Rural Grocery Stores Participate in Local Food Pilot ProgramPosted: September 27, 2012
There are some new products showing up on the shelves of two local grocery stores. Locally produced yogurt and lettuce can now be found at Brockman's Grocery in Ossian and Moore's IGA in Postville.
The stores are participating in a rural grocery store pilot project conducted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition. The project is studying marketing strategies, shelf life and distribution logistics of using locally produce products in rural retail settings.
Nick McCann, program coordinator from ISU Extension, is leading the project. "Buying food from a local farmer shouldn't be restricted to grocery stores in the larger towns. Helping rural residents to have access to high quality and affordable food is part of maintaining a great quality of life," says McCann. "Buying local products keeps money in our communities and allows us to enjoy the bounty that Northeast Iowa farms can provide."
McCann is studying the mechanics of a "food hub" – aggregating products from several farms to market them to institutions, restaurants and grocers. The food hub model is gaining traction nationwide as a vehicle to help small and midsized farms supply buyers they cannot reach on their own, and for these buyers to access large volumes of local product.
The current products are produced on farms near West Union, Iowa—less than 20 miles from those grocery stores. The yogurt is from Country View Dairy and the lettuce is produced by Rolling Hills Greenhouse.
The project is being funded in part by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture and a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant.
The NE Iowa Food & Farm Coalition works to create opportunities for farmers to engage in the food system as part of the NE Iowa Food & Fitness Initiative. Learn more at www.iowafreshfood.com.