Spotlight on Brigham Hoegh and Kate Olson, Cass County Extension
Our local food coordinator spotlight this month is a two-fer! Brigham Hoegh and Kate Olson both work on local foods programming for Cass County Extension and Outreach—Brigham as Cass County wellness coordinator, and Kate as county director. Learn about their many great projects (and try the recipe for sauteed radishes with bacon!)
What do you do in the local food space?
Brigham: My official title is Cass County Wellness Coordinator. In that position, I facilitate a range of wellness initiatives promoting everything from healthy eating and movement to mental health and community connection. I serve as the secretary for the Cass County Local Food Policy Council and assist the group with promoting local food events. I also manage the Food Policy Council’s Facebook page. The page promotes Cass County farmers markets and local foods and provides information on Cass County food pantries.
I also work to facilitate opportunities for local producers to grow their customer bases. For example, this spring I coordinated a market prep workshop for producers planning to participate in Cass County farmers markets. Lastly, I am on a local Healthy Cass County committee promoting healthy foods access. This summer we are leading the “Grow Another Row, Cass County!” project, which aims to get gardeners and farmers to grow a little more food this year to share with others. In separate roles, I work as the manager of one of our local farmers markets, Produce in the Park, and grow and sell sweet corn through Corn 4 a Cause.
Kate: I have been involved in a variety of local foods projects since I started as the program coordinator/director for Cass County Extension in 2011. I have been involved with the Cass County Local Food Policy Council for many years, was involved in all aspects of managing USDA grants to grow local food capacity (Farmers Market Promotion and Farm to School Planning Grants), participated on the steering committee for a multi-year project to develop food access projects in Cass County with the ISU Local Foods Team [now FFED], and I also work with our Cass County Master Gardener group as the advisor on food donation and youth gardening education projects, among others. I’ve also been involved in starting and growing local market opportunities such as Produce in the Park and our fall Harvest Market.
How long have you been in the job, and what’s your background?
Brigham: I’ve been the wellness coordinator since fall 2019. For a decade I worked in insurance, and in 2018 I decided to take a career leap to work in the local food space. In 2019 I started working at Rolling Acres Farm and managing Produce in the Park. I’m learning a lot!
Kate: I started with ISU Extension in 2009, and joined the Cass County Extension staff in 2011. My previous position was in the animal agriculture sector, working with both production livestock and personnel development and training.
What are some of your favorite local foods-related projects, past or present?
Brigham: Right now I’m pretty excited about “Grow Another Row, Cass County!” This is an initiative to get more people in the county to grow a little more food to share as we face COVID-19. I like this project because growing food for others is meaningful work that can be done at home during COVID-19. And getting outside in the dirt gives me and others I know a boost in spirits. I also like the project because sharing food with others builds community. Lastly, people from all across the county are both leading the project and committing to sharing food.
Kate: Big picture, my soft spot is exposing youth to food and agriculture education in a hands-on setting. Our farm-to-school grant was a very intense process. But we had great outcomes, built great partnerships and have a team that continues to meet county-wide even 2+ years after the grant ended. I love any opportunity to be face to face with kids exploring food/gardens/agriculture. I also love meeting with partners to brainstorm and implement ways to make this happen on a larger scale.
What new projects or directions are you looking forward to?
Kate: Our local food policy council is exploring more work with food access and food equity. Our farm-to-school team is still considering the option of a second grant to do implementation work as we wrap up projects from our first go-round.
Brigham: Our local food policy council is part of a group of local organizations that received an Iowa Economic Development Authority grant to deliver food to people in need due to COVID-19. Food policy council members are passionate about this work. Many are working as volunteers for the program—even delivering food to people’s doorsteps. Being involved in the work at that level, I am seeing food security issues from a new angle. I think other council members are, too. I hope this experience, and the conversations we have with food recipients regarding food security as a result of this work, will help us implement better solutions and programs addressing food access and equity in the future.
What do you love most about your job?
Brigham: What I love most is when people connect and find solutions or new markets because I have helped promote or highlight their needs. For example, twice this spring a significant amount of food that would have been thrown out was rescued by pantries because the message was shared with the right folks at the right time. I have loved developing a network of people who care about food access.
Kate: I enjoy bringing people together and discovering shared interests, then taking those interests and helping them become projects that are tangible and make a difference. The look on someone’s face when they share an “if only…” and you are able to answer with “Well, actually, we COULD do that….”
What’s your favorite local food? Feel free to share a recipe!
Brigham: I love fresh local produce—tomatoes, sweet corn, and rhubarb might be my favorites. I enjoy learning about foods from producers at farmers markets. I hadn’t heard of kohlrabi until I worked for the market. Turns out it’s delicious. This week a local farmers market vendor shared a recipe for sautéed radishes with bacon.
Sautéed Radishes with Bacon (from Erickson Foods)
- 3 slices bacon (chopped)
- 12 oz radishes (quartered)
- 6 medium shallots (quartered)
- 2 tsp garlic (finely chopped)
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp ground pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 tsp butter
Directions: Place bacon in a large skillet and cook over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp (5 to 6 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the drippings in the pan. Add radishes and shallots to the pan and cook, undisturbed, until slightly charred on one side, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir and continue to cook until browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper; cook stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar, butter and the reserved bacon.
Kate: Garden-fresh produce! When our asparagus patch was producing like crazy this spring, we were steaming and grilling asparagus all the time. Nothing better with fresh butter and a little garlic salt! I love eating tomatoes and peppers straight off the vine, and I encourage kids to do the same in the garden. Every year as we wrap up our summer youth gardens, we throw just-picked tomatoes, peppers and onions in a food processor with some fresh-picked cilantro and some salt and a little lime juice. Pulse a few times in the food processor until finely chopped, and we have kids coming back for second and third helpings of our garden-fresh salsa. Even the ones that swear at the beginning of the summer that they don’t eat veggies!