This is the peak season for farmer’s markets, and with the local foods movement thriving in Iowa, some residents are calling on state farmers to diversify beyond their corn and soybean staples.
Matt Russell, at Drake University’s Agricultural Law Center, says it’s not just small farms growing those heirloom tomatoes, more mega-farms are getting in on the local act as well.
“We’re seeing farms that are large, thousand-acres-plus, that are actually diversifying and building some enterprises on that farm that are connected to the local/regional food system,” Russell says. “So it’s really more complex than an either/or. It’s really a both/and, and that’s also really exciting because it creates tremendous opportunities across the whole state.” Russell says Iowa’s growing local food movement isn’t just a good time to be a foodie, it’s also a good time to enter the agricultural industry.
“The opportunities are emerging out of the markets,” Russell says. “There’s a market for this kind of food, where ten or 15 years ago those markets didn’t exist, those opportunities didn’t exist. We see those opportunities happening today for younger people, for immigrants, for people who have another full-time career and are making a farm sort of a self-employed little enterprise, just lots of opportunity out there.”
Russell says more demand for locally-grown food means new farmers don’t have to raise as much capital as they would if they wanted to compete with mega-farms to grow soybeans or corn. He made his remarks on the Iowa Public Radio show “Talk of Iowa.”