sessions and speakers, view the event agenda:

2019 Community Food Systems Annual Event Agenda

2018

The 2018 Community Food Systems Annual Event was held January 12, 2018 in Ames, Iowa and highlighted community coalitions around the state that have partnered in the ISU Community Food Systems program. For more information on sessions and speakers, view the event agenda:

2018 Community Food Systems Annual Event Agenda

2017

The 2017 Community Food Systems Annual Event was held in January and focused on the good work happening around the state of Iowa in local food systems development. This year marked the first year of the new title of Community Food Systems Annual Event. The event included speakers discussing the Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit process and featured the launch of the Community Food Systems program. For more information on sessions and speakers, view the event agenda:

2017 Community Food Systems Annual Event Agenda

2016

The 2016 Agricultural Urbanism Annual Event was held in January and included breakout sessions, plenaries focused on local foods and food systems. For more information on sessions and speakers, view the event agenda:

2016 Agricultural Urbanism Event Agenda 

2015

The 2015 Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit Annual Event was held in January in Ames, Iowa and included plenaries and breakout sessions. For more information on sessions and speakers, view the event agenda:

2015 Agricultural Urbanism Event Agenda