Our publications

Click here to visit the ISU Extension Store and find local foods-related resources from FFED and other university departments.

Recent publications by topic


Tools to Evaluate Your Coalition (LF 0010), December 2015, Alice Topaloff, Arlene Enderton, Corry Bregendahl. Building strong coalitions and partnerships are essential to the success of an organization. A series of four publications by the Iowa State Extension and Outreach Local Foods team introduces the importance of coalitions and how evaluating those partnerships can be helpful. The series looks at how to develop coalitions, what to do when coalitions have been established and how to evaluate a mature coalition. Each publication includes questions to ask to evaluate the health of the partnership at each stage of the relationship. 4-part series, 8 pp. total. 


Getting Your New Business Idea Funded (FFED 40). March 2021. Craig Chase. This publication discusses new business funding, its risks, to-do’s to prepare, and what lenders evaluate when assessing borrowers, including an overview of ‘The 5 Cs’: character, conditions, capital, collateral, and capacity. 5 pp.

Evaluating Marketing Outlets (FFED 39). December 2020. Craig Chase. This publication outlines three methods that may be used to determine costs associated with selling farm products: individual product budgets, whole-farm records and partial budgets. 5 pp.

Improving Profitability (FFED 38). December 2020. Craig Chase. This publication focuses on increasing profit margin. The examples given are for fruits and vegetables. Many business decisions can be made to improve profitability once profit margins are determined. 3 pp.

Using Partial Budgets to Make Decisions (FFED 37). December 2020. Craig Chase. Partial budgets analyze projected costs and revenues associated with some change to the business determining if implementing the proposed change creates economic gain. It is critical to utilize the financial numbers from the farm in the base consideration and accurate estimates for the proposed change. 3 pp.

Pricing for Profit (FFED 36). December 2020. Craig Chase. Pricing products that do not have an established market can be difficult. Produce can be priced three ways: customer/market-based, competition-based, or cost-based. 5 pp.

Cash Flow Versus Profitability (FFED 35). December 2020. Craig Chase. Positive cash flow and profitability (net farm income) are two common business financial goals. One without the other is not only possible but common, and the business may remain active for a while. However, both positive cash flow and profitability are needed over the long run for the farm or any other business to be sustainable. 6 pp.

Using Whole-Farm and Enterprise Records to Make Decisions (FFED 33). December 2020. Craig Chase. Five key measures of financial performance are commonly analyzed: liquidity, solvency, profitability, financial efficiency, and repayment capacity. Together, these criteria measure both financial condition and performance, allowing the owner, as well as a lender or other outside reader, to better understand how well the business is currently doing. 6 pp.

Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Budgets—Annual Crops (FFED 32A). December 2020. Craig Chase. Production budgets help to allocate land, labor, and capital. The most appropriate use is defined by the person in control of the resources and may be used to maximize profits or minimize soil loss or any other goal. Sample budgets included in this publication are divided into five sections: total receipts, costs of planting and growing the product, pre-harvest and harvest expenses, ownership costs, and summary of returns. 14 pp.

Evaluating Organic Transitions at the Field Level (FFED 31). May 2020. Craig Chase. This publication provides information on making plans to transition to organic crop production. It helps outline the need for a transition crop plan, the importance of individual crop budgets, and evaluating results. 4 pp.

Market-Based Vegetable Enterprise Budgets Toolkit (FFED web page). February 2020. Emily Coll. The budgeting tools on this page can help guide small-scale farmers when analyzing net returns. Marketing costs can dramatically change the profitability of an enterprise or the whole farm. This toolkit contains sample budgets for 10 crops, or enterprises. It provides farmers the information they need to determine what sales market outlets to further develop or reduce, and how a change in production practices can influence the bottom line.

Organic Crop Production Enterprise Budgets (FFED 27). November 2019. Craig Chase, Kathleen Delate, Olivia Hanlon. An enterprise budget is an estimate of the costs and returns to produce a product. This publication looks at enterprise budgets for organic growers, reflecting a four-year rotation using corn, soybeans, oats with alfalfa and a second year of alfalfa. 7 pp.

Making the Transition from Conventional to Organic (FFED 26). November 2019. Craig Chase, Kathleen Delate, Olivia Hanlon. Farming organically allows producers to incur many economic and social advantages compared to farming conventionally. Understanding and planning the economic returns of the transition process can aid the producer in planning and in becoming organically certified. 3 pp.

Adapting Enterprise Budgets for Organic Crops (FFED 23). November 2019. Craig Chase. Deciding what organic products to grow and how to price them is difficult, particularly when markets often are not well established. This publication discusses how to adapt enterprise budgets to organic crops in order to better ensure a producer earns a profit from their crop. 5 pp.

An Economic Analysis of Two Iowa Crop Rotations (FFED 20). November 2019. Craig Chase, Kathleen Delate, Olivia Hanlon. This publication compares the economic return to management of two crop rotations: conventional corn-soybean and organic corn-soybean-oat/alfalfa-alfalfa. 7 pp.

Iowa Fruit and Vegetable Production Budgets (FM 1904). November 2019. Craig Chase. This enterprise budgeting tool can help vegetable growers estimate the costs and revenue associated with producing a product. Growers with multiple enterprises can use total sales as the basis for estimating the cost of planting, growing, harvesting, and handling key crops with a series of worksheets. 20 pp.

Agritourism Safety and Health Best Practices Checklists (LF 25 A-F). Kendra Meyer. Visit Iowa Farms​ has put together a set of six checklists on agritourism topics, ranging from bio-security to pesticide safety. Download them free on their website (along with lots of other great resources for farmers!)

Getting Started with Backyard Chickens (LF 22, Moodle e-course). April 2017. Christa Hartsook. This short course walks participants through how to order, care for and protect your new flock. The course covers brooding chicks, appropriate feeders and waterers and coop construction tips.

Farmer and Buyer Toolkit for Wholesale Readiness. July 2018. Danielle Day, Brittany Demezier, Gwen Hall Driscoll, Courtney Long, Sara Wiegel, Georgia Windhorst. This toolkit shares best practices for buying and selling local food products, for farmers and food procurers. 6 pp.

Iowa Poultry Slaughter, Processing, and Sales Guidelines for Small-Scale Producers (FS 27). November 2017. Teresa Wiemerslage, Kathryn Polking, Janis Hochstetler, Dennis Kuntz, Julie Kraling. This publication is designed to help small-scale poultry producers in Iowa figure out poultry slaughter and processing regulations and their associated marketing requirements. 4 pp.

Resource Guide for Beginning Farmers (LF 0006). July 2015. Alice Topaloff, et al. This is a resource for people interested in hosting a farmer training program (incubator or other) and it includes a curriculum that is divided into three parts: production practices, post-harvest handling, and business planning/basic finances. 48 pp.

Farm to school

Helping Create Readiness and Relationships to Increase Local Procurement in Iowa’s Schools (FFED 19). January 2020. Chelsea Krist. Through a USDA grant, FFED staff worked to explore barriers restricting local food access in schools across Iowa and to provide guidance, partnership, technical assistance, support and incentives to educate schools to find solutions. This publication summarizes the results of the initiative. 7 pp.

Farm to School Toolkit Pilot (FFED web resource). November 2018. Cass County Farm to School Coalition of Cass County Food Action Coalition & FFED. This resource guide offers brief descriptions of components of farm to school. The Q&A format offers information on frequently asked questions and considerations when starting a farm to school program. The toolkit’s purpose is to be a quick-reference guide and index for schools and partners to build readiness, competence, and understanding of the types of programs that exist for farm to school activities.

Make Food Safety a Priority in Your School Garden (LF 0021). March 2017. Teresa Wiemerslage. This publication contains sample protocols for schools to use as they design best practices for their school gardens. These protocols are adapted from federal and state guidelines for Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP). 5 pp.

Summary of Northeast Iowa Farm to School Processing Pilot, 2014-2015 (LF 18B). September 2018. Teresa Wiemerslage, Shannon Coleman. A research project conducted in 2014-15 tested the benefits of a partnership between area school districts and the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative’s (FFI) Iowa Food Hub – a non-profit food aggregator and distributor. This publication provides information on the project and discusses challenges faced and opportunities available in providing fresh, local foods to Iowa schools. 4 pp.

Cafeteria Coaching Toolkit (LF 0011) January 2016. Teresa Wiemerslage, Lynn Heuss, Laura Liechty. Cafeteria coaching is a cafeteria-based program that uses middle school and high school students along with school nutrition staff and cafeteria staff to encourage kids to try new foods and eat nutritious school meals. This toolkit will guide users to set up cafeteria coaching programs at local schools. 16 pp. 

Food hubs

Increasing the Capacity of a Local Food Hub to Service School District Nutrition Programs (LF 18A). September 2018. Teresa Wiemerslage, Catherine Strohbehn. By partnering with a food hub, a school district can significantly increase its local food purchases. This publication provides information from a pilot program used to grow farm to school purchases in northwest Iowa. The scope, design and implementation of the project are all covered in detail. 5 pp. 

Iowa Food Hub Meat-to-School Series (LF 0016 A – C). February 2017. Teresa Wiemerslage, Savanna Lyons. Farm-to-school programs around the country have wrestled with the challenge of sourcing local meat. To explore this question, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and Iowa Food Hub, sought to build a meat-to-school program in northeast Iowa. This series of three publications provides highlights of the project’s successes and challenges, on the topics of sourcing products, working with pork producers, and working with beef producers.

A Manager’s Guide to Food Hub Finances (LF 0015 and 0015B). February 2017. Savanna Lyons. The purpose of this PDF guide (LF-0015A) is to explore how food hubs can use their own financial data to identify and address the strengths and challenges in their operation. Relying on data that most food hubs already have available in their financial records, we show how financial metrics can be used by managers to identify problems and risks and make decisions. The accompanying Excel spreadsheet (LF-0015B) provides an additional tool to calculate and interpret key metrics from a food hub’s operation. 58 pp. 

Using Accounting Software for Food Hubs: Processing Traceable Orders (LF 0009). October 2015. Savanna Lyons. Quickbooks™ is the software most commonly used by food aggregators and distributors, yet many struggle to maximize its features to benefit their operations. Based on an actual Iowa food hub, this tutorial takes a step by step approach, guiding users to expand their use of QuickBooks™ to improve product traceability, accounting, basic inventory management and record-keeping. Using QuickBooks™ in combination with Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets and a few other low-cost tools can provide an effective, low cost solution for data management. 32 pp. 

Managing Cash Flow for a Low-Capital Food Hub Startup (LF 0005). June 2015. Savanna Lyons, Nick McCann, Georgeanne Artz. This toolkit explains the idea of cash flow and how food hub managers can use it to their advantage. 8 pp.

Food Hub Development in Iowa. February 2014. Arlene Enderton and Corry Bregendahl. This is the first coordinated study of food hub development in Iowa. 25 pp.

Food systems

Scaling Up Specialty Crop Processing Toolkit. February 2021. Lisa Bates, Courtney Long, Shannon Coleman, Victor Oyervides. Provides an overview of criteria for food businesses interested in processing specialty crops through value-added processing opportunities such as product development, commercial kitchens, increasing scales, and more. The project focuses on locally owned businesses and intentionally collaborated with local businesses within the supply chain to determine critical needs. 62 pp.

Local Food Supply Chains: connections between independently owned processors and grocers. October 2020. Lisa Bates, Courtney Long and Bre Miller. This research report analyzes impacts of the supply chain—particularly independent processors and grocers—on community, including areas of economy, equity, environment, education, wellness and policy. 22 pp.

Reducing Food Waste in Agricultural Settings: A Guide for Residents of Polk, Story, and Surrounding Counties (FFED 30). May 2020. Cassandra Britt. Resources for farmers and food donation organizations to work together to supply surplus food to central Iowans who are food insecure. 10 pp.

Local Food Leader Full Certification (LFL 1, Moodle e-course). October 2019. FFED CFS Team. (Prerequisite: Local Food Leader workshop.) This certification is appropriate for individuals interested in all Local Food Leader modules: Community Food Systems, Methods of Engagement, Creating Team and Tools for Success, and Evaluation. Individuals will gain understanding of how food system components work together; increased awareness of ways to engage and create inclusive partnerships; increased strategic planning skills and ability to identify technical assistance resources for their work and learn new tools in creating, delivering and evaluating quality local foods programs. Modules also available separately (see bottom of Store page at the link). Fees vary.

Community Food Systems Full Certification (CFS 1, Moodle e-course). October 2019. FFED CFS Team. This certification is appropriate for individuals interested in offering the entire Community Food Systems process including facilitation, mapping development, report generation, providing general design support, offering feasibility analysis, creating teams for projects, and conducting economic impact analysis. Modules also available separately (see bottom of Store page at the link). Fees vary.

Mapping 101 Certification (MAP 1, Moodle e-course). October 2019. FFED CFS Team. Mapping 101 is appropriate for individuals interested in understanding how to create maps for decision making and building new skills in QGIS for data and map development. Mapping 101 is offered as a separate certification but is included in the Full and Assessor certifications through Community Food Systems. Fee $100.

Local Foods Coordinator Survey and Learning Circle Report (LF 0017). January 2017. Savanna Lyons, Alice Topaloff, Caitlin Szymanski, Lynn Heuss, Courtney Long. In Iowa, more than 20 regional entities employ individuals as local food coordinators.. Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has begun a project to better understand the needs and challenges of local food coordinators, and to develop a program to better support both the coordinators and their supervisors. This report summarizes the project findings and outlines future plans for supporting local food coordinators across Iowa. 4 pp.

Determining Factors for Local Food Systems Success (LF 0014). August 2016. Ahna Kruzic, Carmen Bain. Analyzes the characteristics of factors that enable and hinder local food systems development within communities. Based on in-depth case studies of six of the most successful local food systems in the US, researchers present proven tactics for success in each of seven factors, or “community capitals.” By using this guidebook, local food systems developers can identify resources and mitigate challenges in their own communities. 20 pp.

Local Food Organizational Toolkit( LF 0008A-C). October 2015. Savanna Lyons, et al. This toolkit offers the business and financial elements of starting and coordinating a local foods organization in Iowa. It is applicable to farmers markets, advocacy groups, coalitions and multi-stakeholder groups, food hubs, educational and civic groups, food policy councils, farmer cooperatives and others. It is divided into three parts:

Local Food Organizational Toolkit Part 1 (LF 0008A): Defining your organization’s focus and leadership. 24 pp.
Local Food Organizational Toolkit – Part 2 (LF 0008B): Organizational structure. 22 pp.
Local Food Organizational Toolkit – Part 3 (LF 0008C): Funding your local food organization. 32 pp.

Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit (LF 0007). July 2015. Courtney Long. A resource for communities to learn about Agricultural Urbanism and the tactics used to develop local food systems. It can be used as a full book or portions can be downloaded for specific tactics. In the booklet you will find an overview of Agricultural Urbanism as a design strategy as well as a brief synopsis of the Community Design Lab’s Agricultural Urbanism Toolkit design process and its role in local food system development. 102 pp. 

Supporting Local Food System Development In Your Community (LF 0002). January 2015. Ahna Kruzic and Corry Bregendahl, This toolkit offers guidance in helping organize and promote the development of a local food system in your community.4 pp.

Local Food Coordinators (LF 0001). August 2014. Alice Topaloff, Craig Chase. Local Food Coordinators support the development of local food systems by bringing participants together and increasing community awareness through educational and promotional marketing. This publication provides resources to groups and organizations who are developing a local foods coordinator position, complete with a position description. 6 pp.

Publications released in 2014 and before

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The Economic Impact of Iowa’s 2014 Local Food Champions (December 2014). Arlene Enderton. These are nine profiles of local food champions who support development of local food systems in Iowa.

Best Practices of the Regional Food Systems Working Group (November 2014). RFSWG members. This document of the Regional Food Systems Working Group outlines some of the best practices for developing a local food system.

2013 Economic Impact of Iowa’s Regional food System Working Group (November 2014).Arlene Enderton and Corry Bregendahl. This report offers a two-year look at the statewide impact of the local foods sector on Iowa’s economy, based on the efforts of the Regional Food Systems Working Group. This is a summary of the larger report: 2013 Economic Impacts of Iowa’s Regional Food Systems Working Group.

Funding Opportunities in Local Foods (October 2014). Ahna Kruzic. This study presents information about federal, state, and private grant programs available as funding sources for development of local food systems.

Shared-Use Kitchen Planning Toolkit (September 2014). Alice Topaloff. This toolkit offers guidance in starting a shared-use kitchen for new and existing value-added food production entrepreneurs, farmers, and caterers.

Local Food System Toolkit #1: Developing a Worksite Foodbox Program (July 2014). Savanna Lyons. This toolkit provides guidance for creating a program of pre-packed food boxes delivered weekly and picked up by employees at their workplaces.

Production Planning for Aggregators (June 2014). Savanna Lyons. This is designed to support aggregators: businesses and organizations that create a single sales outlet through which large-volume buyers can purchase products from several local farmers.

Local Food and Farm Program Final Report (June 2014). Local Foods Team. This is the final report to the Iowa legislature detailing the Local Food and Farm Initiative (LFFI) during its third year.

Diversity of Conventional Farming in Northeast Iowa: Why Do Farmers Farm the Way They Do? (April 2014). Alice Topaloff. This is a historical case study of farm operations in northeast Iowa, and details the evolution of farming systems that were shaped by the region’s unique geography and culture.

2011-2014, Local Food and Farm Initiative Program Outcomes and Impacts (February 2014). Corry Bregendahl and Arlene Enderton. This is an evaluation of seven one-year food systems projects funded by the Local Food and Farm Initiative that shows for every dollar of LFFI project investments, another $17.92 was leveraged by project leaders and partners.

2013 Local Food Champions (December 2013). Arlene Enderton. These are eleven profiles of local food champions who support development of local food systems in Iowa.

Impact Brief: 2012 Economic Impacts of Iowa’s Regional Food Systems Working Group (October 2013). Corry Bregendahl and Arlene Enderton. This is a summary of the statewide impact of the local food industry on Iowa’s economy.

2013 Local Food and Farm Program Final Report (June 2013). Local Food Team. This is the final report to the Iowa legislature detailing the Local Food and Farm Initiative (LFFI) during its second year.

Funding Impact Brief #6: Practical Farmers of Iowa (September 2013). This report details the progress of Practical Farmers of Iowa partnership with the Leopold Center.

Food Facts: Results from Marketing and Food Systems Research (June 2013). Craig Chase. This publication has key findings from research, demonstrations, studies and surveys that have been supported by the Leopold Center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative since 2000, as well as links to additional food systems resources.

Sharing the Lessons Learned: 2013 Iowa Local Food Conference (May 2013). This is a synopsis of presentations at the 2013 Iowa Local Food Conference. Breakout sessions focused on three challenges related to local foods.

Funding Impact Brief #4: The Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG) (May 2013). This publication looks at what’s been learned from convening practitioners and community leaders interested in developing local and regional food businesses in Iowa.

Collecting Data for Collective Impact: A Guide for Coordinators in the Regional Food Systems Working Group (February 2013). Corry Bregendahl. This manual is an outline of a shared measurement system for collecting economic data for coordinators of 17 Regional Food Groups.

2011-2014 Leopold Center Marketing and Food Systems Initiative Competitive Grants (February 2013). Corry Bregendahl and Arlene Enderton. This is an evaluation of nine projects funded by competitive grants from the Leopold Center’s Marketing and Food Systems Initiative between 2011 and 2014.

2012 Local Food and Farm Program Final Report (June 2012). Local Foods Team. This is the final report to the Iowa legislature detailing the Local Food and Farm Initiative (LFFI) during its first year.

Learning About Local at ISU (May 2012). Ashlee Hespen and Craig Chase. This is a directory of organizations and programs at Iowa State University that support local and regional food systems.

Local Food and Farm Program Preliminary Report (January 2012). Local Foods Team. This preliminary report to the Iowa legislature describes the activities of the Local Food and Farm Program from September 2011 to mid-January 2012. The program seeks to promote local foods and increase farmer profitability in Iowa.

Iowa Local Food and Farm Plan (January 2011). The Local Food and Farm Plan Team, Corry Bregendahl. This overview examines local food efforts in Iowa since 1995 and offers 34 recommendations to boost local food production.

Local Foods in Iowa: Increased Opportunities for Economic Growth (January 2011). This fact sheet provides a quick overview of potential economic benefits of increased local food production and consumption in Iowa.

For more research into local foods topics, visit the ISU Digital Repository and browse the
collection of publications and papers from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture.