A first of its kind facility in central Iowa is trying to make the taste of fresh Iowa sweet corn and other favorites available year round. Things are quiet now at the Iowa Choice Harvest freezing facility in Marshalltown — but just a few weeks ago at the height of harvest season — the plant was humming along processing its first locally grown crops.
Plant Manager Craig Schultz says they packaged 110,000 pounds of sweet corn. He says they are harvesting the sweet corn at its peak time and within just six or seven hours they are processing and freezing it. “We are capturing the sugar that’s in the corn and that’s what’s giving it the great taste,” Schultz says.
In addition to the corn, Company CEO Penny Brown Huber says the were able to tap into this fall’s abundant apple crop. “While they are frozen they keep that sweet taste that we all love from that Iowa apple that’s crisp and beautiful. People are really enjoying cooking with them because they are able to cut their sugar in half from their recipes,” Huber says. All this production is the result of eight years of hard work and just under one million dollars.
Huber and others were able to secure a grant from the U.S.D.A. to study how the Iowa market would react to a facility like theirs. “We are owned 60-percent by farmers, 40-percent by non-farmers, but all Iowans,” Huber says. She says she is proud of the fact that the company is owned by Iowans, it’s headquartered in Iowa, they employ Iowans, and use Iowa-made packaging, so it is a 100-percent Iowa product.
Kamyar Enshyan from the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy and Environmental Education says the idea is actually simple in theory but not so easy in practice “We live in Iowa, we are not on the moon where everything is shuttled in. We have excellent soil, we have wonderful people with skills, those are our best assets,” Enshyan says. “And so, we want to reconnect with where we are.” Huber says
Iowa Choice Harvest apples and corn are already in central Iowa grocery stores but they’ll make a bigger splash starting next month. “Fareway is going to be distributing our products across their entire 107 stores. It’s an Iowa business too,” Huber says. She says it’s a perfect fit to have an Iowa store distribute the Iowa food. Once the market has been tested, Huber says other fruits and vegetables may be added next year.
Plant Manager Craig Schultz says the whole thing is not necessarily about efficiency or even the bottom line. “We want to create a good business structure by having the best product grown by the best farmers. I do feel we have that. I don’t think you will find a better product than what we are producing out of here,” Schultz says. Huber and Schultz say they’ll continue to make the connections necessary to bring Iowa Choice Harvest products to dinner tables all across the state.