The Gathering draws 1,100 to Mason City

April 5, 2019

by Emily Coll, Program Coordinator

More than 1,100 people attended The Gathering event in Mason City on Saturday, March 16, including the city’s mayor. This event was organized and hosted by Healthy Harvest of North Iowa (HHNI). Their vision was to host an annual event that inspires and promotes a deeper understanding of how to engage in the local food system.

crowd visiting vendors at local foods event

Healthy Harvest is active in nine northern Iowa counties. They are Cerro Gordo, Franklin, Floyd, Hancock, Kossuth, Mitchell, Winnebago, Worth, and Wright. Its food systems work includes connecting growers and buyers, and offering educational opportunities and other other resources.

Healthy Harvest’s fearless leader is Jan Libbey. Many of us working in the local food community know Jan. If you don’t, you need to! She is a pioneer in local food systems development in Iowa. Jan will be stepping down as executive director of Healthy Harvest this year. She has done an amazing job growing this organization. We will miss you, Jan!

Leadership transition

honey vendor table
Blossom St. Honey was among the many vendors.

Luckily, Healthy Harvest has strong leaders to continue its mission. Big thanks to Marie Boyd, who played a major role in organizing The Gathering event for 2019. She will be taking over as the new HHNI executive director. We’re all behind you, Marie!

More than 25 vendors supported this year’s event. They included Blossom St. Honey, Eagle Lake Gardens, Frisky Fox Vineyard & Winery, Grand View Beef, Gym-N-Eat Crickets, LLC, Hazel Acres, Hoover’s Hatchery, Joia Food Farm, Limestone Brewers, Mossycup Farm, North Iowa Fresh, Purple Ribbon Beef, Red Shed GardensSimply Nourished, Timbukbru, The Thomas Farmstead, Twisted River Farm, and Wings & Things.

three people talk at event
Jeff Jensen of Hazel Acres visits with attendees.

Other sponsors included Ag Ventures Alliance, Clear Lake Farmers Market, North Iowa Farmers Market, Practical Farmers of Iowa, Iowa Farmers Union, Iowa Nut Growers Association, Trees Forever, the ISU Extension and Outreach Local Foods Program, and the ISU Horticulture Research Station. With kids’ activities, samples, and educational workshops, it was fun for the whole family.

Make a point to look for this event again next year. And if you are a consumer looking to purchase healthier, more nutritious food, or a grower looking for resources and connections in this region, reach out to Healthy Harvest. They will be glad to help!