Ag Literacy Corps: Exploring Local Food Systems

Ag Literacy Corps: Exploring Local Food Systems


(inspirational music) I’m Craig Chase, Program Manager for the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Local Foods Program. We’re here today to talk about local foods and local food systems and
where your food comes from. There are two primary
food systems in the US. The first system is the
industrial global system, which consists of, typically, large farms providing product to large
transportation systems, whether they’re ocean containers
or trains or semi-trucks to large department stores or box stores. Typically if you go into those and you look through the produce, what you’ll see is a label. The labels say product of country. No other information is available. You’re also gonna see products from Chile, you’re gonna see products from Argentina, you’re gonna see products from Mexico, New Zealand, and all over. Contrast that, a local
food system would be one where the products are reasonably
close to where you’re at, be typically from small farms and products could be accessed a wide variety of ways. You as a consumer have the ability, when you see the term local, to go ahead and ask that
seller of that local product, what do they mean by that
and what is their definition, and then you as the consumer can decide well, do I agree with that or not? Most people that buy local food assume that we’re just talking about produce, but actually we’re talking about a lot of different products. You can have local milk, any
kind of the dairy products, eggs, any kind of meat products. When you look at produce though, we’re pretty seasonal in Iowa. I mean you’re looking at
most of the summer stuff from June through October. If you can run into a
high tunnel or greenhouse, you might be able to get
something started in April and ending some time right around Thanksgiving
or shortly after. The local food system is actually a growing trend nationally. It’s been going on for
approximately 10 years or more and the impetus behind that is that consumers really
want to know two things. One, where their food is coming from and two, how it was grown. Consumers wanted the
transparency of those two things and are really pushing not only farmers and other people within the supply chain, but also big companies. For instance, McDonald’s is
moving towards cage free hens, Kellogg’s is looking at non-GMO cereals, and just a wide variety of other things, so it’s really pushing
these large companies to match the trends that
consumers are really wanting. There’s basically four
benefits to local food systems. The first benefit relates
to beginning farmer entry. In a conventional system
like corn and soybeans, because of the gross revenue
that’s applied to that system, the net income that’s applied, it takes a lot of acres to get
to a certain level of income. Now, with a lot of the
local food enterprises, whether it’s produce or niche marketing. The need for that land
base is much, much smaller. Where you might, in a
conventional corn soybean, need two to 3,000 acres to
make a certain level of income, you can get by with probably 15 acres or less in a local food system. The second benefit would relate
to community development. In other words, you have a
lot of producers and so forth that are developing local food products or selling them at farmers markets or other markets that are local and the dollars then tend to
stay within the community. Because a lot of these processes and farms are very labor intensive, you tend to get more people hired
per acre of produce. Most consumers would say that local food tastes
better, it’s fresher. The kids that try local
foods seem to like it better and hopefully they’ll
have a healthier diet and healthier living and lifestyles. The fourth way is to look at it from an environmental standpoint. A local food system, we
look at multiple crops. They would include cover
crops, include forages, they would include all kinds of things that would help keep the soil in place and reduce the need for
additional nutrients. There’s really two different ways of getting local food from producers. One is direct from the producer and the other would be what they refer to as intermediary markets, which would be like a
grocery store, a restaurant, and those types of things. Let’s first talk about the direct and one would be farmers markets. There’s over 200 farmers
markets in the state of Iowa and most of the time, they run from about the first week of
June ’til the end of October. If you visit the farmers markets, you’ll see a lot of vendors and the nice thing about this is that you as the consumer can stop by
and talk to the producer. You can find out what the products are and how they’re produced. The second way would be a CSA. Now, a CSA is the
community-supported agriculture and what this is is an agreement between the producer and the consumer to where the consumer will pay up front to receive 20 to 26 weeks of products over the course of the season. They’ll typically pay in January to March and then they’ll receive a box or share every week for
that 26 week period. They also have Spring shares. Some of them have Winter shares. Again, depends on if they have a high tunnel or a greenhouse. The third way is with a food hub. It’s an online system
where I, as a consumer, and you, as a producer, can meet. In other words, you’re gonna go ahead and tell me what products you have and I’m gonna go online and say what products of yours I want. We would go ahead and
have a delivery date. I would pick up your products and then you would get
paid for that product. From an intermediary standpoint, we’d be looking, again, at
grocery stores, restaurants, and so forth, so a restaurant may decide that they want to buy local food, so they’re gonna work with
the farmers and so forth to go ahead and get the product in and then they’re gonna advertise it, either through ads that they have or maybe a table tent at the restaurant or maybe a plaque that says
hey, here’s our farmers. Grocery stores, sometimes they’ll give very little information and sometimes they give
a lot of information. In other words, the
farm name, the product, and all about how far that food traveled. What we’ve been talking about
today is local food systems, local foods, and foods in general. We’ve heard the benefits
of local food systems being entry to beginning farmers, community economic development,
healthy food for kids and healthy lifestyles, and environment. Those four benefits
lead to healthy people, healthy communities, and
healthy environments. Good. (contemplative music)

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