Register by May 31 for Community Food Systems + Farm to School and Early Care Conference

Two-day conference promotes collaboration, cross-sector partnerships, local food

May 20, 2024, 10:20 am | Breanna Miller

IOWA CITY, Iowa – The Community Food Systems + Farm to School and Early Care Conference is June 13-14 in Iowa City. The registration deadline is May 31.

This annual event celebrates local food, collaboration and cross-sector partnerships in all areas of the food system and farm to school and early care. The conference theme, “Rooted in Community: Growing Partnerships for Sustainable Food Systems,” will engage and inspire individuals, organizations and businesses through interactive learning.

Visitors at Johnson County Historic Poor Farm restored dairy barn.The Community Food Systems Program and the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Farm, Food and Enterprise Development encourage food systems practitioners, K-12 school district staff, and early care and education providers to attend.

The conference is open to the public. The planning committee encourages registering for the full, two-day conference, but also welcomes individuals to attend individual days or components. Registration is open through May 31. For full details and fees, visit the conference webpage. Register at

The conference will kick-off on Thursday, June 13, at Johnson County Historic Poor Farm with a pre-conference day, beginning with Mary Swander’s “Squatters on Red Earth,” a drama about a peaceful encounter in the midst of the U.S. white settler land grab. Next, attendees will tour the Johnson County Historic Poor Farm, a historic site 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. Attendees will then tour Camp Creek Organic Produce, a 40-acre organic farm that specializes in growing and distributing food all over the state of Iowa through a CSA, food hub and an organic greens program. Camp Creek also works with the Local Food for Schools program funded by USDA, processing fresh, local vegetables and distributing them to school districts around Iowa. Attendees will enjoy remixed urban old school and classic street food for lunch, catered by Da Flava Unit food truck restaurant.

Thursday will conclude with celebrating local food and partnerships over a community dinner, set in the historic livestock barn at Johnson County Historic Poor Farm. Dinner will be catered by Plated Table, a local, Iowa City business that specializes in small, intimate dinner parties and events. Evening programming will feature the Iowa Food System Coalition that will share priorities of the Iowa Food System Plan, and highlight the recipients of the 2024 Golden Root Award, hosted by the Iowa Farm to School and Early Care Coalition and the Iowa Department of Education.

An attendee from a previous year's conference said, “This conference does an amazing job at building an inclusive, educational atmosphere that brings together multiple stakeholders and food system sectors. Attendees can plan to leave the conference feeling inspired and energized with new ideas and partnerships for their community.”

Friday, June 14, will be the main conference day, with sessions held at the Graduate Iowa City hotel in downtown Iowa City. The morning plenary, “Cultivating Community: Investing in Farm and Food Businesses,” will set the stage by highlighting local food businesses with a panel of recipients of the Johnson County Community Food and Farm Grant. The panel will feature local, Iowa City food businesses Da Flava Unit, Africando Foods and Over the Moon Farm and Flowers. Panelists will share how this grant has benefited their business, discuss remaining challenges and heighten awareness of public systems investing in community food and farm businesses.

The Friday lunch keynote will be led by Iowa native JayJay Goodvin, interim executive director of Historic Route 20-Iowa and chief explorer at The Iowa Gallivant. Goodvin has been cooking and traveling his way through the state of Iowa, sharing his experiences in The Iowa Gallivant, a blog dedicated to rediscovering the charm of local food and businesses throughout the Midwest and the country.  

Throughout the day, attendees will have the opportunity to select from 18 breakout sessions, led by practitioners and providers from across Iowa. Topics will include food systems, early care education, local food procurement, food system grant opportunities and community engagement. The day will conclude with 15-minute sessions that will further highlight projects and research happening in food systems and farm to school and early care around the state.

A full agenda can be viewed on the conference webpage.

Shareable photo: Visitors at Johnson County Historic Poor Farm restored dairy barn

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